On Worldy Things

January 7, 2009

posted and written by Caroline Picard

Wealth I ask not, hope nor love,
Nor a friend to know me;
All I ask, the heaven above
And the road below me.

(Robert Louis Stevenson, from Songs of Travel)


In Africa the fisherman, poorer from the world’s boats, began to pirate the seas in search of tanks. The tanks they held for ransom. They say they are not afraid of death, but rather afraid of hunger. They call themselves a coast guard, and speaking through a PR manager, demand a revision.

A pirate is no longer a man in leather boots with long bouncing english curls.

Or the women in pink saris, a gang defiant of castes, determined towards a vigilanti justice. In India they sleep and wake and eat, listening to the troubles of the disenfranchised.

What does it mean when people describe the world shrinking? It seems the opposite to me. The stuff of marvelous and curious things.

and sometimes painful.

“I am the commander of the Gulabi Gang,” says Sampat Pal Devi, “I started the association in the 1990s, but I named it the Gulabi Gang two years ago. We aim to empower women, promote child education with an emphasis on girls, and stop corruption and domestic violence. I visit numerous villages every day and meet the various members of the gang. We have gang meetings where we decide the plan of action if we hear of something that we oppose going on. First we go to the police and request that they do something. But since the administration is against the poor people of our country, we often end up taking matters into our own hands. We first speak to the husband who is beating his wife. If he doesn’t understand then we ask his wife to join us while we beat him with lathis. Our missions have a 100 percent success rate. We have never failed in bringing justice when it comes to domestic problems. Dealing with the administration is the tricky part since we cannot always take the law in our hands—especially with such corrupt lawmakers. We did beat up some corrupt officials but we were ultimately helpless. The goons of the corrupt officials and the political parties constantly threaten me. Once, a few goons came and threatened to shoot me down, but the women came to my rescue and threw bricks at them and they ran away. They haven’t come back since. Although most of the time I travel alone, I am not scared of anyone. My women are with me, and they are my strength. My family didn’t always support me going out and doing what I do, but when I resisted and explained to my husband, he understood and has supported me since. It isn’t easy to do this. I have no money. I travel everywhere on an old bicycle. Some of our supporters help us with small donations and charity. I want this movement to carry on and would like support from international or local agencies. I work on a grassroots level and want to set up a small-scale industry for the poor villagers that I work with. We have talented young men and women who can make organic manure, candles, Ayurvedic medicines, and pickles. They could earn a decent livelihood. If I get funded, I can set up a stitching center for women who can then support their families. The future of the Gulabi Gang is bright. It’s a people’s movement and will grow bigger and bigger in the future provided we get support from the local administration.”


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