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Under the shade of a tamarind tree

July 27, 2012

“… I know how important it is in life not necessarily to be strong but to feel strong – To measure yourself at least once – To find yourself at least once in the most ancient of human conditions…” – Into the Wild

January this year we decided to take children on an unconventional trip, a cycle trip to a small village near Hyderabad. The idea was not only to appreciate and enjoy nature but to understand nature in its raw form and to deepen our relationship with it. Here is a small recount of what all happened.

23rd – 27th January (The week it all started)

We had to plan a trip for the older bunch (13-16 year olds). A lot of proposals were being thrown on the floor, during the ‘Children meeting session’. “Can we cycle to my village, Mulugu? It is about 50km from here”, someone asked. It was indeed an exciting and unmatched proposal and we all decided to go for it. Cycling 50km to Mulugu and back, it was to be. Now the rules of the game had to be defined… the trip had to be made more interesting and challenging. After much deliberations we decided on the following –

  • We would start cycling on 28th morning from Hyderabad, and go towards a village 50km from the city, stay there overnight and come back the next day.
  • We would not use any money during the journey and would work out other ways to arrange for food, place to stay and other necessities. One of us would carry some money which was to be used only in the case of an emergency.
  • We would not carry cell phones. One phone would be taken, again to be used only in case of emergency.
  • We would not carry more than a total of 2 packets of bread to be used during starting part of our journey.

The idea was for the children to get a glimpse of how difficult/easy is it to fend for oneself and arrange for basic necessities. The next few days, children tried to convince their parents to allow them to undertake this arduous journey. Finally out of seven children, four decided to come for the trip. Sadly the two girls from the group could not come with us. One of them had just recovered from Malaria and was weak and the other one hadn’t then learnt how to cycle (she has learnt it now and is ready to take part in the next trip we undertake).

28th January – Morning (Bags were packed, cycles out)

Six of us (4 children and 2 teachers) commenced our journey at 5 in the morning, when it was still dark. We had just barely hit the highway when the first tyre gave up. There was no cycle shop to be seen anywhere. We did not know what to do, when someone told us that there was a cycle shop about 2-3 km ahead on the same road. We somehow managed to reach the shop and tried to explain to the cycle shop owner about the nature of our journey. We asked him if we could use some of his equipments for free as we had no money to offer him. He was reluctant in the beginning but finally let us use the tools. We repaired the puncture ourselves, we had learnt to. Thankfully we did not encounter another cycle related emergency for the rest of our journey. The onward journey was full of excitement and we took a total of two breaks – one near a lake to have breakfast and the other near a forest nursery to see what all was growing inside. We also stopped to look for some work at a tea shop in return for some snacks but found no luck.

28th January – Afternoon (Exhausted and hungry)

We reached the village sometime around noon. It was native village of one of our student who had come with us. However, he along with his parents had moved to the city. He was able to arrange some rice, salt and utensils for us. After some deliberations we decided that we would stay out in an open field. We took rice and utensils and cycled to a nearby farm. Near the farm stood a huge tamarind tree.

We parked our cycles and decided to take refuge under the tree. Next big thing was food – We were all very hungry and some uncooked rice and a little salt was all that we had. We divided ourselves into smaller groups – some went in search for water – some in search of tomatoes and onions – some to collect firewood for making chullah. After about an hour of talking to people, explaining to them our story and trying to get work, we were able to get some water, and some tomatoes. Some of us climbed the tree and plucked a lot of ripe tamarind. In the mean time the chullah was prepared, ready to be used. With the tamarind and tomatoes in hand, we cooked the most delicious Rasam and Rice meal. One of us knew how to make plates from large leaves. Plates were ready and food was served. Never before had such a simple meal tasted so delicious. The afternoon was quite pleasant. Some of us took the onus of singing songs and playing dholak and disturbing those who wanted to take a nap.

