Today, we ventured into the jungles again. The persisting sound of wilderness was carried aloft by the winds as the forest transformed into ripples of cascading echoes. Betwixt the luminous haze of shadow and light, there’s a song of mystery, yearning and deep ecstasy in the woods. Every cell, every crevice and every root throbbed with primal energy. For, their soul held memories of a several lifetimes ago. Encircling its jagged precipices, as we made our way through lonely boughs and rustling petioles, we sought refuge in the solitude of pathless groves.
By the woods where dwell the people of the forest, as one path ends and another begins, resides a settlement of Muthuvakodi tribals. These were people who within the shrouded forms of the jungle discovered the beauty and benevolence of nature’s finest creations. They live deep in the woods and not once do they long to be a part of the urban jungle where the rest of us reside today.
We trekked to the top of the village to meet Pavan – the tribal man responsible for clearing a portion of Fayez’s land. While we waited for him, all we could see around us was the devastating effect of Lantana Camara on the hills and the ecosystem. The entire forest was covered in a myriad hues of red, orange and pink. The stunted growth of neighbouring trees as Lantana intermingled with their roots, branches and trunks is a capital example of how deeply the infestation has spread over the years.
We were quite determined to find a beautifully balanced solution to the Lantana problem wherein unchecked growth could be controlled in an efficient manner by introducing a new skill that would also result in better livelihood opportunities for the tribals. We informed Pavan that we had numerous discussions with the Forest Office and they too were keen on eradicating the plant entirely from the landscape. Moreover, we all preferred an organic method to get rid of Lantana and were certain that we wouldn’t adopt any methodologies that required the usage of chemicals for speedy results. Pavan told us that he’d come with us to see the land once more and gauge the situation.
From our earlier interactions, we had realised that he was an alcoholic and perhaps not the best person to discuss the initiative with. He couldn’t comprehend the benefits of introducing a community-development project to this particular village. All he wanted was to make enough money to be able to meet his daily requirements with respect to food and liquor. Neither did he care about the environment nor the future of his tribal community.
It was getting dark and we had to trek down to Fayez’s land. On our way back, we decided to take a quick detour to Lower Muthuvakodi and meet Thangappan. We spotted him sitting outside his house gazing at the hills. He greeted us wholeheartedly and asked us what we were doing in his neck of the woods? We had already explained to him about the vision of our lantana-livelihood project. So, we sought his help to reach out to other members of the community.
“This is a good initiative. If done well, it might change our lives forever. We have nothing else to do here. Most of the people have migrated to cities and towns in search of jobs. I am afraid we will soon abandon the forests entirely because we can’t fight to survive anymore. It is important that people understand the necessity of facilitating and supporting such a project. Meet me tomorrow after 4 pm. We shall discuss this in length,” said Thangappan in a determined tone.
We reached Fayez’s farm no sooner than later. And, after a hearty meal around the bonfire, we called it an early night. As we drifted off to sleep, the hills were blanketed by star-studded skies and crickets put on a rare orchestral performance, in full symphony, for its fellow creatures…
Project ‘Rest of My family‘ is an attempt to connect back, re-discover our relationship with and understand our responsibility towards the larger family that we are a part of — the rest of our human family. Hence, it is titled Rest Of My Family.
Through #RestofMyFamily, we will focus on highlighting social issues and human interest stories, documenting the triumphs of the ordinary man despite all the hardships they face constantly, and help these stories reach a larger audience and wherever necessary extend support to the individuals and communities that we write about. We hope to make a direct impact to the lives of those people we meet and find suffering due to various social issues; to connect the ones who need help to the ones who can help….
Find more about the campaign here: http://igg.me/at/restofmyfamily/x/539502