Sunday, March 6, 2016
ON THE MOVE AGAIN
Today all the relatives have come to Dhanu’s house to celebrate Dushera. They have come with their luggage in their bullockcarts. Dhanu’s father is the eldest in the family.
So all the festivals are celebrated at their house. Dhanu’s mother (aai ), mother’s brother’s wife (mami ) and father’s brother’s wife (kaki ) are busy making puranpoli (sweet rotis made from jaggery and gram).
Alongwith this a spicy kadi dish is also made. The day passes in laughing and chatting. But by evening everyone’s mood changes. The women and children begin to pack their luggage.
The men sit down with the mukadam (agent who lends money) for the meeting. The mukadam gives the details of the loan taken by each family.
Then the talks for the next few months begin. The mukadam explains to the villagers in which areas they would go for the next six months. He also gives them some money as loan, for their expenses. Ever since Dhanu remembers, this has been the routine.
Families like Dhanu’s work on the lands of big farmers till Dushera, before the rainy season. Many other families also work on such lands. They earn just enough money to keep them going through these months.
But how to manage the remaining six months, when there is no rain, and no work in the fields? So, everyone borrows mone from the mukadam. To pay back this money, they have to work for the mukadam. Mukadam is an agent for sugarcane factories. He helps them to find work in sugarcane fields.
In the next few months, Dhanu, his parents, his kaka (father’s brother) and his two elder children, his mama, mami and their two daughters, and forty-fifty other families from the village will stay away from home.
In these six months, Dhanu and many children like him will not be able to go to school. Dhanu’s old grandmother, aunt who cannot see, and two-month old cousin sister would stay back in the village.
In other homes too the old and the ill people stay behind. Dhanu misses his grandmother a lot. Dhanu always keeps wondering who will take care of his grandmother! But, what can Dhanu do?
The caravan of these families would now settle near the sugarcane fields and sugar factories. For six months they would stay in their huts made of dry sugarcane and its leaves.
The men will get up early in the morning and go to cut sugarcanes in the fields. The women and children tie the bundles of sugarcane. Then the bundles are taken to the sugar factory.
Dhanu often goes with his father. Sometimes, they spend nights outside the factory on bullock-carts. There, Dhanu plays with the bullocks and wanders around.
At the factory, Dhanu’s father gets the sugarcane weighed and takes a receipt (a note to say how much sugarcane they have given). They show this receipt to the agent who then keeps an account of their loan.
The agent also gives them some money for the next week’s expenses. Then Dhanu’s aai and mami take thechildren to the nearby village market, to buy atta (flour) and oil for the next week.
Sometimes mami buys laddoos or some sweets for the children. She also buys pencils, an eraser and a notebook for Dhanu. After all he is mami’s favorite! But Dhanu won’t be using these for six months, because he won’t be going to school.
Mami wants Dhanu to study and become somebody in life. She does not want Dhanu to move around with his family like this. mama and mami tell Dhanu’s parents, “Next time when we leave our village after Dushera we will leave Dhanu with his dadi and chachi.
He will go to school like the other children in the village. He should continue
his studies. He should study further and become somebody.”
LIKE FATHER, LIKE DAUGHTER
Ashima was sitting near the window and reading. It was windy and there was a lot of dust in the air. Suddenly Ashima sneezed loudly—aaa chhee!
Ashima’s parents were sorting out vegetables in the kitchen. Her mother said, “She sneezes just like you do. If you were not here, I would have thought it was your sneeze.”
Does your face or anything else look similar to that of someone else in your family? What is it? Did someone tell you this or did you find it out yourself? How do you feel when people compare you with someone else in your family? Why do you feel so? Who laughs the loudest in your family? Laugh like that person.
Who is whose aunt?
Nilima had gone to the house of her nani (mother’s mother) in the school holidays. She saw someone coming and went to tell her mother, “Amma, a mausi (mother's sister) has come to meet you.”
Her mother came out to see who had come. She told Nilima, “No, this is not your mausi ! She is your sister Kiran. You know your eldest nani ? Kiran is the daughter of her elder son. Kiran is your cousin sister. In fact, you are her cute son Samir’s mausi !”
How we are all related!
Nilima started playing with Samir. Her mother called Kiran and said, “See, my Nilima’s hair is a lot like yours – thick, curly and black. It’s good she does not have hair like mine – straight, limp and brown!”
Nilima’s nani laughed and said, “Yes, isn’t it strange? We sisters had thick curly hair and now our second generation has similar hair.” Nilima was listening to all this. She thought, “We are called ‘distant’ relatives, but, how closely related we are in many ways!”
Is this a mirror?
