‘The government built them structures not homes…’

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“Our fields have no fencing around them. In two years, we might not have a home. We will lose our farms, and everything we have ever owned. They want us to move away. But we belong here. In the forest. The soil is fertile. And, we can grow our own food. They don’t understand these things. Everybody wants to save the forest. What about us?” asked Ramaji chewing some tobacco.

She poured a jar of water on the ground where sat old women and young children huddled against the walls. They clicked their tongues and shook their head from side to side. She just stood there looking everywhere. Her eyes gazed at nothing; they were empty. She attracted miffed glances from everyone around her.

Water dripped everywhere.
It amused her.

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Not a single grain was procured from these farms this year. Their crops were eaten by wild animals. They wished to leave the forests ten years ago. They didn’t. They weren’t certain if they could survive. So far, the forest department has conducted 50 meetings with the village elders in the past one year. “They make a note of our suggestions, and our names. But nothing has happened so far…”

“It isn’t their fault, you know,” said an old man clearing his throat. His hands had freckles, and his forehead creased with worry.
“We can grow our own food. What about them? They are dying.”

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Curious eyes followed us everywhere we looked. An old woman leaned away from the walls in the corner. There was pain in her eyes. Around her cracked sole, were anklets of strung copper and silver beads. Hooked to her bag were tiers of metallic pearls that pooled at the edges.

Some had escaped. Many changed colour.
Some gathered dust over the years.

Bijli zamane se nahin hai, said the old woman picking betel nuts from her bag. She had heard someone say it before. Her buria bobbed against her nose as she swayed back and forth murmuring under her breath. Her granddaughter threw herself on the wooden cot beside the courtyard. In summer, everybody slept outside.

“We have been asking the sahibs for years. But nothing ever happens here. They connected a road from a nearby village to Dharmasagar. Soon after, this area was declared as reserved forest. Now, we aren’t allowed to use the shorter route that connects us to the town. They even laid electric lines and had completed 75% of the construction. Years later, it was decided to give us solar power,” she said shaking her head.

“So many projects. So many promises.”
“They keep coming and going. Nothing happens…”

The roads disappear in the rains. In those months, the forest doesn’t glimmer. It breaks and sighs. In the languid air, one often heard them: their rippling whispers cracking through dawn. There are moments when its creatures fled towards lands beyond the horizon. It set them free; free from the dread of decay.

They never found their way back again. They never returned.
There were no witnesses. But there were remains.
Of their past. Of themselves…

Ambulance drivers refuse to come here, said the villagers in unison. They fear they’d get stuck in the forest. “So, we have no choice but to walk. The nearest hospital is in Kunchavaram. If there’s an emergency at night, then we carry patients on our shoulders. Nobody has a vehicle in the thanda,” said Ramaji.

“We are all stuck here,” said another picking threads off the floor.

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***

He sat at the edge and frowned. His curled his toes as he spoke. “Discrimination doesn’t exist. Not in these forests,” said the young man to the older men seated behind him, “We don’t have a village attached to us. We all belong to the same caste. So, everyone considers each other as family. We don’t have a separate caste or sub-caste within our community. We are all Banjaras. There is no hierarchy. Outside, we are treated differently. They point at our women and laugh.”

“Here it doesn’t exist,” he repeated himself.

But it did. In households where bulbs stayed lit longer than theirs, in rooms where lay vessels larger than theirs, in homes where lasted lives longer than theirs, it lurked everywhere. Even in solitude.

Their population is lower than the other villages, they complained. They couldn’t make themselves heard. “We are just 200 in all including the kids. Even if we fill an entire tempo with our men and go to their offices, nothing will ever happen. If we lived in Dharmasagar, perhaps we would have been able to do something. Ye thande se nahin hoga,” he said.

A young boy and girl sat beside Ramaji as they stared at him intently. He ran away from his parents in Pune, and came back to the thanda on his own. They didn’t know how. He didn’t like it there. Neither of them could read or write. He worked as a coolie. His sister worked in the fields. She never looked up. She licked the corner of her mouth, and turned her head away from the crowd.

