If I were to write about Wayanad at some point, I had already noted in my mind that it would start with evoking ‘Memoirs’ by Pablo Neruda. After watching films by the African filmmaker, Mahamat Saleh Haroun, I observed that the landscapes in them appeared so much like those in Wayanad. However, to mark the Wayanad of half a century back, more than the bold colors of Haroun’s films, sharp smells and the ancient forests of Neruda’s autobiography, I think would be more appropriate.
To distinguish Wayanad from the mainland of Kerala, many point out the distinct climate of the place. But I have something else to write about at the outset. This is the abundance of flowers, their sizes and colors.
In the olden days in the courtyard of each house – even in the remotest villages of Wayanad – there were roses and dahlia plants in full bloom without anybody nurturing or caring for them. In a climate where thick fog and heavy rain took turns, the flowers that bloomed and the fruits that ripened used to have extraordinary sizes and colors. Each plot was fenced by thickets of rose plants. One could see the lengths of fences with rose buds and blooms everywhere.
I still remember the scene of blooming coffee plantations after four or five months after our arrival there. The coffee plantations that looked like a green blanket from the previous night stood in the morning as if covered by an expanse of snowflake-like white flowers. Wherever one looked, there one could only see those white flowers and smell their intoxicatingly strong fragrance.
Near our home was an orange orchard owned by one Jinachandran who was a relative of Veerendra Kumar* (a Member of Parliament). The orchard was spread across hundreds of acres and parallel to it were hills and fields. I used to run across the fields for nearly five kilometers to reach the Meenangadi School which I attended. On the way back home we used to walk slowly in groups. It was then that we used to enjoy the colors of the ripe oranges and the taste of those fruits, pilfered from there after sneaking into the orchard without the knowledge of the guard. Along with these colors and fragrances the strong smell of grass oil that wafted from the huts where people extracted oil from malabar lemon grass fills my Wayanadan memories from those days.
Compared to the mainland mention should be made of the commendable size and health of the domestic animals in Wayanad. The plump physique of the animals should have been a result of the organic richness of their feed as well as the soothing and ideal climatic conditions.
At Vazhavatta, the Karappuzha river flowed covering the three sides of our home and land property. Along the shores of the river were huge trees; eenchas, reeds and bamboo grew thickly. I used to wander in search of wild flowers that bloomed daily and the wild hens and rabbits that flashed unexpectedly.
After coming back to the mainland I never had the chance of watching varied flocks of my avian friends like in Wayanad. Farmers had a tough time in rescuing their grains from these winged plunderers. A rocky platform jutting out from behind the home, during the rainless evenings became a haunt of mine with my Kunjechi (elder sister). Like the clouds of locusts narrated in the Bible or the birds that flew like the waves of arrows in Ezhuthachan’s poetry we could witness myriads of birds bustling back to their nests or roosting heights. If we sat there till twilight we could see the bats flying in. Like the sirens in the ‘Ancient Mariner’ they rose up in thousands into the darkening sky, making eerie noises.
In the mainland, rainbows were a rare and distant phenomenon but in Wayanad it was a daily occurrence. Thanks to the peculiar positioning of hills and fields in the general landscape of the place. The appearance of two or three rainbows in a row was not an unusual sight here. Thomas, my closest pal in Pakkam School, had his house in a valley where multiple rainbows appeared quite often.
During the initial years when we migrated to Wayanad, Chachan (that is what we called our father) sowed a type of rice seed called ‘Kaypan’ (bitter one). The paddy that grew in the land yielded a kind of rice, which was slightly bitter in taste therefore, the seed itself got such a name. Farmers could expect a ‘Guerilla Attack’ from wild animals attacking the fruits of their hard work in the fields. Neighbors propped up huts in trees as watchtowers; made campfires and played drums in order to help each other in protecting their crops by scaring away the animal thieves and often they let the children also join these nocturnal watch groups.
By mid 1970s massive internal migration to Wayanad from the mainland had thinned out. It was after that large-scale deforestation and encroachment on the Adivasi lands with the tactical support of the government had taken place. During this time within a span of two decades the climatic conditions of Wayanad deteriorated drastically. With that total rusticity vanished even from the remotest villages of Wayanad the people and land of that place became intertwined with the emergent social forces and power structures of Kerala. When I reminisce about that rustic life I should be recounting the local alcoholic drink (Arrack) brewed in almost all the homes and the comparatively liberal and less restrictive sexual topography of the place. Neruda’s Memoires becomes relevant in this narrative context.
