It was another October in the year 2006, when a vehicle bearing the national emblem instead of a license plate (as is the norm for vehicles transporting the President) stopped at B R Hills in Chamarajanagar district of southern Karnataka. It was an exciting time for the Solega people who were among those who welcomed him. And why not? It was after all their lands and forests that the (then) President was visiting, and it was with pride and anticipation that they received President Kalam. School girls from Vivekananda Girijana Kalyana Kendra (VGKK) school welcomed him. In complete breach of the blue book which is prescriptive of protocols and behaviours during Presidential visit replete with colonial referencing to visits by (then) royalty, President Kalam insisted on going everywhere that the local district administration had forbidden. He met patients at the tribal hospital that he inaugurated, shared thoughts in his speech on his vision for rural and remote areas, and later on hugged and was hugged by scores of Solega Adivasi children. As a doctor at the hospital, I watched in awe as he demonstrated his familiarity with the name of the local Adivasi community and asked me about the status of Sickle Cell Disease (known to be prevalent among several of these communities). He even naively promised that in a decade genetic engineering would find a treatment for it (which is not yet the case).
I have been wanting to upload this book written by Somasundaram and Jade Gowda about various aspects of the day-to-day life of the Soliga people (ಜನಜೀವನ), their folk-songs (ಜಾನಪದ), some extracts of their cultural heritage (ಪರಂಪರೆ) and reflections on the theme of world peace based on the Adivasi culture. The first author has literally built (along with Dr. Sudarshan and various other people) the Vivekananda Girijana Kalyana Kendra in BR Hills, an organisation that has been working with the Soliga people in the district on various issues.
This is an edited version of an op-ed for a newspaper that did not see the light of day. Some of the ideas expressed may be dated given the rapidly evolving nature of COVID-19, but the op-ed was addressing the nationally applied lockdown situation prevalent then. The central “dogma” though of moving action from a central State to communities applies across national, urban, district and other settings. Updated with links to other talks and stories as well.
“And from making the cure of the disease more grievous than the endurance of the same, Good Lord, deliver us”.
This was his last message to me a few days back. Jadeswamy was checking with me if the bird he saw was indeed the bird considered globally threatened and seen only in stony parts of several south Indian hills. He was watching it near his house in BR Hills. Continue reading →