“Another thanda will never lend us their support since they have their own problems. Even if they do, the officers will recognise members from a different thanda and inform them that they already have all the facilities,” he said with spite.

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In summer, they don’t have enough water to drink. Women walk great distances to fill water in pots and utensils. “Our kids don’t have a school to go to. The master comes once in a few weeks, fills his tiffin box with food and heads home. He hasn’t taken a class in years. The children wander in the jungle all day. I fought with the teacher once. This was a long time ago. He then asked me if I had any kids going to school. If not, then it is none of my concern,” he said frowning.

He grimaced and rubbed his temples. The others remained silent.

For a few years, a young woman walked through the forests every day to teach children here. Every boy and girl went to school back then. No child would leave the classroom no matter who visited the thanda. She was re-assigned. “We need someone who loves their job and considers it their primary duty to teach children. We get teachers who are incapable of fulfilling their duties. And, that’s a problem,” said the young man walking us to our car that evening.

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Kids whose parents can’t afford to send them to Chincholi, Kunchavaram or Gulbarga are deprived of primary education.

 

***

“Dalits aren’t served tea in cups. The upper caste treat them poorly,” said Thukappa staring at the foliage outside as we drove through the forests at twilight. “So do the Lambanis,” he whispered with a smile. “Yes, they treat them poorly. They aren’t allowed to enter their homes.”

“Even today…”

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His father passed away when he was young. His family struggled to make ends meet. They had nothing. A teacher would visit his village every day. One afternoon, he convinced Thukappa’s mother to send him away. Let him come with me, he said. He’ll live in a big town. Let me look after him. I’ll send him to a better school.”

He did their household chores for them day in and day out so that he could go to school. “I don’t eat out or drink a drop of water when I am away from home,” he said to our surprise when we offered him some biscuits, “I took this deeksha 20 years ago. I was given two meals a day. And, I am used to that. I can’t eat or drink any more or less. I struggled in my life. I am aware of that. My face has turned dark since I don’t drink enough water.”

“I am stubborn that way,” he said turning away. “I had never seen my father before. But after my deeksha, I have seen his face several times.”

We crossed Dharmasagar when the bill collector we had crossed paths with hours ago asked us if we would like to have some tea before we headed back to Kunchavaram. We stopped near a tree. A large group of men gathered around us.

“Our situation is horrible as you may have already observed,” said Gopal Jadhav, the Zilla Panchayat President. Ever since Anil Kumble decided to declare the area as reserved forest, we have been miserable. Can you please ask them to cancel the order? We do not need a forest here. Our fields are dying and we can’t even go to fill water regularly since the normal routes have been shut by the government. Our women have to walk 10 km to gather firewood. Jaanwar se battar hai humari zindagi. We are not even allowed to gather wood. There are several restrictions imposed in these regions. We don’t have gas stoves and have to completely rely on wood for fire,” he added.

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Cancel karao ye forest ko. Humein nahin chahiye forest, said a young man mimicking Gopal’s solictious reply.

***
At Kunchavaram, the familiar bustle of a market greeted us as hawkers sold fruits, vegetables and coconuts. The air was heavy with the fragrance of flowers and incense sticks. We parked the car outside the gram panchayat office. Thukappa arranged for some lunch. We were served jowar rotis, rice, beans, sambar and some curd.

As we drove back through the endless fields, Thukappa confided in us that it was important that the forest laws were upheld. “If we don’t have any rules protecting the forest cover, then we will destroy them completely. We will kill all the birds and animals and cut down the trees to protect our selfish interests. It is human nature, after all. Yes, some of their issues are genuine and need to be addressed. However, I don’t oppose the forest protection regulations that the government has put in place. They have declared a few areas as wildlife protection zones. Soon, they will start looking after the forest too. Measures are already in place to revive its green cover. However, much like any of the government initiatives, this too would be a slow process. Lets hope the forest doesn’t deteriorate any further,” he said.

