There were three interesting K’s that I came across over the last week or so. A word used synonymously for poverty in these parts is KBK: this stands for the Kalahandi-Bolangir-Koraput districts of Odisha. One of the ‘poorest’ areas in our country. In the news for starvation & Malaria deaths. Or being exploited by mining companies & factories for natural resources. Also the tribal belt. These districts are now split up into smaller administrative chunks, and Rayagada is where we are. The new acronym is LWED, but that’s another story altogether.
Getting back to the three Ks – we had a visitor from Kalahandi district this week. Sister V has been living and working in one panchayat for the last so many years. No electricity has reached the 38 villages. Each village is supposed to have a primary school with two teachers. If they are lucky, one teacher puts in an occasional appearance. The others are in their homes miles away on the coast of Odisha. There is one govt. residential school for boys, and they hope to get a girls hostel started as well. No mobile signal, no telephones. “We are completely undisturbed – it’s quiet, cool and beautiful” she says. A world sans mobiles, sans internet, sans current, sans running water, sans everything!? Mere oblivion is what the bard called it, and he was talking about humans at the fag end of their lives. Ironically, it’s our culture which is certainly not wanting in any of the above departments, that is probably heading towards oblivion. One man in his turn plays many parts. One woman in this case. Sister V’s mission is to be with the community in the hills. She has played the roles various of daughter, sister, friend, companion, teacher, cook, cleaner, healer and many more. Their part of Kalahandi is only about 250km from here but over the last few years, the trucks and lorries of Vedanta ground the roads into nothingness, and it took them 12hrs to reach us. She had eaten nothing all day, so we headed home to get her some dinner.
Meanwhile, miles away from here, two other K’s were making waves in the news – Kodnani and Kasab. Perpetrators of the Gujarat Genocide and the Mumbai Massacre. Both representatives of a certain kind of life belief and philosophy. Both driven by the divisive forces of fear and hate. Both involved in the shameless murder of innocent men, women and children. Both tried by the wheels of justice in the world’s largest democracy and found guilty. They have played their parts on our corner of the stage.
And what of us, supporting actors and actresses? The bard also says that in the course of justice, none of us would see salvation. How will you and me fare on the scales of justice? It’s a sobering thought. That my relatively peaceful life is only the still surface of waters that run deep. Of a culture that is destroying the world and our fellow living beings faster than ever before. Of people dying of hunger, while others waste and discard. Where we no longer know where or how or who grows our food. Or which trees were cut to make the books we read or the miners who struggled to provide the metals in computers or mobiles. Or the person losing their eye sight slaving over designer clothes and shoes. Or whose land we grab and destroy to run and support our energy guzzling lifestyles.
So let justice roll on like a river. Let us be twice blessed with mercy. May the lives and families torn apart by Kodnani’s and Kasab’s find peace and strength as well. May we chose our roles well, and find our rightful places between our entrances & exits.