On the second day I helped Eeshwar anna(A Co-Yatri)) conduct Ignite to the school kids I saw how good these kids were with nature and they could name a lot of plants and trees than I could ever. But again, there was a lot of poignancy in this. After the Yatra resumed, I had to constantly travel to and fro to the Kondaischool for food, tea, luggage and other such stuff. During these three trips, I saw four issues of interest.
1) The School: The faculty in the school is more than what is required to handle the kids and none of them seemed to be working in any manner. The kids were left to the mercy of the sun. The teachers along with certain village heads waiting for the lunch to be made and eat free of cost. Also, this food was served by a kid of the school itself. All the teachers did be ‘sit and gossip’. I used to read about such schools but seeing one live was disturbing.
2) The Woodcutter: While waiting for the food to be made, I saw a woodcutter bathing near the water tank in the school. The woodcutter might be around 40-50 years of age but he has a chiseled out and ripped body that the youth of today can just dream of. The only difference he had with that of any other bodybuilder is a muscle called ‘’LATS’’ between his lower shoulders and back. Before I came to the Yatra I went to a debate on Darwin’s theory of evolution and I know that evolution is a process which takes millions of years but I could for sure analogize this to the evolution of the human body. With the advent of technology, all the body needs us to be is in a shape which is enough for us to sit in front of a desktop. Maybe that’s why obesity has come into the picture. We eat and the body grows around our requirement. I.e, it doesn’t need any more muscle mass just to sit in a chair whereas, for this particular villager, his meal grows muscle around his body in a way where it is used daily to cut down the sticks etc., The science of bodybuilding can learn a lot from the monotonously vibrant life in villages.
3) The Tribal Farmer:
There was this farmer who came to talk to a village elder(who has come to eat the food made in the school at that time). He was narrating his woes of not getting to meet the regional collector as the Forest officials are digging trenches into their fields though they have all the proof that the land was theirs even on paper. His helpless tone moved me. When we brought the lunch to the scenic viewpoint overseeing the JampannaVaagu, at one point I asked Brigadier sir for a picture to be clicked with him. To this, he responded that he would click a picture if I promised that I would safeguard the jungle in front of my eyes from the clutches of a homo sapien. I was speechless for a while when the Tribal Farmer’s face resurfaced into my brain. Why can’t I try my best to pursue and help the Tribals keep their land? All I have here is the power of the pen. Might as well use it in the right direction.
4) The issue of villager’s illegally killing and eating animals is a fast pacing yet unsolved one. Not just the wild animals but I have seen teak trees whose food supply being cut off at their trunk base that when the tree dies, it can be easily taken and sold away(This again is a claim from a villager so the source may or may not be genuine. But from the look of the tree, it sure did look genuine).
Also, I’ve talked to a couple of villagers who claim to have eaten a lot of wild animals which is a bit saddening considering the threat of wilderness extinction is concerned.
As I have earlier mentioned in this email, in the village of Oorrattam, I met an old laborer/farmer who grows paddy but keeps nothing for himself. He was also the one who claims to eat wild animals too. He had a great perspective to add to. He drinks IPPA SAARA which he claims is healthy provided it is drunk in a limit and ONLY by people who are over the age 30 or so. He says he started to drink it in his 30’s and starting cursing the kids who drink at a really early age today. He added the high contrast in which a village and a city lies. He said “ I can go around the jungle and its wilderness in the dead of the night. You cannot. You survive the fast-paced city life. I cannot” That’s the difference between you and me.
While the sun set gloriously, Raj anna gave me his bike to stop at regular intervals in cases of emergency and we need the bike. So I took a Co-Yatri, Vishwas with me and set off to wait at regular intervals. One such interval was near a certain Y junction where the sides were the pure and unadulterated jungle and the other side was a paddy field. Here while I was talking to Vishwas, I saw a lit area not more than 10 feet from me. We tried to ignore it but intrigue got the best of us. The day-long I have been listening to stories of natives going into the jungle looking for wild animals to eat. Scoops about the area being a Naxalite winged area. If I were a lone wolf I would have gladly ventured to the site to check out what the fire was about. But a sense of responsibility of the bike at hand and a co-Yatri stopped me. My curiosity got the best of me and I asked Vishwas to start and be on the bike for the worst case scenario while I put on my utility cap and walked towards the fire site. As I zeroed near the site I realized that if there were humans near the fire, I could easily be spotted due to my utility torch on my cap so I turned it off and walked few more feet further to see that entire trees were on fire. THE FOREST WAS BURNING. I was still not quite sure of this so I got back to the bike and we waited for the group and when we all reached Narlapur I could still see the fire at a distance. Eating the forest. Nothing we could do.
The third and final day of the Yatra was as interesting as any of the previous days. There was a small errand to be run back in the village of Oorrattam so I took Raj annas bike to run the errand and while returning I saw our Yatri Ashok, walking on the road barefoot towards the school in Narlapur whereas the Yatra has resumed. Apparently, he has RAN to the temple of Medaram for a darshan. Too Raw yet impressive. Then he asked me to slow down at a certain place where he got down to fetch his footwear which he apparently left on the road as it obstructed him in his running. Such Raw passion took me by surprise. Further, into the day, He threw away his Chappals as he said he can walk in peace and pace. He was too passionate to walk that like a yogi, he didn’t want anything like chappals to obstruct his Yatra. Ashok had a good rapport with the jungle. He made art with whatever he could find in the jungle. New names of many trees. He made bracelets out of wild lotuses, decors out of leaves and plates out of leaves too and ate them too. Such a life! Vivid, Happy and ever optimistic are the adjectives to use to stay with him.
I caught up with the Yatris and the walk on the third day was a fun one. In the village of Projectnagar, we conducted an ignite in an all-girls school. Kids came up with brilliant ideas and Rupa’s story of her dad moved everyone. How her dad, Mallesham who was a commoner and out of dire need and how he cannot see his mother’s pain in threading ASU for Pochampalli sarees went on to invent the ASU Machine which replaces the toil of weaving a same thread 9000 times manually(only 2 of such sarees were done back then) to automating the process to get it done in a single hour with the help of his machine. Grassroots innovations deserve a totally different level of appreciation. I talked to Rupa, got to meet to meet great innovator Mahipal Chary sir(Who invented an automatic weeder which helped remove weeds in his farm and now is a huge relief for many farmers) and Ramesh Bandari too. Their innovation stories are something which could help us all think out of the box.I really liked the amount of effort we are putting in to bring out these talents and a big round of applause for the same.
At the same time, I also realized the amount of work which takes action to help bring out these innovations. Find it. Help the innovator get recognized for his/her brilliance, pitch the idea to potential investors, run from a place to another in seconds to catch up with these investors, help the innovator produce and pack the products, market them. All of the above-mentioned work is often gone under the radar for any user.
My travels have soo far taken me into the deep of Adilabad and Warangal districts while I look out to explore more and more of my motherland. Maybe I want to take a trip to the beautiful northeast but only time can tell when and with whom I may go where