Opportunity came when Kavita designed a participatory video project for Adahrshila kids. I was excited to take on this one.
Kavita had told me that the school was on a small hill surrounded by villages. Throughout the 15-hour journey, I kept imagining and picturing the school. Most of my previous work with Adivasis was more or less inside the forest or around it. So I was visualizing a school among tall dense trees, birds chirping...…. a typical forest scenario.
Kamal had come to the station at Indore to receive me, and no time was lost between us to break the ice. I was joining the workshop in the second phase. After I reached Adharshila, within no time I was sharing a good rapport with the kids. Thanks to Kavita, they already knew me.
As I walked into the campus, I saw small groups of children scattered around. However, I could not make out what they were doing and before I could explore, Kavita took me to meet Amit bhai and Jaya, the brains behind the school. I admire them for the choice and sacrifice they have made in their lives. It is not every day that you find people like them. We had a brief chat about the school and how it was conceptualized.
Thereafter I thought of getting myself acclimatized to the surroundings and took a walk through the campus. I came across a group of children with glucose bottles and drips, something I had only seen in hospitals and wondered what the kids do with these. Upon asking, a boy promptly explained to me that these are used for drip farming and he practically showed me how it is done. I don't think any text book would have explained drip farming better than my new little friends.
As I continued, I saw children doing so many things practically, which are connected to their course books and otherwise, as if to see if the theory actually works in real life. I was amazed to find the connections each child had made with life, how they wanted to find a solution to everything, even if they didnt find one, their quest continued.
At the chicken pen I saw a boy sitting and observing chicks. I asked him what he was doing. He said that some chicks are dying and that he was trying to figure out, why . This was Tota Ram, he became my favorite at Adharshila. He is fond of birds and has recorded over 70 birds in and around Adharshila. He borrowed my bird guide book, and for the next few days I saw him wandering with the guide. On the last day, he returned my bird guide with all the birds he had seen book marked in it.
Each day I was surprised by the little innovations these kids made, be it finding a solution to make a shower for me out of broken material or providing a makeshift screen for viewing films. There is all round talent in Adharshila and a never dying curiosity to explore and learn.
The uniqueness of these Adahrshila kids, which distinguishes them from most of the children I have met earlier, was such that it never brought my attention towards the barren landscape.
The blanket of stars, driving Sureshji’s three wheeler, sugarcane juice after each screening, cooking in Amit bhai’s house, swim in the dam and so many other things will stay with me for years to come…
And yes, Tota Ram did manage to save the chicks, he found out the reason but that’s another episode...