Ahoy Tilonia!!

Date: January 10, 2009

Day 17, Tata Jagriti Yatra 2008

Place: Tilonia, Rajasthan

I am not that big a fan of the Chopra geneology. I did like Dilwale Dulhaniya Le jayenege and considered Veer Zara a decent effort. One common theme that seemed to me the reason for the affection towards these movies was the rustic earthiness that seemed to emanate from these picteresque village locales. A resident of Jharkhand you would say I must have been privy to the lives and times of a village. I have seen villagers in town, I have seen towny villages( the term I attach to villages that are no longer one owing largely to the sheer headcount) but being in a village was as alien to me as it was to an upwardly mobile city dweller. We had been introduced to village models in Berhampore as well but the rustiness one attaches to the desert lands could not be matched. I had imagined Tilonia to be the ideal sitter for movies like Ramchand Pakistani, Dor, Little Terrorist, Khamosh Paani etc. barren wherever you look. Gloom all round and thirst evident in each face.

Coming from Delhi I had been down with fever for the preceding 2 days. The weather had mellowed down after Delhi, yet I had not. Tilonia, my most awaited destination, and here I was handkerchief in one hand, vicks in the other sniffing it out. I dont really remember the time we reached T. I awoke on hearing music, traditional Rajasthani Folk Song drifted through the metallic enclosures of the train. I woke up with a start.

“Are we already there?”, I demanded an immediate answer.

“Yes, asshole and you missed the welcome ceremony as well. Where were you, not sleeping in the loo I hope”, quipped someone. I dont really remember the name somehow. 🙂

” Shit!” and I was out of the train in a jiffy.

Running out to catch my fellow yatris who had their own running and catching up to do I scrambled to absorb whatever little was left of the welcome ceremony.

I could hear echoes of Namaste reaching out to me. The sweet chorustic sound elicited a vow from one and all. We had to rush again!

There it was, the source. Children, hundreds of them decked up for us.

” How Sweet!!”, exclaimed a girl.

Imagine a chilly Rajasthani morning on a desert patch of terrain..nature defying trees withstanding the test of times and the ire of the climate. Then visualize this with hundreds of sweet kids all lined up and welcoming you with a namaste in a sing-along way. Totally Awesome!!

Of all the places I went during this Yatra Tiloniya was the best by a big margin. I was astounded by the depth of knowledge and education of that old village lady who was typing it away on an obscure Hcl Monitor the accounts for the village. I was taken aback by the travelogue of this incredibly sweet lady who had been to places I could only imagine and delivered and attended seminars with a guest list that boasted the biggies in the corporate world. She enumerated her stories of education to us, relating to us in no smaller way the humble demeanour that was evident in her manner of speaking.

We met Bunker Roy, the social activist and the one person said to be responisble for making Tilonia what it is. The one thing that separates Tilonia from the restof the model villages is the level of independance it has acheived since its early days. Bunker Roy is no more than a nominal head at T now. Most of the operations of the village and eponymous Barefoot College is now run by village folks who have learnt the trick of the trade and are now visualizing a future for the village. This is sustainability, in your face and admirable!!

The Solar Cookers etc are developments reminiscent of the Green Revolution. If only people could lead by example and villages became self-sufficient as was the case with Tilonia. Panchayati Raj or the Gandhian form of governance is a misnomer. There is no governance without education. One needs to distinguish between who is educated and who is literate. People at tilonia are educated, they may not be literate but they dont need to be. it would be a waste of time and energy for them. The need for vocational education and the need for an immediate revamp of indian education system is called for.

If only the MHRD ministry could rise above the dominions of caste politics and concentrated on real ground level development and growth of education. If only people were as motivated to work for the betterment of their community as they are for themselves. If only were there more people like Bunker Roy who could take the reins in his own hands and prepare the deprived in a way that benefits both the learner and the surroundings.

If only…

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