Look at the next page. Is Saroja standing in front of a mirror? No, this is her twin! Did you get confused? Their mother's brother (mama) also gets confused when he sees them together.
At times Saroja gets scolded for mischief done by Suvasini. Sometimes Suvasini tricks her mama and says, “Suvasini has gone out.” But now mama has learnt a trick. He says – Sing a song in Marathi ! Why this funny trick?
Read about them and you will understand. The sisters were just two weeks old when Saroja's father's brother's wife (chachi) adopted her and took her to Pune.
Everyone in chachi's house is very fond of music. Mornings begin with music in the house. Saroja knows many songs in both languages – Tamil and Marathi.
At home everyone speaks Tamil and at school most children speak in Marathi. Suvasini stays with her father in Chennai. Her father is a karate coach.
Since she was three, Suvasini started doing karate with the other children. On holidays, both father and daughter start practicing in the morning. Saroja and Suvasini look alike but are also quite different.
Do you now know why mama has his way of finding out who is who? Saroja and Suvasini look a lot like each other yet are different. For example, Saroja knows two languages.
If Suvasini's family also talked in two languages she could also learn both. We learn many things like language, music, love for reading, or knitting, when we get a chance and an environment to do so.
This from the family
Do this interesting survey in your class. Write how many children can do this :
1. Without touching your teeth fold your tongue towards the back of your mouth.
2. Roll your tongue by lifting it from the sides.
3. Open all the toes of your feet. Now without moving the others, move the little toe.
4. Touch the thumb to your wrist.
5. Make a ‘V’ by separating two fingers of your hand to each side.
6. Move your ears, without holding them. Those children who could do any of these should ask their family members also to do so. So, how many children have got this trait from their family?
But not this from parents...
Satti was only a few months old when one of her legs was affected by polio. But she never let this come in the way of her work and her life.
Walking long distances and climbing many stairs has been a
part of her work. Now Satti is married. Some people tell her not to have any children. She is also worried that her children may also get polio. She spoke to a doctor about this.
Experiments with peas – rough or smooth?
Gregor Mendel was born in a poor farmer’s family in Austria in 1822. He was very fond of studies but the very thought of examinations made him nervous (Oh! you too feel the same!). He did not have money to study at the University so he thought of becoming a ‘monk’ in a monastery.
He thought from there he would be sent to study further. Which he was. But to become a science teacher he had to take an exam. Oh no! he got so nervous that he kept running away from the exam, and kept failing!
But he did not stop doing experiments. For seven years he did experiments on 28,000 plants in the garden of the monastery. He worked hard, collected many observations, and made a new discovery! Something which scientists at that time could not even understand!
They understood it many years after his death, when other scientists did such experiments and read what Mendel had already written. What did Mendel find in those plants? He found that the pea plant has some traits which come in pairs.
Like the seed is either rough or smooth. It is either yellow or green, and the height of the plant is either tall or short. Nothing in between. The next generation (the children) of a plant which has either rough or smooth seeds will also have seeds which are rough or smooth.
There is no seed which is mixed a bit smooth and a bit rough. He found the same with colour. Seeds which are either green or yellow give rise to new seeds which are either green or yellow.
The next generation does not have seeds with a mixed new colour made from both green and
Mendel showed that in the next generation of pea plants there will be more plants having yellow seeds. He also showed that the next generation will have more plants with smooth seeds. What a discovery!
Some from the family, some from the environment From a distance Vibha knows that her nana (grandfather) is coming – from his loud laughter. Nana also talks loudly and hears with difficulty. Are there people in your house who talk loudly?
Is it their habit, or they cannot also hear very well? Are there times when you do not talk loudly in front of some people? When? With whom? Why? When can you speak loudly?
Some people use a machine in their ear to help them hear better. Some use a stick or spectcles to help them in other ways. Do you know someone who does so?
We have seen that some traits or habits we get from our family. Some things and skills we learn from our environment. At times our abilities change because of some illness or old age. All these together make us what we are!
Daughter of the jungle
Look at the picture. Where do you think these children are off to, with little bundles on their sticks? When you find out you too would want to go with them!
The children are going to the forest. There they jump, run, climb trees and sing songs in their language called Kuduk. They pick the fallen flowers and leaves, to weave them into necklaces.
They enjoy the wild fruits. They look for birds, whose calls they imitate. Joining them in all this fun is their favourite didi – Suryamani. Every Sunday Suryamani takes the children to the forest.
As they move around, she shows them how to recognize the trees, the plants, and animals. Children enjoy this special class in a forest! Suryamani always says, “To learn to read the forest is as important as reading books.”
She says,”We are forest people (adivasis). Our lives are linked to the forests. If the forests are not there, we too will not remain.”
