To Bee or Not To Bee?

Vipul Shaha
The Valley School, Krishnamurti Foundation of India, Bangalore

March 17, 2019

One is never afraid of the unknown; one is afraid of the known coming to an end.”—J. Krishnamurti

It is 3.15 am.  I wake up abruptly from what feels like a restless dream.  My eyes and cheeks still swollen. Some parts of the facial muscles and scalp feeling numb, some are in pain.  I try to console myself saying that it is a ‘Brahma Muhurat’ –an auspicious time of the day to be waking up and practice meditation.  A frenzy of anxious thoughts take over neither allowing me to meditate nor get back to sleep.  My mind keeps taking me back to the moment…rather a series of intense moments which brought me face-to-face with death.  It’s been exactly 2 weeks. Yet every moment of that deadly encounter with the honeybees in the forest feels so very real and yet so incredible. 

I decide to pull out my ‘Gratitude Journal’ and open the last entry, for Day 21—the reflection prompt asks—‘If today were your last day, how would you spend it?’  In the past, I have avoided thinking much about or responding to this question.  Today, however, it feels very alive even as my thoughts hover around me like a swarm of honeybees.

I am transported high atop a big banyan tree, in its secure embrace, admiring the view, enjoying the exhilaration that it brings me until suddenly I hear a buzzing sound, wondering where it might be coming from.  I notice a huge beehive at the far end of a branch I am weighing myself onto and am about to climb up.

Before I know it, my face is covered with a thick blanket of honeybees, the legs, hands, throat and neck too, they are everywhere—determined to knock me down.

I begin to cry for help in Marathi, my mother-tongue—‘Deva…Deva…Vaachav…Vaachav’!  (God!!! Please save me!!!)  Screaming aloud, I am tightly holding on to one branch with my right hand while trying to brush away the bees with the other. It only aggravates their aggression as an endless army of bees continues to sting and attack every inch of my body.  My eyeglasses fall off.  My nose, ears and even the eyes are not spared.

It now really hits me that I am all alone in this isolated wilderness and this may be the end of my life.  I still cling on to dear life, not yet willing to give up.  As the stings increase, my body begins to heat up and starts to burn.  Any moment, I could fall off through the branches, the ground at least some 40 feet below me.

Just when it seems impossible that I would make it, my thoughts take a back-seat and action takes over as if a greater intelligence has kicked-in from some mysterious force. My eyes barely open, I gather all the courage and let go of the branch and swing along a creeper.  I have to trust that it will not break.  It carries me down to a sturdier and thicker branch.  In a desperate final attempt, I jump down the last 10 feet and find my eyeglasses right where I land, surprisingly unbroken!  I pick them up without even bothering to look at my back-pack, which contains a sketchbook and my cellphone, hanging onto a branch half way up on the tree.  It feels nothing short of a miracle that I have made it to the ground in one piece, albeit a scraping cut on my left arm. With every bit of energy and willpower left in me, I run for life—my only goal is to find at least one human being.  The honeybees are still chasing me. Other than a few cows grazing along the deserted dirt road, I do not see anyone.  Every step I take, it starts to get heavier. The body is burning as if it were caught in fire. It is ready to crash any moment. Just then, the sight of a water puddle along the path feels like a rescue remedy. I almost wish to drink the water, although I make do with splashing it all over my body trying to cool it.  The honeybees have finally left me except for a handful few who manage to hide inside my bright red shorts and a dark green t-shirt.  I discover them much later.

A picture of the Banyan Tree I took while climbing it, just a few minutes before the bees attack

After some 20 minutes of a dramatic escape from the bees, I finally reach and jump over the 3rd gate into Valley School’s familiar territory. I rush to the Art Village, where luckily a pottery workshop is taking place on a Sunday afternoon.  The moment I spot Chandan, the pottery teacher, I give him a tight hug and drop on the ground as if making my final surrender, not able to express myself.  He and all my colleague friends at the workshop are no less than God for me at this point.  Shocked and puzzled, they all jump into frenetic action, carefully removing over a hundred stings from my body, trying to soothe me in every way possible.

What followed is a continuation of the miracle, which eventually saved my life.  The availability of Dr. Narendra on campus, who happened to be attending the Krishnamurti Study meeting, the decision to admit me into emergency ward at Apollo, my remaining conscious and not succumbing to anaphalyctic reaction—things somehow fall in place. After spending 24 hours in the ICU under observation, I safely returned to Valley with my parents who had to rush from Pune.

