Ponnani was our first stop today with Destin's and her friend Smitha. The first place we went was an advocate’s office where we interviewed a number of current and former representatives. After these interviews we had finally completed the categories of former and current representatives. We then caught another bus to the Ponnani Municipality. Here we interviewed the chairperson and stayed afterwards for coffee and biscuits. Our interviews also attracted a number of politicians, councillors and admin staff who were interested in finding out about us and our project. They took many pictures and videos, and one reporter filmed us for a local television channel.
Following this we went to the local court. The building was very old and run down. It was built by the British and this was noticeable from the architecture. Here we met a number of advocates, magistrates and interviewed three family members. We also spoke to a judge and one issue he raised to do with women in politics, which I agree with, is that education is the key; without being educated women will not be able to progress to higher levels in politics.
Two of the male advocates we met were called Sameer and Nikhil. They are the funniest Indians I’ve met so far. We sat chatting to them for a while and then they drove us to a nearby restaurant for lunch – singing and giving 'high-fives’ the whole way! After dinner we went to a very small place where classes for a form of marshal arts called kalari are held. There were around 20 male and female, young and old there and they showed us a variety of moves with and without weapons! It was amazing they were all so flexible, fast and strong, yet delicate at the same time. We also had the chance to participate and were taught some moves to use if we are attacked – although I still think I’d be pretty hopeless if someone were to attack me!
Next we went back to the court and saw the end of a court case where Destin’s friend Sujeer, who is an advocate, was representing one of his clients and the case was in English. Once this was over we interviewed a senior advocate, he was a very highly educated man who has a positively strong opinion towards women’s empowerment. I found him to be a very wise and inspirational man. He is however one of the few participants who has been of the view that the reservation is not empowering women. I completely agree. Many women are only entering into politics because of the new 50% reservation law; in order to be empowered they need to have a presence in politics without the help from this legislation. Although this is a starting point, hopefully in the future it can be taken away and women will still have a prominent role in politics without relying on the act. We have now completed all 100 interviews!
Following this we went to the backwaters - Ponnani Pallikadavu. By this time it was too late to go on a boat trip. The waters were beautiful though and it was a really relaxing place. There were many local Indians sitting around taking in the wonderful views of the sunset across the water.
To get here we had to walk through a small poor village with were lots of children playing in the street. On the way back we visited a communal Muslim house which had twenty family members living in it. The house wasn’t very large or clean but the people were all really friendly, talkative and happy. It was interesting to see how they live and that even though they may not live in the best conditions, they still maintain a positive outlook.
Today was a really insightful day, one of my favourite days so far! I’m grateful that I’ve had the chance to experience everyday life in India from within different communities and meet such a diverse range of people, even in one day! I really appreciate getting to visit places normal tourists wouldn’t see. I have George, Destin and her advocate friends to thank for this