Suryamani’s story is a true story. Suryamani is a ‘Girl Star’. ‘Girl Stars’ is a project which tells extraordinary tales of ordinary girls, who have changed their lives by going to school.
Suryamani loves the forest since she was a child. She would not take the direct road to school, but would choose the path through the forest. Suryamani’s father had a small field.
Her family used to collect leaves and herbs from the forest and sell these in the bazaar. Her mother would weave baskets from bamboo or make leaf plates out of the fallen leaves.
But now no one can pick up a single leaf from the forest. That is since Shambhu the contractor came there. The people of Suryamani’s village were afraid of the contractor.
Everyone except Budhiyamai. She would say, “We the people of this forest have a right over it. We look after our forests, we don't cut trees like these contractors do. The forest is like our ‘collective bank’ – not yours or mine alone. We take from it only as much as we need. We don’t use up all our wealth.”
Suryanani’s father could no longer support the family on the small land. He moved to the town in search of work. But things did not improve. Sometimes there would be no food in the house.
At times Maniya Chacha (uncle) would send some grain from his small shop to Suryamani’s house. Chacha tried hard and got admission for Suryamani in the school in Bishanpur.
Here they would not have to pay for the fees, uniforms and books. Suryamani would have to stay there and study. Suryamani didn't want to leave her village and forest. But Maniya Chacha was firm.
“If you do not study, what will you do? Go hungry?” Suryamani would argue, “Why should I go hungry? The jungle is there to help!” Chacha tried
to explain, “But we are being moved away from our forests.
Even the forests are disappearing – in their place mines are being dug, dams are being built. Believe me, it is important for you to study, to understand about the laws. Maybe then you can help to save our forests”. Young Suryamani listened, and tried to understand some of what he said
Suryamani was filled with joy on seeing the school at Bishanpur. The school was near a thick forest. Suryamani studied hard and passed her B.A. after getting a scholarship.
She was the first girl in the village to do this. While she was in college she met Vasavi didi, a journalist. Suryamani soon joined her to work for the Jharkhand Jungle Bachao Andolan (Movement to Save the Forests of Jharkhand).
This work took Suryamani to far off towns and cities. Her father did not like this. But Suryamani continued her work. Not only that, she also started to fight for the rights of the village people. Her childhood friend Bijoy helped her in this work.
Suryamani had another friend ‘Mirchi’, who stayed with her day and night. Suryamani would share all her thoughts and dreams with Mirchi. Mirchi would listen and say “Keee Keee.” Suryamani had a dream. for her Kuduk community. She wanted all her people to feel proud of being adivasis.
Suryamani was 21 when she opened a centre, with the help of Vasavi didi and others. She called it ‘Torang’, which means jungle in the Kuduk language.
Suryamani wanted that on festivals people should sing their own songs. They should not forget their music and should enjoy wearing their traditional clothes.
Children should also learn about herbs, medicines, and the art of making things from bamboo. Children should learn the language of school but must link it with their own language.
All this happens in the ‘Torang’ centre. Many special books about the Kuduk community and other adivasis have been collected. Flutes and different types of drums are also kept there.
Whenever something is unfair, or if someone is afraid that his land and livelihood would be taken away, they turn to Suryamani. Suryamani fights for everyone’s rights.
Suryamani and Bijoy have got married and work together. Today their work is praised by many people. She is invited, even to other countries, to share her experiences. People of her area are also raising their voice for a new forest law.
Right to Forest Act 2007
People who have been living in the forests for at least 25 years, have a right over the forest land and what is grown on it. They should not be removed from the forest.
The work of protecting the forest should be done by their Gram Sabha. A forest is everything for us adivasis. We can’t live away from the forests even for a day. Government has started many projects in the name of development – dams and factories are being built.
Forests, which are ours are being taken away from us. Because of these projects, we need to think where the forest people will go and what will happen to their livelihood?
Where will the lakhs of animals living in the forests go? If there are no forests, and we dig out our lands for minerals like aluminium, what will be left? Only polluted air, water, and miles and miles of barren land...
Lottery for farming in Mizoram:
You read about the forests of Jharkhand in Suryamani’s story. Now read about forests on the hills of Mizoram. See how people live there, and
how farming is done.
Ding, Ding, Ding.... As soon as the school bell rang Lawmte-aa, Dingi, Dingima picked their bags and hurried home. On the way they stopped to drink water from a stream in a cup made of bamboo which was kept there.
Today not only the children, even ‘Saima Sir’ was in a hurry to get back. Today there would be a special meeting of the Village Council (Panchayat). At the meeting there would be a lottery to decide which family will get how much land for farming.