The danger has long passed and the body has been slowly regaining its strength, having endured heavy medication. The mind however is taking its time to process the incident. I have allowed myself to slow down, reflect and pause. I am appreciating the gifts that a crisis of such intensity is bringing to me in the form of new revelations, insights and questions.

What made me go alone into a remote forest and climb that banyan tree on a hot summer morning, despite already having noticed the six beehive colonies thriving on it?  How could it be that my mother, who was in the middle of cooking, hundreds of kilometers away, started to feel unusually dizzy, exactly around the same time when I was crying for help on the tree?

Was it a co-incidence that I attended a powerful havan ceremony with the chanting of the Mahamrityunjay Mantra the previous evening at a local ashram? It is only later that I delved into its meaning and significance around nurturance, death, immortality and liberation.  

What were the following lines from Ashtavakra Gita trying to convey? I had started reading it that very morning!  How have you toiled, life after life, pressing into painful labor, your body and your mind and your words. It is time to stop. Now!’

Was I preparing for the fateful adventure with my daily practice of Vipassana, Yoga and Pranayam along with the chanting of Nirvana Shatakam just an hour before I left for the forest? One of the lines from the shloka reads—‘I have no fear of death, as I do not have death nor separation from my true self….’

Where was my need for seeking such extraordinary experiences and adventures coming from? (it wasn’t the first time I had got myself into a life-threatening situation although not as intense).  Was it my drive and ambition to reach ‘new heights’, ‘push boundaries’ and ‘challenge myself’? Was I coming from foolish ignorance, romantic innocence, fearless youth or my human arrogance in meddling with the natural order? Why was my life spared whereas over a hundred honeybees sacrificed theirs in protecting their colony?  Is my life any more important than that of any other living being?  These and many questions set in motion a deep churning and inner inquiry.

What has been most humbling is the rude reminder of how fragile, vulnerable and even how insignificant life can be in the larger scheme of things. At the same time, I also feel so very blessed and grateful for having been offered this new lease of life.  What purpose is it wanting to serve?  What is it trying to bring my attention to?

On the way to the hospital, as the pain became unbearable and my pulse got feebler, I remember feeling as if I were sinking into death and that my brain might shut down anytime.  I thought of loved ones in my life and how I wished to have been more expressive in conveying my feelings towards them. I thought of my life, this body and the relationships which I may have taken for granted and needed more nurturing.

In the days to come, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of gratitude as kind wishes, prayers and caring gestures poured in from every direction—from family, friends, colleagues, students, their parents and even the support staff at Valley expressed their anguish and concern.  Numerable versions of the incidence started to float around. Kids and adults alike enjoyed offering their own creative, sometimes humourous twist to the story!  It all greatly helped me cope with the initial shock and trauma and made me realize the tremendous healing power of a close-knit community.

                   My students of environmental science came to visit and gave me a card with 'get-well-soon' messages

Murali Krishna, a Valley parent and a friend, went on a creativity spree! He enjoyed having so much laughter at my expense! :)

Exactly one week after the incidence, I went back to visit the banyan tree with the intention of bringing a sense of closure.  This time, I walked closer to it very slowly, somewhat hesitant and unsure.  I sat down in silence for half an hour, watched myself drenched in fear (unlike the last time when I was there!) I found dead honeybees in the foliage of dry leaves scattered on the ground and felt saddened to see them being eaten by ants. Looking up towards the beehive, now abandoned, I earnestly sought forgiveness—forgiveness for having crossed nature’s limit, for having caused so much death and distress.  Quite spontaneously, I began to chant—‘Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu’ (May all be happy, may all be peaceful).  Giving the banyan tree a gentle hug to express my gratitude, I bid goodbyes, feeling much more calm and at peace.

While restoring my mental, physical and emotional equilibrium may be a gradual and an ongoing process, my curiosity and love for nature will continue to thrive. I wish to learn more about the honeybees and how they play a crucial role in sustaining life on this planet.  I also seem to have finally earned my answer to that ultimate question in the Gratitude Journal—if it were my last day—I would love to climb trees, play with children, share  with the world all the love and gifts I can offer and embrace the next new unknown with a sense of pure silence in my heart! J

An earlier picture in the forest, where I would often go on solo nature walks and climb trees!

