People stories from my travels in India
I have always believed that people make places. What I mean is that it is not just the sights and sounds of a destination that adds to its flavour, but it is the people – their stories, their talents, their cultures and traditions. Almost everywhere I have travelled, I have met interesting people who have shared their stories and most of these men and women are what I call, range from the sublime to the ridiculous. They are not just talented, but they are hilarious, sometimes bordering on the ludicrous but they make for interesting stories. But most of them are unsung heroes.
I made this presentation a while ago to an organisation who were interested in people and listening to their stories. They also wanted to explore destinations through these men and women and their stories. I chose people from my travels in India and here are their stories. I am doing this in parts as there are many stories featured .
This can happen only in India. Here is a man I met in Valparai, in Tamil Nadu who sits in a pristine world of natural beauty and says that he has actually Seen God. He claimed that God had arrived in a bolt of light and sound and he could see a human form. “Romba azhaga irunderma , “ he added in Tamil, describing that God looked indeed handsome. He had been coming here everyday at 11 am to see if he would be lucky a second time.
Velu knew exactly how to draw attention. He threw his hands high up in the air, his head looking upwards at the sky, eyes firmly shut and his taut muscles getting tighter as he called out passionately to the heavens . And then he said in flawless English “ This is where I saw God, “and he went on to tell me the exact date and time , 37 years ago.
Nallamudi Poonjolai in Valparai was just another view point in the hills until Velu’s tryst with the divine . The destination now has a different name. A board at the entrance read “ Seen God “ with a footnote below it – ”Om Adi Muruga.” Velu ‘s shrine was just around the corner .
I was in Nagavalli , a village near Tumkur recently to meet BVG sir aka B V Gundappa , a high school teacher whose passion and mission is to create awareness and conserve the species of slender loris that live in the villages around his home.
I ask him about his interest in slender loris and he says ,” I am a science teacher and am interested in wildlife and bio diversity.. But it was my 8th standard students who told me about three slender lorises that they had seen in the school compound. Fascinated by them , I started researching and then creating awareness about them. “
Today the master is almost synonymous with the word ,” kaadu papa “ as the animals are called in the local language .” It’s like a baby ,” he says, adding that people call him from all over Tumkur if they sight one .” We have rescued a lot of them from towns and villages and release them into the wilds. We also have a local veterinarian who takes care if they are injured,” he adds.
Xavier doesn’t remember when he made his first boat . He says he was probably a teenager when he learnt the craft from his father more than four decades ago .“ In those days, every family in Chellanam used to make boats “ he reminisces , looking wistfully into the small canal that borders his house and flows along the village. Small wooden boats float aimlessly in the waters, tossed by the winds. But Xavier’s Kerala has changed over the many decades. Now there are just a handful of people eking a livelihood through this small scale industry in Chellanam, a small hamlet located close to Kochi.
It is not the same anymore, “ says Xavier.” Only fishermen come to us these days, most villagers have left for towns, hardly anyone needs them anymore , “ he adds . Xavier makes about four to five boats a month and manages to earn just a few thousands from them .
This town was once famous for its cotton and silk sarees, but today the weavers have hardly any buyers . I meet Ramchander, one of the old weavers who speaks about the days when the streets were draped with sarees. The houses used to echo with the rhythm of the handlooms and almost everyone was a skilled artisan. They came from every community and religion. There were Telugus, Marathis and Kannadigas and both Hindus and Muslims worked together to create magic with their fingers. But today, there are barely 2000 looms in the entire town. And most of the younger generation have left Narayanpet to pursue their fortunes elsewhere.
Coming up – More people stories from India..