The land belongs to the whole village, not to separate people. So they take turns to do farming on different parts of the land. A beautiful pot made of bamboo was shaken well. One chit was taken out. Saima Sir’s family got the first chance.
He said, “I am happy that my family gets to choose first. But, this year we cannot take more land. Last year I had taken more and was not able to farm it well. After my sister Jhiri got married and went away it is difficult to manage farming alone.”
Saima Sir asked for ‘three tin’ of land. Little Mathini asked, “ What is three tin of land? Chamui explained, “The land on which we grow one tin of seeds is called one tin of land.” One by one, the village families got their piece of land for farming.
Jhoom farming is very interesting. After cutting one crop, the land is left as it is for some years. Nothing is grown there. The bamboo or weeds which grow on that land are not pulled out. They are cut and burnt.
The ash makes the land fertile. While burning, care is taken so that the fire does not spread to the other parts of the forest. When the land is ready for farming it is lightly dug up, not ploughed.
Seeds are dropped on it. In one farm different types of crops like maize, vegetables, chillies, rice can be grown. Weeds and other unwanted plants are also not pulled out, they are just cut. So that they get mixed with the soil.
This also helps in making the soil fertile. If some family is not able to do farming on time, others help them and are given food.
The main crop here is rice. After it is cut, it is difficult to take it home. There are no roads, only hilly paths. People have to carry the crop on their
backs. This takes many weeks. When the work is over the entire village celebrates.
People get together to cook and eat, sing and dance. They do their special ‘cheraw’ dance. In this dance people sit in pairs in front of each other, holding bamboo sticks on the ground.
As the drum beats, the bamboos are beaten to the ground. Dancers step in and out of the bamboo sticks, and dance to the beat.
Find out more about the ‘cheraw’ dance. Do it in your class. But be careful and don’t hurt yourself. About three-fourth people in Mizoram are linked to the forests.
Life is difficult but almost all children go to school. You can see some of them here, playfully blowing their leaf whistles! You too have made many such whistles, haven’t you!
A SEED TELLS A FARMER’S STORY
I am a small seed!
I am a small bajra seed. I have stayed in this beautiful wooden box since 1940. I want to tell you my story. This is a long story but not mine alone. It is also the story of my farmer Damjibhai and his family. If I do not tell my story now, it might be too late!
I was born in Vangaam in Gujarat. That year there was a good bajra (millet) crop. There was a festive mood in the village. Our area was famous for its grain and vegetables.
Each year Damjibhai kept aside some seeds from a good crop. This way
our bajra family went on from one generation to another. Good seeds were stored in dried gourd (lauki ) which was coated with mud.
But that year Damjibhai himself made a strong wooden box to store us. He put in neem leaves to protect us from insects. He put different seeds in different compartments of the box. That was our beautiful home!
In those days Damjibhai and his cousins lived together. It was a large family. Everyone in the village helped each other, even in farming. When
the crop was ready and harvested, everyone celebrated together.
Oh! Those wonderful days! With big feasts and lots to eat! In the winter, it would be time to enjoy the undhiya (a kind of stew). All the vegetables were put into a clay pot, along with fresh spices. The pot was sealed and kept between hot coals. The vegetables cooked slowly in this special cooker, on the fields.
Oh, I forgot, the pot was placed upside down! That is why the dish was called undhiya or “upside down” in Gujarati. Undhiya would be eaten with bajra rotis, freshly cooked on the chulha. Oh, what an earthy delicious flavour!
Along with that, home-made butter, curd and buttermilk was served.
Farmers would grow many different kinds of crops – grains and vegetables according to the season. The farmers kept enough for their needs and sold the rest to shopkeepers from the city.
Some farmers also grew cotton. At home, family members spun cotton on a charkha (spinning wheel) to make cloth.
When times changed:
Over the years, many changes took place in the village. Some places could get water from the canal. They said the canal brought water from far away – where a dam had been built on a big river.
Then electricity came. Switch on the button and there was light! People found that only one or two crops, like wheat and cotton, got better prices in the market.
So most farmers began to grow only these. Soon we – old friends bajra and jowar, and also vegetables – were forgotten and dismissed, even from
Damjibhai’s fields! Farmers even began to buy seeds from the market.
People said they were new kinds of seeds. So farmers did not need to store seeds from the old crop.
Now people in the village cooked and ate together only on very special days. As they ate, they would remember how tasty the food used to be in the past – fresh from the fields.
When the seeds have changed, how could food ever taste the same! Damjibhai was getting old. His son Hasmukh looked after the fields and the family. Hasmukh was making a lot of money from farming. He rebuilt the old house.
He brought new machines for farming. He used an electric motor to pump water. He bought a motorcycle to go to the city easily and also a tractor to plough the field. The tractor could do in a day, what the bullocks would take many days to do.
Hasmukh would say, “Now we are farming wisely. We grow only what we can sell in the market at a good price. With profits from our fields we can improve our life.
We can make progress.” Lying forgotten in the wooden box, I and
the other seeds had our doubts. Is all this really progress? There is no longer any need for seeds like us, and animals like the bullocks. After the tractor has come, even people who worked on the fields, are no longer needed. How will they earn money? What will they live on?
More and more expenses:
The next twenty years saw even more changes. Without cows and buffaloes, there was no cow dung, to be used in the fields as fertilizer. Hasmukh had to buy expensive fertilizer.
The new kinds of seeds were such that the crops were easily affected by harmful insects. Medicines had to be sprayed on the crops to keep away
Oh, what a bad smell these had, and how expensive they were! The canal water was not enough for the new crops. All the farmers used pumps to lift
water from deep under the ground.
To meet all these expenses, loans had to be taken from the bank. Whatever little profit was made, was used to repay the loan. But there was little profit!
Everyone was growing cotton, so the cotton prices were not as high as before. The soil itself was no longer the same. Growing the same crop
over and over, and using so many chemicals, had affected the soil so much that now nothing could grow well there.
It was becoming difficult to earn a living by farming alone. Hasmukh too changed with the times. He is often tense and angry most of the time. His educated son Paresh did not want to do farming. He now started work as a truck driver.
After all, the bank loans still had to be repaid. Often Paresh doesn’t come home for days. At times he is away for a week. Two days back when he came home, Paresh started looking for something.
“Ba”, he asked his mother, “Where is Dadaji’s wooden seed box? It will be useful to keep the screws and tools for the truck.” Now do you understand why I told you my story?
Read the report from a newspaper and discuss it:
Tuesday, 18 December 2007, Andhra Pradesh Farmers in Andhra Pradesh have been sent to jail for not being able to pay back their loans.
They had suffered a big loss in farming. One of these farmers, Nallappa Reddy, had taken a bank loan of Rs. 24,000. To repay the loan, he had to take another loan from a private moneylender, at a very high rate of interest.
Even after repaying Rs. 34,000 Reddy could not repay the entire loan. Reddy says, “The bank sends farmers to jail for not paying back small loans. But what about the big businessmen? They take loans of crores of rupees.
Nothing happens to them when they do not return the money!” Nallappa Reddy’s story is shared by thousands of farmers in India who are suffering huge losses.
The situation is so bad that many farmers see no way out of this except to commit suicide. According to government figures 1,50,000 farmers have died like this between 1997 and 2005. This number may be much higher...
Bhaskarbhai’s Farm (Dehri village, Gujarat)
As we entered his farm, we were surprised. There were dead leaves, wild plants, and grass everywhere! Some of the tree branches seemed so dry, as if eaten by insects. At places we saw some plants with colourful leaves.
Why these? Bhaskarbhai said they were croton plants which gave him a signal when the soil became dry. We were surprised! How? He explained that the roots of the croton do not go deep in the ground.
So when the top layer of the soil becomes dry, the croton leaves bend and become limp. This signal tells Bhaskarbhai which part of his farm needs to be watered.
We found the soil soft and crumbly. We could see tall coconut trees, full of fresh coconuts. We thought he must be using some special fertilisers.
Bhaskarbhai said he does not buy fertilisers made in factories.
His soil is fertile because of all the dried leaves which slowly rot and mix with it. He dug the soil a little and told us to look. We saw thousands of earthworms! “These are my soil's best friends”, he said.
The earthworms soften the soil as they keep digging underneath to make tunnels. This way air and water can easily get into the soil. The earthworms also eat the dead leaves and plants, and their droppings fertilise the soil.
Pravin told us about his uncle in the city, who has dug a pit in his garden. He puts dried leaves in the pit, along with all the kitchen waste – peels of vegetables and fruits, and leftover food. He also has earthworms in the pit.
They turn the waste into compost (a natural fertiliser). So his uncle gets good fertiliser without spending extra money. We all had some fresh coconuts from the farm. They were really tasty! We also learnt so much about a new way of farming! Group members : Praful, Hansa, Krutika, Chakki, Praveen, Class–5C
Journey of a bajra seed–from a field to a plate
What can you see in each picture on the next page?
In picture 2 you can see the bajra cobs in the mortar (okhli, usedfor crushing). The cobs are crushed with a pestle (moosli ) andthe seeds are separated from the cob.
You can see the separatedseeds in picture 3. Now this work is also done by big machines,like threshers. We call both these as different ‘technologies’ –using our hands or big machines – to crush the seeds.
NO PLACE FOR US?
