Five minutes means five minutes only

Vajinder Thakur

Excited children during the village survey

ASER (Annual Status of Education Report) survey was going on as I had expected. I was in Muktsar district and got a call from thes district coordinator. He informed me that there was a problem in a village as the Sarpanch was not allowing our volunteers to conduct the survey. I assured the district coordinator not to worry and that I would be there in the morning. During the entire four and a half hours journey I kept on thinking about that village and the Sarpanch’s reaction.

I talked to my seniors and informed them about the problem. Their reaction was to convince him by calling, or else asking for the village replacement. I decided to call the Sarpanch. As expected, he was not ready to talk to me. I then requested him to meet me for just 5minutes. Reluctantly he agreed and responded, “five minutes means five minutes only”.

Meanwhile we went to the school and again there was a challenging task awaiting us. It was a PRI school (schools that have some issues with state government and do not allow any outsider to come inside the premises for any information). Luckily we managed to go inside and meet the head master. He said “because of our union and some political issues we are not supposed to give any information but I would like to give you all the details you want, but promise me you will not reveal my name anywhere’

Now it was the time to meet the Sarpanch. Worried and confused to the core, I somehow managed to stay cool and calm. Finally I broke the silence and asked him about the reason for his refusal. His reaction was on the expected lines, “I will not allow you to conduct the survey in this village”. I replied, “sir I have already asked my seniors for replacement of this village as you have some issues, so we will conduct the survey in another village. But still, I came here just to meet you from Muktsar, not to convince or manipulate you. I just wanted to inform you that in Punjab, this survey is going on in 570 villages, but till now I have not got any refusal from any village Sarpanch, except you. So I just wanted to know the reason for your objection. Whatever misconceptions or doubts you have, you can share with us”.

His first objection was that we had no authorized signatory letter and as such he had no trust in us. I was already prepared to answer this question and tried to explain to him that we were working with a non – government organization “Gair Sarkari Sansathan” and such kind of organizations do not have any stamp and authorized signature.

His second concern was way beyond my imagination or expectations. He raised the issue that most of us were males and at that time there were only female members at home. Tactfully, I managed to answer him and appreciated his concern for his villagers. A big smile appeared on his face and he said if I wanted to conduct the survey, I being a female, could. On hearing his response I was thrilled. I even had lunch at the Sarpanch’s house.

From the entire experience I learnt one thing that one should not always go for an easy solution.

“Life is like a game. Instead of worrying about the results, we should concentrate on the game. Once we play the game to the best of our ability, we would definitely taste the fruits of our success”