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***
In an hour, we saw those clusters again where lived no one, where in their streets wandered no children, where animals did not exist. Their walls had faded, and roofs trembled in the winds. “All these houses were built by the government,” he said pointing at a tiny settlement. It was abandoned. “These people have been permanent residents of the thandas since 1947. They never moved. Earlier, they were nomads. Zameen jahan hai, waheen unka thikana

“In these lands, some settlements don’t have any water. Some don’t have farms.”
“They built them structures not homes…”


(to be continued…)

Rest of My familyis a non-profit social-work-through-art project. If you like our work, and wish to support it, you can help us continue by donating here.

Through  ‪#‎RestofMyFamily‬, we will focus on highlighting social issues and human interest stories, documenting the triumphs of the ordinary man despite all the hardships they face constantly, and help these stories reach a larger audience and wherever necessary extend support to the individuals and communities that we write about. We hope to make a direct impact to the lives of those people we meet and find suffering due to various social issues; to connect the ones who need help to the ones who can help.

‘It was never chronicled. Those who died took our history with them.’

There were two of them.

It was an ordinary day. Perhaps, the streets were crowded, and fruit carts remained immobile. The vendors set up their stalls right before the alley where old vehicles stood: their paint worn out, and doors dented. Perhaps, it wasn’t any different than the day we arrived. Were there pallid faces roaming around the corners wondering if they could have known? We imagined them there, and everywhere: faces fraught with grief.

For, we couldn’t know. We knew of their places but little of their memories. We knew of their stories but little of them. We had some questions, and fewer answers. There was only so much we could gather from their tales.

Where the Naranyanpur left bank canal ends, the town begins. The water hadn’t risen. It was one of those days. A little girl sat near the walls washing her feet.

The boy stood atop staring into nothing.

The canal wasn’t filled.

“They were neighbours. Those kids grew up together. I knew them,” said Shankar averting his gaze.

She held onto the walls for as long as she could. The water levels rose with fury. Her back slipped first dragging her deeper into the water. She screamed for help. He jumped in to save her.

“It was awful. When I received the call, I went blank. I rang everyone I knew: the assistant engineer, chief engineer. Everybody. I told them that two of our children had fallen in. They couldn’t help,” he said scratching his head, “They mustn’t cut the supply abruptly, they told us. It would affect the overall pressure and water supply to neighbouring villages. With every passing moment, they reduced the pressure considerably. In the morning, we found them floating face down in water just a km away from where we were. It was a terrible tragedy. They were such beautiful children. Maybe, their time had come. It was God’s will. What else could it be? The media was cruel to the family. To us. They tried to concoct stories and twist the truth as if there was something going on between them. The incident shook the entire village. For weeks, everyone mourned their loss.”

Those poor children, he repeated shaking his head over and over again.

His wife never went to school. She taught herself tailoring and stitching. She now trains several girls in the village. They have two daughters and one son. “I take care of my brother-in-law’s daughter. She was living with her family until recently,” he explained one morning as we walked alongside the road that led to Yelagi thanda. “One day, during a festival, some people approached my sadu. They really liked his daughter. She was in tenth grade. They wanted to get her married to their son. He called up his wife and said Get her ready after school. They are coming to visit us. When I found out, I hurled abuses at him. I told him I’ll take care of her, and send her to school. I’ll give her the life she deserves. We must not enforce our decisions on any child – boy or girl. We can’t take away the will of a human being.”

***
The school bus never comes to Yalegi Thanda. There are barely any students enrolled in the English medium school. Shankar spoke to a few families and convinced them to send their children to better schools. A bus was then arranged for them.

“I did it for my children. A few more joined them,” he said beaming with pride, “I am selfish that way.” The crinkles around his eyes shone in the sun.
“No matter what life throws at me, I won’t let them suffer.”
“Has it been difficult to survive?” weask him.
He pondered for a while but he had done it before. It was difficult. It has always been and he feared it would remain that way for a while. “I haven’t earned any money. But I have earned ample relationships,” he said tossing his head backwards.
“That is how a human being will be remembered at the end of the day not by his bank balance but by the nature of help or guidance he provided to another human being. That’s enough for me.”