Jatryabhai was sitting at the door with his daughter Jhimli. They were waiting for Sidya. It was almost night but Sidya had not come home. Two years back Jatrya’s family came to Mumbai from Sinduri village.
Here, they only knew the family of a distant relative. With their help, Jatryabhai began to repair torn fishing nets. But the money he got
was not enough.
They had to pay for the medicines, food, school fees and rent for the house. Here, they even had to buy water. Young Sidya also had to work in the nearby fish factory to earn some money.
From four o’clock till seven o’clock in the morning, he cleaned and sorted the big and small fish. Then he would come home, take a nap, and go to school in the afternoon. In the evening he would wander around the vegetable market.
He would help some memsahib (lady) to carry her bags, or go to the railway station to pick up empty bottles and newspapers to sell to the kabadiwalla (junk seller).
Somehow they were managing their life in the city. It was night, but Sidya had not come home. Jhimli was watching a dance on TV, through the neighbour’s window.
But Jatrya did not like watching TV. Here, everything was so different. The day would pass running around for work, but the evening brought back old memories.
Thinking of old days:
Jatrya was born in Khedi village, in the middle of thick green jungles and hills. His people had been living here for many years even before his grandfather was born.
There was peace in Jatrya’s village, but not silence. There were so many soothing sounds – the gurgle of the flowing river, the murmur of trees and the chirping of birds. People did farming.
They would go to the nearby forest, chatting and singing together, to collect wild fruits, roots and dried wood. While working with elders, children also learnt many things – to dance together, to play flute and dhol, to make pots of clay and bamboo, to recognise birds and imitate their sounds, etc.
People collected things from the forest for their use. Some of those they would sell in the town across the river. With that money they would buy salt, oil and some clothes.
It was a village, but people here lived together like a big family. Jatrya’s sister was married in the same village. People helped each other, in good and bad times. The elders would arrange weddings, and settle quarrels.
Jatrya was now a strong young man. He worked hard in the fields and caught fish from the big river. He and his friends would go to the forest to collect fruits, roots and plants for medicines, and fish from the river, to sell these in the town.
During festival time, Jatrya would dance and play the drum, with boys and girls of his age.
Across the river:
One day the people of Khedi heard that a big dam was to be built on the river. For this, a big wall would be built to stop the flow of the river. Khedi and many nearby villages in that area would be drowned under water. The people would have to leave their villages and their lands, on which their forefathers had lived for centuries.
After a few days, government officials along with the police started visiting these villages. Small children of the village saw the police for the first time. Some children would run after them, and some would get scared and start crying.
The officials measured the width and length of the river, the fields, forests and houses. They called meetings with the elders of the village. They said, “Villages on the bank of the river would have to be removed. People having land at Khedi will be given land far away, on the other side of the river.
They will have everything there – a school, electricity, hospitals, buses, trains, etc. They will have all that they could not even dream of here in Khedi.”
Jatrya’s parents and most elders were not happy about leaving
their village. Listening to all this, Jatrya would get a little scared, but also feel excited. He would think that after getting married, he would take his bride to the new house in the new village.
A house where he could just press a button for the light and turn on the tap for water. He could go by bus to see the city. When he would have children, he could send them to school. They will not be like him, who had never been to school.
A new place:
It was a summer afternoon. Jatrya was feeling faint in the hot sun and wind. His feet were burning on the coal tar of the pucca road. There wasn’t a single tree to offer some shade.
Just a few houses and shops. Jatrya was on his way home after buying
medicines. He had an old tyre on his back. These days, he had to light his stove with just these rubber pieces of old tyres.
These caught fire fast, and also saved some firewood. But the smoke and smell of burning tyres were terrible! In this new Sinduri village, they had to pay money for everything— medicines, food, vegetables, firewood, and fodder for the animals.
They could just not afford to buy kerosene. But from where to get the money for all this? Thinking of all this, Jatrya reached home. The roof made of a tin sheet made the house hot like an oven.
Jatrya’s wife had high fever. His daughter Jhimli was rocking her little brother Sidya to sleep in her lap. After all, there was no other older person with them.
Jatrya’s parents had been so sad about leaving Khedi that they had died before he moved here.
In Sinduri there were only eight-ten families he could call his own, those from his old village. The whole village had got scattered and people had gone wherever they had been given land.
This was not like the new village Jatrya had dreamt about. There was electricity, but only for sometime in a day. And then, the electricity bill had also to be paid. There were taps, but no water!
In this village, Jatrya got just one room in a tin shed. It had no place to keep the animals. He also got a small piece of land. But that was not good for farming. It was full of rocks and stones.