Third Generation Migration; Adivasis
My family migrated to Wayanad from Vaikom Taluk in the mid-1960s. I think we saw this as some form of third-generation migration. Prior to that there had been two massive migrations during the era of British rule and the post independent years. The third-generation migrants were not expected to face the adversities like malaria and other contagious diseases encountered by the first and second generations of the migrants.
We had seven or eight families as our neighbors who were Dalits, Christians, Dalit-Christans and Ezhavas. There were a few Muslim families also living nearby. Generally, the migrant families faced prospects of ostracism or bankruptcy in their own places. Therefore the neighborhood relationships were deep and warm and they accepted each other quickly and had no qualms in co-operating with each other.
If we crossed Karappuzha river, which demarcated our property from the world beyond, there were large expanses of paddy fields. A portion of that belonged to an Adivasi tribe named Kurumar. The land next to the rice field housed around fifteen Kuruma families. They practiced joint ownership cultivation. The elders called ‘Mooppans’ represented the communities. On the way to Pakkam School we could also see a few houses of the tribes called Oorali and Paniyar.
As our mother used to work as a farmhand (in the field), she quickly developed a bond with fellow Oorali-Paniyar-Kuruma women. They also started coming to our home to pick coffee seeds and carry out other chores. This soon developed into very cordial relationships between us and the Adivasis.
One of the members from an affluent family in Vazhavatta with flourishing agriculture and a timber business in Kozhikode bought some land in the Kuruma neighborhood just next to our home. After three to four years the whole tract of Adivasi land fell in his hands and it took no time for the Kurumars to leave the place without a trace. There is no clear evidence than this to prove that their land was snatched by trapping the Adivasi elders (Mooppans) in fake land registry documents and supplying them with a few bottles of local drinks. Each corner of Wayanad witnessed the dispossession of Adivasis from their lands followed by social oppression against them in those days using the above-mentioned tactics of the migrants. I believe that my life purpose was determined by the peculiar regionality of Wayanad and the injustice meted out to the Adivasis there.
There were two reasons for our migration to Wayanad; first, my eldest brother was schizophrenic and two, relatives turned hostile as my eldest sister eloped with a man from a different religion when she was in the school final. With the money that came from selling off our property in the mainland (Vaikom) we bought one and half acres of coffee plantation and some open land. In that open plot there were two small houses built as per the climatic conditions of the old Vayanad. As there were no boys of my age in the neighborhood, my playmates were mostly my Kunjechi and other girls.
Our immediate neighbors, the Chakkalaparambu family were Dalit-Christians and they had come from Kuruvilangadu almost twenty years before us. Their relative, one Daniel and his family had migrated to Pulpally, a village forty kilometers away from our place. He came to Vazhavatta at regular intervals and became a close friend of our father, and at times stayed overnight with us.
According to me, Daniel Appan was a character like Melquiades in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’. He dexterously crafted ploughs, pestles for household use, planks for removing water from cooked rice out of wood and travelled all over Wayanad to sell them. He dressed differently and carried his tools and his overall appearance was that of a Gypsy elder. People found pleasure in recounting many legends about his adventurous life and tireless physical strength. Sitting near the hearth, Daniel Appan would unbundle the stories of adventurous journeys in his youthful days, of the pestilence and diseases that had befallen the early migrants of Wayanad and of the hailstorm bouts. Perhaps all the stories were culled from different people from different times. Everyone including my father whom we called ‘Chachan’ and my mother would come around him to partake in those story sessions.
Daniel Appan’s son was Peter (we called him Peter Chettan or Peter, the Elder) and he was sent to High School from our home. He was a voracious reader and was in the habit of writing poems and drawing pictures; he knew a lot of stories. I was living a moderate life with the girls and I started obsessing about Peter Chettan. I wanted to hear stories from him. He would narrate legends and world classics with such oratory skills that charmed the audience around him. When he was in our house for around three years, I would even throw tantrums to coax him to tell me stories. Later when he became a Police Officer, he sent me a letter telling me about Icarus, who had flown towards the Sun with wings made of wax and feathers; Icarus was the ultimate symbol in the Existential literature of the times.