***
The next morning, crouching behind a crumbling wall, we saw a little girl peek into a stall that sold breakfast. Weeds preened at the railings of a dilapidated building where right off the corner stood an old vendor selling juice. We saw a few of them waiting for someone to turn around. A young boy lurked near our table. He stood there staring at us for a while. His feet were dirty, and his hair changed colour in the dark. His shoe laces were undone; the other pair didn’t have a sole. He looked at us rubbing his nails over and over again. We gestured him to come over. His parents lived nearby, he said to us looking down. His clothes were tattered and his pants had holes in them. We ate breakfast in silence. He thanked us, and left.

It was quiet like most summer mornings in these parts. Leaves died without grace while barks shrivelled before our sight. Some days, nothing remained. An old man sat on the road. His pupils were luminous. Swirls of smoke rose from his lips as he held his beedi with both hands. The silence was everywhere. Like a forgotten companion leaving its footprints on sand, it followed us. It was in such absences that we felt it. But it wasn’t an odd realisation: the presence of a quietude.

We parked near a temple. A group of people approached us wondering if we were lost.
“Where does Shankar live?” we asked one of the older men who stood beside us. They pulled out their cell phones and rang him up. They then ushered us into a tiny tea stall that sold orange sweets wrapped in plastic. A young boy with a lock around his neck ordered the grandfather to hand him some milk. He earned a tap on his head as he ran away.

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“Our God is different,” they declared excitedly raising their arms in the air, “Seva Lal gave us order. He laid down rules for the Lambani community. These are laws that govern our lives.  Every Banjara follows them. He taught us how to stay united in spirit and soul. Did you know that Gormati comprises 13 languages? When our ancestors migrated from Rajasthan, our language evolved along the way. You won’t be able to learn my language. But I can speak yours with great ease.”

The thanda is more than 120 years old, said an old man cracking open a box of peanuts. They knew everything that had happened since 1947. Those who knew of earlier times had died a long time ago. They took their history with them. It was never chronicled. They don’t remember anything save their struggles. Those were passed on from father to son, and mother to daughter.

Struggles were never forgotten.

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“We didn’t ask them,” said an old man wiping his face with a towel. His hands shook with every move. He had freckles under his eyes. “Like us, nobody listens to stories anymore. No one wants to know where we came from. It doesn’t interest us anymore.”

The priest disagreed. He shook his head vehemently turning his gaze to the men gathered beside him. Wreaths of smoke curled up towards their faces as they lit their beedis one after another. In a plastic box, cheap cigarettes were thrown into one corner, and loose change into another.

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Hum ek sanchari jeevan jeete the,” said the priest, “And, that’s why we were treated poorly centuries ago. We kept moving from one place to another. We didn’t have proper clothing or food at times. In reality, we belonged to a higher caste. But we were the forest-dwellers who never stayed. May be that’s why they considered us inferior. We were uncouth. Sometimes, they called us savages.”

They were running away, and we could see it. From a past that maligned their identity, from cruelty, they ran away into realms where they could find none – no malice, no hierarchy, where paths led home, and not structures that bore the burden of their poverty.

They carried memories with them. In doorways, in homes, in open courtyards and windows where they drew patterns, they remained for centuries. Years ago, when we first set foot into the deserts of Rajasthan, we had seen such sights and heard similar stories. Everything stood still in these regions save time.

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“Our appearance would give us away. The men wore dhoti and turbans which resembled anyone from North Karnataka while the women’s attire made them stand out. They thought it was best to keep us out of their villages. They confused us for adivasis who lived in the forests. But we were nomads. Not adivasis,” said the priest frowning.

We told them it didn’t matter. These social distinctions rose with the need to exploit those who were helpless and deprived of basic human dignity.

