PARI—a journal and archive of India’s ‘voiceless’

A screenshot from the PARI website (P.C.- PARI website)

A screenshot from the PARI website (P.C.- PARI website)

By Supriya Kumaraswamy

“This country and this society runs on the labor of very poor people, not on yours and mine,” P. Sainath, the founder-editor of People’s Archive of Rural India (PARI) and veteran development journalist, said at the launch of the website on Saturday.

PARI comes into the picture at this juncture. It tells the everyday tales of the trials and travails of these everyday people. It is an encyclopedia of rural India—or at least is attempting to be one—with an ever burgeoning collection that features audio, video, texts and photos. PARI now boasts of the only collection of its sort, with about 8,000 to 10,000 black and white images of rural India.

While urban India surges forward towards a more easy way and style of living, the ones oiling the wheels of this urban society are often ignored and pushed under the carpet.

However, Sainath said it was not a case of the forgotten poor, but a case of a blind urban India.

PARI hopes to perform a two-pronged role. On one end, it is an archive of India’s so-called dark underbelly that people conveniently ignore and the media doesn’t give due coverage to and on the other end, it functions, in many ways, as a living journal—a diary of-sorts to record the unique experiences of rural India.

The “highly hetereogenic and diverse” rural India is currently in throes of one of the most brutal transformations in history. Some of the most ancient cultures are breaking down, and many of the languages are going extinct.

Rural India, as Sainath puts it, is “a continent within a sub-continent.”

While PARI can be often mistaken for an extension of or something similar to the Humans of New York, the two don’t really have very many similarities beyond an extent.

PARI is attempting to make the people of the country not just aware but also appreciate and educate the back-breaking and herculean efforts made by these very ordinary people of the country.

PARI does not just focus on the rural population. It also focuses and highlights the plight of the rural migrant in the city and what he brings to the table in terms of ensuring the city is in motion.

“I am not trying to speak for them,” Sainath said about PARI. “I am just telling you that they have something to say. Do you want to listen?”

Sainath through PARI is trying to bring into media focus the bottom five percent of India’s population.

In a nutshell, PARI aims to capture the ugly, the barbaric, the beautiful and the to be cherished stories of rural India and its wide diaspora.