Embracing Life

Vipul Shaha
July 10, 2010

    It was just another Saturday evening after a tiring day at school.  I was not much in a mood to do any work that had piled up on my weekend to-do list.  So I decided to go on a cycle ride in nearby army cantonment area. It is one of those few places where there is much lesser traffic, clean and well-laid roads, and lots of old beautiful trees with a diversity of bird-life still existent.   Weekend cycle rides are for me a way of escaping from the daily routine and regimentation.  Cycling gives me an unusual sense of freedom and control as I peddle along with no particular destination in mind.  I simply follow the path that intuitively guides me on these rides.  I enjoy exploring new places and observing the surroundings.  It allows me a chance to be completely with myself with no deadlines to meet, no appointments to make and no plans to execute.    

    This Saturday evening, I was enjoying one such cycle expedition.  The monsoon showers had covered the roadside with fresh greenery.  The day’s events had turned me into a slightly reflective mood, and so I was riding slow trying to absorb of what is going around and inside.  As I was about to take a yet another unknown turn, I saw him—an old man with a white beard, uncombed hair, not-so-clean clothes on.  About 20 feet distance from where I was on my bike, this man was sitting under a deserted metal shade.  He had an empty bottle in his hand with which he was calling me towards him.  As he called me, my first thought was to start peddling faster and pretend as if I didn’t see him.  I thought of him as a homeless man perhaps begging for money. I would normally just ignore such invitations from a stranger and carry on with my business—partly because I make myself believe that I am always in a hurry and partly because I carry inhibitions about roadside strangers.

   Today was different though.  Today, I wanted to know, to get involved and to step out of my comfort.  Something within stopped me. I found myself approaching this man with curiosity and caution.  What would he want from me? As I went closer, he pointed the empty bottle towards me and requested for some water.  My instant reaction was—but I am not carrying any water with me!  His face went sad with rather disbelief.  As I took a closer look at him, I realized that this man had no legs and no right hand!  He asked me to park my cycle near where he was and directed me to the army hospital on the other side of the street for water.  The suspicious self in me was still questioning the credibility of this man.  Is he hiding his legs and hand—I asked myself.  What if he takes away my bicycle?  I locked the cycle and went to fetch him some water…still a little nervous about what I had just seen and gotten myself into.  I wondered if this was some plan to trick me? When I returned with the filled water bottle, he spoke with genuine gratitude, ‘Thank you so much.  God will bless you.  And sorry for all the trouble.’  His words melted my heart.  I couldn’t help feel ashamed about my crude thinking. 

   As I handed him over the bottle, he told me to carry on helping any disabled person I may come across.  I could now see a kind and thoughtful man behind his disheveled appearance.  He told his story…and I found myself patiently listening to it.  To my surprise he spoke good English as he had graduated from the famous Fergusson College back in the seventies—my own alma mater.  A high volt electrical shock left him crippled for life—having to lose both the legs and a hand.  The man also lost all his close relatives one by one and has no one to call family today.  None of this stopped him from having hope in life and faith in God.  The metal shed where I met him is owned by the army.  He looks after it by keeping it clean and not allowing outsiders to misuse it.  He has made it his home—a good protection from the monsoon rains.  I asked him about how he passes his time, being there all day and night with no one to look after him.  He said “When you have purity in your heart, God takes care of you.  There are always good hearted people in this world who come and help you if you have faith.”  I bid him goodbye with a promise to meet him again.  As I peddled back home, I wondered what, despite having literally nothing, keeps this man going in life?  The incidence will continue to inspire me to embrace life to the fullest no matter whatever the situation.

Walking Pilgrimage--The Shakti of Bhakti

Vipul Shaha and Sheetal Sanghvi

“My legs are paining but my soul is rested”, borrowing words from Gandhi, described our state of being even as we struggled to walk that ‘last mile’ to reach the Nature Cure Ashram where a friend had invited us for staying over at night.  It was nothing short of a miracle for us to have just completed a 35-kilometer walk from Pune to Saswad in rather scorching heat as part of the annual waari pilgrimage.  Perhaps it was the Shakti of Bhakti (the power of faith) that kept us going through an incredible daylong journey.

