A trip to Bhadrachalam – a beautiful place with the serene backdrop of lush-green mountain ranges all around and the glorious river Godavari adding to the magical splendour and mythological significance attached to every part of it  is more than enough to ensure you have a nice time.  When this is coupled with a purpose, that feeling of doing trying to do something for your country, for her people – in turn for your own self, it turns out to be the icing on the cake! And when it happens to be during our Independence day, you know you could not thank your stars more.

So, we spent the last two days in a VanaYatra with our Youth for Seva [YFS] group,  organised in conjunction with Vanavasi Kalyana Parishad.

Most of us complain about too many things in India – roads, traffic, lack of education, bad facilities. This kills me – not that I could not do with some improvement, but the fact that we blame it on INDIA – which is nothing but ‘US’.  India is our country which boasts of a rich and varied heritage, unity in diversity and natural beauty @ its best! What we have made of her is what should actually worry us. If we are doing nothing about our worries, why and whom are we blaming?  India is still shining; it’s only that a few specks of dirt have covered her up.  We need to pull out the weeds to see our ever-green Motherland.

Most of the youth today want to be a part of the change but we just don’t know where to start from.  One such platform is provided by YFS.

Vanavasi Kalyana Parishad is also a voluntary organisation working for the social, economical and cultural upliftment of Vanavasis [Vana – forest, Vasis – Dwellers]. They live in such peace and harmony with the nature that you feel like they are conversing with each other and are happy safe-guarding each other!

So, Independence Day was celebrated this time by paying a visit to flood-hit areas on the banks of  River Godavari in Bhadrachalam and distributing blankets to the affected people and trying to find out what other problems they face and would want to receive aid for. We also visited many schools started by the Vanavasi Kalyana Parishad to educate the  tribal children and distributed school kits there.  This trip proved to be an eye-opener in many ways.

********************************************************************

For one, I got to know that there were many legendary heroes among the Vanavasis who fought for centuries against foreign aggression – Birsa Munda (Jharkand), Punja Bhil (Rajasthan), Seetharamaraju from Andhra Pradesh etc..  Haven’t Vanavasis been such an important part of our mythology too? Ekalavya, an inspiring character from Mahabharata ,who learnt archery just by prostrating in front of Guru Dronacharya’s statue  belonged to a tribe called Nishadha.

Like Dr. Abdul Kalam said:

If India has to become a developed nation by 2020, we cannot afford to neglect the 8 Crore Vanavasis!!!!

Yes, that is a huge number aright! We got to know that the district we had been to, Khammam itself has about 9 lakh Vanavasis!  And I think it’s very important we preserve the bounty of knowledge they have within them – about nature, plants, herbs, animals and also their superb singing, dancing and handicrafts skills.

We also met one person Ramji here who has been working @ the grass-root level with these people for many years now, trying to bring about change. A B.Ed graduate, he has also dedicated his entire life for the betterment of  Vanavasis and is extremely happy about what he is doing in life. He goes to all the schools and hostels started for them and it was a pleasure to see how he becomes a kid with those children who much they love him.  Finding joy in what we do is of course the secret of success isn’t it?  People like Shobhit and Ramji answer the question we usually have ‘What can we do?’  by their work and not mere words.

*********************************************************************

On the first day of our trip, i.e on 14th, we had been on a cruise over Godavari and stopped @ various villages on the banks where the Vanavasis lived and went to visit them. In the first one that we visited, I saw these beautiful handicrafts kept near their huts.

I asked them if I could buy them and they told me I could. A boy told me this particular piece cost Rs.30/-, which itself amazed me – that’s so less isn’t it? A woman came running from the hut and told me that he had quoted more by mistake and told me it costs just Rs. 20/- ❗  Such honesty and so less a value for their creativity! They told me they do such crafts as they have a lot of free time @ home after finishing all their work!  I later asked one of the volunteers why these pieces could not be taken and sold in some big shops and the profit given to these women. I was told that they refuse and want to give these to people who visit them with their own hands, with love!

Some more things made my these women:

Thanks for these pics Naveen

ETA: 23rd Dec 2010 – I got a better picture :mrgreen:

*********************************************************************

We then had lunch on the cruise, again cooked by one family from the village and you won’t believe how clean and organized they are! And the food was delicious. We then started distributing the blankets. It so happened that we unfortunately fell short of a few blankets and were thinking about what we could do to sort out the problem. And what do we see? The people who had received the blankets started piling them up in once place. And why? Because they would distribute it uniformly amongst all families, so that they are all benefited. Haven’t we got to learn from these people? This was so touching!

*********************************************************************

Contemplating over the lessons we had learnt, we proceeded towards another village in the forests.  Here, we met a lot of kids. We were told that kids are taken from all these villages to schools set up in a big town nearby and provided food, shelter and clothing along with education.  The volunteers from the Vanavasi Kalyana Parishad supposedly had a difficult time before convincing these people to send their kids to school. It seems the people ran away from them when they went dressed in pants  and shirts, very different from how they lived themselves.  But now, the situation has improved from a point where the volunteers had to go get these kids to school when they came of age to where the parents themselves bring the kids to school 🙂 And yes,  that included girls too 🙂 🙂  I even saw Solar lights installed here!

*********************************************************************

This was the end of our cruise and we ended our day by paying a visit to one such residential school started for the Vanavasis. We distributed school-kits here and the happiness on the kids faces was what kept us going so late in the night! It might mean just Rs.250/-  for us, but it meant a huge grin showing all those little teeth they have, for the kids. They enthusiastically examined the contents and thanked us a lot.   They sang some beautiful patriotic songs for us and what more, this school has a team which plays @ National Level in Kho-kho and are now being taken care of SAI [Sports Authority of India]!!! Isn’t that a huge accomplishment. If this is not development, then what is? We just saw the projects they made and how much they respected Bharat-Mata. That sense of gratitude, patriotism was so evident in their words and actions – and I am not exaggerating at all!  This is education really. Man-making and character-building education, to put it in Swami Vivekananda’s words. Ask the students what they are supposed to do – they say study, play, and help their parents with small chores  and teach others in their villages during vacations!

