"Like Trying To Interview A Ball Of Mercury"

When I arrived to do interviews, children would be sent to fetch an older man, someone with the authority to speak to me. Someone would drag over a chair, an honor reserved for dignitaries or bureaucrats. And those I wanted to speak with, the women, would slide down onto the ground, which was the only place they could sit when older men were present, or disappear into the dark interior spaces where they did their chores.

It was like trying to interview a ball of mercury.

........ Last summer, the increase in female employment in the village had erupted into a raw power struggle, with the conservative male caste leaders demanding that the women resign from their jobs. ...... We spent so much time in the village that the people there began to regard us with sincere pity........ Then they began to ignore us. This is when the work began to bear fruit. We became professional eavesdroppers. Four months into our reporting, we were in the village for a series of tense, clamorous late-night meetings, in which the elders grudgingly decreed that the women could return to work........... That night, the headman, Roshan, pushed us out of the village with his hands pressed against our backs; later he admitted that he had done so because he did not want us to witness violence. We returned to New Delhi and almost immediately learned that a large group of villagers had assaulted Geeta and her friends, also leaving her husband badly injured. We returned to find our subjects utterly changed — unhurt for the most part, but

humiliated and shrunken

. One teenage girl never forgave us for failing to protect her.