Friday, 1 February 2008

Discovering, Refreshing and Rejuvenating

Yesterday at 6:30 in the morning, I was not snugly curled up in my bed as I usually am. I was sitting in a bus and we were on our way to a place some 270 kms from MICA called Tejgarh in the South Eastern part of Gujarat. Tejgarh is part of a tribal belt and the place we were to visit was the Bhasha Adivasi Academy. The academy was started by an individual by the name of Ganesh with the vision of empowering tribals. The academy runs a post graduate program in Tribal Studies as well as certificate courses in Health, Education, and Administration.

On reaching the academy we interacted with the student and faculty there. To me the most amazing part of the whole experience was to actually see a place that was actively and effectively empowering a marginalised community to be a part of our so-called Urban Modernity if they so wish to be. And the work of the academy is perhaps far more fruitful than any number of reservations that the governments in this country can make for it allows these people to choose the manner of their assimilation; it allows them to perserve their own culture and value systems while at the same time giving them the skills and tools to be a part of post-liberalisation India. The people who have passed out of the academy work in villages and in the academy itself and help empower others from their community.

The interaction also helped dispel many pre-conceived notions about who tribals are, what makes them tribals, their value systems, way of life and practices. Tribals are not necessarily half-naked people dancing around fire and talking in 'primitive' languages. As Sonal Behen there said, "I can where a saree or a jeans and talk in English or Hindi but what really makes me a tribal are my beliefs and the social practices." This I think holds true for all of us and our community identities. We belong to a community not because of the appearance but because of the history, the shared pasts and values and beliefs.

The other interesting experience I had yesterday was in translating the experiences of the people we interacted with from Hindi to English for the rest of my classmates. It was engaging, challenging and for the first time I really understood the meaning of the phrase "Lost in Translation". To be responsible for what others understand and learn is an indescribable feeling not only of a certain power but also responsibilty. It also made me listen more keenly and engage with the people there and establish a rapport.

We also went to see ancient cave paintings and tribal artefacts museums at the Bhasha Center. But more on that in another post for I am now running out of patience and steam.

P.S: Will upload photos as soon as I have collated them.


Nikhil said...

hmmm sounds interesting... but u should consider the use of spell-check :)

Unknown said...

oopsies... sorry about that... it happens... will take care in future