Day 20: Atithi Devo Bhava

Jai Shri Krishna,

It’s Zoha blogging today. Friday was a relaxed day. We conducted our first official formal interview. Brianna, Erica, and I connected with Sangeeta Ben earlier this week to schedule an interview. Initially, she informed us that we could interview her anytime based on our schedule. In India, this means that she would halt her housework, farm work, and other important work to talk to her guests. Hospitality is a bit different in India. Many Indians follow the concept of “Atithi Devo Bhava”. This literally means, “Guest is God”. I have experienced hospitality in India numerous times, but for the first time, I saw the implications and consequences of being a guest.

Every home we visited, people would invite us in. We were under the assumption that the residents had some free time to interact with us and answer a few of our questions. We would intermingle with everyone for about 30 minutes and move on to the next house. Later, we realized that we might be imposing on the community. The residents within the community would forsake their nap, field work, household chores, and other work to meet with us.

Informal Interview at Jena Bhai's house
Informal Interview at Jena Bhai’s house

As a team, we took the initiative to communicate with the community leaders. First, we communicated with our colleagues at SETCO about finding a solution, so that people do not feel obligated to invite us as their guests. Later, we requested that Arjun Bhai, the surpanch of Dolatpura, and Sangeeta Ben, the anganwadi worker, to schedule our visits based on people’s schedules. Collaborating with SETCO, Arjun, and Sangeeta was crucial because it allowed us to establish a better understanding of the culture and not impose on the community.

The team and Salma Ben meeting Arjun, the Surpaanch, of Dolatpura.
The team and Salma Ben meeting Arjun, the Surpaanch, of Dolatpura.

Our interview with Sangeeta Ben allowed us to learn about the bathroom issues that females faced within the community. Most of the homes in Dolatpura do not have bathrooms. Instead, the residents use their fields or a lake nearby. Sangeeta believes that the lack of a bathroom in her home is the hardest aspect of her life. From our interview we learned that women could only use the bathroom twice a day: early morning and night. We believed that this could cause health issues for women. Next week, we plan to learn more about health related problems for women.

As Erica, Brianna and I conducted our interview, the boys travelled around Dolatpura to learn more about the drainage and sewage system within the community. They gained a lot of information in regards to the sewage system, which causes flooding within the community during the monsoon season. They decided to conduct more research by interviewing the community next week.

After arriving back to the office, we ended our Friday by boarding the car with our luggage for our trip to Palitana and Gir. Gayatri Ben, Viral, Fuzela Bhai, and Ragu Bhai decided to join us. We were excited to see the Asiatic lions and the 1,000 Jain temples on the mountain towards the west coast of India!


One thought on “Day 20: Atithi Devo Bhava”

  1. This was eye opening. I would love to hear more about what you perceived as real needs in the community. Your interactions, because they are so fresh and open, will also help us understand and add to the needs assessment within the community. Many thanks


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