They were ashamed of their identity but they never admitted it.
Not to us. Not to themselves.

In 1947, many families settled down in these areas. They built homes outside villages that refused to let them in. “Before independence, we didn’t get many facilities from the government. People didn’t send their kids to school. The situation was quite dismal. However, over time, as we got educated, the economic condition of our community improved. We are no longer considered backward by society,” said Shankar slapping his knees as the others joined him.

Most of them rely on farming to feed their families. Some go to the jungles and others do labour work to earn their living. “Some have government jobs. We will do anything and everything to make ends meet. Today, we have engineers and doctors within the community. Isn’t that something? Who’d have thought? We were called ‘junglee log’ at some point in our lives. Not anymore. Now, we are cultured. And, we live amongst the cultured lot.”

Ab hum achuth nahin rahe…

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(to be continued…)

Rest of My familyis a non-profit social-work-through-art project. If you like our work, and wish to support it, you can help us continue by donating here.

Through  ‪#‎RestofMyFamily‬, we will focus on highlighting social issues and human interest stories, documenting the triumphs of the ordinary man despite all the hardships they face constantly, and help these stories reach a larger audience and wherever necessary extend support to the individuals and communities that we write about. We hope to make a direct impact to the lives of those people we meet and find suffering due to various social issues; to connect the ones who need help to the ones who can help.

THEY WANDERED THROUGH THE FORESTS FOR CENTURIES. THEY WERE NOMADS…

 


Red and white.

They hung around her neck. A basket with betel leaves, ash and vermillion lay beside her. It was wrapped in white cloth. “She could be a Devadasi,” whispered Renuka as she walked towards the school. A thin veil of white hung in the sky. Dust swirled in the winds, that afternoon. Specks of brown dotted the horizon amidst the white as if they rose from the ashes from far away, as if they came from nowhere against all odds.

Her name was Yemunamma. She had three children. “Two of them are married,” she said flashing us a grin. Her teeth were crooked and stained like many others seated behind her.

Adlige,” she said pointing to the basket, “I carry it with me to the temple every week.”

Not a Devadasi, we heard them whisper around us.
She isn’t one. They are different.

 

He moved so slowly as if he never intended to reach us. His eyes darted across the road. He had heard everything. He was curious, we could tell. We didn’t look at him. His eyes bore into our backs.

She held the plastic bag gingerly on her knee. She ran her hands on her head and removed her veil. Her hair was matted; her dreadlocks neatly tied in a bun. “The Devi would visit my body every now and then.  The jade grew longer, and longer,” she said with a sheepish grin.

Her husband passed away years ago. She is a jogamma, Renuka explained to us later in the car. “After his death, the Goddess kept coming back,” she said hesitantly, “My hair changed. Soon, my health started deteriorating. So, they tied the muthu around my neck. Soon, all my problems vanished.”

She was distraught after her husband’s death. She had lost her peace. Her sons visited their grandmother and told her about Yemunamma’s condition. It was there that they decided to take her to the temple in Uligi.

***
The next morning, we said our goodbyes. It was time to leave, we told ourselves. But it never felt that way. We promised them we would return some day. Perhaps, we’d sit by the pond once more chasing frogs into the water, watching lotuses bloom, and sharing stories of mystery and valour at night when the moon rose high. Perhaps, we’d hear the sound of anklets and hushed murmurs at night. When we had returned, the girls remembered us.

A year later, a lot had changed. But they remained the same.

When we passed by the lone temple, we saw him again. We had crossed paths with him months ago. His legs quivered as his walking stick failed to hold ground. He clapped his hands when we stopped to greet him.

“There must be a reason why we meet like this. It was destined,” Hanumappa said rubbing his arm against his body. We talked for a while about birds and tigers, about animals that once roamed these lands.

“I had a daughter just like you,” he said when we rose to leave. “She met with an accident, one day. It was the worst day of my life. She had a deep gash on her forehead. She never made it. Maybe, it was time for her to leave us. We can’t question these things.”

