On equality and sharing: “a truly amazing sight” – Tamil Nadu

By Mari Marcel Thekaekara, The New Internationalist, September 14, 2012

Culture is a tricky thing. How do we define it? Who decides when customs and traditions, even ancient, cherished ones, can be dispensed with? These and many other similar questions have been debated by the Adivasi groups we (ACCORD, an NGO in the Nilgiri hills of Tamil Nadu) work with for the last 25 years. Yet, culture was not a priority, it was neither life threatening, nor in clear and present danger (we thought). And so land, human rights, health, education and housing took priority.

A quarter of a century later, we realize with dismay that the Gudalur Adivasi kids who go to local schools are losing their language, customs and traditions.  […]

The young people began discussions about each other’s customs. The youngsters doing the course were Paniyas, Bettakurumbas and Kattunaickens. They exchanged stories of how equality and sharing was instilled even in little children in their individual tribes. We non-adivasis were constantly stunned by the fact that Adivasi kids never fought for a sweet, however tiny. They always shared it solemnly and equally, a truly amazing sight to see.

At the end of the first week, Stan then gave them a weekend assignment. They were to go home and ask their parents and grandparents to tell them stories of the past. The stories about customs, traditions and food, or just stories, were to be recorded and shared when they returned.

The group came back on Monday morning brimming over with information.  […]

‘We are going to teach all the kids what Adivasi means and that our people are spread out all over India and all over the world.

By Mari Marcel Thekaekara, The New Internationalist, September 14, 2012

Culture is a tricky thing. How do we define it? Who decides when customs and traditions, even ancient, cherished ones, can be dispensed with? These and many other similar questions have been debated by the Adivasi groups we (ACCORD, an NGO in the Nilgiri hills of Tamil Nadu) work with for the last 25 years. Yet, culture was not a priority, it was neither life threatening, nor in clear and present danger (we thought). And so land, human rights, health, education and housing took priority.

A quarter of a century later, we realize with dismay that the Gudalur Adivasi kids who go to local schools are losing their language, customs and traditions.  […]

The young people began discussions about each other’s customs. The youngsters doing the course were Paniyas, Bettakurumbas and Kattunaickens. They exchanged stories of how equality and sharing was instilled even in little children in their individual tribes. We non-adivasis were constantly stunned by the fact that Adivasi kids never fought for a sweet, however tiny. They always shared it solemnly and equally, a truly amazing sight to see.

At the end of the first week, Stan then gave them a weekend assignment. They were to go home and ask their parents and grandparents to tell them stories of the past. The stories about customs, traditions and food, or just stories, were to be recorded and shared when they returned.

The group came back on Monday morning brimming over with information.  […]

‘We are going to teach all the kids what Adivasi means and that our people are spread out all over India and all over the world.

Read the full blog and earlier ones by Mari Marcel Thekaekara here:
Lessons of the past for young Adivasi — New Internationalist
http://www.newint.org/blog/2012/09/14/adivasi-kids-learn-past/
Date Visited: 16 December 2020

The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Forest Rights Act) gives members of tribal communities the right “to collect, use, and dispose of minor forest produce including bamboo, brush wood, stumps, cane, tussar, cocoons, honey, wax, lac, tendu or kendu leaves, medicinal plants and herbs, roots, tubers.” – Azim Premji University Team

“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 >>

“Tribal communities are a standing example of how women play a major role in preservation of eco historic cultural heritage in India.” – Mari Marcel Thekaekara (writer and Co-Founder of ACCORD-Nilgiris) | Learn more >>

adivasi_folio2000_index_screen
ADIVASI Download the complete Folio issue as a single file (PDF, 969 KB) >>

Articles and authors

A Nomad Called Thief: Reflections on Adivasi Silence and Voice by
Ganesh [G.N.] Devy | Publications >>
  1. Rethinking tribals by GN Devy
  2. Call us adivasis, please by Gail Omvedt
  3. A society in transition by Suresh Sharma
  4. To be governed or to self-govern by Smitu Kothari
  5. Strong sense of self and place by Amita Baviskar
  6. Dishonoured by history by Meena Radhakrishna
  7. Curators of biodiversity by KK Chakravarthy
  8. Treading lightly on earth by Ashish Kothari
  9. A symbiotic bond by Mari Thekaekara and Stan Thekaekara
  10. Vicious cycle by Dilip D’Souza
  11. A better quality of life? by Roopa Devadasan and N Devadasan
  12. A history of alienation by Pankaj Sekhsaria
  13. Cultural expressions by Jaya Jaitly
  14. Through Adivasi eyes by Mari Thekaekara and Stan Thekaekara
  15. A Toda friend by S Anandalakshmy

Source: Folio (Special issue with the Sunday Magazine): ADIVASI: JULY 16, 2000 from the publishers of THE HINDU
Address: http://www.hindu.com/folio/fo0007/fo000700.htm
Date Visited: 15 March 2018 (discontinued since)

Research the above issues with the help of Shodhganga: A reservoir of theses from universities all over India, made available under Open Access >>

Reports in the Indian press | List of periodicals included in this search >>

Find up-to-date information provided by, for and about Indian authors, researchers, officials, and educatorsMore search options >>
Search tips: in the search field seen below, combine the name of any particular state, language or region with that of any tribal (Adivasi) community; add keywords of special interest (health, nutrition endangered language, illegal mining, sacred grove); learn about the rights of Scheduled Tribes such as the Forest Rights Act (FRA); and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, women’s rights, and children’s right to education; specify any other issue or news item you want to learn more about (biodiversity, bonded labour and human trafficking, climate change, ecology, economic development, ethnobotany, ethnomedicine, global warming, Himalayan tribe, hunter-gatherers in a particular region or state, prevention of rural poverty, water access).

Find publications on these issues by reputed authors including Open Access (free download): Worldcat.org >>

 

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