times, memories of some places, some people evoke such strong feelings that
they become more cherished than one could ever imagine. One such person
is 'Gori, this is her story and I am glad I could bring it to you
Working in an agency back in India we were working on a pitch for Population Services of India (PSI), trying to find a good name and positioning for a new brand of condoms. To get a little peek into the sexual habits of the rural folk we set out to a small village called Umarda in the largest and one of the most populated Indian states -Uttar Pradesh. Women were a part of the research team as it was quite apparent that women folk in the village were not going to talk about their 'bedroom blues' to strange men from the city. Since our hostess was the wife of the Village School headmaster, a lot of women gathered in the courtyard and we set out to talk about exciting stuff like their sexual habits and family planning. While most of the women were older with anywhere between 1-5 kids, some of the younger girls came in and one of them just stood out.
And that was Gori (a generic Hindi name meaning both a village belle and someone who is fair in color), a tall wiry girl, as brown as we Indians get, standing there trying to hide her sexual knowledge and maybe experience from others in the village but giving me a glimpse into her thoughts and her person. All the other women were surprisingly not too shy but Gori had views on everything: from the man she wanted to marry, to how much education she must get, to how she wanted to become 'something'. Yes 'something' like all of us want to, just that she had still lesser idea what that something would be. And for most part of our two-day stay in the village, Gori was always around us. People from the capital city were not so common you see and she was happy to know that we watched some of the same TV channels and the same Hindi movies. We discussed actors, movies, music, magazines (unfortunately no books since Gori didn't read any apart from some of the school texts), boyfriends and the urban-rural divide.
The two evenings there, we spent a couple of hours hanging on and around a coarse-rope swing (swings in Indian villages are usually made of tying U-shaped jute rope around strong robust trees). Gori could swing. We both balanced ourselves on the swing, and she stood while I sat down (very scared all the while) and then she propelled us to new heights. We sang songs (she taught me a folk song) and by the last few minutes of our swinging the songs were at a crescendo and the swing almost horizontal to the branches of the tree. I never had experienced anything like that. At the end of the two days, we parted-- I with nothing but the promise to send her pictures and she with the promise that she'll never forget me.
I can never really forgot her; she became a grounding, humbling, earthy experience for me. I bonded with her, heart and soul. I always thought of myself as an average Indian, middle-class by city standards and closer to the common man. The village made me realize how wrong I was. But Gori gave me some hope. She dreamt her innocent dreams and believed that they'll come true. She made me realize that I could have been her-braver, poorer, innocent, clearer in the head but with much fewer opportunities. I often wonder what happened of her since I met her and if I know what I saw of that tiny village, I also know she probably didn't get all that she dreamt of.
Gori to me represents an indefinable bond in my life which I surely hope to renew soon.