Growing up in Maharashtra, one cannot miss the annual pilgrimage that takes place from Alandi to Pandharpur.  Popularly called as ‘waari’—it is a tradition that goes back to over 700 years and draws over a million people from across the state to walk a distance of about 250 kilometers spread over an 18 day journey through villages, towns and cities.  This year, we felt a spontaneous call to join-in the pilgrimage even if for a short time, and to really understand the spirit of this mega-event that has just passed us by for so many years.  No definite plan, no particular agenda, not really knowing much, we just ‘took the plunge in the river’, and got completely soaked in its flow of amazing generosity, bhakti and the celebration of life.

Accompanied by hundreds of thousands of pilgrims (warkaris), it truly felt like we were being part of a river—a river that would eventually dissolve in the ocean of faith and humanity when over a million pilgrims conclude their journey at its final destination—the Vitthal temple in Pandharpur.  Innumerable tributaries representing various saints and their teachings come from the tiniest of villages scattered across the rural landscape of Maharashtra.  Every soul was welcome...the river simply embraced every pilgrim with open arms…washing away any apparent distinctions of socio-economic class, caste or gender.  We met with many elderly women who have been coming on this yatra for several decades.  One elderly women in her eighties chuckled, “my family worries about me…they think that I cannot do this any longer…but I can’t help it...I just have to go!”   

It was very moving to see a physically-disabled man trying to push up a hill his hand-operated bicycle, and fellow pilgrims offering him support.  There were small kids, families—large and small, women walking barefoot, doctor’s group, nature lovers’ group and even Rotarians taking a dip in the pilgrim’s river!  A sense of camaraderie and fellowship naturally flowed amongst people, as they greeted each other by calling each other ‘maooli’ (mother)— invoking their mutual respect and reverence for Saint Dnyaneshwara whom they regard as a motherly figure for having bestowed upon them the wisdom and knowledge of universal peace.  The boundaries of age and social standing also disappeared as the pilgrims would touch other’s feet and seek blessings from one another. It was also interesting to note how there was no authority or hierarchy that was trying to ‘control’ the flow of the river. Self-organizing and self-discipline seemed to prevail as pilgrims from all walks of life had showed up without anyone inviting them to be part of this sacred journey.  When asked what brings them to the event year after year, many expressed that they get tremendous ‘samaadhaan’ (sense of contentment) from joining the waari.   We were simply awestruck thinking of how powerful that seed of faith must have been, which has kept this tradition alive and thriving even several centuries after it must have originated.

 There was no end to the overwhelming generosity bestowed upon those walking the journey.  Unlimited amount of tea, water, bananas, sweets and food kept being poured in as warkaris were welcomed everywhere.  It seemed as if everyone wanted to contribute his or her own bit.  We enjoyed eating simple warm breakfast cooked with love by a family that we had never met.  People opened up their homes for food, bathing, sleeping.  Free shaving and hair-cuts, free stitching, cobbler services were offered at different locations.  Keeping up with the modern times, some people even offered free mobile phone charging service. Even local politicians, business people, government officials, police forces, social service organizations teamed up to be of service in various innovative ways.  Free medical service was made available all the time. The forest department in Saswad had over 30,000 paper bags filled with seeds of various fruit trees and medicinal plants which were being handed out to the pilgrims—requesting them to plant those seeds along the journey.  There were groups performing street-plays and promoting awareness on organic farming.  Another group from the Sevagram Gandhi-Vinoba Ashram was distributing copies of the Geeta and offering public discourses on the topic.

After having just climbed up a long mountain stretch, our feet quite exhausted, we were pleasantly surprised to receive the gift of a foot massage from a Yoga volunteers’ group.  How healing and rejuvenating that felt!  Whenever we expressed interest in learning more about the bhakti tradition, seasoned warkaris very enthusiastically shared their stories and experiences.  One of them even offered his personal prayer book containing songs and hymns (bhajans and abhangas) of Saint Tukaram. 

Singing and dancing to the tune of very soulful bhakti songs eased our legs and brought alive a sense of collective celebration.  It was amazing to see men and women pair up to a spontaneous  phugadi dance or following rhythmic steps to the sound of drum-beats and cymbals.  Flags, multi-colored outfits, sarees, Gandhi topis, dhotis, flowers...every little thing added its own charm and beauty to the multi-pronged gathering.

