Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The people element at Payir

My visit to Thenur, like Senthil loved to put it time and again, was more a dawn of a relation with Payir and the people there, than a mere volunteering activity. And I suppose that is exactly what I ended up making it... I have wonderful memories of the place, listing all of which will be quite literally impossible. But I do have a few words to say about those extraordinary people... Let me mention here that there are many many more people I should be listing and that the I am not doing justice to a whole lot of people by not taking their names here. These people are the first few I would want to speak about, though...

For the refreshing company they offered me, the endless chats we shared, for the visits they accompanied me on, for all their time and patience with me, I thank Saroja and Karthi. I learnt more about art from them than I could ever hope to teach them.

For those sweaty mornings we spent working together on cataloging, her sweet way of humming while we were at it, I shall remember Then. I hope the kids still adore her like they did when I was there, and I hope they don't test her patience as much!

For all those fresh conversations laced with a rustic wit, for all the profound knowledge about various fields that he imparted to me, I shall remember Ponnudurai Sir. I hope his daughter, Ahalya, is doing fine and that his wife's scanning has shown good results...

For all those evenings that I spent running behind her, I shall remember my first ever cycle student... I hope Mallika is doing good. Tell her I want my ride with her, as a pillion, on her cycle the next time I visit!

For those evenings that we spent scraping the violin, the guffaws we shared about extinct species, the little nothings in our evenings, the delicious parting lunch that she and her mum prepared for us, the pleasant and patient, the haunting trademark smile of hers, I shall remember Mythili. I hope this multi-faceted lady has been practicing sketching. Have you, Mythili?

To all those refreshing coffees that she took special efforts to brew just for me, to all those mouth watering dishes she indulged me with, to all the motherly love and affection that she gave me... I shall forever remain indebted to Jayamma. I hope she has learnt to sign her name right now. Somebody please tell her I miss the coffees' she used to brew me in the kitchen, after freshly cleaning the place with cow-dung-mixed-water!

To those endless engaging conversations that captured my days effortlessly, to all those narration filled evenings that seemed ever too short for me to let go, to all the borrowed eccentricities that I can add to my own character henceforth, to all those enthusiastic pursuits that he set me unto, to all the glorious moments that he managed to spare for me despite his time being too expensive to be spent on trifles like me, to have taught me just about every lesson that I have learnt during my stay there and for opening my vision to capture new perspectives of life that I had never seen existing before... to all of these and much more, I can barely thank Senthil enough. He is 'THE' magic charm behind Payir... the wonderful man who can ceaselessly manage to keep you in awe of him!

Besides, I hope Senthil (NOT the founder!) Sir's daughter is doing good. Manoharan Sir, I hope he is not as busy as Senthil usually keeps him! Gajendran Sir, I hope he has been hunting as much as he likes. I hope Soubhagyam Ma'am and Selvaraj Sirare keeping well... And, how are the folks in the Chutti school and the BPO?

I can only wish they're all keeping well... and that I shall!

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Monday, August 9, 2010

Do the farms look green?

How can one ever expect a man chasing greedy goals to understand what it means for a farmer when the rains disappoint him yet again? Or how it shatters a villager to see arable lands without cultivation? How can one expect a man who spends half his life in an AC chamber to understand what if feels like to stand on a parched land feeling the sun’s fury on one’s head and to look into a well that shows no traces of water despite the numerous bores that scar it? How can one ever get a man, skipping a job that pays him in lakhs for another that pays him a few thousands more, to understand how folks in the village work on all the days of the week for much longer hours and do far more strenuous work for an annual income that amounts only to those few thousands?

Cultivation is tough job. Constant and persistent vigilance, sheer hard work, endless perseverance is what it takes to get a good yield. In the end their crop is sold at a mere amount. So, what lies ahead for the farmers there if they don’t move out and the current state of affairs don’t improve? Can we hold them responsible for wanting a better standard of life that their endless efforts in their farms don’t seem to accommodate? What destiny awaits these fertile lands when each farmer decides to move into towns in pursuit of better pay and a better quality of life? How do we propose to feed the huge population if such a thing ever happens?

Folks in the villages seem quite ignorant of how life in the towns is. But their ignorance seems much lesser than the ignorance town folks have about village life. People in the cities have no clue how a village functions and how dramatically their way of life is changing the rural life. Media seems to be barely reaching out to addressing certain issues they must have addressed ages ago. Issues that deserve all the attention they can afford to get; issues that would certainly hold much more relevance to the Indian masses than certain other news pieces that cram our media like which business tycoon is dating which actress.

Misplaced priorities and misplaced focus are commonplace problems. Sometimes they don’t make much difference. At other times, they make all the difference there is to make. Sad...

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Destination Payir

iVolunteer India Fellow Youth Programme is an annual affair conducted by iVolunteer. The programme places urban students with rural and tribal NGOs for a span of one month. iVolunteer IFY Programme 2010 saw Aparna, an information science and engineering student from Bangalore, as one of the candidates who got through the initial scanning process. She was placed with Payir Trust, a rural empowerment facilitation center based n Thenur village, Perambalur District, Tamil Nadu. She would incidentally be the author of this blog post too.

After many weeks of eager waiting, I finally found myself aboard the train to Trichy - all set to spend a month volunteering with Payir Trust. A month in the rustic backdrop, trying to be of some use to somebody, trying to touch a few lives in a small way at least, all by myself for the first time ever... A month living the kind of life I have always wanted to live... I cannot find words to express how disarming I found the whole prospect!

A delayed train journey, several calls and messages to Senthil and a ride with Renga (in his Charlie Chaplain auto rickshaw) later I found myself in the charming place that was to make a profound impact on my life... my home for a July, an Adi season in 2010, Payir. Right from Jayamma making me eat twice the quantity of Upma than I'd normally consume, to Senthil refusing to let me pay Renga, everything about my first day gave me sufficient hints about how the rest of my stay there would be like.

To the unmatched, unsurpassed hospitality that I was smothered with, the selfless ability of the folks there to adapt to anybody and make people feel like they have always belonged there, to all those wonderful people who have touched my life in ways that I cannot forget, to all the memories that I have managed to capture from these few days and to everything that has changed about me since my visit here, I shall forever remain indebted to Payir!

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