For the past week the girls of Sambhali have been learning self-defense at the park next door. This isn’t just any type of self-defense, they are learning how to use bamboo sticks! I have to say, my first sight of some girls and women holding bamboo sticks awkwardly, the women in Sari’s was a bit funny. I can say though, after one week, all of them got the hang of it, and they just kick ass. Our teacher is a Mr. Singh, who can be a bit grumpy, but is usually very helpful. After the first two days the girls were complaining about the blisters they had on their hands from spinning the bamboo sticks, but by the end of the week they were twirling these things with skill. Some of the girls were especially good, and picked up hitting, twirling, and spinning the sticks pretty fast.
I have to say, I don’t think learning the art of the bamboo stick is actually going to be applicable in their daily lives, but what is actually empowering for them is to know that they have the skill to do so. The girls felt stronger at the end of the week, and there was a definite change from them being timid and shy about using bamboo sticks at the beginning of the week, to them knowing exactly what they were supposed to do by the end.
Self-defense at 7am is early for most of us, but all the girls actually had to get up a lot earlier than 7am. The reality is that the 3-4 hours that the girls and women spend at Sambhali is the only time they have for themselves. The rest of their time is spent doing housework and helping other female members of their family with housework. They wake up in the morning and help make chapattis and food, they clean, wash clothes, wash dishes and sweep their homes. So when we had self-defense at 7:30am…the girls had to get up much earlier just to finish their chores before coming to school.
Most households in Jodhpur consist of extended family (from the father’s side). So there are grandparents, aunts and uncles at every household. There is an average of 8-14 people in each home, and each nuclear family lives in one room. I went to visit some of the girls in their homes, and I really enjoyed myself. They were so excited to show me around and introduce me to their family. All of them insisted on me either having a cold drink or snacks, they were absolutely lovely. It was great to get to see their homes, I got a better view into their lives and their everyday reality, plus I got to spend more time with them!
Here are pictures.