After experiencing ‘a day in the life of warkaris’, we returned home--our bodies completely exhausted, our clothes soiled but our soul and spirit a little bit cleansed and calmed! 

With deep humility and gratitude in our hearts for the countless pilgrims we encountered along the way, we would like to offer a collection of photographs (slideshow) and this week’s Maitri Tune dedicated to the spirit of kindness and Bhakti.  In the future, we wish to be able to walk the full length of the pilgrimage and would certainly welcome more like-hearted souls to join us on this walking university of life!

An Escape Into the Himalayas...

October 2017

An escape from myself
or what seemed like a daily grind,
I went to the Himalayas for peace to find.
With every breath I breathed;
and every step I did tread,
a nagging truth resounded from every nook.
the inner chatter was harder to mind;
and the mountains within steeper to climb!

Lost in their charm and beauty,
I embraced the mountains;
yearning some calm and clarity.

The water streams flowing with pristine purity;
pinewood forests vibrant with spiritual serenity;
the shooting stars showering blessings aplenty,
smiling flowers and the cooling breeze;
the griffin flying high with majestic ease,
The mules…their bells ringing a sweet symphony;
how they shared such perfect harmony!

those sounds…the smells…the sights…
shook alive moments frozen in time,
they walked me closer to myself
until there were no escapes to find.

in those humble creeks and giant peaks,
the ego chose to let some of itself go;
like the falling leaves and melting snow,
it was called to dive deeper, dissolve and flow…
to allow life to flourish and grow.

Was I beginning a new journey…?
to discover in me, the hidden treasures many;
n’ to meet the vast oceans awaiting my destiny!

