We woke up to a hazy dawn. Veiled tufts of clouds nestled in the shadows of the woods; tasselled fields strummed unsung tunes of forgotten lore. And, far beyond the gardens, where wafted the scent of flowers and shrubs, lived a forgotten clan in homes without names amidst fading lines of earth and soil. The sunrise gale stirred every branch and leaf in the forest. Soon, the clouds parted and the sun shone through. An old man watered the plants in the courtyard. A look of concern furrowed his brow as he bent down to caress a fallen petal.
We slept on the roof last night. In the morning, we saw Joby’s mother walk to and fro from our room. She seemed anxious and we could sense that something was amiss. Fifteen minutes later, we heard her call out Fayez’s name. They spoke to each other in Malayalam for a while.
Fayez walked to us with a glum expression and told us that we had to leave the house immediately. We were quite taken aback. It was only later we learnt that there was trouble brewing in the household. Joby left his wife and children in Coimbatore and decided to relocate to Attapadi to help his mother and father. He made a huge sacrifice for the sake of his parents. And, yet they were unhappy with him. Despite their differences, he refused to abandon them and still carried a sliver of hope in his heart that someday they may unite and become a family once again.
Having gone through similar disagreements with our own families, at some point in our lives, we hoped that these situations faded over time. However, before us was a man in his mid-forties who chose to live selflessly and help his parents when they needed him the most. And, somehow, that wasn’t enough. This just reaffirmed our belief that there is no dignity in imposing ideologies and trying to control the people around us. Unless and until, we learn to accept each other for who we are, we will perhaps continue to wallow in frustration.
We told him not to worry and that we would figure out an alternate living arrangement. He asked us to meet him at a bridge which was situated a little away from town. We packed our bags and gathered our things in the jeep. Joby’s mother asked us if we would like to eat something before we left. We politely declined her offer and decided to head towards town.
We stopped at a restaurant to have some coffee and breakfast. Joby walked in with a smile and said, “All this will build your tolerance.” We shared a good laugh with him and asked him if he would join us today. “I’ve to take care of a few things. So, stick around and I’ll meet you guys in a few hours,” he said as he left.
We went to a workshop in Agali since we had to get the starter motor checked. The mechanic informed us that the jeep would be ready by seven in the evening. Two men sat beside us reading their morning paper and discussing politics while an auto driver parked his vehicle beside a tea stall hoping to get his first customer. A lanky young man in a tattered jacket walked past us pulling his cart filled with newspapers and discarded cartons.
We sat there for a while till we saw Manikandan passing by. He invited us to his home. In conversation, he mentioned that he once belonged to the Nair community but had converted to Christianity a few years ago. He held the missionaries in high regard. “Some of the best schools in the country came from convents. But the Westernised form of education we follow today isn’t perfect. It has its own set of flaws. Back in the day, we followed the Gurukulam structure. Our ancient system of schooling thrived on self-education and imparting knowledge on self-sustenance in accordance with nature and the earth. I cannot possibly deny the fact that education can truly empower the tribal communities of Attapadi and help improve their lives,” he said.
A twinge of sadness crossed his face as he explained the sorry state of Anganwadis in the hamlets. Majority of them were run by under-qualified teachers who barely graduated high school. He genuinely believed that a strong education system is the cornerstone of a society’s progress. “Anganwadis must be provided with top-notch facilities and proficient teachers. We need to focus our energy and resources on strengthening the edifice of primary education in the country. The government must make extensive reforms to pedagogical concepts. We pay great attention to enhancing the structure of our universities while schools struggle to survive,” he went on.
According to him, if we collected all the money pumped into the hamlets for the past two decades, then each tribal person would have at least 50 lakh in their bank accounts today. However, there’s a gargantuan difference between money spent on projects and financial assistance received by the tribes.
Mani’s eyes veiled his angst as he stated with deep sorrow that selfishness and greed have robbed us of our humanity today. Thereby, corrupting the realm of collective consciousness where we once sought refuge in morality. “What do these tribes have? Nothing. Out of desperation, they sell their ration from time to time to earn some money. How do you convince someone to have hope in such a situation?,” asked Mani…
(to be continued…)
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