Today, we travelled over 100 km to visit some of the families who lost their wives, daughters and mothers to the Umaid deaths. These are families S. and A. already to talked to about filing a petition so this was a follow-up meeting.
Meeting with three families is actually meeting with three extended families which can quickly add up.
First family was dad and two children but really so many more men joined the conversation. Baby stayed with mother-in-law while we chatted. Two mats inside a round hut, birds flying about and copulating, children and a woman or two peaking through the windows. I stayed in the circle for a time and then went poking about, a gaggle of children following my silently and wide eyed. It wasn’t until I had turned my back until I heard a giggle and a How Are You Ma’am, but not as a question. During the conversation, documents came forth and we pondered over this one and that. We reviewed the narrative of mom’s passing, learned the family had received some compensation but that newborn was still very ill and not able to keep food down.
Second family was quiet and diplomatic, as we sat around father-in-law and he mostly spoke. We sat on an orange tarp in the shade. Women stuck close to the white washed home, made chai and peeked out from brightly colored saris that covered their entire faces. Again, the family had received compensation and this family, previously on the fence about signing anything, felt more comfortable with money in their pocket to sign affidavits.
Third family was regal and large. Three generations were bandying about, the eldest men all wore turbans and knee-length shirts, mostly white. The middle-aged, mostly fathers I’m guessing, wore Western dress and had cell phones ringing. This group did most of the talking. The children, in the random assortment of what kids wear, poked here and there, sitting in laps as they could and running off when they grew bored with all the talking. I knew the structure though not the language of what was being spoken. A. was taking notes as the narrative was told, mostly by dad’s brother and not dad himself which had been the case with all the families. So I drafted an affidavit in English as A. read from her notes and then she reviewed it with them once more in Hindi—like magic she is. The dads were very impressed that we were both American though they thought, obviously I was ‘more’ American—these moments are always good for a smile.