Encouraging centuries-old life-skills of Irulas: Eking out a living outside forests – Tamil Nadu

“We are so much more than that. We follow a tradition rich in music, dance and love.” – Author Swarnalatha who runs an NGO that works for the upliftment for people of her Irula community >>

Janaki Lenin’s book [My Husband and Other Animals], a compilation of her popular column in The Hindu MetroPlus, offers insights into her husband Rom Whitaker’s fascination for animals, particularly snakes

When he came to Madras, Rom was introduced to the Irulas, who quickly became his buddies, sharing, as they did, a common love for snakes. […]

Commenting on the “polarised issue” of tribals eking out a living outside forests, Janaki said her perspective has been coloured watching the Irulas. “When they’re educated, they join the rat race. They come to the city slums and become electricians and plumbers, because we don’t encourage their skills.” How do we bring the benefits of modern society to the tribals and value their centuries-old life-skills, she asked.

The Irulas are perfect as guides, Janaki said, talking about the pressing need to help urban children connect with nature. “Irulas can conjure scorpions and chameleons out of thin air!” Besides, national parks have become “a tamasha,” she lamented, adding that, even in the crocodile bank, people chuck rubbish into enclosures expecting the cleaning service to be part of the entrance fee; “how do you engage with that attitude?” […]

Janaki gave more credit to the animals. People take credit for their smartness, she said, but they mostly get away only because animals practise restraint. […]

Source: Husband, animals, anecdotes… – The Hindu APARNA KARTHIKEYAN, The Hindu, 11 December 2012
Address : https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/husband-animals-anecdotes/article3987811.ece
Date Visited: Fri May 10 2013 11:00:26 GMT+0200 (CEST)

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“Tribal languages are a treasure trove of knowledge about a region’s flora, fauna and medicinal plants. Usually, this information is passed from generation to generation. However, when a language declines, that knowledge system is completely gone.” – Ayesha Kidwai (Centre for Linguistics, School of Language, Literature and Culture Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi) quoted by Abhijit Mohanty in “Seven decades after independence, many tribal languages in India face extinction threat” | Learn more about the work done by the People’s Linguistic Survey of India and endangered languages worldwide >>

“The notion of ‘mainstreaming’ needs to be challenged not just because Adivasi culture is being crushed, but also because Adivasi values and ways of life offer insights that the ‘mainstream’ needs. If we are to halt the destruction of ecosystems, we need to understand how closely biodiversity and cultural diversity are intertwined. Perhaps it is time to reverse the gaze and begin to learn afresh from Adivasis.” – Felix Padel & Malvika Gupta (The Hindu) | Learn more about the role of tribal communities in fostering biodiversity, ethnobotany and cultural diversity | Success stories | Tribal identity >>

“I think that by retaining one’s childhood love of such things as trees, fishes, butterflies and … toads, one makes a peaceful and decent future a little more probable, and that by preaching the doctrine that nothing is to be admired except steel and concrete, one merely makes it a little surer that human beings will have no outlet for their surplus energy except in hatred and leader worship.” – George Orwell | Learn more: Childhood | Customs | Games and leisure time | Literature – fiction | Storytelling >>

“The theoretical debate on caste among social scientists has receded into the background in recent years. [C]aste is in no sense disappearing: indeed, the present wave of neo-liberal policies in India, with privatisation of enterprises and education, has strengthened the importance of caste ties, as selection to posts and educational institutions is less based on merit through examinations, and increasingly on social contact as also on corruption.” – Harald Tambs-Lyche (Professor Emeritus, Université de Picardie, Amiens) in “Caste: History and the Present” (Academia Letters) | Learn more: Accountability | Democracy | Education and literacy >>

“Snake catchers always work in a group” | Learn more >>
Photo credit: M. Karunakaran © The Hindu >>
Learn more about the Irula community >>

To a large extent, the primary actors in these stories are animals, from pet dogs to neighbourhood leopards! But just as important are human players in this depiction of life; farmers on adjacent lands, the Irulas, a snake-catching tribe from Southern India, and a bevy of the author’s friends and colleagues, some flabbergasted by her benign acceptance of ever-present wildlife. […]

Through Janaki Lenin’s eyes, we see the world come alive—the insects hovering are now dancing for their nectar, birds are vying for the attention of their suitors and frogs move.

Source: Bringing Animals Back into Our Backyard
Address : http://www.thebookreviewindia.org/articles/archives-1239/2013/april/4/bringing-animals-back-into-our-backyard.html
Date Visited: Fri May 10 2013 11:21:52 GMT+0200 (CEST)

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