After climbing up the last hill this is the view that one gets of Khodamba village. Its serenity immediately washes away all the tiredness of the two hour long up and down walk from Vakner village. That is currently the last motorable point from which to access this village which is buried deep in the hills bordering the Narmada river in Alirajpur district. Even today this niche of a valley remains unsullied by diesel fumes. The Bhil residents of this village still sow their lands with sorghum, maize, millets and pulses and use traditional water harvesting methods like this old man Madania has done for years together.
While he has been circumspect with regard to changing his lifestyle he hasn't been so with restricting his family and so now the subsequent generations constitute a pretty big and modern brood. The limited lands in the valley are not able to provide these younger ones with a full livelihood and so they have to migrate seasonally to labour in the booming construction industry in Gujarat. So they have discarded the dress of their forefathers and now become suited and booted.
Once upon a time in the late 1980s and early 1990s Khodamba was a place of dreams. I used to romantically think of it as the base of a liberated zone of anti-modernity that we would be able to establish against the prevailing mainstream rush of development. As a part of this dream we began an innovative education programme in Khudamba in which the children would be taught in their own language Bhili and they would themselves develop their own course material. Many youths from the cities would come to Khudamba to assist with teaching the children and building up the school. For them also it was a dream at that time. None of those impromptu visitors have been able to forget the few months or weeks that they spent there even though they later went on to lead their own lives. The photos here have been clicked by Narendra Patil who is the quintessential anarchist on his revisit to this village 16 years after he left it. Looking at these photos I couldn't help heaving a sigh at what could have been. The world has moved on and our dreams have died but the memories remain as fresh and as heartening as ever.
The people of Khodamba have changed too. They obviously want the road to come to their village also so that they can more easily take their produce to the market and vice versa. But in some respects they still retain some of the idealism of the early years of our activism among them. They have saved their forests from being decimated by the Forest Department. Moreover they are now threatened with eviction because of a proposed wild life sanctuary and so are once again reverting to the earlier confrontationist mode. However, things will never be as green as it used to be in this valley when I first went there.