Day2: 29th June 2011 Location: Kappiset, Pulpally
By the time the Mahindra jeep stopped in front of State Bank of India, Kappieset we had stopped thinking why had they placed the bank in such an outskirt. As we jumped off the jeep, a rain came near and whispered a secret into our ears. It seemed as the children who were inside the classrooms of a nearby school saw it and were jealous about it-at least their staring eyes on us said it.
As we walked in rain to the office of the same school, they could have understood what the secret was, otherwise they could not have come out to see both of us walking wet in the rain. The tribal extension office in Pulpally was just near the tribal school and pre-metric hostel.
From TE office we came to know that the promoter in the nearest tribal settlements was Bindhu ‘Chechi’. Moving through wet tarred road in search of Bindhu Chechi(not the protagonist of the day) we could not help not to notice the school kids who are now busy throwing stones on mango tree making us jealous this time. Later the tarred road descended to stoned one as our hope of finding her did.
As we moved through the thick pepper plantations with yam crops sprinkled among it, the only two emotions that surfaced in me were: one the resentment of not getting a camera to capture this wonderful journey and the other –fear of being chased by a dog at anytime (a whiff of which I encountered in most of my walks to tribal settlements). So I covered my back with the notebook to find my partner looking at me in an ‘apple smile’.
Smile-I had seen a glimpse of another genre of smile as we are about leave pulpally. The smile over my face that resonated to a laughter of a mad man walking by me, when the speaker standing over the junction presented before his audience the starkling fact that a wild elephant can even smell water kilometers away. Another glimpse of smile that I could imagine was that of the elephant when it stood behind the man working on his land without making any sound just before it killed him.
We had reached the fields by then. The lady who came running over varambu was guessed as the Chechi without any mistake. As we moved to her house, I can’t help to notice the well-built houses contrary to our imaginations which had built pre-historic catacombs.
After the talk we moved to visit tribal hamlets. How nice of me to summarize whatever she said to a word -talk. Who will then know about stories of unwed mothers, their poverty, children getting addicted to drinks, often smuggled for labor? Oh! How many times did the newspapers reported these, what more, what else?
Chechi was not so comfortable in moving to hamlet which doesn’t come under her responsibility. But the social worker in her could have spurred her to join us. Down the steep slope, we found two tribal youth sitting on the road. One had studied till 10th the other till 6th. Reasons for their dropping out were different and important to our study. The guy who studied till 6th had still bear marks of the unfair corporal punishment in his mind while the other who studied by working in week days had to stop studies as course got tougher by 10thgrade. By the grace of God, one of their teachers happened go by that way on a bike thus one’s academic fate was redirected as a readmission and others rested in his stubbornness leaving shadow as the inks on my book
Continuing the journey to a tribal hamlet crossing the beautiful country side paddy fields through the varambu a group of trial children came running against us. “Hey hold on for a second, why you kids hadn’t gone for classes today?” On hearing thus their wonder on seeing us not only died down but their naked legs moved like the wings of a swarm of bees and ran past us. But Shaiju did not run away from us like them. He stood their only to be questioned on not using his educational rights which could not stop him from running.
The first house we saw as we reached the colony was that of Shaiju. Couple of kids who were wrestling in mud ran for cover.The attention of whole the hamlet turned towards us as if we were some extra-terrestrial beings. As we reached outside Shaiju’s house, we could see few faces coming outside the dark inner rooms. We met his grandfather and mother talked about his schooling, the hamlet , the lack of drinking water, the rain .. But I could not take my eyes from his cute young sister just not because of her chuckling but the seeing her enlarged head. The one I have not forgot as similar pesticide infected child cases had caused a big public outrage in Kasargod district of Kerala. Later Shaiju’s father who came from the field said that she was a covered by local media couple of months back and got large public attention. Later, they came back from Calicut Medical College when Doctor suggested an advanced surgery.
Bindhu Chechi and both of us were walking back home as it already started raining and it was far off from main road when we met the people from Panchayat office, “You are Bindhu Chechi right? A case of Cholera outbreak has been reported and we are moving to colonies for chlorination and as the promoter of this area you are supposed to join us, and…”
As we took the Jeep for Pulpally for images starting parading over my mind- the ghost of Malaria that once frightened the British and first surge of Travancore farmers to Wayanad, the face of Shaiju s sister , the fighting between young kids we saw at anganavadi, above all Shaiju going to school. By the time we reached our houses media had already started combing tribal hamlets for news and News channels had placed reporters throughout the place.More to come- Reporters , Ministers and Schemes.