Still Jatrya and his family worked very hard. But they could not grow much on the field, and could not make enough money even to buy seeds and fertilisers. In Khedi, people did not fall sick often.
If someone fell ill there were many people who knew how to treat them with medicines made from plants. People felt better after taking those medicines. Here in Sinduri, there was a hospital but it was difficult to find doctors, and there were no medicines.
There was a school here, but the teacher did not care much about the children from Khedi village. These children found it difficult to study in a new language.
The people of Sinduri did not welcome the newcomers from Khedi. They found their language and way of living strange. They made fun of the Khedi people by calling them ‘unwanted guests’. Not much of what he had dreamt had come true!
Some years later:
Jatrya stayed for a few years in Sinduri. The children were also getting older. But Jatrya’s heart was not here in Sinduri. He still missed his old Khedi.
But there was no Khedi now. There was a big dam and a big lake of collected water in and around Khedi. Jatrya thought, “If we are to be called ‘unwanted guests’, then at least let us go to some place where our dreams can come true.”
Jatrya sold his land and his animals and came to Mumbai. Here, he started a new life with his family. His only dream was to send his children to school, to give them a better future, a better life.
Here too, things were not easy. But he hoped that things would get
better. Jatrya started saving money to repair his one-room shack. His
relatives would tell him, “Don’t waste money on this. Who knows, we may have to move from here too. In Mumbai there is no place to stay for
outsiders like us.”
Jatrya was scared and worried. He thought, “We left Khedi for Sinduri, we then left Sinduri for Mumbai. If we have to move from here too, then where can we go? In this big city, is there not even a small place for my family to stay?”
ACROSS THE WALL
Stars in her eyes (Indian Express, 2007)
Just 13 years old, Afsana Mansuri has already jumped over the wall. The wall between her jhuggi and the local basketball court. The wall made by society, for a girl who washes utensils for a living.
The gender wall her mother had put up for her. Today, Afsana herself has become a strong wall of NBA, the Nagpada Basketball Association of Mumbai.
Today, she is the source of strength for five other girls who have come to the basketball court, leaving behind the problems of their everyday lives.
Today, she is the star of a young team. This team has managed to surprise some of Mumbai’s club teams. With a lot of guts and courage, the team has reached the semi-finals of a district-level tournament.
Meeting the team
We read in the newspaper about Afsana and the Nagpada basketball team. We thought of meeting these girls and introducing them to you. We took the train and got off at Mumbai’s Victoria Terminus Station (railway station). From there we walked towards Nagpada. It took us just twenty minutes to reach there.
There we met Afsana and the other girls of the Nagpada Basketball Association. Read the interview with the team members.
Meet this special team!
Meet Afsana, Zarin, Khushnoor and Afreen. At first the girls were
quiet, but once they started, they just did not stop!
Zarin began, “My house is just in front of this ground. My brother used to play here. I would stand in my balcony and watch the boys play. I was in Class VII at that time. Whenever the boys played a match, many people came to watch.
The winning team got a lot of praise. Everyone cheered the players. On
seeing all this, I wished I could also play. Would I too get a chance to show my talent? I asked the coach, but was afraid. He is a good friend of my father.
The coach said, “Why not? If you bring some more girls, you can
make a team. Then I will teach you.”
We asked – Was it easy to make a beginning?
Khushnoor: At first my parents refused. But when I insisted they agreed.
Afsana: My mother works in the flats and sends us to school. I also help her. When I told her about my plans to play basketball, Ammi got angry.
She said, “Girls do not play basketball. Do your work, go to school and study hard. No need to go to the ground to play.” But when my friends and Coach Sir talked to her, Ammi agreed.
Afreen : We were not allowed, because we are girls. My grandmother gets very angry with all of us. But still, we three sisters come here to play. Grandmother scolds us and even scolds our Coach Sir!
She tells us, “You need proper equipment to play. You need to have a lot of milk for strength. Where will the money for all this come from?” But daddy understands our feelings. He even teaches us some special moves used in the game.
My daddy also used to play on this ground when he was young. He did not have proper shoes or clothes. He used to practice with a plastic ball.
Daddy tells us that Bacchu Khan was the coach when he used to play. He saw my daddy playing once. He realised that the boy played very well and that he should be trained properly.
He gave proper shoes and clothes to my daddy. My daddy could have become a very good player. But because of his responsibilities at home, he
left the game and took up a job. So he wants us to play and become good players.
We asked – Tell us about your team
One girl: We felt a bit strange in the beginning. We were the first girls’ team here. People used to come and watch us practicing.
They were curious to see how girls would play basketball. Now people are no longer surprised. They have begun to accept that we girls can also play well.
Afsana: I was eleven years old when we first started playing. At that time we were not allowed to go anywhere else to play a match.