Lessons from a Tribal Community--Melghat

२५ सप्टेंबर २०१६  Vipul Shaha, Melghat
अमरावती जिल्ह्यातील धामणी व चिखलदरा या दुर्गम तालुक्यांचा, निसर्ग सौंदर्याने नटलेला, सातपुडा पर्वताच्या डोंगर-दऱ्यांचा प्रांत म्हणजे मेळघाट. लहानपणी शाळेमध्ये भूगोल शिकताना या भागाची पुसटशी ओळख झाली होती. नंतर काही सामाजिक प्रश्नांचा अभ्यास करताना मेळघाटातील कुपोषण व बालमृत्यू या समस्यांबद्दल ऐकले होते. यंदाच्या पावसाळ्यात मेळघाटात प्रत्यक्ष जाऊन तेथील 'कोरकू' या आदिवासी लोकांसोबत राहण्याची व तेथे आरोग्यविषयक जागृती निर्माण करण्याची संधी मला लाभली. पुणे येथील "मैत्री" ही संस्था दर पावसाळ्यामध्ये "धडक मोहिमेचे" आयोजन करते. 
महाराष्ट्रातून युवा स्वयंसेवक दहा-दहा दिवसाच्या तुकडीने या मोहिमेत सहभागी होतात. अशाच एका धडक मोहिमेत सहा जणांच्या तुकडीमध्ये मी सहभागी झालो. 'हिलडा' नावाच्या छोट्याश्या, साधारणतः ३-४ शे लोकवस्ती असलेल्या गावामध्ये एका आदिवासी कुटुंबामध्ये आम्ही राहिलो. तो आमचा 'बेस कॅम्प' होता. त्या गावाच्या आसपास असणाऱ्या सभोवतालच्या पाडयांना (वस्त्यांना) रोज साधारणतः ५ ते १० कि.मी. पायी चालून भेट द्यायची. घरोघरी जाऊन तेथील लोकांशी चर्चा करायची व एकंदरित त्यांना आरोग्यविषयक साधे सोपे घरगुती उपचार सुचवायचे. तसेच गरज भासेल तिथे प्राथमिक औषधे पुरवायची, असे साधारणतः कामाचे स्वरूप होते. आरोग्याबरोबरच शिक्षण, अंधश्रद्धा, कुटुंबनियोजन, प्रशासकीय सुविधा अशा विविध विषयांबाबत जागृती, समुपदेशन व विचारांची देवाणघेवाण होता असे. कोरकू हे आदिवासी तसे मितभाषी, स्वभावाने काहीसे लाजरे व शांत पण तितकेच जिव्हाळा व आपुलकी दाखवणारे, येणाऱ्या व्यक्तीचे आदरातिथ्य करणारे. अमरावती पलीकडचे जगच माहीत नसलेले बहुतांश कोरकू, आम्ही  पुण्याहून आलो आहोत म्हटल्यावर जणू कुठल्या दुसऱ्याच देशाचे रहिवासी असू असा कित्येकांचा समाज. मराठी ऐवजी कोरकू ही त्यांची भाषा तसेच मध्य प्रदेश सीमेनजीकचा प्रदेश असल्याने थोडीफार हिंदीदेखील त्यांना येत होती व आम्ही त्यामुळे त्यांच्याशी संवाद साधू शकत होतो. भाषा, प्रांत, संस्कृती यांमध्ये इतका फरक असून देखील त्यांनी आम्हाला चटकन आपलेसे केले. आरोग्य जागृती मोहिमेच्या पुढे जाऊन कित्येकांशी अनौपचारिक जवळीकीचे नाते निर्माण झाले व अल्पशा कालावधीतच एका आगळ्यावेगळ्या अशा, पण आपल्याच बांधवांचा परिचय झाला.
आजपर्यंत ऐकलेल्या मेळघाटाचा शापित, अंधश्रध्दा, दारिद्र्य, अडाणीपणा, कुपोषण, बालमृत्यू यांनी ग्रासलेला प्रांत अशा एका ओळखीला काहीसा तडा गेला व या प्रांतामध्ये, लोकांमध्ये उपजत असणारे गुण, तसेच चांगुलपणाच्या, प्रेरणादायी, सकारात्मक अशा काही गोष्टी समोर आल्या, त्या इथे विशेषतः नमूद कराव्याशा वाटतात. 
  • या आदिवासी गावामध्ये एकाही घराला कुलूप आढळले नाही. भीती व गुन्हेगारी याची कुठे चाहूल सुद्धा भासली नाही. यदाकदाचित काही वाद-विवाद झालाच तर तो गावाची “पंचायत” भरून वडीलधाऱ्या मंडळींच्या मार्गदर्शनाने, सर्वसामंजस्याने मिटवण्याचा प्रयत्न केला जातो. स्त्रियांना एक मानाचे व आदराचे स्थान आहे. या समाजामध्ये हुंडा पद्धत नाही. 
