Friday, October 05, 2007

Going back home

It was evening by the time we reached Phantom Ranch. We were hoping to get some food from the small restaurant there at the bottom. But, they were strict and followed rules of serving only those who reserved. So, we had no choice but to plead for some coffee from the girl at the window. The coffee was too good though! We emptied all the food (fruits, sandwhiches etc.) we had and ate our full. While we waited and recuperated, Vinod and I made calls back home to let everyone know that we will be back later than expected. Yes, somehow we thought we could do it in 17-18 hours. The Canyon whipped us bad and made us respect it! We had a nice conversation with a girl who had come down from cottonwood to see the river. She seemed to suggest that she needed company back to cottonwood. On any other day I might have relented :) But, I had folks running with me and my parents waiting for me at the hotel. As the sun came down, it seemed like someone pulled the batteries out of us. We all were kind of lazy and started drearily on the way back home. The drop bag was not where we had left it. So, Vinod and I went back to get it. After some explanation to the ranger and pleading ignorance on the fact that we were not supposed to leave it in the campsite boxes, we got the stuff loaded our camel backs and soon joined the rest of the gang. This time the bright angel trail was pretty dark and the moon was not too bright. It was a long haul especially after more than a day without sleep. Padma and Arun were struggling a bit. Soon each one of us were going through cycles and I was hoping to pep things up. I wanted to get back home soon because I was not sure if the message went to my parents. I started kind of tagging the group by running ahead. Soon I realized that I was not helping out much with this. So, after Indian gardens I decided to stick with the team. Meanwhile, Gaurav went up ahead. Each time we took a break to sit down I wanted folks to be fast and moving. Its a dangerous trap. Once you sit down, your eyes close and the tiredness in your body and mind takes over. So, though all of them hated me for doing this it did help in moving forwards finally. After 23.5 hours of run/walk/hike across the depths of the Canyon we were finally back at the top of the south rim at 12:30 AM on Sunday. This was the longest all of us have been on our feet (except of course for the limca book of records holder, Padma). This was quite an experience and nothing could beat getting back to the hotel (thanks to Vinod's driving) and having awesome fried rice cooked by mom!

The ultimate goals of the organization being rehabilitation and empowerment, The Banyan is an effort to reunite the women with their families and to help them reintegrate back into the mainstream society to be able to lead normal lives again.The rehabilitation aspect of The Banyan’s work has raised attention and controversy in the public for quite some time. Traditional communities in Indian society do not generally accept the unexplained absence of their female members for any length of time, the place of the woman being either behind the veils of the purdah or in the confines of her parents’ or husband’s house. Thus reintegration is an important aspect of Banyan's work. Typically two or three residents along with about four volunteers form the rehab party. With just that they set out for the rural maze of India's vastness. Here's a typical report: "the happy rehab team pressed on to Lucknow to try and locate Sapna's family. Once again they contacted the helpful Railway Police, but this time were in for a shock. The police discovered that Sapna was actually from Bihar, not UP. So the team moved on to Muzaffarpur and from there to Sugauli. The police accompanied them to what they hoped was Sapna's village, Basra. But no, there was nobody who knew Sapna. By then, the police were on the job, led by their helpful officer in charge, Mr. Singh. They discovered Sapna was actually from Lal Basra -- a village that was in the opposite direction to Basra! The team --now with an armed escort-- made its way to Lal Basra and began the arduous task of finding Sapna's family... the family had given her up as dead as she had wandered away over a year ago. Once more, happy reunion scenes and the satisfied rehab team left Lal Basra. After much palaver, the team decided to press on, and move to West Bengal, where they would leave Prabha Saha. A 12 hour trip to Jhargram, and the team was pleasantly surprised to find that Prabha remembered the place. She took the team straight to her brother's home. But unlike the other case, Prabha's family was not too sure about taking her back. After much consultation and debate, they agreed. Prabha too did her bit by announcing that she had every right to live in her family house. What made them take hope was a meeting with Das and his friends, who were so impressed with the Banyan's contribution that they planned to set up a social welfare organisation for that community.
(Note : names changed for privacy)

Back to Grand Canyon

No comments: