Sunday, March 6, 2016
WHO WILL DO THIS WORK
Have you seen such scenes around you? Have you ever thought of people who do this work? Can you imagine how they would feel?
Why do you think people need to do this kind of work?
Our friends spoke to some staff who do cleaning jobs. Here are some of the things they told us.
Since when have you been doing this work?
A. About twenty years. Since I completed my studies.
Q. Why did you not study further? You could have got some other job?
A. You need money for studies. And even after that most of our people continue to do this kind of work.
Q. What do you mean?
A. Since our great grandfathers’ times... or even before that, most people of our community have been doing this work. Even after getting a college degree, our people do not get any other kind of job. So they have to do this work.
Q. Why is that so?
A. That is the way it is. In the entire city, all the people who do this kind of work are from our community. It has always been so.
Interview (adapted) from the documentary film ‘India Untouched’ by Stalin. K.
What would happen if nobody did this work? If nobody cleared the garbage lying outside your school or your house for one week, then what would happen?
Think of some ways (machines, or other things) so that people would not have to do the work they don't like to do. Draw a picture of what you thought. (These pictures are also made by children)
Do you think that anyone has ever tried to change this situation? Yes, many people have tried. People are trying even today. But it is not easy to change this.
One such person was Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhiji had a friend Mahadevbhai Desai. Mahadevbhai’s son Narayan also stayed with Gandhiji when he was young. This incident is from Narayan's book.
Remembering those days
When Narayan (Babla) was about 11 years old, he was staying in Gandhiji’s Sabarmati Ashram. Like everyone else in the Ashram, he had to do various kinds of work. One of his jobs was to teach the guests how to clean the toilets.
In those days, the toilets were not what we know today. There used to be holes under which baskets were kept. People sat on the holes. Later the baskets had to be lifted by hand, to be emptied.
It was the usual practice that people from a particular community would do this work. But in Gandhiji’s Ashram, every person had to carry the basket to the compost pit and empty it there. No one was excused from this task - not even the guests. Narayanbhai remembers how some people used to try and avoid this work. Some even left the Ashram because of this.
Some years later Gandhiji went to stay at a village, near Wardha in Maharashtra. Gandhiji, Mahadevbhai and others started to clean the toilets in the village. They did this for some months. One morning a man coming from the toilet, saw Mahadevbhai.
He pointed to him and said “There is a lot of dirt over there. Go and clean that!” When Babla saw this, he was very angry. He thought, the villagers felt that this was not their work. This was for Gandhiji and his team to do. He asked Gandhiji why this was so. Gandhiji replied, “Untouchability is a serious matter.
Lot of hardwork will be required to change this.” Narayan knew that the people who usually did this work were thought to be untouchable. He asked “What is the use if the village people do not
change their thinking? They have become used to someone else doing this work for them.”
Gandhiji replied, “Why”? Don’t you think the people who clean also benefit from it. They also learn a lesson. To learn something is like learning a new skill. Even if it is a cleaning job.”
Little Narayan was not convinced. He again argued, “Those who make a place dirty but do not clean it should also learn lessons.” Gandhiji and Narayan continued to argue about this. But when he grew up Narayan always followed the path shown by Gandhiji. From the book in Gujarati by Narayanbhai Desai – Sant-Charan-Raj, Sevita, Sahaj
A childhood story
This story is almost a hundred years old. Seven-year old Bhim went to Goregaon
in Maharashtra with his father to spend his holidays. He saw a barber cutting the long hair of a rich farmer’s buffallo.
He thought of his own long hair. He went to the barber and asked for a hair cut. The barber replied, “If I cut your hair both my razor and I will get dirty.” Oh, so to cut human hair can be dirtier than cutting an animal’s hair, wondered little Bhim.
Later this little Bhim was known as Bhim Rao Baba Saheb Ambedkar.
He became very famous across the world. Baba Saheb fought for justice for people like him. After India’s freedom the Constitution was prepared under the leadership of Baba Saheb.
Narayan and Gandhiji discussed all this many years ago. Have
things changed now? A conversation in school - the reality today
Hetal : I am Hetal, and this is Meena. We both study in Class III.