Once Peter the Elder left I knew that to experience and enjoy stories there was no other way besides reading books. Therefore, I became very keen in my studies from my lower primary school and remained a topper in all the subjects. It was in the fifth standard, I remember, that I could get hold of a book that I had been craving for. It was borrowed from a neighbor named Lakshmi Amma who hailed from the barber caste and the book in question was a copy of Adhyatma Ramayana. I rushed home and opened the book, and I cannot explain how much heartbroken and crestfallen I was upon seeing its content. I thought it must have been a storybook. But lo, it was a book full of verses, which I couldn’t have comprehended,even a single page. It was then my elder brother K.K.Kochu who was studying at the Maharajas College, Eranakulam came home for his vacation. He told me that if one reads the verses of Adhytma Ramayanam in a certain tune it wouldn’t be that difficult to comprehend and he promised that from the next day he would start helping me with the reading. As agreed we started reading by the next evening. After reading four or five lines he would explain the narrative context as well as the word meaning. I would listen carefully. Once Ramayanam was finished Lakshmiyamma lent me a copy of the Mahabharata. We did the same exercise with the Mahabharata too. Once I understood how to go about with Ramayanam and Mahabharatam, I started reading them all by myself. Almost during the same time I obtained a copy of Holy Bible and started reading it regularly and carefully.
When we came to Vazhavatta, the Church there was a thatched humble structure. Within four or five years it was renovated into the present shape. In the new Church, I could see a crucifix and a picture depicting the torturous journey of Christ to the Golgotha hills. Both these symbols became etched in the depths of my mind. Almost every day while walking back from school I would go into the new Church and stand there, gazing at the statue and the painting. One day the Vicar of the Church took me to his study room. It was then I found the treasure that I had been looking for. His room was a treasure trove of books. That day I borrowed a book from that priest. It was a 700 pages long Malayalam translation of ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ by Alexander Dumas. I went running back home and even without changing into house clothes I started pouring into the pages. When I returned the book, the Priest asked me certain questions. He simply wanted to check whether I was a serious reader or just an imposter hell bent on impressing him. After that I read the Malayalam translations of the world classics like Odissi, Iliad, Greek Stories, Short Stories by Leo Tolstoy, Les Miserables, The Hunchback of Norte-Dame, War and Peace, Anna Karenina, Barabass, Pilgrims Progress, many epics, legends, Arabian Night and world folk tales. I didn’t even know the name of that young priest who used to give me those books due to my absolute joy. It must have been after observing my reading habits and excellence in education that Bhaskaran Mash and Yohannan Mash of the Pakkam School made me the Arts Club Secretary. With this I got the opportunity to borrow books from the Pakkam Rural Library as well.
As I began high school, along with the classics, I started reading contemporary literature too. The co-operative agencies like the National Book Stall used to sell books on installment basis (today’s EMI system) during the Onam and Christmas months. K.K.Kochu was a member of those schemes and used to buy a lot of books. All new! As a result of this at home we had a collection of short stories and novels by Basheer, Thikkodiyan, Uroob, Kovilan, T.Padmanabhan, M.T.Vasudevan Nair, Madhavikkutty, O.V.Vijayan, M.Mukundan, Kakkanadan, Padmarajan and M.Sukumaran, poems of Kumaran Asan, Idasseri, Vailoppilly, Balamaniamma, Sugathakumari, P.Bhaskaran, ONV, Thirunalloor Karunakaran and Vayalar Rama Varma. Besides that we also had anthologies of literary criticism by MP Paul, Mundassery, Sukumar Azhikode and K.P. Appan, and literature on general knowledge, Marxist literature and translated literature from different countries. Kochu not only read all what he had bought but also used to talk to me about it with a lot of enthusiasm. My reading of the same would then follow. The library at the Meenangadi School was really rich. I finished reading the books there in no time.
I also read the parallel publications in Malayalam with the same passion with which I read the mainstream literature. I was thrown to a strange zone while reading the first and second issues of a magazine called ‘Prasakthi’ edited by poet K.G.SankaraPillai.
During my high school days I read both K. Raveendran and K. Satchidanandan with a lot of admiration. Once again it was K.K. Kochu who had personally introduced me to their literature. Even today I have noticed him recounting the name, ‘Raveendran’ with a lot of respect. If I had been fascinated by the magical language of Chintha Ravi (Raveendran was known by that name), it was Satchidandan who had shed light on the path that led me to the contemporary world literature.
Conflict, Collapse and Emergency
‘Blood Wedding’ by Garcia Lorca is a play that surreally narrates the transformation of a Catalonian rural wedding ceremony into a blood-smeared affair. ‘Share Crop’ (PankuKrushi) is a poem by S. Joseph that tells the story of two friends who did share cropping and there was blood-letting between them following some misunderstandings.
