Deepa is the accountant at Avani, in charge of the financial operations of all the field centres. We waited three days for an appointment to speak with her and another two to visit her home. It was the end of the financial year when we were there and all the managers from all the field centres were coming to discuss year end accounts and business growth plans.
Although Deepa is forthright in her demeanor today, her natural shyness was still palpable when we talked to her. With a 12th grade education but no hopes or plans to work outside the home, Deepa was too shy to speak in public, let alone run a business. Deepa always wanted to work outside the home, though. Staying at home is the social norm in the region and, actually, in the vast majority of India. Her family and community expected her to do the same, but her husband, Bikram, encouraged her to use her education and to work. He is less educated than she and continues to encourage her to further her studies. Sitting with them in their home, Bikram smiles and tells us that she should continue to study because she has a curious mind and he believes she should keep learning. He says this as though it’s common sense. Fact. Does he realise how extraordinary andrare that attitude is? Could it be contageous? How many more men in these hills will encourage their wives to broaden their minds, not necessarily because it will get her a better job (Deepa’s pretty well placed already) but because it will bring her intellectual satisfaction. “More women should have husbands like you”, Kiran says to Bikram.
While Deepa manages all things financial at Avani, Bikram spends most of his time in the summer months hauling water by truck from a central location about 45 minutes away. He makes about 5 trips a day in the heat. The rainwater harvesting at Avani that I previously described only lasts about half the year. By the time summer arrives, they have to buy water and Bikram is one of the dedicated folks who trucks it up from the collection point. the rest of the time, he works as a mechanic around the campus.
The children are in 3rd and 4th grade at a semi-English medium school, which was one of the primary reasons for moving to Tripuradevi. Deepa and Bikram have purchased and built a back up solar battery in their home, so on the rare occasions when the central power grid on the campus does fail, their children can still study at night.