 

He sat on the bench beside the giant tree. It wasn’t there the last time we were here.

He looked at us once more.
“Itfeelslike you are one ofmy ownwhen you callme thatha…”
“Be happy wherever you go,” he said walking away.

He was smiling. We couldn’t see but we knew.

We drove north.

At many a desolated path, rocks were stacked high on the roadside. There was no one ahead of us, and no one behind. These roads were dangerous, many told us. Dacoits roamed these regions. Those were different times. There are no dacoits in these lands anymore, they’d tell us weeks later.

At a tolling booth, one afternoon, a man ran towards our car selling knives and sickles. He had a sack on his back. There was dust in his hair. He held a scythe in one hand, and a machete in another. He held a nonchalant gaze towards the vehicles lined up at the booth. He wouldn’t find a customer here. Not today.

The landscape changed in places where isolated settlements built homes that barely stood up. An old woman sat on a wooden bench outside her home. Her eyes were lined with Kohl. Beside her, a child rolled on the floor raising his knees to his chest. She had jewellery in her hair. Her lehenga had mirrors.

There was another woman like her carrying a plastic pot on her head. They wore veils that touched their feet.

They lived in thandas.

Legend has it that they were the key exporters of essential commodities across the country. Some claim they were salt merchants and sold bullock from one community to another. Their language was different, and they were far evolved than the rest who occupied lands they traversed.

 

Lambani, they were called in these parts, and Banjara in the rest. In some places, they were identified differently. Their names differed. Their language changed. Their identities were altered. But they all had a story to tell. They were wanderers much like us. Their songs spoke of a history that could have been, a history that defined who they were. Wanderers who lived in the forest; migrants who moved from one place to another.

“When Prithviraj Chauhan was defeated by Mu’izz ad-Din Muhammad Ghori, our ancestors fled to the jungles. Our ruler didn’t survive. Many returned to their villages. But we stayed back in the forest. For, that was his last command. We were faithful to him,” said an old man we met some days later. His eyes were glassy and he wore a turban. He didn’t remember them anymore. Stories of his ancestors died with the elders, he said with a heavy heart.

Prithviraj suffered a staggering defeat in the hands of the Ghurid dynasty. Despite evading earlier attempts, it was the second battle of Tarain in 1192 AD that led to his downfall. The Rajputs had a battle tradition of fighting from dusk to dawn. Mui’zz attacked them at dawn. He placed no value on their traditions, insist the forefathers. The Rajput king’s banners and allies who pledged to serve him arrived late. Some historians believe it was Prithviraj’s continual neglect of stately affairs, and him waging a war against neighbouring rulers that eventually cost him his kingdom.

His capture changed everything. Some stories claimed he was infatuated with a princess. His obsession invoked the wrath of the Gods. His men were massacred, and towns looted. Nothing was spared here. Neither men nor lands. He died in captivity. He was unstable but he had passion. There were several legends written in these areas; some by poets, some by travellers. Some were woven into folklore. Some stories were left uninhibited. They all existed nonetheless. For centuries. For a time that spelled eternity.

At Lingsugur, a stray cow wandered into the streets. She had nowhere to go. Behind her, a young man kept his head down and scratched his arm. Bikers swerved uncontrollably losing their way in lanes that bent both left and right. Forwards and backwards, people walked in those gravelled streets unmindful of the chaos. It wasn’t odd; their indifference. Everything seemed in harmony here: the people, the animals, the vehicles and the chaos.

In stormy gusts, dust rose against steel structures. Everyone moved towards each other, and at times away. At bakeries, they served sandwiches with a cherry on top. The cakes were glossy pink and drinks had a hint of syrup.

The skies were bare. It hadn’t rained much last year. Once on the road, we saw a group of old men in large white turbans and dhoti walking into the fields; a sea of white amidst the brown. Some hailed auto rickshaws headed in their direction. Some stood still as if the heat would disappear before their droopy eyes, as if they could be elsewhere, as if it would all change in a moment. We crossed them in minutes. They were still. Almost arrested in time.

