Sheen and Radhakrishnan visited us early in the morning. They suggested that we make a trip to the Attapadi Hills Area Development Society (AHADS) quarters since it has been instrumental in augmenting the lives of tribal families for years. Considered by the State Government to implement the Attapadi Wasteland Comprehensive Environmental Conservation Project, the society’s governing body encompassed officials, academicians, scientists and a highly structured system that envisaged the development of hills keepiing in mind eco-restoration principles. Primarily, the project aimed at recovering deforested lands and bolstering self-sustenance within the tribal communities by undertaking ecological initiatives.
The campus was a few minutes away from our guesthouse. The pathways were lined with ornamental plants and some flowering shrubs. The synergy between the structures and the natural ecosystem added a certain charm and character to the landscape. Carefully crafted with artistic acumen, the architecture was inspired by Laurie Baker’s design. An artist, designer and cartoonist, he served in the Second World War for your years in isolation to take care of lepers in China. His meeting with Gandhiji convinced him to move to India where he built several leper homes, hospitals and schools in tribal areas.
As we entered the main lobby, we spotted a large tree firmly wedged in the center; its leaves discarded on the floor. The offices were deserted and not a sound echoed in the air. To the right hand side, a giant whiteboard hung beside a miniature model of the campus. Tarnished and forgotten, it had details like average wind speed, rainfall, relative humidity and sunshine hours. Apparently, this was noted down every single day without fail for a decade. Like a haunting reminder of its abrupt shut down, the fading ink on the board read March 3, 2012. “That was the last day we came in to work. It was closed without proper notice,” said Sheen and looked away. Disheartened by what was left of the office, he told us that neither the employees nor the tribes were prepared for the aftermath.
Thick layers of dust had accumulated on the file records stored in the cupboards. We asked Sheen if they had preserved all the data collated over the past decade or if there existed a digital archive. “When we were informed that the office was no longer operational, the first thing the government did was take away all the computers and important files that had information on population, statistics, topography, soil quality, water, funds required and spent on tribal projects. Unfortunately, all the back up was taken away too. So, we have nothing with us today,” said Sheen.
We entered some of the offices and found papers scattered on the desk everywhere. Tables and broken chairs were piled up in the corner. Some diaries had incomplete entries while others had unfinished records. As we walked through vacant hallways, it almost felt as if we were surrounded by shadows of a glorious past. What was once a thriving office filled with some of the best minds in technical expertise, anthropology and social entrepreneurship now sat derelict and debilitated…
(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