In the forest
In these exclusive extracts from her autobiography, tribal leader C.K. JANU speaks of how central the forest was to her childhood.
WHERE we all lived there was a time when work just meant pulling out the paddy seedlings transplanting them in the fields and such. mostly work related to paddy farming. plantation work became common much later. * * *
when young all of us children would go the ridges of the fields to pick chappa. or to the little stream to catch fish. or else to lure out the crabs hiding in the slush of the fields. or to graze the jemmi's cattle. Or to roam aimlessly in the woods, or to pluck wild fruits like karappayam mothangappayam or kanjippayam... or we would look for honey in the tall trees. or gather reeds and make bundles of them. in the bamboo groves we would look for the footprints of elephants. would drink deep from waterholes. or just relax slipping our feet lazily into the cool water. would dig into rocky fissures looking for water. or bring home pieces of cane. in the forests one never knew what hunger was. * * *
the erumaadam was built between two giant trees so high above the ground that from it we could see all our lands the unending forests and the sky. during the monsoon we could see the approaching rain from so far away. sometimes from as far away as Coorg.
during the monsoon we hardly dared go out. there was very little to eat too. couldn't look for tubers either. leeches swarmed the forests in the rains. And no songs flowed from the chini.
when it poured we had to worry about the elephants huddling too close to the huts. and about whether the torrents would wash away the huts or whether uprooted trees would fall on them... day would turn into night in the forest. it would be pitch black all around. the leaves, clustered thick, would sway in the dark and the frogs would go mad croaking. it would be really chilly.
Extracted from Mother Forest: The Unfinished Story of C.K. Janu, as told to and written by Bhaskaran, Translated by N. Ravishanker, Women Unlimited. Rs. 75.
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