Wednesday, January 26, 2011


The first thing that will strike you here is that people are happy and well off. Like that in neighboring Goa, the pace is unhurried and balmy. I was traveling to the interiors of Sindhudurg, a perfect green corner of the earth. Thankfully or not, its still hasn’t caught the fancy of travelers. The more I talked to people and observed around, the more I believed that it was utopia.

It’s a region where people love their land, forests and all living being in it. They don’t cut down trees, not even to create land for agriculture. They only farm on flat land near water sources which even now is crystal clear and sweet. They have separate areas for grazing cattle in different seasons which does put pressure on the forest. Their main income comes from cashew nut plantation. Most villagers joke that apart from tea and sugar, they do not need to buy any thing. All children go to school. Most villages have women as Sarpanch and are given equal status or more. As a woman, I have never felt so safe anywhere else in the country.

Each village has their own sacred groves called devrai with its own god or goddess. One village had a god made of stone…which meant that no villager could make a house out of stone. Another village worshipped the tiger, hence nobody killed any animal there. Another village had an ancient custom of not letting any outsider come in without first taking a bath…to keep it clean.

Despite being in touch with the urban world, they have retained their simplicity. Except one or two black sheep, nobody has succumbed to greed and all are happy with what they have got.

Utopia as it seems does not last for long. There are 56 mining leases sanctioned in the area. If the ministry changes after the Budget this year, most of them might get a green nod and those beautiful hills will be razed forever.

My city friends often ask me how they can help from so far away. To them I continue to say…there are ways. One simple way is not to investment in any way in such companies. That might not stop these people, but you can be sure you have not added to the destruction.

Monday, January 24, 2011

How Far Still:

The hills are thickly forested, so thick that even the villagers find it difficult to go in. It's green, dark and enticing, as far as the eyes can see. The sparkling afternoon sun is creating patterns on the forest floor. There is an orchard of flowering mango trees and the air is filled with the sweet heady smell of childhood and climbing to pluck raw mangoes. The night is chilly with a glowing yellow moon lending a false sense of warmth.

I love this area in Sindhudurg and lap up every experience in these two days here, a brief relief from the city. But somewhere hidden deep is this feeling that I don't want to face. Something which you know exists but over the years of denial and constant movement to check the restlessness had receded deep at the back of the mind.

I didn't realise it then. I was just happy experiencing a new place. It's struck me now. I loved the place but beyond the beautiful green hills, there were no snow peaks. The chill of the night was refreshing but the sky was not filled with brilliant sparkling stars.

It's beginning to hurt. Five long years have passed without being in the Mountains. Just a few brief glimpses. The Mountains are holding me an arm's distance. I am dying to just rush there, pour forth my soul.

But I am being tested. I have to wait till the Mountains call me.

Till then I remain here. Incomplete.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Rotten Apple:

I didn’t want to start this year’s first post on such a note, but for the past few months it’s been screaming in my head. Not that I can do anything about it. Many have tried and many are still trying but it seems like a quagmire….you keep slipping into its murky depths.

Our country, the proverbial rotten apple! All gloss and shiny to the outside world, but slowly eaten by worms inside. No, it’s not a reaction to what’s being highlighted in the papers….which is just a tip of the massive iceberg of rot. It’s what I have seen, known that often makes me feel desperate. Forget how all the politicians are digging to their elbows into the wealth pie (they own everything from taxi-fleets, hotel chains, cinema halls, dailies, sugar factories, agricultural land to hill stations etc) or the land mafia who are grabbing land left, right and centre, building houses and selling them as your dream house, or businessmen who are digging up the earth in eco-sensitive zones or pumping back effluents in groundwater to avoid detection. I am talking about everybody else, all of us who given a chance would do exactly what all these politicians and businessmen are doing. Like the women traveling in first class who carefully wrap up the farsan packets and throw them out the window, like the mother who loves the serial Balika Badhu but wants her 15 years old daughter to get married next year, or the Rajput guy who works in an NGO for women’s empowerment but asks his wife to keep ghunghat, or the MNC executive who gets angry at land sharks and environmental degradation but will still buy a second house at the very hill the land shark razed in the first place.

It has become a part of our bloodstream…..the innate inability to think correctly about something or somebody else other than the self.


I went to a few villages in Maharashtra and talked to farmers and their families. Out of sheer curiosity, I asked the first family I met, about their plans for the future and their kids. The father said he wants his children to get educated so that they can go to town and earn good money and not live the hard life of a farmer. Though my colleagues agreed with him, I almost smirked at him.

Every family I met later gave me similar answers….children should get educated to become doctors, officers and live in towns, build houses etc. My colleagues were getting irritated with me for asking such an inane question and I was getting increasingly agitated to hear the same answer.

Then we met the last family. I had to ask them the same question. The father said that he wanted his children to finish school and then send them to college for agricultural studies, so that they can come back and work better on land. The mother said that it’s the land which has given them everything and that their children should know the same.

I smiled. There is still some hope left somewhere.