Saturday, March 31, 2007

microfinance and me

It seems that the word "micro finance" was playing the trick. In meeting after meeting with women's NGOs across Mumbai, Bhopal and Delhi, morning, afternoon, or evening, the word "micro finance" would send my brain a signal it could not resist.

Don't get me wrong. I have enormous faith in micro finance. I've seen the wonders it has worked with the women in Latur after the earthquake, transforming illiterate women who had never stepped out of their homes into small entrepreneurs. And didn't Prof. Mohammed Yunus from Bangladesh win a Nobel prize for it?

And yet, the moment the magic word was mentioned, my eyes would glaze over, my neck would start lolling, and I'd be off to sleep in a way I couldn't seem to control. K, my colleague, would get more animated in a desperate attempt to make our interviewee feel less insulted by my dozing. I'd wake up with a snap when another magic word "tea" was mentioned, and smile foolishly. Later K and I would go off into hysteric laughter.

In my defense I can only say, I was overworked, sleepy and a little ill. Yet, the next day, I thought it only fair that I should not leave the burden of "micro finance" and other related aspects of women's struggle in India, on K's shoulder. So, from the beginning I hogged the conversation, talking about myself, what I thought, what I felt, what I saw, to evade all possibility of any mention of the word "micro finance". I did get some strange looks from the people who we interviewed that day, wondering why we had come there in the first place, since we did not ask them any questions, only spoke about ourselves.