It has been two years since then. Now we go to other places also for matches. But all this could happen only because of our hard work and Sir’s coaching.
Another girl : Yes, we really work hard. Sir is also very strict. We first jog together and then do our exercises. Sir teaches us how to play the game well. We practice how to keep the ball with us, to dodge the players of the other team, how to throw the ball in the basket, to score a goal, to pass the ball well, and to run fast on court.
Afreen: Sir says, “While playing, don’t think you are girls. Play like a player. Keep playing even if you get a little injured.” We support each other and say – Come on, get up, you will be fine!” Now our game has improved a lot. Everyone says that we play as well as the boys’ team.
One girl: We also play with boys’ teams. We want them to play with us as equals. They should not be lenient because we are girls. Sometimes we get angry when the boys imitate us. But we take it as a challenge and correct our mistakes. If the boys try to cheat, we scold them!
We said – Tell us more about your team.
One girl : Our team is very special. Our team is united. Even if we quarrel, we quickly make up and forget about it. Here we have learnt how to stay and play together. Some of the girls from our team got a chance to play as part of the Mumbai team. The match was at Sholapur.
Zarin : When we went to Sholapur we found that the team had girls from different parts of the state. They did not talk to us nicely and treated us like juniors. They would not even give us a chance to play properly. We felt very bad. There was no cooperation at all in that team.
During the match I threw the ball to one of the team members. But she could not catch it. In turn, she started scolding me, blaming me for the mistake. In all this misunderstanding we lost the match.
But this never happens in our own team. If we do miss a basket
because of someone’s mistake, we do not get angry. We say, “Never
mind, next time we will do better!” It is most important to support each other, because we are all part of a team.
Afreen: After playing in Sholapur we realized what was special about our team. Cooperation between us is our strength. We understand and support each otherwell.
Even if every player is excellent, the team can lose a match if all do not play together as a team. To play as a team it is important to understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
We said – You have done so much. What next?
Afsana: We have been playing well. So we have got a chance to go to many places. We have played for our city and our state. We hope to work hard and play for our country some day.
Yes, then we will also be popular like the cricketers! We all want to play well. We should bring glory to our area and our country. We want to show that the Indian girls team can win a gold medal! We will make this happen.
We asked – Did you face some other difficulties?
Khushnoor: To tell the truth, we have not got all this very easily. As girls, even to be able to start playing was difficult.
We had to convince our families. Sometimes we even had to fight. Even today not many girls can play like this. Forget games, earlier some people did not even allow girls to study.
My mother wanted to do many things, but she never got a chance. So my mother encourages me to take part in all activities – like games, swimming and drama.
Afsana: Even now, we are supposed to go home as soon as we finish playing. The boys go here and there, and can chitchat till late. No one says anything. After coming from school, I help my mother with the cleaning work in two or three houses, do my studies and then come here to play. I also help at home. If my brother wants tea and he makes it for himself, then mother says, “He has three sisters. Yet, he has to work.”
One girl : Now, just look at Zarin’s younger brother. He is only five years old but he says, “Mummy, why do you send didi to play? She does not look nice playing like that on the ground.” Ask him if he will play and he says, “I am a boy, of course I will play!”
Afsana: But it is good for everyone to play. We have now realised, how much we benefit from playing. I want to be such a good player that other girls and boys would wish to be like me.
Afreen: I just want to say that if you have some dreams for yourself, give your best to fulfil them.
Khushnoor: If you have a wish or a dream, have courage to speak about it. If you don’t do this now, you may regret later.
We said – The newspaper wrote about all of you. Now students
will read about you in this book. How do you feel?
Afreen: We are so happy about it that we have no words to explain our happiness. We now feel we must play even better, to make our area and our country famous.
All Girls : Yes, this is our wish too.
The coach who made this team, Noor Khan told us – “This part of Mumbai is very crowded. This is the only playground in this area. This is our small ‘Bacchu Khan playground.’ A person named Mustafa Khan used to live in our area.
Everyone was afraid of him. But children were very fond of him, so everyone started calling him Bacchu Khan. There was no ground then, it was just muddy land. Bacchu Khan used to train children to play. We were among those children.
It is because of Bacchu Khan’s devotion and training that players from this area are able to compete with the teams of other countries. Like Bacchu Khan, I have trained the children of this area.
Today our team has some who play at the international level. Some have even won the
Arjuna Award.” Noor Khan continued – “In the last few years we have also prepared a girls team here.
Our girls play for the Maharashtra State team. They practice well with good discipline. Our girls and boys come from different types of families.
Some are from poor homes, some from richer. Some study in Urdu medium and some in English. But once they come here, they all make a team.”