18 Sept 2012, Jawadhi Hills: Clowning for Jawadhi Tribes

We had to get up at 5am on Tuesday morning to take a bus to Jawadhi Hills. We stopped briefly on the road. Toot and I got out and what I find so refreshing about her is that she starts stretching. So I just join in. A beautiful morning facing amazing foothills to the mountains. We see the locals coming out of their houses. The bus then went to the next village and we stopped and had coffee. It was a lovely small village, very neat and tidy. I stopped and chatted to Mike and he was reading the paper. I reflected on the news around the World and how all people believe what they read. I was interested in the issue of monsoons and intuitively felt it was late and there was concern there within myself. I saw the usual politics and conflicts around the country. India is not one people it is many countries, languages and cultures under the banner of India. In some places Hindu’s, Muslims and other tribes live together in others there is tension. The challenge is to live in peace. My inner sense is that when people are left to their own devices they do live in peace.

The clowns were rounded up to get back on the bus after a break. We travelled a little way and met with the tractor and trailor. Some could go in the tractor up to the village others opted for the 5km walk. It was a nice day, not too hot. We walked along this track noticing a little of the wildlife, the different bird songs, the centipedes, butterflies and eagles overhead. I wondered about snakes and wildlife in this part of the world. Apparently there are leopards but they are hardly seen. I am sure with human habitation wild life retracts into what nature is left. We all had chats on our way to the village. We noticed a small dam and I was told this was the reason for the water drying up. I wondered about the water supply for tribal people.

I found myself separated from the group (in front and behind) and imagined being in nature alone. I tried to take it all in and feel the peace and energy of this incredible country. The area is mountainous with tree cover and huge rocks everywhere. I noticed crystal in the ground and knew it had high energy. As I walked I saw some thatched houses up ahead in a village, people smiled as we walked through. Our guide Gerry talked to them in Tamil and would be known to the people as she works with the tribal people. The villages appear clean to me and their houses are primitive but sustainable and organised. I saw chickens, pigs and goats. The people work hard in the fields all day and at night are freer. We walked on passed another few thatched houses trees and mountains all around. I just marvel at the huge boulders in the mountains and the energy of this place. I understand the tribal people are disadvantaged and poor but I feel this place as rich. I really feel for people in cities, they don’t have the fresh air and are caught up in the hustle bustle and focus on money and survival. I see city life as hard. I haven’t experienced country life, I am sure it is hard physical work but wonder if people are happy. I am told the tribal people are kinder and that gives me a clue to their simplicity and happiness.

In this area there are dirt tracks coming in and there has been illegal logging and in other places of India. Such is the economic monetary imperative for income. Nature is under pressure and ignorance will just be the juggernaut for exploitation. There are also issues of bonded labour of tribal children. Again, exploitation grows when there is ignorance of local people so it is important they get an education to empower themselves with decision making and understanding the dominant society they live within.

We arrive at where we are staying. A square brick building with a tile floor. I am told this is the eco resource centre. There are a display trees with information on them inside the building so you can learn about the environment, animals and life. It is a nice building. Next to it up the hill is the toilets which I notice are clean. They are squat toilets. These are hard for an older member of the group who has an arm injury. Western people are not used to the natural squatting position. This is a natural way of going to the toilet as natural forces are not resisted. In western culture our way of sitting is not as in tune with the body. There are buckets to wash ourselves and water is available. I feel the water here would be okay as it is rainwater, however it is wise to be careful when in India.

All the women of the group shared one building and had thin cane matts to sleep on the floor. The men were parallel to the toilets in a small room and also sleeping on the floor. The tribal women were paid to cook food for us. We realised they were up at 4am getting wood and cooking. With the fire place they used coals and did not waste wood by keeping the fire burning with flames as we would in the West. They conserved wood.

I noticed some huge trees, one in particular in front of our place. It was a beautiful old tree. There was also a tree house built. We all had a go at climbing up the ladder and sat up there reflecting and chatting. Poor old Tim got bitten by ants when he fell asleep up there. I know that must have hurt as I also stepped on an ant and it sent some poison into my toe. Thankfully the pain was quick to lessen.

Toot had in Vellore bought some nets for badminton, rackets, shuttle cocks and volley balls. She also bought some colouring books. I marvelled at her thoughtfulness. As she commented to me later, it brought out the best in her. I was impressed by her kindness. They did have some nets there but other villages didn’t so I am sure the stuff she brought when to good use. I brought some skipping ropes and she gave them to villagers.

We all just rested in the afternoon. Myself and Santosh sat listening to some wisdom on my ipod. I enjoyed just leaning up against the tree listening in such a beautiful place. Others went for walks, some juggled, others slept, we all just did our own thing. I love this group very much and there is so much to learn from each person. I love the little interactions we have and how they really get out there clowning. They have more energy then me and I am sure they are all learning a great deal. I enjoy diversity and feel at peace with people. I am usually a bit of a loner but I am finding myself enjoying the company and getting to know people better. So much wisdom when you listen.

The idea for us there was to initially door knock after 5.30pm as people are in the fields. I wondered at clowns visiting houses and how to clown for them in this way. Apparently it is hard to get them together. My friend Toot was quick to mingle with the locals and she played with the children. They just love her and she has a way with children. She has worked with them for years but just wants to eat them, they are so gorgeous. She decided to do my make up, first time I had changed my look. The kids were involved and she put on red cheeks for them and little noses with glitter. It was a slow process but I was aware this was clowning, so just observe and enjoy the sweet faces all around us, so curious and innocent. Toot decided to go to houses so I just went with it and tagged along behind. Tiredness for me has been a reality on this trip and I do what I can when I have energy and rest when I don’t. I find I can’t clown every day, usually half a week is what I can manage and I get a sore throat the minute my immune system drops so I watch it, I don’t want to pick up diseases nor do I wish to pass anything to others, so balance has been important. Tim is great he says he doesn’t want it to be a trip where people feel forced, he wants people to rest when they need it. So for me that is good. I am keen to clown but only when I can give my energy. So back to Toot I did go with her clowning, admittedly my energy was low but I did get some kids smiling and played a few fun games. It was getting dark so we went back for dinner.

I noticed the fireflies in the trees, so exciting, you see little flashes of what looks like electricity, the fireflies just flying around flashing. It is always magic to watch. The last time I saw this I was in Belize staying in the bush. I jumped up and down then.

When we all turned in to sleep it took me a while to sleep. Sleeping on a hard floor requires some adjustment. I lost my pillow so Toot gave me some of her clothes. I felt quite hot as well. I am taking sleeping tablets on this trip to ensure I sleep as energy is an issue. I didn’t sleep much and one of our participants coughed a lot. I am a light sleeper so I didn’t get much sleep. The next day was to be full on, I didn’t worry just work with life as it comes.


Mohandas Gandhi

“Only as high as I reach can I grow, only as far as I seek can I go, only as deep as I look can I see, only as much as I dream can I be.”


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