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When appa, amma and doddi decided to visit me

It has been a long time since I wrote a post, really long. I had started writing this one about a month ago. I left it mid-way as my access of internet has been very intermittent. But that’s no excuse really!

I realized I was not doing justice to my poor blog where I was to capture all my experiences. So, I sat and completed the post I had started. Here goes..

Swat wrote a post about her experience home alone for 15 days while my parents traveled in the East of India . What she did not mention is that they also visited me! Yayyy 🙂

Appa, Amma and Doddi visited me in Odisha and we had so much fun, I wish they never left 😐

The first two days , we visited Bhubaneswar,  visited the sweet Kittu tatha and his wife (Amma and doddi were meeting them after 40 years or more! ), enjoyed the best rasagullas in the most unexpected places, shopped till appa’s wallet was empty at the colorful Peepli, loved the beautiful Konark temple ruins and managed a hello to Puri Jagannath too.

The colorful Peepli- Image courtesy : Indianholiday.com

The colorful Peepli- Image courtesy : Indianholiday.com

When I got free pearls in exchange for speaking in Odia :D

When I got free pearls in exchange for speaking in Odia 😀

(Did you know? Rasagullas are originally from Odisha and not from West Bengal B-) ! I had my doubts about it, but having consumed the best rasagullas ever in a non descript restaurant in Bhubaneswar, I have no doubt about it now 🙂 )

After two days of visiting touristy places, we finally headed to Barhampur, the closest town to my village, Mohuda. Appa,amma and doddi got a taste of how most of India travels, with at least 25 people squeezed in, in a compartment meant for 8! Luckily though it was a short ride and being the nice people they are, they didn’t complain at all 🙂

After the 3 hour train ride and a an hour’s ride in our good old Marshal, finally we were home. I was so happy I could finally show off my cosy little home to them. They were more excited than I was!

Appa being appa got to fixing things as soon as he arrived! Within the first hour, my ventilator through which Musa (Odia for mouse) was visiting us was fixed. Within a day, my shower which never worked was fixed, my cycle which was as noisy as a motorbike was fixed, and my garden got a makeover!

Appa rescuing the jasmine

 

Some rest after all the cooking, cleaning, gardening and fixing

Some rest after all the cooking, cleaning, gardening and fixing

Amma and doddi were so excited to see the neem and mango trees that mavinkai gojju and mavinkai uppinkai were ready in no time! Neem leaves and flowers were procured and packed for Ugadi which happened to fall on the day they would be back in Bangalore.

They loved the campus and our little home , but what they loved the most was my warm and welcoming kids at school!

Appa was all prepared for engaging the children at school. He had brought with him a Buddhist prayer wheel that rotated- powered by solar energy and a simple parachute that could be launched from the ground. Appa was elated when the class VI kids (my favourite class 😛 ) explained the working of the prayer wheel upon seeing and examining it B-) .

They loved listening to the kids sing, dance and ask them numerous questions.

Class IV 'Happy' kids

Class IV HAPPY kids

 

At home with Shalini, Zo, Souvik, Siddharth, Srikrishna

My favourite class VI

My favourite class VI

My daddy strongest

My daddy strongest

 

Gram Vikas Mohuda office

Gram Vikas Mohuda office

 

Of course, we didn’t miss an opportunity to shop again at Barhampur where cotton sarees where purchased by the dozens!

What fun it was ! Their visit made me re-realize how kickass, chilled out and fun our family is. Such happy and warm people!

It was also a relief that they were more than happy with where I live, the people I work with and loved the school .

Thank you Appa, Amma and Doddi, you guys can brighten up any place!

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Nourishing India’s tribal children

Children at Narasingpur village who do not use toilets :(

Children at Narasingpur village who do not use toilets 😦

I was at a two day conclave on Nourishing India’s tribal children, at Bhubaneswar last week. It was jointly organised by Union Tribal Affairs Ministry, Odisha Government and UNICEF.

I am no expert on the topic. In fact, I know very little. So it was an interesting experience for me to learn of different perspectives. Everybody had their own way of looking at it – the government, the NGOs, UNICEF, the media and the frontline workers working directly with these people.

The statistics on malnutrition in tribal children were quite shocking! Every second child is stunted, and the bulk of them are severely stunted.

There were many NGOs talking about the efforts they were making in providing supplementary nutrition through nutrition rehab centers, running crèches for children of working mothers, one-full-meal schemes etc.—all very successful in significantly reducing the malnutrition rates in these regions.

What caught my attention were some sane minds who spoke about understanding why these children were malnourished rather than just feeding them with nutrition supplements.

It is naïve for us to think that these people don’t know how to take care of their nutrition needs. These are people who traditionally lived on forest produce and indigenous crops that they grew. Now we’ve taken away their rights to the same forests and also taught them to grow crops that would fetch them money, but not nutrition. They do not realise that their food now no longer has any nutrition.

Even if some of them are indeed consuming nutritious food, but are living in poor sanitation conditions, what goes in is what comes out – as is. Poor hygiene behaviour causes diarrhoea and other water borne diseases making sure no nutrition is absorbed by the body. Ensuring proper water and sanitation becomes more important, rather than providing nutrition supplements in such cases.

What surprised us the most were many voices saying tribal people are difficult to work with. On the contrary, from what Gram Vikas has experienced , they are one of the most cohesive societies and easy to engage with. The problem is that nobody is even reaching them to work with them (apart from a few NGOs here and there).

Accessibility IS a big issue.

These regions have poor health and sanitation facilities, little or no education facilities –only because they are not easily accessible. We have teachers and doctors appointed to these villages drawing government salaries and sitting comfortably at home or engaging in private practices because they do not want to go to these remote regions. I don’t think we can blame them either. What would be the motivating factor for someone to go serve in these regions that are almost totally cut off? Solving the accessibility issue is of prime importance and an urgent need.

I also learnt that budget is not a constraint. There are hundreds of crores of Rupees allocated to Tribal Development that get spent somewhere else or don’t get spent at all (!) finally, because even those who supposedly want to do ‘development’ do not even want to go to these remote regions.

The much mentioned word at the conclave was ‘convergence’- of the different ministries, of the different stakeholders, NGOs etc. Malnutrition as an issue cannot be tackled in isolation. Issues of accessibility, forest rights, health, food security, livelihood, water and sanitation have to be addressed too.

There were many passionate panel discussions, talks, conclusions and recommendations coming out of the conclave. Everybody agreed that there is undoubtedly much to be done.
I am not sure such conclaves lead to anything more than recommendations, which may or may not be looked at.

All I can say is that I came out of the conclave with a better understanding of the plight of the tribal child, who is playing far away in the hills, completely oblivious of the fact that he is being discussed so passionately by thousands of minds.