Buzz Gelathi Chandrakala of Abbenhalli.
In the dusty back roads of the Malur villages, the Buzz Gelathis shape a quiet revolution
Chandrakala welcomes us into her spacious, cool hall and spreads a large coir mat. We are in Abbenhalli. “Let me make some coffee,” she says shyly. It’s nearly 1:00 in the afternoon and we politely decline and settle down for a chat. Chandrakala is one of the early Buzz ambassadors. When Buzz India piloted its Buzz Friend concept 2 years ago, Chandrakala was an early adopter of the program. When we re-launched the Buzz Gelathi (companion) program, she agreed to steward her community of Buzz women.
How is the Buzz community doing? Does she have any success stories to share? “The women have taken to saving in a big way and almost all of them maintain books,” she says. “It’s made a huge impact on their lives – just becoming aware of what they spend and what they earn.” How are they saving? “In different ways,” she says “bank, post office, sangha (self-help groups), LIC (insurance policies).” How has that helped them? “It has visibly improved the quality of their lives, so much so, now the women who couldn’t participate in the Self-Shakti program ask me ‘Why didn’t we get the training?’ and I tell them that we’ll organize one for you soon.”
What does she do as a Buzz Gelathi? “I go and meet the women one-on-one to understand what aspects of the Self-Shakti program they’ve been able to implement in their lives.” One-on-one? Why not meet them in a group? “I have to listen to each woman’s story. Undistracted. It’s best done individually. Different women have different challenges, ideas…it won’t work in a group,” she says with confidence. She says the women need “spoorthi” (inspiration) to stay the course. “Everyone knows this (Self-Shakti) is a good program, but sometimes the women need motivation and encouragement; they need to know how to implement what they’ve learnt, in their everyday lives.” Chandrakala inspires them with her own success story as well as stories she’s heard on her rounds. “Some of them have bought cows and have started their own dairy farming business. The Self-Shakti program helped them make the wisest choices to invest and grow their money,” she says.
What is her success story? Chandrakala covers her face and laughs shyly. “I used to waste a lot of money buying snacks unnecessarily and I would speak on the phone a lot…never giving a thought to how much money that cost me. My husband would drink away his earnings. I felt I had no control over anything.” The Self-Shakti program made her think about her goals and question whether her behaviour was leading her toward her goals or away from them. “I sat down my husband and spoke to him about our goals after I attended the Self-Shakti program. I asked him ‘If we continue to live like this, who will educate our children? Where will we find the money to fund their college? Do we want our children’s future to suffer because we can’t manage our finances?’ He listened to me,” she says laughing shyly. “He doesn’t drink anymore. He too has started saving some money and now I don’t have to hide money from him to save it,” she says laughing and tearing at the same time. She says the Self-Shakti program didn’t give her solutions. It taught her how to find them on her own. She’s determined to help her Buzz community of women find solutions as well – on their own, but with her compassion and companionship on their journey.
In Sanskrit, Chandrakala means “moonbeam” – the Moonbeam, having cured its own darkness, now flits across the landscape, leaving every corner it touches, a little brighter.