Text and photos: Polona Fonda
At first I felt a bit uncomfortable, I mean after all I was a stranger… With a camera, full of curiosity and a bunch of Ashar Alo girls willing to open the doors of their homes.
After classes were over, students took us on a walk around Piali. We moved through the narrow, muddy trails, over the railway and right into a hut which wasn’t just a shelter for two siblings and their family but also for a pack of baby goats.
Girls introduced us to their moms, dads and younger brothers and a bit of a heartbreaking gossip going around the village at that time.
Families welcomed us with big smiles and sparky eyes, asking if we might need a glass of chai. Also my camera sparked quite a response with girls, boys, parents, aunts and cousins all gathering together for portraits.
I asked one younger girl what is she up to after school, when she is not studying, and she answered: “I go sleep”. The humidity and the sun here literally make you want to sleep all day, especially if you are an alpine person acclimated to 15°C.
While the youngsters are restoring the lost energy, the teens usually hang out together in a home that owes a TV. One of houses we saw actually had a flat screen mounted on the brick wall.
Nowadays most of the girls live in the tiny houses made of bricks. A construction like that has a better chance of surviving the heavy rains during the monsoon season.
However this is not a rule: some students’ homes are made of mud or bambus and covered with rice grass roof. Some don’t have toilets. Most of them have a pond right there at the doorstep which presents a source of food, hygiene and fun. Villagers live on fish, rice, vegetable and fruit, and sweets if they can afford them.
We could be quick to compare their living conditions with ours, but what sense would that make?
Rather then labelling with “underdeveloped”, let them teach us something about a life far away from the aggressive (social) media and the political depression that has swamped our so called “developed” world.
The walk felt so comforting and such a privilege, especially now looking back and writing this blog post from a warm comfort of my home. While it’s about to snow here in Slovenia, the Piali girls can enjoy a tropical savanna winter: less humidity, 30°C on average.