  • पिढीजात पद्धतीने हे आदिवासी शेती करून आपला उदरनिर्वाह करतात. निसर्गाच्या सान्निध्यात राहून त्यांनी आपली अतिशय निसर्गस्नेही जीवनशैली टिकवून ठेवली आहे. स्थानिक पद्धतीने, उपलब्ध असणाऱ्या नैसर्गिक संसाधनांचा स्वत:च्या अगदी तुटपुंज्या गरजांपुरताच वापर केल्यामुळे येथील  नैसर्गिक संपत्तीचे जतन झालेले दिसते. ज्याला आपण ‘इको-फ्रेंडली’ किंवा ‘हरित जीवनशैली’ असे म्हणतो ती आदिवासी लोक अगदी स्वाभाविकपणे जगत असतात. 
  • त्यांची छोटीशी पण टुमदार घरे, शेण, बांबू, माती, दगड यांपासून बनविलेली. कचरादेखील नैसर्गिकरीत्या विघटित होणारा व त्यामुळे शेतीमध्ये खत म्हणून उपयोगी पडणारा.
  • पैशाची उणीव असली तरीदेखील स्वयंपूर्ण व स्वाभिमानी असे राहणीमान, स्वतःच्या प्राथमिक गरजा स्थानिक पातळीवर भागविता येतील इतकी कौशल्ये पिढी दरपिढी चालत आलेली. 
  • सारा गाव, शेजारी पाजारी, सगळेच एकमेकांचे सखे सोयरे. आपआपसातील नातेसंबंध, परस्परावलंबन, एकमेकांच्या नडीआडीला लगेच धावून येण्याची वृत्ती हीच यांची मोठी संपत्ती व खरी ‘सिक्युरिटी’ (सुरक्षितता). प्रत्यक्ष उदाहरण सांगायचे झाले तर, एका जणांच्या शेतीमध्ये रानडुकरांचा त्रास होत होता तर त्यांना पकडण्यासाठी ८-१० मंडळी पहाटेपासून प्रयत्न करीत होती. 
  • सर्वच घरे ‘कोरकू’ समाजाची व  एकसारखे राहणीमान असणारी, त्यामुळे कुठे जात-पात किंवा उच्च-नीच असा भेदभाव आढळला नाही. 
  • जीवनाची गती अगदी शांत, संथ, निसर्गचक्रशी मिळती-जुळती असणारी त्यामुळे कुठे ताणतणाव, धावपळ किंवा हेवेदावे नाहीत; अतिहाव यामुळे उद्भवणारे मनोविकार नाहीत. रोजच्या शरीराकाष्टामुळे  त्यांच्यामध्ये काटकपणा तसेच रोगप्रतिकार क्षमता आधिक. 
  • आधुनिक, औपचारिक शिक्षण जरी कमी असले तरीदेखील लहान मुले अगदी कळत-नकळत गावकऱ्यांकडून सहज खेळता बागडता, कामात मदत करता करता अनुभवातून खूप काही सतत शिकत राहतात. दिवसभर मुले कुठे आहेत, काय करत आहेत याची चिंता पालकांना नसते कारण सारं गाव हेच एक कुटुंब असल्यासारखे गुण्यागोविंदाने राहतं. इंग्रजीमध्ये एक म्हण आहे: It takes a village to raise a child (एक मूल वाढवणं यासाठी एक गाव लागते.) ती म्हण मेळघाटमध्ये खऱ्या  अर्थाने साकार होताना दिसते. 
  • केवळ बौद्धिक विकास नव्हे तर कित्येक प्रकारे कुशलतेने हातांचा उपयोग करणे आदिवासी लोक जाणतात. बांबू व सागाच्या लाकडांपासून अनेक कलाकुसरीच्या तसेच दैनंदिन उपयोगाच्या वस्तू घरोघरी अजूनही बनवल्या जातात.
  • प्रत्येक गोष्ट बौद्धिक तर्कवितर्क किंवा चर्चा याद्वारे समजून घेण्यापेक्षा हे लोक प्रत्यक्ष अनुभवातून, कृतीतून चटकन  आत्मसात करतात. कदाचित त्याचमुळे कोरकू भाषेत फारफार तर १५०० ते १६०० असे मोजकेच शब्द आहेत. 
  • त्यामुळे आमच्या मोहिमेमध्ये आम्ही गाणी, गोष्टी, पथनाट्ये याद्वारे त्यांच्यापर्यंत पोहोचण्याचा प्रयत्न केला. 
  • एका तान्ह्या बालकाला ताप आला असता त्यास मीठ टाकलेल्या गरम-गार पाण्याचा लपेट करायचे प्रात्यक्षित जेव्हा त्याच्या आईला दिले तेव्हा तिने ते चटकन अमलात आणले. त्यांची निरागसता व विश्वासू आणि श्रद्धाळू स्वभाव यांमुळे कोरकू लोक खूप लगेच आपलेसे होतात व आलेल्या परप्रांतीयांचे हृदयही जिंकतात. 
