Ping is my birthright and I shall have it…

I have a dream….

If Martin Luther King were born in the forests of BR Hills in Southern Karnataka during the nineties, apart from perhaps running into Veerappan, he could’nt have expected more adventure. Nonetheless, I am sure he would still have had a dream.

His dream would have to do much more with owning a television and watching an action film. It may have been about having a bulb at home and a tap with water. It may have been about seeing the insides of a car or wearing colourful clothes. These are some dreams that a ML King look-alike, Ketha has in BR Hills.

Ketha from Gombegallu
Ketha from Gombegallu

Ketha is a Soliga tribal boy far removed from the realities that some of us take for granted. He does not have a facebook profile and the only tweets he hears are that of a a bird which shares his name, the Kethanakki, named after a tribal god’s coming that this bird announces promptly. He lives in a small hamlet within a wildlife sanctuary.

His life is a part of several debates in which he has no voice. There is for example the school of thought on development that wonders why indigenous tribal people are being ‘developed’. What about erosion of their culture? Another argues passionately that the fruits of development (Facebook and twitter included!) cannot be denied to them. The State refers to him as marginalised and has scheduled him.He is one of the 400-odd tribes in India constituting 8 per cent of our population.

Another group of people strongly believe that he and his kind living in protected areas are in fact the obstacle to the conservation of our forests. Wherever, man and wildlife have tried co-existance, some say has ended in a diasaster. Inviolate areas for wildlife are touted as a prerequisite for any conservation strategy. Others weave a more utopian reality for Ketha, suggesting that conservation of wildlife and human livelihoods can go together. Others nuance it further saying that this has definitely happened in some areas. Ketha, of course is blissfully unaware of such realities.

Where would he read these debates? In the textbooks….

Hardly….In the textbooks, Ketha finds references to events, he cannot understand even….such as September 9/11 terror attacks on the US. While, this chapter in the 9th Standard English textbook of Karnataka State Board makes a good effort at trying to convey to Ketha what a watershed these attacks were for global politics, it perhaps misses the boat on connecting with him on issues closer home such as tigers, tribal people or traditional knowledge.

What about the internet? Hardly. Ketha has no access to the internet. Having a local NGO run a school itself is such a privilege for him, when compared to his other tribal brothers in other areas.Perhaps, on the internet, Ketha could have participated in these debates that adorn journals and blogs.

Ketha and Pareto come to my mind as I read the recent guarantee of broadband internet access to every Finn as a fundemental right. I still remember joking about how I am waiting for the day when the Indian State will guarantee 2 Mbps per citizen with unlimited download as a fundemental right. Less than a year from my joke, a country that Ketha has never perhaps heard of, has guaranteed it. Recently, when Michael Moore made that wonderful ‘reality show’ called Sicko, he apparently removed scenes shot about the Norwegian health care system, because, nobody would believe it!

Anyways, my point is that there is today within Ketha’s lifetime, a country where broadband internet access has been granted as a fundemental right, while in Ketha’s country, we are still wondering how to give him and his kind a good primary education.

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10 responses to “Ping is my birthright and I shall have it…”

  1. This is the real tragedy of India. We are not able to give its citizens a meal in their belly, a rupee in their pocket or a hope in their heart. Sometimes I wonder how can every nature lover not notice the squalor their country men endure.

    Creates a dilemma in my mind – should I be spending so much time on nature when my fellow man cant fill his belly?

  2. Dear Prashanth,

    This is a very thought provoking and well written write-up. There is a huge gap between ‘birth right’ and ‘have’s/have not’s’. Many such Kethas are dependent upon and also are lucky to get access to the local NGOs like VGKK. So when they can get access to primary education, we can also hope for the same Ketha to blog or tweet one day which may not take very far. What we need is more number of enablers like VGKK and other local NGOs who does the right thing to do.

    Knowing the hard realities, it is certainly challenging.


  3. Shashi Kishore Avatar
    Shashi Kishore

    Dear Prashanth,

    Your article is definitely an eye-opener ! Most of us (which includes me as well) are so caught up with our own things, little do we realise that there is much more to life than just earning and caring for your own family.

    Kudos to VGKK and you for all the great work you have been doing!

  4. G.R.Krishnan Avatar

    Dear Doc,

    Really a touching write up Prashant !! Please keep it up. Infact we are concerned with our own things and do not bother what is happening outside. Your organisation V.G.V.K. is doing lot of things to the tribal people. Kudos to your concern and efforts in this behalf. I have seen the way in which you were attending to the ailments of the poor tribal people when I happen to visit B.R. Hills and Gumballi. Please keep me in touch. It will be a pleasure to read your articles


  5. Hi Prashanth,

    An extremely well written post. Most importantly, the facts are an eye-opener to what a life we all have!
    When a quake claims so many lives, we first of all have this life to thank god for! And we simply have too many “Options!” Take anything from the start of the day – from choosing which toothpaste brand , till we end the day- which bedroom do I want to sleep in today! Life has such stark contrasts to reveal..
    Someday, in our lives, we must stop for a few moments and reflect the kind of life we live, the kind of things that make our environment. I am sure, we would not know whether we just need to thank god and accept and move on or We need to use our lives for a better cause too. We do have a society to give back to. In so many ways. Our lives should become a tool for a larger cause. We are in a crazy world with far too many technologies (may be we really need them, or may be they are far more than we need- that is a debate in itself!) , “raise the bars” in the lifestyle race!
    We have a “Kindle” to redefine how we read a book, while “right to primary education” is an unknown “phenomena” let alone to understand what “being literate / educated” person mean! What are we all chasing at the end of the day! We are superior species!! Yes, we are. And what have we learnt?? I guess, all of us studied too many things- but the truth is to know and understand what are our “learnings” ! Education should have taught us the subtle differences- ofcourse or maybe or its perhaps- we may want to muse or mull or take time to digest these!
    Each one of us is empowered to make a difference. It is upto us – how we use ourselves to empower others! Birth right, fundamental rights – may all be jargons of an extremely educated, scholarly class. But what about humanity , mankind !? I hope we do not forget the basics and basis in the process of our endless quests and temptations in life!
    If all of us are- plain, simple human beings, with a heart that yearns to make a difference – I am sure, we can promise a better world for ourselves and leave a legacy for the unborn.
    We can make the change, we must act to make the change happen. Together we should change the world we live in. Life is beautiful, so is the journey we make.
    It is better late, than never!

    Thanks for a thoughtful, thought – provoking post Prashanth.


  6. […] hand, the internet is still quite a luxury for more than 90 percent of India and that day when right to bandwidth joins the yet unrealised rights for education and health in our country may be still far. Yet, for […]

  7. […] interesting times to be in, of course only for those of us lucky enough to afford the bandwidth, which is not yet a fundamental right in these parts, joining the list of rights to be realised below (Ahem..) more essential ones. Meanwhile, my […]

  8. Deepika N S Avatar
    Deepika N S

    Very well written article! 🙂 Pleasure to read.

  9. Alisha Fernandes Avatar
    Alisha Fernandes

    You have managed to get your point across with such finesse, its enviable.

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