All of them.

Shankar was waiting for us at the market in Kembhavi. We were parked near some old temple structures looking for him. In a few minutes, we saw him walking towards our car. “We were nomads,” he said sipping his tea. Outside the restaurant, children dressed in rags hid behind large trucks. They hopped from one vehicle to another; a dull-eyed excitement lingering on their faces. Beads of sweat trickled down their foreheads. In dark corners, the windows offered us such views.

 

“We couldn’t live like that forever. Eventually, we settled down in forests or towns. Every Lambani settlement is called a thanda. There are around 350 to 400 people living in my village — Yelagi Thanda. Our people were different. Our work was different. They would hunt wild animals and live in the jungles. Since the beginning, we have been living separately. We couldn’t live with the others. For, everything about us was different – the way we looked, the way we spoke, the way we lived,” he said chuckling nervously. His eyes followed the waiter. In the silence that preceded his story, he heaved a sigh at the confusion that ensued in the market.

They were untouchables. They were always treated that way. Back in the day, they were looked down upon by people residing in the village — those who were ranked higher in the social order. “It is better now. Education has helped eliminate some of these practices. Today, you will find at least forty people who have a degree in my village. We were declared as scheduled caste years ago. That helped us in many ways. Our children can go to schools now,” he said beaming with pride.

After sunset, we retreated to our rooms. Shankar joined us for a while. He lived in Kashmir for a few years. He recalled trips he would take to faraway places. In winter, everything turned white. Some days, it got tough. For my family, he’d remind himself. Winter brought in loneliness. He spent some nights in towns where he had no one he could call his own.

“I met a terrorist, one evening. This was a long time ago. His brother would assist me during night shifts. He had asked me to visit his home. One day, after work, I went there and seated before me in the hall was his older brother. His name was Abdul. We spoke for a while. He then carefully slid an old photo frame above his head. There was a gun lodged in the wall. I stopped breathing. My face turned pale. He assured me that I was safe,” he said wiping his forehead with a handkerchief.

Why do you want to be a terrorist?
You’ve come all the way from South India to earn a living, to feed your family.
Yes.
You do whatever it takes to take care of your loved ones. And, I’ll do whatever it takes to take care of my family.
Besides, why would I kill you? My battle isn’t with you.

“I didn’t know whom he was fighting against. I didn’t dare to ask him. There’s no need for courage in such moments,” he guffawed helplessly turning in his chair.

He told stories. Like us. That summer night, we shared many more moments. Some stories we remembered. Some we forgot.

That’s how we remember each other.

Once while travelling through Kashmir, Shankar got stranded in the middle of nowhere. It was snowing that night. He came across a lodge and requested the owner to give him a room. Everything was booked and he couldn’t accommodate him anywhere. He told him he didn’t mind sleeping in the hall. For, it was impossible to sleep outside. “The manager went away for a while and returned with bed, blankets and pillows. He offered me a hot meal. I left the next morning. I took his number and called him once I reached home. My brother thanked him profusely. That’s what matters isn’t it,” he said standing up to leave, “Human connection. Not money. Not property. I will cherish that memory for the rest of my life. If that man hadn’t come to my rescue, I wouldn’t have survived. He is in Kashmir and I am in Kembhavi. Yet, here we are talking about him. He will be remembered forever…”

(to be continued…)

Rest of My familyis a non-profit social-work-through-art project. If you like our work, and wish to support it, you can help us continue by donating here.

Through  ‪#‎RestofMyFamily‬, we are focusing on highlighting social issues and human interest stories, documenting the triumphs of the ordinary man despite all the hardships they face constantly, and helping these stories reach a larger audience and wherever necessary extending support to the individuals and communities that we write about through development initiatives. We hope to make a direct impact to the lives of those people we meet and find suffering due to various social issues; to connect the ones who need help to the ones who can help.