DAY 1 : 16th June 2011 Location: anywhere in Wayanad-forests, hamlets, offices

“He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who doesn’t ask question remains a fool forever.”- A Chinese proverb.

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We had some questions to ask and some places to go for it.

“How are those children studying?”

“They got peripatetic school”.

“Peripatetic?” “Hmm…Schools deep inside forests. We really wonder whether they exist anymore…coz..a teacher will have to go by jeep inside the forest”

“Bike?”  “No you got elephants on the way.”

We had to remains fools for some time.

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That was neither the first question we asked nor the first place we went that day. An hour back we were at Wayanad district Collectorate gate. While moving through the gate covered by SFI protesters (over commercialization of education in Kerala), our minds were filled images of ‘Baboos’ who is going to take the last zip of patience out of us for a piece of paper.

Three blocks upstairs, we stepped into anthills of files and sung thus:

“Madam, we are from Delhi University, on a project related to tribal education in Wayanad. Could you please give us some details on the distribution and whereabouts of tribal settlement in Wayanad? Also, the statics on the number of students who are into different courses?”

We were quite sure beforehand that this is going to be ‘the ‘song of the month and had well rehearsed every notes of it.

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It was drizzling when we were walking to Kalpetta Bus station holding the only umbrella we got. I could hear him thinking about what we knew before we went to the TDO in Collectorate – data from Google, scribd and that there exist some office for tribal development there. Now we know how the whole fingers of government move for tribal development.

Tribal extension office was just above the Bus station. As we jumped over the drainage flooded with muddy water of a ceased rain and reached the office, we saw them- tribal people.

‘Promoters’ where talking to him, over covering his medical expenses. He was quite scrambled in papers and formalities when we pinched his curiosity by popping into the office.

“Hi… (and the song)…” Later we kept apart the questionnaires we had created before we boarded from Nizzamudhin and started talking to them plainly

Nothing much of data came out of them, rather we had shut down our brains for their hearts. Stories as they move around different house informing the government schemes, lack of interest of parents , schools deep inside forest and last they talked about Cherian Sir- who did a study about tribal language –the only one in Wayanad so far.

It was about 3:30 PM. We called him up and caught buses for Rajiv Gandhi Ashramam Vidyalaya, Kaloor.

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I could hardly see the beautiful outskirts of wet , green and dark Wayanad Life Sanctuary as   I was being pushed again and again to the window pane on every pothole the bus  jumped into while sitting under the elbow of a 5th grader. The culprit and 40-50 kiddos like him made us think how cruel the ‘Wagon tragedy of 1921’ could have been. Thus I had no option but to ask him, why he had to carry whole books back home everyday but to be lectured on the recent transformation the school education in Kerala had undergone.

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“Hi, we got trouble with the clothes you had stitched. They are not fitting in for children. What can you do?”

“Ugh? Sir, We- Delhi-Survey- Tribal”.

“Sorry come in. I mistook you for the tailors who were supposed come around same time

Assembly at tribal school

Thats how we met Cherian Sir-from Trivandrum, kept his lost days of reading in British Council Library and other literary rites alive in his memory. But we rather felt he had renounced all of it as he could found it weighing less for a greater cause of educating the improvised. Why else he had published books for tribal to converse in Malayalam knowing that would give him a monetary loss. W e talked a lot – about the customs, systems, culture, the backbenchers, and the need of feedback (not ventures).  He made us in touch with a famous personality, whose name I would reveal in some other day’s post.

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It was raining heavy and dark when we  reached back our hometown Pulpally, around like 8.00 PM. But the town was deserted and silent only the motor of the Bus left some echo around. Later the bus mechanic told us that a wild elephant had gone mad and is causing trouble for the whole region. He added that the beast already took one life and injured couple.  So it’s all party Harthal tomorrow and official cautionary notice to avoid travel had been put up in some areas.

A pang of fear descended on us. But we could see the last rickshaw in the town down a street light ,as if God send ,waiting for us.

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At the end of the day it made us think that the every instance that we met today where a precursor or mother of tiles that we are going to meet later while completing the whole jigsaw- the ‘Baboos’, tribal man, the kiddo in bus,a visionary and an elephant.

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