A Trip into the Forest by Anuja Konda
On our final day in Kerala, we were headed to meet the people of a tribal village in the forest. The bumpy drive down the winding road took us deep into the forest, far away from the main city of Trivandrum. I quickly realized that we would be essentially cut off from the rest of the world in this secluded village.
At first I was a little anxious to meet the tribe because I had no idea what to expect. The only information I had about tribal communities was from documentaries I watched on Discovery Channel that depicted villages like this one as primitive and wild. However our tour guides, DC and Sandhya, explained that despite the fact that they lived secluded lives in the forest, the people are in many ways just like us. They wear typical clothes, speak Malayalam similar to the main city folk of Trivandrum, and sell the products that they make.
When we arrived at the village we were greeted by the older brother of the Village Chief. He took us to their local community center and talked to us about the village life. As DC translated for us, we learned about the dangers of leopards, elephants and tigers in the area. He also talked about 10-day long camps that they host in the village for outsiders to learn more about their tribal traditions and cultures.
After the brief introduction, we went across the road to the school. The school had a grand total of 2 students and 1 teacher. The school consisted of a single room with one table and two chairs for the students. The two young boys had gleaming smiles on their faces as they showed us the addition and counting they were doing in school that day. Although it was just the two of them, they seemed to be very happy to learn and grow together.
After taking a look at the kitchen where rice and curry was being prepared over a wood burning fire, we walked deeper into the village. We passed several homes made of various natural resources such as clay, bamboo, leaves, mud, and stone. We made our way to a woman’s household where she nimbly created a toy horse out of bamboo leaves in just about five minutes. Afterwards we tried our hand at filling a bucket of water from a well; learned about the way rubber was collected, processed, and sold; and explored a beautiful hidden viewpoint that overlooked a clear blue lake. We also enjoyed the wonderful hospitality of the Chief’s older brother who gave us boiled tapioca and green peppers. Finally we said our good byes and made our way down the mountain.
The whole experience was one that inspired a lot of introspective thought. With each person we met in the tribe, I was consistently amazed by how content they seemed with life. DC was telling us that most of the villagers did leave the community to get jobs or go to college in the main city, but several spend their entire lifetime as part of the tribal village. Even though they remained secluded from the rest of the world and didn’t have modern technology, they still were living life and were happy. Happiness in their life came from spending time with their families and enjoying their community. They didn’t waste time complaining about not have fast internet service or not having air conditioning. They truly lived in the moment and were present with each other. They were one with the Earth and thoroughly enjoyed life in the mountains.
Anuja is one of 8 students in Indiaspora’s inaugural HeritageINDIA Program. A unique, immersive, 3-week summer program, this initiative gives high school students of Indian descent the opportunity to connect to their ancestral homeland. Students experience and engage with India’s rich and diverse cultural history by completing hands-on projects, participating in stimulating discussions, and building friendships with a cohort that will share in this once-in-a-lifetime experience. With the exciting theme of India’s Riches: History, Culture, Diversity, & Democracy, students visit three areas of India that are geographically and culturally diverse, yet all very much represent India: New Delhi, Gujarat, and Kerala.