Interview with Dr. Kshama Metre of the Chinmaya Organisation for Rural Development (CORD)
Sometimes simplicity can be the most enlightening thing a person can offer. One might expect pieces of advice that are the most detailed, lengthy, and well-explained to be the greatest in terms of their impact and effectiveness, but this is not always the case. Dr. Kshama Metre made this perfectly clear. She has the mind of an intellectual and one might assume that it is constantly whirling with strategies for achieving equality, and ethical solutions for problems facing Indian women. While this may be the case, the way she externally conveys her thoughts is almost the exact opposite. Dr. Metre communicates many philosophical ideas in a stunningly simple and understandable manner. For example, when asked about the “journey within” and its importance she relayed a story about a little girl at an ashram who told her about “mind baths,” little five-minute periods in one’s day that you use to check in with yourself and see how you’re doing. She didn’t call them “introspective expeditions,” or “existential explorations,” just “mind baths.” Nothing more, nothing less. Normally when we ask for advice from the inspiring people we interview, we often get a wholesomely stirring response that’s about a minute long. When we asked Dr. Kshama Metre for advice she shared only two words but they spoke volumes about her profound understanding of the human spirit and its needs. Those two words were, “Know yourself.” Simple.
The first question was asked, and Dr. Kshama Metre took a long time to think. Her mind swirled with ideas, and what came out was a concise, well-worded answer. Each question was answered with a humble and short reply after only a second of gathering her thoughts. I was a little surprised at how simple and confident she was in her responses, considering the complex ideas she was explaining. When asked what true equality meant to her, she answered simply, “Equality is not being greedy.” She acknowledged the dimensions of the term, but emphasized the three-word response. Another three-word response was about love; “love is expansive.” Her ability to describe these words, which have countless complexities, with such simplicity made her answers genuine and sincere. I haven’t met many people with the ability to answer our questions so thoughtfully yet concisely. Because of this, I felt drawn into everything she was saying. Dr. Metre has achieved extraordinary things in her life, and her humble demeanor was inspiring. To finish the interview, she gave us some advice for our lives going forward, another short answer that I know I will carry with me; “Know yourself. Once you know yourself, you will know everyone else.” In most interviews, the answer to the advice questions draws a long answer, but this was her entire response. It was simple, confident, and humble, perfectly reflecting her personality.
After our inspiring interview with Dr. Metre, we split into two groups and went into the villages to see some of the self-help groups we learned about at CORD (Chinmaya Organisation for Rural Development). Once we arrived in the village, we walked toward a group of about twenty women. They arranged a line of chairs for us and asked each of us to introduce ourselves, which we gladly did. We learned a lot about how the group functions, and how they help the women involved. Each woman pays a set amount of rupees to the group monthly. If someone gets sick or needs money for another reason, they can take a loan out from the group. This is helpful as it allows the women to have some level of economic independence from their husbands.
We were all surprised when they wanted us to sing them something. With half of our class, including our ukulele player, in another village, we weren’t sure how it was going to go. We ended up surprising ourselves by sounding pretty good. In response to our song, the group sang their own. Some of the women stood up and started dancing to the song as we clapped along. They took Izzy, Savannah and me, by the hand, put us in a circle and asked us to dance. We tried our best to do the dance moves they had been doing moments earlier, but their laughs and chuckles told us we weren’t quite doing them right.
Although I won’t remember that trip to the village for our stellar dance moves, I’m never going to forget how much fun we had and how connected I felt to the women.