In the lives of the migrants, mutual trust and love sometimes soured and slipped into mistrust and competition. Behind the annihilation of Kenichira Mathai by naxalites in Wayanad more than the liberation politics there was this blood rivalry.
Conventional social analysis may prove inadequate to understand the signs of social conflicts in the migrated lands. For example, people know about the Adivasis in Wayanad mainly through news reports and the academic views on ‘sacrifices of the Naxalites’ and the ‘hut-making protests.’ But the fact is that the Adivasis became “others” in their own lands mainly because of the dispossession of their rightful lands, the support given to the breaking of civil laws by the government and politicians, private money lenders who charged exorbitant interest rates and sexual colonization. A section of the Adivasis, thus estranged, later on got the chance to gain modern education and underwent a process of reformation regarding their socio-cultural rituals resulting in the formation of new conflict zones. Along with the community formations of Adivasis, struggles for the dispossessed lands and the formation of Adivasi organizations also took place. The alertness and conflicts generated by these ‘strange’ sections only brought in the consciousness among the migrants that the Adivasis also belonged to the ‘public’ society. Without even recognizing these facts and by insisting on the stereotypical historical landmarks not only the survival lessons of the Adivasis but also the historical memories of their exchanges with the nation state got neglected.
Everyone knows how the Adivasis and middle class farmers went bankrupt. But seen in the right perspective it was the Dalit-Christian migrant community that became absolutely dispossessed and pauperized in the process. I have observed the following reasons for such dispossession and bankruptcy among these Dalits and Dalit-Christians: first of all, they get their agricultural yields only once in a year. The expenses that come in between in the form of diseases, household spending and educational expenditure are met by borrowing from the private moneylenders and once that’s done they are trapped in debt forever. After some time it ends in selling their own lands. As the Dalits are deprived of the opportunities of business and government jobs their pauperization takes place exceptionally fast. Besides, crop damage is always expected. During the end of the 1970s there was massive crop damage which shook the foundations of most Dalit migrants along with hundreds of middle-class farmers.
While such insecurities were dizzying us we were also thrown into the whirlpool of social conflicts.
Three young men who were distantly related to us also had migrated to Wayanad. They, together with my second brother Mani, were deemed to be ‘excesses’ in that rural setting. They never went for menial jobs, instead they sported huge sideburns, wore white dhotis and polyester shirts. This invited the disapproval of the upper castes and small-scale conflicts started cropping up from here and there. It was then K.K. Kochu dropped out of college and came back to stay with us. For some time he tried to live like an existential writer but soon he dropped that mantle too and started working among the youngsters in the region and became a person liked by all in the neighborhood. However, when he started involving in the issues on behalf of the Adivasis, strong retaliations started manifesting from the public consciousness. This resistance reached its peak when the protests against the evictions from the dam project at Karappuzha area gained steam and Kochu, besides voicing the concerns of the affected rich and middle class sections, started voicing the needs of the poor, landless and dispossessed Adivasis separately.
With the rise in conflicts of the migrants’ lives our domestic front also started plummeting. The schizophrenic elder son was separated from the family and a hut was built to chain him in. Two of the matured sons became the target of public ire that carried the patriarchal and colonial consciousness. Both these matters literally shattered my father and mother. In the meanwhile the land was sold in smaller plots and the agricultural field that was pawned with the moneylender eventually was snatched away by him. Poverty, death of hope and the silencing of the state of emergency came together and bearing in silence was the only way left to us.
The death of my elder brother did not bother me much as it had saddened my family members because they had seen the worst of his tragic life through and through. However, bankruptcy, social ostracism and the regular visits of the police at home during the emergency days had affected me internally.
In the eighth standard I got a girlfriend. The RSS activists used to publish pamphlets criticizing the emergency policies of the government and at night they dropped that volatile literature in the section where girls sat. She collected those pamphlets in the morning and brought them to me.
By the time I finished my high school, the emergency was lifted and we were evicted from the Karappuzha Dam Project Area. With the compensation money we bought a better living place and some land in a place called Vakeri. It was from this new home that my parents sent me to the Devagiri College to pursue the pre-degree course.