  • अशा दुर्गम भागामध्ये जाऊन काम करणारे फार कमी असतात. तेथे शासकीय यंत्रणेचे दुर्लक्ष असते असा माझा समज होता. परंतू इथे विशेष उल्लेख करावासा वाटतो तो म्हणजे पवन बोके या राहू गावातील जिल्हा परिषद शाळेमध्ये नियुक्त झालेल्या शिक्षकचा. वय केवळ २८ परंतू गेली चार वर्षे हे शिक्षक राहूमधल्या शाळेमध्ये अक्षरश: वाहून घेऊन काम करत आहेत व त्यांच्या अथक प्रयत्नांतून या शाळेचा पट केवळ ६ विद्यार्थ्यावरून ३५ पर्यंत पोहोचला आहे. तसेच मेळघाटातील पहिली डिजिटल शाळा हा प्रकल्प ते यशस्वीपणे राबवत आहेत. शाळेच्या माध्यमातून गावकऱ्यांमध्ये देखील समाज प्रबोधन घडवून आणण्याचे कार्य पावन यांनी हाती घेतेले आहे. आणखी दोन सरकारी कर्मचाऱ्यांचा इथे उल्लेख करावासा वाटतो, ते म्हणजे डॉ. विद्या व डॉ. किरण वाथोडकर, ज्यांनी निवृत्तीपूर्वीच्या दोन वर्षांसाठी स्वतःहून मेळघाटामध्ये बदली करून घेतली. येथील चुरणी या गावातील प्राथमिक आरोग्यकेंद्राचे नेतृत्व ते समर्थपणे पाहतात. तेथे वैद्यकीय कर्मचाऱ्यांचा तुटवडा असूनदेखील या दांपात्याने होता होईल तेवढे सेवेचे अखंड काम चालू ठेवले आहे व आलेला रुग्ण उपचाराशिवायच माघारी जाता कामा नये या निश्चयाने ते काम करत आहेत. यांच्यासारखे कित्येक unsung heroes मेळघाटात विखुरलेले असणार. ही आम्हा युवा लोकांना मोठी प्रेरणेची बाब आहे. डॉ. सुनील कोल्हे व डॉ. आशिष सातव ही नावेदेखील अशावेळी आशेचे किरण म्हणून समोर येतात. 
  • इतक्या साऱ्या उपलब्धी व चांगुलपणाच्या बाबी असूनदेखील मेळघाटाचे चित्र वेगाने बदलत आहे. 
  • जागतिकीकरण, औद्योगिकरण, शहरीकरण, सुखासीनता, चंगळवाद, आधुनिक विकास याचे वारे या प्रदेशालाही लागले आहेत. येथील मुले इंग्रजी शिक्षणासाठी दूर-दूरच्या सरकारी आश्रमशाळांमध्ये जाऊ लागली आहेत. नोकरीच्या शोधात युवक गाव सोडून मोठमोठ्या शहरांकडे धाव घेत आहे. जसजशी गावांमध्ये वीज पोहोचत आहे तसतसे टीव्ही, मोबाईल व त्याद्वारे बाह्यजगातील चांगल्या-वाईट गोष्टी, जाहिराती यांचा प्रभाव हळूहळू येथील समाजावर होताना दिसतो. पारंपारिक सेंद्रिय शेतीकडून आता रासायनिक शेतीकडचा ओढा येथीही वाढला आहे. वयस्कर लोकांना ठाऊक असलेल्या पौष्टिक रानभाज्या व औषधी वनस्पती यांचे ज्ञान आता तरुण पिढीपाशी दिसणे दुरापास्त  होत चाललेले आहे.
  • ज्यावेळी दोन किंवा अधिक संस्कृती परस्परांना येऊन भेटतात त्यावेळी त्या निश्चितच एकमेकांवर प्रभाव टाकतात. परंतु त्याचे  परिणाम नेहमी चांगलेच असतील याची खात्री देता येत नाहे. 
  • दळणवळण व आधुनिक संपर्क सुविधांमुळे जग जरी जवळ येत असले तरीदेखील एकमेकांकडून चांगले घेणे, तसेच हजारो वर्षे शाश्वत राहिलेल्या संस्कृतीला, भाषेला न गमावणे यासाठी विशेषतः आपल्यासारख्या बाहेरून तेथे जाणाऱ्या लोकांना सतर्क राहण्याची गरज आहे. आपण त्यांना काही शिकवण्यासाठी, त्यांना मदत करण्यासाठी, एक उच्चभ्रू/ विकसित आहोत (Superior) या भावनेने  तिथे न जाता, किंवा केवळ पर्यटनाच्या हेतूने तिथे त्यांच्या जीवनाचा समतोल ढासळेल असे वर्तन न  करता खऱ्या अर्थाने एका कुतूहलाच्या, आदराच्या, परस्पर संवाद, जाणीव, संवेदनशीलता वृद्धिंगत होईल व चांगुलपणाची देवाणघेवाण होईल या नात्याने आदिवासी बांधवांशी एकात्मकतेने भेटलो तर खऱ्या अर्थाने असे अनुभव, आपल्या आयुष्याला परिवर्तनशील बनवू शकतात व या पृथ्वीच्या, मानवतेच्या शाश्वतीसाठी आधारभूत ठरू शकतात. तसेच अनिर्बंध विकासातून उद्भवणाऱ्या अनेक विकृती टळू शकतात.
धडक मोहिमेबद्दल अधिक माहितीसाठी “मैत्री” पुणे यांचाशी संपर्क साधावा -०२०-२५४५०८८२   (