Sunday 14 April 2013

Almost a year since and already a new set of people being part of Negotiating Routes: Ecologies of the Byways part IV
For me I am still somehow "caught in time". The memories or so it seems are still so real. Sharing my note that I never published then - 

The project is gradually drawing towards its end, for me this has been a journey...perhaps it would be appropriate to say the beginning, of it, is now. Even if Doumahani and the people living here has interested me for some time, it's been only now that I have been able to observe them from such close range. I have made some friends...they laugh at me and often ask me on the boat...are you again going to take pictures today? :)
In the end/ or at this beginning I am forced to reflect back on the day when I was enthused to find out more about these people, and now had an excuse to do that more closely. But when its time for me to bundle up memories and let it stay in one corner of my mind for the time being, it becomes more difficult to believe in I keep telling myself - I will be back.
In these couple of months, I have come to know Jamshedpur as never before...seen people at their work, and the importance of that work to sustain themselves. many of these tribals/ natives gave away their lands, or were ousted from it. In any case, many of these tribals are working as rejhas and kulis in what used to be their own lands.... some have turned into local farmers. For many of them it means crossing the rivers to reach the town, women carry heavy baskets of vegetables overhead that weighs anything around 60-80kgs.
There are industries besides the Tata Steel, UCIL (Uranium corporation of India Ltd.) in Jadugora, Limestone mining in forest regions of Bonda, that has been closed now. For these and many more the regions have had to be vacated, each day, there's a growing threat from the Naxals. Even as some find job opportunities in these companies, ie. only if they have the skills and training, for the others, it means evacuating their homes....

Until I'm back again then...

Thursday 31 May 2012

A parting thought...

"This parting thought" is more difficult to express in words than I imagined. Even as this project comes to its end, I consider it just as a beginning. There are flashes of images that comes and goes...and it doesn't make it easier for me to write something in the end. But its important to put my last thoughts about the project in this post... for I know and wish to tell others that the "tales from the river" have not come to an end. I have come to look very closely how much the contribution of the indigenous people of Jamshedpur has made in shaping the history and identity of the township, and have learnt to appreciate it as never before.

In these past few months, I have been able to explore remote areas, sometimes on my own and sometimes in the company of others who have made it their mission to venture into remote areas to bring forth a change for the better. Looking at them,I have seen, and learnt a few things - about survival. Even as I sit writing this, and grumble about the heat from time to time, I remember the children out there in the scorching heat, with some not having even a proper roof over their heads. Talking of childhood - girls in their teens carry their brood around as they work…
But something is definitely about to change.
Until recently, these families lived the lives of a nomads. Birsa Munda Awas Yojna and Indira Awas Yojna schemes for primitive tribes means some shelter for many such families. This in itself is a remarkable change. Providing free medication, creating job opportunities in weaving and farming , reviving and preserving the cultural heritage - languages… musical instruments… sport… craft practices are some of the activities the various NGOS's are working towards in this region. Now some of the families send their children to schools. Deserving students are given scholarships to pursue higher studies.
In these months I have come to appreciate the life of the people not only at Doumahani, but in all the distant places that I visited. Though progress is gradual, it will be seen sooner or later. Doumahani, - the space is changing… there are talks of a bridge to be built across the river, there is some delay but the proposal has been sanctioned - and I can feel the change that will soon follow. Change is imminent; but whatever turn it takes, I hope Doumahani will be - where the rivers meet its people.

To memory and the hope of a new one...!!!

Tuesday 17 April 2012

"Mukhaarh" - Some moments in time

 On the way to School


                                                 Way back from the Workshop

The tradition of masks in Jharkhand -

Saraikela -"In the year 1620, Kumar Bikram Singh I, the third Maharaja Jagannath Singh, established the Seraikela state, which was merged with Bihar state after independence and ranked as subdivision merged with the boundaries of Kharsawan state. Later on the basis of territories act in 1950, 39 villages of Chandil, Nimdih and Tamar area were included into it." -
After Jharkhand got separated from Bihar, Sarikela became part of the state. The Chou Dance of Saraikela is characteristic and typical. The masks have an unmistakable similarity with masks from Bali/ Java. For long this unique form of Chou has had an active patronage from the Royal Family of Singh Deos. 
I decided to go to Rajkiya Chou Nritya Kala Kendra where they train students not only in dance, but there are separate teachers and departments that train in mask making as well. Unlike masks taken from moulds, these Saraikela masks are directly cast from clay in paper mache and cotton cloth, that is in the end layered with a fine mud paste that gives it a delicate and refined finish. No varnish is applied, after the colouring, that are all natural.
Despite and bumpy rides, I was fortunate to meet one of the descendents of the Singh Deos of Saraikela Royal Family - Lal Bahadur Singh Deo. The palace lies in a derelict state...the traditon of Chou masks and dance lives on....  

