Bhaav Yatra reaches Singhbhum - The land of lions and natural resources

Posted by Sheetal Vaidya on Oct 26, 2015

Next few days flew at Kolkatta and Ranjana my next co-traveler joined me. With the Kabir bliss flowing within, the wheels turned towards Jharkhand known also as Singhbhum- meaning land of lions. Hari uncle was our angel once again. When he heard that we were driving in Jharkhand unaware of anything he put on his army hat one more time and within a day we became the guests of Jharkhand state police.

The drive from Kolkatta was via Chaukulia and Ghatsila forest area. The moment we left outskirts of Kolkatta road condition started depleting and scenic beauty 

took over our senses. Dense woods, fragrance of rain filled soil, lush green trees and mountain ranges. Amidst the beauty the beasty heavy unmanned traffic of lorries was a clear irony in this space. As we drove past the forest area we stopped at an HP petrol bunk for a short break. As we parked we saw no-one except one boy so we asked him about the washroom and he guided us. Till this point I had not feared even once but as we walked to the place we spotted 5 men playing cards close by. My heart leaped into my throat. For a minute my mind raced in 1000 fearful directions and I could hear drumming in my ears as these men casually asked if we needed something. Both Ranjana and I looked into each other’s eyes, prayed and became still. We found some strength and both of us swiftly attended nature’s call and exited. Nothing odd happened but the sheer thought of “what could have” gripped us in those few moments. A message in Marathi by Swami Samarth Maharaj that is etched into my heart flickered.. “tu bhiu nakos, me tujya pathisi aahe”...which means “do not be afraid, I am watching your back”. Probably, that was the last time I feared a situation like that.

Commoners like us have no clue how the system in “forces” work. We are so unawares of police protocols. These words were jargon until suddenly we hit the Jharkhand border and were welcomed by first set of police van who was waiting for “sahib” to arrive. A funnily awkward situation was created when they could not see any “man” in the car and got to understand that it was a “woman” who was the guest. We were equally embarrassed as we did not know how to react to 6 policemen suddenly saluting and one taking over the driving seat. Even Sundari (our car) would have felt strange in that moment. There were a lot of first times in the yatra and this was one of them. Eating a meal at “Budshool” police station! We prayed, ate and shared our meal with other policemen who hesitantly refused to sit with us as we were “sahib”! Slowly but surely we did a minute of silence and brief sharing with them about what we were doing and they shared about their duty in times of naxal attacks and how the beauty of mountains turns risky sometimes.

The journey to Jamshedpur was filled with potholes and roadblocks that were removed by the police and we were constantly thanking Hari uncle for arranging this royal entourage for us as it would have been challenging to get past the forest before nightfall. We were put up at Tata Guesthouse and we met DCP Jacintha who was somewhat perplexed to hear about yatra stories and not able to comprehend why would someone spend time doing it!!

Next day we were to meet a couple of NGO's and enjoyed some more VIP status! Honestly, it was an experience of ego boosting. Thanks to Arundada's earlier circle in Baroda I was reminded that all this is for the pilgrim and not for the ‘I’. Following morning Jacintha and her troupe arrived to take us to an ashram that also is engaged in some bit of rural development. We met a Swami-ji who warmly spoke about the work they do and we saw a handicrafts store.

Then we met the real hero at one tea stall. This guy owns a small tea stall. A woman who daily cleaned his shop and filled water for meager salary once brought a handmade scarf to sell so she could just make a little more money. He heard her story and was moved to do something long term for her. So he started regularly buying stuff from her and showing it to as many people as he can and selling it. Slowly more women joined and they started a women empowerment program and he invested in a nearby shop for them that got converted as their workshop. Now they try to participate in exhibition to display and sell articles for the group. This was a story of true community power. They do not have any external support of government or any NGO. All they do is reinvest from their little savings and go a step ahead. He still runs his small tea stall for his own sustenance. From their sharing it was evident that when people ignite the fire within they do shine out without waiting for any aid, also their resilience increases to manage lot of polarities in work and life. This thought entered deep thinking space where I was seeing all this work in the light of not just surviving but truly living to ones highest potential. Feeling blessed to have met these souls our day ended at the police station where we humbly refused convoys for the next day as we wished to rest, reflect and silently soak in the ironical happenings of past couple of days.

The next day was spent mostly in reflection of this area- Jharkhand- rich in natural resources on one hand and feared by naxals on the other. Jamshedpur, a city that was developed after independence to bring development in the area showcasing typical city scenes around 5 km radius and beyond that you come across stark poverty, completely ignorant and unemployed population. The pertinent question of what is development? Once again right answers yet. Also had a discussion with some policemen who shared the plight of naxals. Officially, these stories are banned for any kind of sharing, so will leave it at that. At night, Jacintha met us to inform we will be driven to Rourkela by police driver as we should not be driving on our own through another forest area.

We were surprised as we had nothing practically that could be looted but she said Sundari (our car) had quotes on it in English and any such car with something written on it is taken as government vehicle which is a reason enough to loot, or kill or do anything. For the first time I realized even “peace” quotes can become deadly if not perceived correctly. She also invited to come again with more time so we could visit some places interiors and spend more time understanding the area. I was humbled by her invitation and saw a loving glimpse in a woman who was otherwise so feared by her staff and pretty strict. Before we parted we left a little gift with smile card for her and hugged her. Something in her melted in that brief energy exchange.

Except for stopping at Deori temple of Goddess where Dhoni- our cricket captain regularly pays visit, we drove without a break. Something that the mind had understood in the night we felt during the day; Emptiness/ lifelessness on the road. No tea stalls, no petrol bunk, no telephone range, no human being and only one or two vehicles in the entire stretch of 2 hours. This dreaded beautiful road was to be covered quickly the logic being with your limited intellect you cannot guess where a gunshot can be fired from or an arrow can flatten a tyre within seconds. The driver was narrating incidents of death, abduction and looting that had happened here and how it was important to pass through it during day time. That too before 2 pm!

Those 2 days brought out so many contrasting features of spaces, people and self within. There was a lot to reflect upon before boarding the “life line express”

Posted by Sheetal Vaidya on Oct 26, 2015 | permalink

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