Q: What all do you do in school.
Meena: We clean the ground
Q: Do all children clean
Hetal : No, not all.
Meena : We also have to clean the toilets. We do it on different days. I
clean on Monday, she does on Tuesday, and she on Wednesday … All
the children from our community do this.
Hetal : We have to carry twenty buckets of water for this. We have to
sweep and wash.
Q : Why only you? Why not all the children?
Hetal : Only we have to. If we don’t we get beaten.
Interview (adapted) from the documentary film ‘India Untouched’ by Stalin. K.
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.”
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!
Saturday, January 16, 2016
Once again, everybody in Marietta’s family is quarrelling over watching the TV – just like they do every day! Marietta’s brother wants to watch a cricket match while little
Susan is eager to watch her favourite programme of song’s. Mummy and Aunty are good friends but their favourite TV programmes are different.
Mummy likes to watch the news while Aunty enjoys a TV serial. Marietta wants to watch cartoons and Daddy enjoys the football match.
He says that he can watch TV only in the evening. Finally, everyone had to watch the football match.
It is 7 o’clock in the evening. Pratibha is hurrying home from her friend’s house. Her brothers Sandeep and Sanjay are busy playing round the corner with their friends.
They are in no hurry to go home. Even if they are late, nobody will scold them. Pratibha thinks that this is not fair. Why should there be one rule for her and another for her brothers? But what can she do?
One day, Pilloo Aunty took Phali and Nazu and their friends to the beach. What a good time they had! They played in sand and water, and then went for a ride on the Giant wheel.
After that they ate bhelpuri and bought balloons. Then everybody enjoyed some icy cold kulfi. When the kulfi-seller asked for money, he made a mistake. He charged for five kulfis instead of seven.
The children thought, “Hurrah! We have saved money.” But Pilloo Aunty paid the money for seven kulfis to the kulfiseller.
Akshay loves his grandmother very much. She loves him dearly too. She talks to him about many interesting things. Anil is Akshay’s friend. His grandmother likes Anil too, but one thing that she tells Akshay again and again is that he should never eat or drink anything at Anil’s house – not even a glass of water! “They are very different from our family,” she says.
One day there was a volleyball match in the big ground near Anil’s house. It was a hot day and everybody was tired and thirsty after the match. Anil invited everybody home.
Anil’s mother gave water to all of them, and they drank it. When Anil handed Akshay a glass of water, he suddenly remembered his grandmother’s warning. Akshay stared at Anil, not knowing what to do.
Dhondu comes from a very large family. His elder uncle looks after the family – their fields, money matters, etc. He decides about all the small and big things for the family.
Dhondu has always worked in the fields. But now, he wants to do something different. He would like to borrow some money from a bank and buy a chakki machine to grind grain.
There is no such machine in their village. Dhondu is confident that this new work will help him earn more money for his family. Father has agreed to let him try the new work. But his elder uncle is not agreeing to this.
These examples reflect some situations that we face in our daily life. These often affect us in different ways.
“Is your Uncle at home? If he is, I will not come,” Ritu answered. “But why do you say that? Uncle likes you. He was saying – bring your friend Ritu home and I will give both of you lots of chocolate.”
Ritu pulled her hand away from Meena saying, “I am scared of your Uncle. I do not like it when he even touches my hand.” Saying this, Ritu went home.
Some children may have similar experiences as Ritu did. It will help to build their confidence and feeling of support, if children can discuss this in class.
In case you feel the need, you could talk individually with some of the children. If there is a counsellor in the school, you could take their help.You may be very careful and sensitive to deal with children if they wish to share problems related to drug addiction of their family members. The harmful effects of drugs/ narcotics may be discussed in the class. Such issues should also be discussed in the inservice training programmes.
It may be possible that children from such families (Drug addicted members) may fall victim to such habits/practices. A timely action needs to be taken to prevent them. On this theme, charts and posters can be prepared by the children with the support of teachers and discuss in the class.
Sunday, March 6, 2016
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!