Anarcho-environmentalism allegorised

The name Anaarkali in the present context has many meanings - Anaar symbolises the anarchism of the Bhils and kali which means flower bud in Hindi stands for their traditional environmentalism. Anaar in Hindi can also mean the fruit pomegranate which is said to be a panacea for many ills as in the Hindi idiom - "Ek anar sou bimar - One pomegranate for a hundred ill people"! - which describes a situation in which there is only one remedy available for giving to a hundred ill people and so the problem is who to give it to. Thus this name indicates that anarcho-environmentalism is the only cure for the many diseases of modern development! Similarly kali can also imply a budding anarcho-environmentalist movement. Finally according to a legend that is considered to be apocryphal by historians Anarkali was the lover of Prince Salim who was later to become the Mughal emperor Jehangir. Emperor Akbar did not approve of this romance of his son and ordered Anarkali to be bricked in alive into a wall in Lahore in Pakistan but she escaped. Allegorically this means that anarcho-environmentalists can succeed in bringing about the escape of humankind from the self-destructive love of modern development that it is enamoured of at the moment and they will do this by simultaneously supporting women's struggles for their rights.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Guest is God

The Vodafone Foundation has initiated a World of Difference Programme wherein an employee of Vodafone India will spend forty days interning with an NGO. Dhas Gramin Vikas Kendra in Alirajpur has been chosen as one of these NGOs and a young lady Priyanka Panchal has begun working with the organisation. Here is her first report of her experience of working with the Bhil Adivasis of Alirajpur -

Ten days have passed since I stepped in the state of Madhya Pradesh – for the first time in my life! I have travelled some 900 kms on motorbike and 30 odd on foot to reach to the people during these ten days! Something that I could not even THINK of doing just about a fortnight back. True it is what they say – Our limitations are just within our minds…
My task has been cut out. Retrieve the money from the inactive bank accounts of 53 self help groups across different villages. The days started with journey on the bike with Mr. Mukesh of Dhas Gramin Vikas Kendra to reach to the village, assemble the people over there, get their consent forms signed (in most cases thumb impressions) to close their accounts and retrieve their money. Once we had a sizeable number of consent forms, we went to the bank and got the money back for the people.
The money will be distributed by Dhas Gramin back to the families. Well, if it was just the job I would talk about, this would be it. But I think the trip has started to contribute beyond just getting the money back. I will write about it.
“Atithi Devo Bhava (The Guest is God)” has been written in Indian Scriptures and has been a part of the sacred Indian traditions since time immemorial. But sadly, in our world this phrase has somehow gone back to being just black and white ink. Sometimes an attractive poster maybe, or a brilliant campaign to woo the tourists. I went to a house that was approximately 100 sq feet, and just had one room which was systematically divided into everything they wanted, without walls. It was a house with 1/100th facilities of a furnished urban house (but it was the best in the village!). We just expected to have a glass of water (Frankly on the first day, I would have preferred to drink from my own bottle, but they wouldn’t let you do that - Adivasi Hospitality) and begin with our meeting and then proceed. But the family which would have vegetables of this quantity only on special occasions for themselves, had a complete meal ready for an unknown visitor who was coming to their home (after such warmth shown, I can’t mention it as a mere ‘house’) for the first time!! I was touched!!
Without having an access to the brilliant Incredible! India Campaign which has the theme of Athithi Devo Bhava, this family actually showed me what it means. It doesn’t require a million dollar campaign, it just requires a heart that goes to think beyond one’s self. That meal would have cost them about 3 days of their average food, but the love, the faith, the affection they showed taught me what probably the scriptures meant when they wrote that phrase.
I also went to a 1000 year old temple which falls on the way of my daily route. Ten Centuries! We don’t even know how the civilizations will exist after 10 centuries from today! It must have been a testimony to so many histories! The feeling I got when I saw the temple was similar to when I saw the movie – “Paan Singh Tomar”. Like he was an unsung hero of India, I think places like these are the unsung places of India!
I will be contributing to getting the money of the 53 SHGs back from the banks at the end of my 2 months here. To them, it will mean a lot. But, the job that I will have done seems so miniscule than what these so called “illiterate” people staying kilometers away from the Urban life have taught me already – to spread cheer is life, to live happily is life. I guess they are good where they are right now….. These people keep the goodness in the world alive..I guess this is exactly the reason why Gandhiji would have said “India lives in her villages”. I agree. Everywhere else, sadly, we just exist.

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