A dusty and bumpy ride in an auto to Saraikela was an experience one of its kind

The Saraikela Royal Palace, that lies in a dilapidated condition

The Saraikela Chou Mask

Lal Bahadur Singh Deo, descendent of the Singh Deos of Saraikela

Monday 16 April 2012

Notes from: Diary of an Explorer

17th April 2012

Patehpani - a small village housing not more than 5 Birhor families at the most. Surrounded by mountains - Dalma, with the sun going down on the west behind them. Call from cicadas fill the air, electric wires hang overhead, obviously there is electricity. In the distance there are solar powered lamp posts. However there is no electricity at the moment, there are some "pakka houses" built by the government, for the BPL card holders, and such PTG (Primitive Tribal Groups) like the Sabars and Birhors.
Amongst the few villages I have been to, this one really filled me - at that moment, there was no better place to be in. "They" ran away when they saw me, but accompanied by somebody from Tribal Cultural Society, means I am not entirely to be distrusted. By the time we left the place, they flocked at a safe distance to see us leave. Curiosity is innate to human nature...I was just as curious to know them...perhaps some other time!

Sabars... are one of the more backward tribes from the Primitive Tribal Groups.  A few days and after a couple of visits to their villages, I find it commendable - the efforts of those who have paved the path for progress amongst this community....
But their behavior stops in making much improvement, nomadic in nature prone to addictions makes it more difficult for improvement in their quality of living....

However in the last few days, I have had the opportunity to see some of these "forest dwelling" people, actually trained in weaving and agriculture.... making a decent living.
From making ropes out of weeds and tree bark and selling wood being  the primary source of livelihood, these people are now working as agriculturists, the women - experts in weaving technology and their children going to schools - in the hope of a brighter tomorrow and on the way to it....

Notes from: 7-3-12

"In handling the wealth placed in our hands we fulfilled the visions and ambitions of Jamsetji Tata and his sons that this wealth which came from the people should go back to the people many times over" - J.R.D Tata.

This one idea has changed the economic structure of Jamshedpur, many tribals found job opportunities, women clad in heavy weight boots work in factories alongside their male colleagues, drive heavy weight Tata Steel completed 100 years (2011) of the Blast furnace in Jamshedpur, the city evolved from a one time village Kalimati to the biggest industrial hub and township - Jamshedpur.
It has made all Jamshedpur-ians proud...but for the silent sacrifices and duties performed by the natives in giving away their lands, and toiling through the nights, their contribution to the "building of a town" goes largely unnoticed by us....

Time to take note.... I guess we are all to busy for that...and how??!! Wish we really knew!!!

Reporting from base -

Adivasi Protest Marches - fairly a common sight?!!!?

Witnessed another protest march today..the banners read..."Dalma Buru humara adhikaar hai...Sarna dharam humara adhikar hai" I dont need to translate that...I hope anybody who feels concerned will be able to read between the lines...and I also hope we can spare a few minutes at least pondering on the lives these "other" people are living, rather than  being too engrossed with our own...

Reporting from base - Sabarnagar - Samanpur - Bistupur - from the villages back to town...
Its not always pleasant to behold what meets the eye..but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist neither does it pay to close our eyes to something we would rather choose not to see... trust me when I say they would rather be left alone than rallying on the roads...till some time back, these were the same tribals who ran away at the sight of strangers... what we could do on our part is at least take note...and a little bit of respect towards them and their "need" for their private space... the rest is up to our own understanding and intellect!

Negotiating Routes : Ecologies of the Byways III

Sunday 8 April 2012

"Mukhaarh" - Mask making workshop with children from the school of Dobo.
9th and 10th of April 2012
Across Subarnarekha, Doumahani, Sonari.

"Mukhaarh" means mask in native tongue in the Saraikela district. Erstwhile part of Orissa, Saraikela now falls under the state of Jharkhand. Mask making has been a tradition in Jharkhand for a very long time. Seraikela Chhou masks are very different to the Purulia Chhou masks in West Bengal, simpler and devoid of decorations. The Royal family of the Singh Deos of Saraikela have played a large role in the evolution of the Chhou dance tradition in Saraikela.

"...For several generations, members of the royal family apart from patronizing Chhau, also became Chhau dancers themselves. They played an active role in shaping and reshaping the art form, its repertoire, and the style and variety of masks used in performances. The long-term support of the royal family and the festival context of Chhau contributed to moulding the Seraikela style into its present distinctive form that includes sculptural and sustained or elongated movement and the clear-featured, relatively plain, simple but stylized mask."