Beginning of a Nocturnal Life
My admission at the Devagiri College turned out to be a punishment for securing less marks in the school final examinations, because the college was famous for its discipline regime. Once the mess session was over by seven o clock in the evening, the Warden Priest would loiter in the hostel corridors with a cane in his hand. He did not want anyone to stir or make any noise. In the first one or two months the warden could control the fresh pre-degree students with his threat tactics. It was said that because of his tippling habit that he fell in deep sleep once he hit the bed. With this the hostel would transform into a disturbed hornet’s nest.
On a Friday when the warden was not around, after the mess as usual, all the boys went back to their rooms. I heard someone shouting something somewhere outside and I came out to see what was going on. One boy was walking up and down the corridor throwing a challenge to everyone saying, ‘was there anyone to accompany me to a movie in Kozhikode town?’ Upon hearing this, I went up to him and declared, ‘I dare.’ Then and there itself we changed into decent clothes, picked up whatever money we saved with us and started walking towards Kozhikode.
Even if we were in the same hostel, I was seeing this character for the first time. He was K.K.Surendran who would become a DIAT Teacher and writer, and would be beaten up by the police during the Muthanga adivasi struggle. Once we got introduced to each other, not only did we become thick friends, but we also started living as if we belonged to each other’s homes.
During his high school days, Surendran was in a certain student’s political organization and it had got him several friends and acquaintances. Without any inhibition of a pre-degree student, Surendran moved among the elder students and teachers freely and spoke to them as if he were their peer. Later MathaiChacko MLA and other leaders used to come to meet him in his room. I had taken to reading English books as a serious affair and with the help of some senior students who were Surendran’s friends I could manage to issue English books from the college library.
If we had sneaked out to watch a movie for the first time when the warden was away, we made it a habit whenever the films changed in the Crown Theatre. We were caught and fined several times but the habit remained unbreakable. Holding this habit against us, once the first year examinations were over, we were denied admission in the college hostel by the authorities. We started living in a rented house near the medical college with some senior students.
We had left the hostel life for good, it seemed. Once we were relieved of the strict hostel rules, we could conduct our nocturnal life in the city with complete freedom. In those days Kozhikode city meant a few places: Palayam, KSRTC Bus Stand, Mithai Street, Railway Station and Apsara Theatre. A sleepless crowd would always be there very active throughout the night. In the shops that still worked late there were gramophones and they played Hindi film songs as well as popular Malayalam-Tamil songs. As literature had gone into my head, the city nights were a different experience altogether. Besides, I felt that the greatest of people in the world were the pimps and sex workers who came alive in the city nights. I wanted to make friends with them and my intention was to start making my night life happen. I think I was over obsessed by the French naturalist literature besides the existential varieties and it must have had a terrible influence on me in those matters.
After the second shows, with a lot of persistent efforts I could establish some interesting bonding with the people from the left over parts of the city. Often I spent time with those people till day break. They also must have found a young college boy’s efforts to be friendly with them very peculiar and charming. One thing was sure; I never felt any harassment from the pimps or sex workers or even from the pickpockets in the city. They all used to treat me with care and consideration.
The Janata Party that ruled the center post-Indira Gandhi’s Emergency relaxed many a censorship rule. Following the relaxation of rules there was a spate of releases of Hindi and Malayalam movies. From the hostels and colleges students flowed to the movie halls. I had decided to watch only English movies so I never took interest in watching those newly released movies. However my night life had intimated me about another interesting place.
Those days, on their second page, the news dailies published a column that announced the city’s best cabaret joints advertised under ‘Today’s Cinema’ in their listings. They also advertised the names of the cabaret artists. In most of the main cities in Kerala and also in the small towns like Thodupuzha there were cabaret hotels. ‘Queens’ was such a famous joint at the Sweet Street (MithaiTheruvu).
What is Cabaret? Is it like those provocative song-dance item numbers that yesteryear dancing queens like Jayamalini used to do in the films? The second shows at Queens were not that. They danced full nude. They performed explicit and provocative acts. One could see women intermingling with lustful men among the audience and enticing them to sex work.
Till the mid-1980s selling or buying sexual pleasure was not a great legal or moral offence in Kerala. The society in general did not detest those men and women who entered sex work mainly due to lack of job opportunities and poverty. Cities could afford to maintain cabaret halls because of that. Those business establishments which could have given a different face to Kerala’s modernity were brought under a blanket ban not because of the religious revivalist forces but by the secular progressives who came out in force and even employed violence to do their moral policing.
In Kerala the anti-cabaret movement was spearheaded by the CPI (ML), alternative political groups and the savarna liberal feminists. ‘Resistance against the cultural decadence of imperialism’ was the slogan that they had raised and the moral terror that they created was upheld and executed by the state, bureaucracy and the orthodox religion-caste establishments.
