A Diwali House made by the children of village Hurlung where the new NEEV CIL School is being constructed (no school, education or engineering degrees required for this construction J)
I am a tad late for Diwali wishes from NEEV ! Nonetheless, since my mails on all festivals are thinly veiled excuses for speaking something quite beyond festivals, I decided to post this, regardless of the fact that I am a day late. Festivals created by man come and go: what is more important that we humans discover a way of living that makes every moment a festival, an unceasing joy of discovering life.
Far from the ruckus created by the city folk, Diwali in villages is a more serene affair. Unadulterated by the pompousness of city revelry which adds nothing but a load of toxic gases leading to global warming, Diwali in the villages is still connected to the eternal rhythms of nature. Diwali in the villages is marked by the beginning of harvesting of the rain fed crop of rice.
As we negotiate a meandering village dirt road, we see a field in which some rice plants are cut and lying. Around the same time, the owner of the field, a friend of ours, happens to pass by. We inquire into the reason as to why some rice crops have been harvested. He satiates our curiosity by saying that these have been harvested as an offering for their Diwali puja. Instantly Shikha plucks a few grains of rice, some still green and some already golden brown and tastes them to find out the difference. Women I guess are more cued to taste and smell. As a male I remain largely cued to my visual sense. I watch with piquant interest as Shikha chews the grains. According to her the green grains of rice are sweeter than the golden rice grains which have already ripened. I ruminate on the way senses offer the greatest education. No amount of sitting in classes, in agricultural universities or chemistry labs can offer an insight into the workings of nature than our senses can. Holistic education is not centered only around mind and intellect, not cubbyholed in class rooms. Nature is the laboratory for true education.
A farmer’s plot of land where some rice – already turning golden – lies harvested as an offering for Diwali puja
Another field where a part of the rice crop has been harvested for offering in Diwali Puja
As I continue walking on the meandering village dirt track unlike the straight and linear city roads on which we whiz in our cars and bikes, my thoughts continue their unhurried meandering on education. I remember how the other day I saw a father and son returning from the market with a thermocol Diwali house. What a far cry it is from the way things are at the village. Where city bred brats purchase thermocol Diwali houses, the ‘uneducated’ village kids demonstrate such creativity, enterprise, ingenuity and enthusiasm in making Diwali houses out of natural materials. When education is made into a commodity no wonder, kids learn only commodification as a way of life. And the market is all the more happy. Education, market, business, technology and environmental pollution – all go hand in glove. Have a look at some of the Diwali houses made by the children
Diwali House 2 – made by children of village Hurlung
Diwali house 3 – made by children of village Hurlung
As I walk along, I wonder what will NEEV CIL school teach the village children. Will it teach them to become purchasers of thermocol Diwali houses or will it teach them to flower in their inherent ingenuity? Some of my friends tell me that education should ‘uplift’ children and make them ‘successful’ in life by uplifting them out of their ‘poverty’. We urban folks have become quite glib in the usage of words. Words like “upliftment”, “success” and “poverty” are laden with assumptions which we never care to explore. What is “poverty”? Is purchasing Diwali house made of thermocol poverty or making houses out of mud poverty? What is success – making Diwali houses or purchasing Diwali houses? What is upliftment – creating consumers or creating producers?
Unfortunately the urban folk are not only glib about words but also proceed with an arrogance of a missionary zeal to promote naked market consumerism as a way of life. Thereby we have created an ugly and fractured society where the work of hands is relegated and debased and the intellect is put on the altar. So while the city folk display their festive zeal by lighting up their houses with Chinese manufactured electric bulbs, the rural folk do what they are best at – decorating their huts and houses with their hands and natural colours. Here are a few pics of the simply decorated houses whose humility, innocence and aesthetics cannot be matched by the harshly glaring electric bulbs.
A house in village Hurlung decorated for Diwali
Same house from a different angle
The exterior of the same house in village Hurlung
A woman in village Hurlung painting her house for Diwali
The degree to which we move away from work with our hands and the degree to which we pollute the earth decrees our rise to wealth, status and success. Lavish use of electricity to light up Diwali houses – electricity which comes from making large dams displacing villages or from burning coal which comes from rapacious coal mining after clearing forests – is a sign of affluence and education, in a classic inversion of values. Whereas a villager plastering his/her mud earth causing no pollution and using one’s own hands and ingenuity is considered an ‘uneducated illiterate’ in need of education by our corrupted norms.
While the uneducated villagers venerate nature without the need of learning environmental science and without getting a noble prize for doing research on global warming, the educated urban folk with all their degrees and all their supercomputers and their vain research on climate change have not yet learnt the simple act of loving and protecting nature. See how the people in Hurlung village love and respect nature
A mud pedestal around a tusli plant newly plastered for Diwali in Hurlung
The pedestal containing Tulsi plant newly painted for Diwali in Village Hurlung
My walk is almost over. After another rejuvenating round of walk in the fields of village Hurlung, we are making our way back to the unit. The familiar sights of a village quietly settling to receive the dark and starry night greet me. The goats are tied in front of the houses, resting blissfully after nibbling the whole day. Smoke quietly and mysteriously billows out of the tiled huts. Out in the city, at the same time, one would witness the angry traffic rush of people gushing of their offices. The fact that tomorrow is Diwali does not make a dent to the life which is set on eternal rhythms. Electric lights adorn one or two houses of people who have become tainted by the urban mentality. The lights look garish, very out of place in a village which is nestled in a pool of darkness. I rue at the fact that the winds of ‘development’ are out to claim their latest victim.
I wonder if we can stop this rout. I wonder if the NEEV CIL school can do anything to preserve and take forward the wisdom that lies buried in Village Hurlung. I wonder if there are other people in a world gone out of limits who can get what I am trying to say and lend a helping hand in this mammoth task of education. We need to create a new world, a world without conflict. It seems to be extraordinarily impossible. But I have already made the choice for myself. It is not about whether one shall succeed or not, whether one can change one or many, whether the world will change. What matters is that one enters the path to create a new world. The road shall be made by walking.
As I just about to reach the NEEV Herbal Cosmetics unit after our walk, I come across a simple rangoli made to celebrate Diwali. The rangoli adorns the threshold of another world. A world waiting to be born.
A very happy Diwali to all of you. To all our friends who have helped us at NEEV to chart this road. May this Diwali lead you from darkness to light.
Rangoli decoration in front of a village Hurlung house beckoning a new world
And finally, here is my Diwali gift to all of you. As you know that Diwali also coincides with the blossoming of lotus flowers. So when our NEEV CIL children went for a walk, they collected some lotuses from the village pond. I lovingly offer them to you.
Lotus flowers that blossom even in the muddiest waters