Rural Immersion Program- An experience

The volatile side of comfort zone: A rural experience : By  Avnish Gaurav 


There are numerous literatures available on the various aspects of comfort zone. My 45-day experience in Naujheel made me realize the transient nature of comfort zone. Also, the realization that comfort zone is more of a mental set up dawned upon me. Here is a firsthand account of my tryst with “comfort zone”. We were entasked with finding a suitable village on our own and stay in the village for a while with no particular agenda in mind.
We arrive in Chinparai, a village located 10 KMs from Yamuna Expressway. The whole environment is different from that of Delhi where we arrived from. I was excited about the challenges ahead, and at the same time was missing the comforts of city life (comfort zone 1). It’s evening and there is no light around. We later come to know that the village gets only 5 hours electricity every day, that too from 12 to 5 a.m. People get up at 3 a.m. to fill water tanks. I was unaware of hard water issue in the village. Our water bottles are empty at night. It’s then we realize that we have milk (we purchased from aunty next door) to drink but not water. For dinner, we have the food we carried along from Delhi. Candles, torches and cell phones help us beat the darkness. We apply odomos and go off to sleep. I keep wondering how long I would be able to continue like this. I was to be proved wrong!

Next day, we clean the entire space, get basic stuff required from nearby market and decide to cook food every night at least. Things appear better the next day. We start getting used to absence of electricity and high speed internet. We make some temporary arrangements for drinking water and cook our dinner (comfort zone 2). This was not to continue for long. Next day, it is around midnight when we start preparing our dinner and our gas cylinder runs out. Bhavesh immediately suggests lighting firewood on rooftop. We set up a makeshift oven from bricks and prepare our food. This continues for next two days.
By now, we have started touring the villages in the area. It is dark by the time we return every day, and I realize how desperate I am to reach our base camp. We start procuring drinking water from Shergarh, 8 KMs away from Chinparai; and this solves a major issue we were facing. I adjusted and was comfortable with my life in the village to the extent that I started finding it difficult to leave for villages in the sun (comfort zone 3).
It was now time to move to our respective villages. I was eager to experience the grassroot reality of the village and participate in various rural activities. However, there were apprehensions about my acceptance in the family and village, presence of toilets in the house I would be staying, how safe I would be in my new location etc. My village was 5 KMs from Haryana border, and the bordering area is notorious for smuggling and other illegal activities. This added to my apprehensions which were to be falsified in future.

I am given a separate hall to stay in, and my host uncle talks explains quite realistically how my stay would not create any extra burden on the family. I try my best to gel with the family at the earliest possible. It is satisfying to see my acceptance increasing with every passing day. And, it is blatantly obvious in their interaction with me, the care and concern shown by aunty and the authority with which uncle asks me to help him in his work. I cannot forget the concern on aunty’s face when she found my towel torn with stains of blood. It was actually done by cat or dog at night. I could sense the decrease in urge to step out of the house and interact with villagers (comfort zone 4). I had to make deliberate efforts to neutralize such pull factors. Time was flying past, and I had to politely turn down offers to attend marriages in Jaipur and Agra as I wanted to spend quality time with the people out there.

I have now moved back to Delhi after an amazing 20-day stay with my host family. And, I miss them! In an era replete with selfish motives, consumerism and contractual relationships, this family showered loads of love and affection on me. On someone, whose age group is fraught with an array of apprehensions, who they had not seen and heard of before our first meet, who had no backing of any institution or any contact. While I am trying to make my old room my new comfort zone, I am coming to terms with the volatile and transient nature of comfort zone. Aren’t many things in life which we see as a problem merely our mental construct?




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