India is a land where the most modern and the least poor live together and move together. Even in cities with in a stone throw distance you will see extreme contrasts of landscapes where milliners and rag pickers live as strangers. The hi-tech, industrial, agricultural and pre-literary societies coexist with in a fifty kilometers radius. That's India! But there is still a landscape that not many have seen. These are hill ranges and interior forest verges. There live several hundreds of communities without seeing the so called developed country!
India's tribalscape is awe-inspiring. Come along to some of the hills of the State of Kerala in South India, popularly known as "God's own country"- the most literate state in the country. You will see people who are untouched by the development of past 300 years. These are tribals- the once rulers of the land and now not even slaves- the earlier inhabitants who were forced to flee for life when more migrations and exploitations took place. They are illiterate and ignorant about their rights even those provided by the government. They have never seen a sea or a train. They do not know how to hold a printed paper! Bare footed, they trek miles to find some work in the valley, on the fringes of forest.
There are much more primitive natives still further inside on those mountains. They live under the shade of rocks and eat fruits and roots naturally available. Governments have some provisions for them. But many of it evaporates in transits and too little reach the needy. Most of the time, the fence eat up the yields!
On Western Ghat, [one of the scores of hill ranges in India- bordering Kerala and Tamil Nadu/ Karnataka states] alone there are more than 50 such people groups. Some of them are vanishing peoples. Animals on these mountains are better cared and protected than the human beings. Although some social organizations have made some inroads into the tribal belt, a lot more has to be done to deliver them from the clutches of exploitation, ignorance and injustice.
Philipose Vaidyar, a teacher turned missionary and a self taught journalist in the early nineties had the exciting experience of making an inquisitive visit to popular tribal belts in Kerala and one such region in Maharashtra. Zooming in on the queer practices maintained by these people groups, the travelogues evoke laughter, sympathy and wonder simultaneously. Half of these stories were first published in a Malayalam magazine which he had been editing. One of the readers, another editor, had republished these stories in his magazine. Seeing a slide presentation about the Malamuthan in Malappuram, a team conducted a medical camp among them. Many others have started supporting developmental work among others. Sam Arackal, another reader, fascinated by these stories initiated translating half of them. The duo is ready for another trip to more hills or backyards of more cities. Join us some way that we can reach them.