Those days I somehow started feeling that travelling was as important as night life and reading literature. I had made arrangements to travel down to South Kerala with Surendran on the very day the pre-degree exams were finished and the vacation started. I managed to get some money from my father telling him that I was paying a visit to our original village and Surendran borrowed an amount from one of the teachers at the Devagari College. K.K.Kochu was a member of the Communist YuvajanaVedi (Communist Youth Platform) then. He gave me some pamphlets that contained the quotations from Karl Marx and a few addresses of people to whom that literature was to be delivered, and a small amount as pocket money.
We kept on traveling in the interior places and towns while making new friends via the friends and relatives of both mine and Surendran’s whom we had traced out meticulously during our journey. A trip that lasted for fifty two days initiated me into a few new habits that included the abnegation of bathing every day, not wearing under garments and using unwashed clothes for a long time.
As we were trying to deliver the pamphlets we could find many Naxalite hideouts and famous Naxal comrades. I need to specially mention a man whom we had met near a village in Koothattukulam. He was living on a footpath, inside a makeshift hut and received us heartily as if he was expecting our arrival. He took us to new people and introduced us. We had palm toddy and food from a nearby toddy shop and spent three or four days with him. In fact this character was a famous rowdy in his village. He was trying to give a Naxalite sheen to his criminal life. Once we left there, within a week or so we came to know that he had brutally murdered his own uncle and gone into hiding.
When we reached Trivandrum we had the address of a fine arts college student, K. P. Krishnakumar, who would later become one of the moving forces of the Indian Radical Painters and Sculptors Association. We found his room but he was not there. Finally we reached a room where another student, Jeevan Thomas was staying. Jeevan also would become a famous sculptor in later years.
When we entered the room he was there; on the table there was a sculpture that showed a combined portrait of Jesus Christ and Jeevan himself. He had a booming voice and a harsh facial expression. There are no words to relate the kind of anarchy that I had witnessed there. We kept our bags there, went out, wandered around in the city and came back to sleep in the same room. The next day was an action replay of the previous day. As two days passed, Jeevan’s harshness gave way to tenderness; he not only spoke at length about art but also encouraged us in a life of wandering.
In Trivandrum we met the well-known literary critic, S. Guptan Nair. Obviously, our shabby clothes and lack of discipline seemed to have irritated him. We landed at the door of Jose Chettan who was working as an Engineer at the Thenmala Dam site. Our return journey to Vayanad was from his home. I used to visit my close friend Sathyaseelan’s home at Valapattanam and my elder sister’s home at Neeleswarn in regular intervals. I have also travelled to Mysore and Bangalore in this fashion.
The Muthanga Forests
Surendran’s home was at Koliyadi. It was located near the Muthanga forest. As he had a lot of Adivasi friends he had gone into the forests many times with them. I went into a forest for the first time with Surendran when I visited him during the second pre-degree Onam vacation.
Neruda’s ‘Memoirs’ is remembered here again for the beautiful detailing that the poet had given to the Chilean forests. The entry into the Muthanga forest induced me with an experience that still remains inexplicable. I experienced the fragrance of the forest, its sonic universe, touches of the wild plants and the presence of ancient trees like the tumultuous arrival of a sea of altered/transformed consciousness.
Since then we have gone into that forest many times. Each time I have had different experiences. We carried some buns and bananas for lunch. We entered the forest in the morning and spent the whole day there, and with the sunset we came out of it. Whether it was a dialogue with civilization and culture or a pay back to it, I did not know. We walked completely naked in the forest. We bundled up our clothes and kept them safely on some tree. At times we felt human presence around through sounds and we scampered to hide somewhere. Once we got into a real trouble. While coming back we couldn’t locate the tree that sheltered our clothes. As darkness thickened we were like hapless beings thrown into bottomless waters. For hours on we kept searching for the right tree with our dresses and as we finally located it we were already drenched in both sweat and anxiety; when we came out of the forest, the last bus for Koliyadi had already gone.
* Veerendra Kumar MP is a leader of Janata Dal (Secular) and a former minister of Kerala.
** K K Kochu is a prominent dalit thinker and writer.
[Translation to English done by Johny ML. The original Malayalam article was published in Mathrubhumi magazine and later republished in Utharakalam portal.]
KK Baburaj is a writer, social critic and Dalit activist based in Kerala.