Part of our social sabbatical was the visit to a rural
community. Our visit included some work we did for them but the most important
part of the day was not what we did but the experience we had. We spent few
hours playing with their children, drinking coconut milk from their threes and
listening to their stories. This is not a common rural village like thousands
that you find in India: this village doesn`t even exist officially and it is
inhabited by Irula tribe. This is their story.
Irula means “people who come from the night”. In a
subcontinent where your life mostly depends on the caste you belong, the Irula
are not even included in the caste system as they are considered sub-humans. For
example they are not allowed to have or to build a house in the neighbour
villages. The Irula live throughout all India but they are based especially
here in the south of the country. For
centuries their main activity has been protecting the crops of others by
catching mice and snakes in the fields. They still do it together with other
daily jobs they are able to get. Parents often leave their children for 10 days
in order to go to work far and being able to support their families.
As I said before this village doesn`t exist officially. 65
years ago they were pushed out from where they lived and they were forced to
move where they are located now. They lived in huts until 15 years ago when a
politician decided to build some brick houses in election time. Despite the village has a school, roads and
streets the government doesn`t recognise them which doesn`t allow them to have
any ownership on the land. Because of this, they cannot even have their own
cemetery. If somebody dies, his body is thrown on the rocks on a near mountain.
Their existence is a continuous struggle to be recognised.
In this dark picture there is a glimpse of hope. There is
someone who sees them as humans and recognises their existence: the teacher.
For eleven years he has been teaching in the local school. He does 30 km by
bicycle each way to go teaching in this village forgotten by everybody. He
could have moved to another school (for sure closer) but he decided to remain
with the Irula. His teaching is important but his presence and commitment is
the greatest testimony to the fact that this community exists.