28th January – Evening (Relaxed, peaceful and very cold)

The food had brought back the lost energy and in an hour or so we were ready to cycle again. We decided to explore the village, also try and find food for night. We kept all our bags high up on the tamarind tree and cycled to outskirts of the village, to another village nearby called Wargle. The whole atmosphere was very peaceful. People were busy sowing rice. Part of the evening was spent in silently observing the sunset and part in playing Kabaddi with kids from the village. After the game and after having heard our story the kids offered us some more tomatoes from their farm. It was tomato day for us. We went back and this time decided to cook tomato rice. It had grown dark and we realized that we had used up all water. Two of us went out in search of water. There was no light to be seen anywhere and we had no idea in which direction to go. After half an hour of random search we found a water tank literally waiting for us. We heaved a sigh of relief, filled our pitcher and bottles with water and ran back to our tamarind tree. The dinner was equally delicious and fulfilling, and the atmosphere had become even more peaceful. We spent some time looking at stars and talking about the simplicity of life a village drones. Some children talked about how we neglect and many-a-times undervalue simple stuff in life like the food at home. We were all dead tired and somewhere while counting the stars dozed off. But we were not destined to sleep that night. The winds had become harder and colder. We had to struggle to keep our bed sheets in place. Finally at around 1AM we all decided to give up fighting the wind and light fire instead. The rest of the night was spent in talking about ghosts, scaring people, getting scared, laughing and jumping around the fire.

29th January – Morning (Bags packed, ready to say good bye)

Well there was no waking up. We hadn’t slept at all – thanks to the cold chilly wind. Morning was well spent in looking out for a bush or a hideout to defecate, neem branches for cleaning out teeth. We heated the leftover rice from night and ate it for breakfast. After all that was needed to be done was done we took our cycles and started on our journey back to the pavilion, singing a song we had learnt together.

The return journey was more tiring and we had to stop a couple of times to take rest and drink water. We also stopped at a temple to pay our respect, but more so to eat the sweet that was being offered as prashadam. As we cycled from the peaceful village environment to chaotic city, we could see the change in atmosphere. The skies were no longer clear. The cars were honking and trying to steer us out of the road. While cycling I remembered what Fukuoka had written in his book ‘One-Straw Revolution’ – “A child’s ear catches the music. The murmuring of a stream, the sound of frogs croaking by the riverbank, the rustling of leaves in the forest, all these natural sounds are music – true music. But when a variety of disturbing noises enter and confuse the ear, the child’s pure, direct appreciation of music degenerates“.

Completely tired and worn out, we were back by sometime in the afternoon. Now that we could use money again, we bought ourselves a glass of juice each. We were out of the last bit of energy and there was no room for any talking or discussion. We gulped the juice and headed home to give rest to our tired legs.

I was feeling a little uneasy and realized what Cindy Ross had said was so true – “Returning home is the most difficult part of long-distance travelling. You have grown outside the puzzle and your piece no longer fits.”

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Rihana permalink
    July 29, 2012 09:17

    Nice read. Would have loved to stay under the shade of the tamarind tree. Abhi doobara padh kar hi content karna padega… 🙂


    • August 8, 2012 15:47

      Am sure you will find a lot of tamarind trees near your place.. just take a book and sit under one 🙂


  2. Hema S permalink
    July 29, 2012 22:47

    Plates, tamarind tree, cycles and a breath of fresh air. Ah !! What a refreshing journey and refreshing recount !!


  3. Sudha permalink
    August 9, 2012 19:48

    Wonderful journey. Beautiful pictures 🙂


  4. Richie permalink
    August 15, 2012 14:01

    Lovely initiative! However unsure what purpose does asking/ cajoling people for food and water serve here. Isn’t it counter to the values you are trying to imbibe?


    • August 15, 2012 15:40

      The words I have used here are not quite appropriate. The idea was for the children to go out, talk to the villagers, explain to them their story, build relationship, ask for some work and see if they can get something. The children were dressed well and no one would have taken them for beggars 🙂 So the only way they could get something was by telling their story, doing some work and building some sort of relationship and trust. But of course, people gave food and did not ask for anything in return. Does that answer your question?


      • August 15, 2012 15:48

        Actually thanks for pointing that out.. I just replaced the words.. the article was also going to some magazine 😛


        • Richie permalink
          August 15, 2012 17:08

          haha. Happy to proof read. 😉

          Yep, I would’ve imagined working for food, or bear grylls type mad surivivor skills. well done once again, you make us proud!


          • August 15, 2012 17:15

            well children did def made us proud by bringing loads of tomatoes.. how relieved we were! 🙂


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