One kid said he wants to become a Sub-inspector of Police for Praja-Rakshana [Protecting the people]. Another said he wanted to become a doctor and do Loka-seva [Serve the people].  They did not sound taught and am sure it’s what they felt.  We were also told 46 kids are passing out of 10th this year and the seniors from previous years are doing engineering/ medicine etc.. in different parts of the state.

*********************************************************************

Aug 15th’10 –  Our program today was supposed to start with a visit to another residential school. We participated in the flag hoisting ceremony here and it was so nice getting back to that school-mood again 🙂  Yet again, the kids left us spell-bound. They recited prayers and chants like they have learnt them for ages now, sang meaningful songs, demonstrated certain arts with javelins and even played a few games with our seva volunteers and defeated them 😉  We had lunch with the kids here, a few of  the elder students  served us with such motherly affection that we could just not say No to a vegetable we had never eaten in life too.  YFS also inaugurated a library here. 400 books worth Rs.8000/- were carefully chosen by one of our volunteers reading through each book.  Needless to say, it was taken very well 🙂

We met a few alumni from this school who are now dentists, engineers,lawyers, post-graduates etc..

In this school, we also met a group of medical students from a nearby medical college [Mamta Medical College Khammam] These students told us that they collect donations from students in college [whatever they can afford to contribute, be it even Rs.5/-] and use the money to gift something to a school on every Independence Day. They had bought a Water Purifier and a Mixer for this school now.  Youth in India are really active!  It’s sad that things like this don’t make it to a visible corner of the newspaper or appear on TV as ‘Prime’ News. But, we do see rays of hope; don’t we?

This school is the brain-child of one person, who had himself lost all his belongings in ravaging floods which caused huge destruction in this region sometime in 1986. When people asked him to do something for them, he @ first became confused as to how anybody could approach him for help when he had nothing for himself! But then, as he started trying to do something for people, he realized the joy of giving and today is proud to be a part of this institution. Do we need any more inspiration?

I think all these people are perfect examples of what Swami Vivekananda said:

They alone live who live for others. The rest are more dead than alive.

********************************************************************

I just did not want to leave any of these places, because it was so wonderful spending time with these kids.  Alas, time does not wait. We proceeded to a place called Parnasala and here we were treated to another type of institution. It amazes me how much thought-process has gone behind planning these measures. Since kids in these villages may not be able to get any help from their parents in learning @ home, doing their home-work etc.., they attend some activity centers were they play with other children for sometime, then learn singing, dancing etc.. and then do their home-work for the day.  Many women have come forward to take this responsibility and they are trained by the Vanavasi Parishad in the same. They have refresh-trainings every month.  We visited two such centers and the children were AWESOME! Am yet to upload the videos,  but will surely share them with you all in the next post! Worth watching!  I loved this entire concept where we saw around 40-50 children from the village get together, play, sing and dance and complement each other so well. There was no unhealthy competition visible @ all!

Ramji also shared some beautiful thoughts with us here. He said ‘As a tiger saves the forest and the forest saves the tiger, so are teachers and students –  they are for each other.’  He was talking about how much they get to learn from kids and the sheer joy they derive out of it . Child is really the father of man isn’t it 🙂

********************************************************************

Our trip ended with a visit to another hostel.  This has another inspiring story behind it. A few employees of Singareni company in Kothagudem got together and put forth a proposal before their management that they want to have a place constructed for housing the tribal kids and also wanted them to be enrolled in the  Singareni group school itself so that they could receive quality education.  So, these people, along with doing their work from morning till evening, attend to these kids @ other times and look after the smooth functioning of the hostel.  One of them also told us how one of the boys in the school wanted to go away home and not study – he wanted to hunt and fish instead; and how his father was in tears saying that he wanted his son to get all that what he could not achieve in life!  Such has been the change in the thought-process of these parents too!

With all the lessons we had already gathered, these people taught us another one in humility.  Though they occupy significant top positions @ work, we could not see an iota of ego in their talk or actions.  Simply superb!

*********************************************************************

Each of these experiences left me spell-bound. Yes, we have had honour killings, 26/11 and many other things which have hit us. But, what about these unsung heroes? They are going about doing their work without any complaints. All they want is a change and they are not waiting for someone else to start a movement – they have done it.

And I think, if they can do it, we all can – at whatever level it is possible for us to do!  One thing I have always believed in is that the only corner that we can be sure of changing in the world is ourself. Yes, we can make a difference!

I have ailing bones and wailing joints all over by body; but when the heart is singing gleefully, it takes over everything else 🙂

HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY TO ALL OF YOU AND JAI HIND 🙂

*********************************************************************

ETA: Just saw that BlogAdda has extended the Mera Bharat Mahaan contest till 17thAug. Submitting this post to the same. Thanks BlogAdda and Pringoo for this wonderful contest.

P.S: Bhadrachalam was breathtakingly beautiful. I did not want to make this already long post any longer 🙂 Will share the pics and the travel tales in an upcoming post 🙂 Cheerio 🙂

P.P.S: YFS runs in Bengaluru and Hyderabad, as of now. You can visit the website for more details. I will be more than happy to help if you would like to know anything more – as much as I know that is and will try to get more info 🙂

Thanks so much Vivek for introducing me to YFS 🙂

Advertisements