Saraikela is a small town situated by the Kharkai, the same which flows onward to meet Subarnarekha at Doumahani, the focal point of this project. For some time I have spent most of my time in this region, now its time to go back a little way to know more about the life on that end of the river.

The aim of this  project was to learn more about the various traditions, history, communities and the cultures of Jamshedpur. Now that I have started looking closer, I feel I have hardly known my hometown I was so proud of. Each day I learn more, and I share it through various posts - in the hope that I am able to enlighten more people about my home and its people. What better way to pay tribute to the glories of this small town - that has so many untold stories. Jamshedpur - the Steel City - adds a touch of pride and "steel" but there is a different side to it. And each time I look at this other side, I cannot help but falling in love with my home town all over again....

I am in hope, each of us finds time to observe their locality more closely, and I am sure we will be surprised with our findings. We will be able to to grow to love and to care!

Monday 2 April 2012

Monument to the River

When I first went to Doumahani as a small girl, I never guessed I would come back  often to this place filled with curiosity and purpose, that one day it will lead me across the rivers on my own to venture into regions from whence people come to the city in search of opportunities, but none from the city ever goes there. It was not in the slightest hope of an opportunity that I frequented the place, one look into the eyes of these dwellers, told me that city people were aliens to these villages...that we could never "fit in" just as they can never "fit in" to the humdrum of a chaotic city life.

From there my curiosity took a turn to know the unknown, and let that unknown be known to many more....we live together, in a world, but there is so little we know about the people we live together with.
Like me, there were many I am happy to say took that step to the road of knowledge, to learn and to grow to care for the world that is mostly unknown to us. And on the way I realized it is essential perhaps that it remains so.

Tomorrow I return to the river - not for the last time, but for the first - to pay homage to the river and its people. The Monument to the River is a sculptural piece that will be installed with care at the site across Doumahani, and after leaving its mark in my mind and on those of others it will be dismantled - easily....The reason, being that I do not wish my presence to linger this time, with no trace of mine to remain...the river is that which belongs to the settlers, the river is the only means to their private lives, for if it weren't for this river the place would have changed long ago. Its best that we stay away as long as possible.

Monument to the River is my homage to the sacred bonding between the river and the dwellers. It was in no better way that could bring this project - now almost to its  end...
Now there will only be Memories....and they will remain embedded in my mind!


Negotiating Routes : Ecologies of the Byways III

Friday 16 March 2012

In Between Everything Else: Faces...

                                        At Shankarpur...

Jharkhand is a state that was carved out of Bihar in 2000, aimed at recognising and developing the socio-economic conditions of the adivasi and non adivasi population of the region, Jamshedpur being the biggest industrial town of the state. 
Traveling to some of the villages  with a majority of tribal population has kept me engaged for the past couple of weeks. Being in their midst I have come to understand some of the basic problems these people are facing, especially the PTGs (Primitive Tribal Groups) like Sabars, Birhors, Paharias...
Child marriages, illiteracy, malnutrition, addictions and inability to adopt trade skills are some of the ills that they are fighting each day. Some NGOs work closely to eradicate these ills and uplifting the quality of their lives by reintroducing them to their cultural heritage and providing them with employment, health and education facilities. Reintroducing to them their native scripts like Ol Chiki (of the Santhals) and Warang Shiti and promoting their sport - Kati.
Even as a change is noticeable in the lives of the Adivasi community and the PTGs (Primitive Tribal Groups), each day their lives are threatened by various issues like encroachment on their lands for mining, industry and real estate. Apart from this they are caught between the government machinery and the Naxals who try to undermine all sorts of government controls - the result is a population that has been exploited by both sides.
Between all this...I chance upon a group of children and then starts my efforts to capture "another" reality while it lasts. Even as one reflects on the fate of these people, I cannot help being touched by the children from these villages... playful naiveté, hopes, dreams, simple joys, and aspirations….are the same that fills the heart of all children.
Yet their childhood is a bit different from that of their peers in towns and cities. Burdened with an unsure future, malnourished, impoverished and denied the necessities of education and healthcare....however their smiles seem to say otherwise.
I don’t know, what fate lies ahead for these people caught in between this and that….but for now I am happy to see these faces…smiling, without a worry in the world…trusting and innocent, what else is needed to comfort one in times of trouble….
I am happy some children live closer to where they are the happiest...with Nature...their greatest source of sustenance and comfort.
They will surely find the meanings of life in the hills...the forests...and in Nature...their " Marang Buru"
                                        At Bamni...

                                       At Dongagaral Dhusra...

Negotiating Routes : Ecologies of the Byways III