The high point of the visit of the Valley School children to BR Hills was, to me, their meeting and interacting with the Soliga children at
The sign, in Kannada, greeted us as we entered:
The architecture was gracious:
One rock had a lovely brick house on it, in front of which the children posed:
But other rocks were used as solar driers!
We went first to the honey processing unit; honey collection is one of the prime activities of the Soligas:
Another activity is the commercially sound collection of the "amla" fruit, and making of pickles and "morabba" with them. At the entrance, a rangoli drawn in chalk greeted us:
Here are the children, sitting and looking at the jars of pickles and morbabba:
We then went to the Handmade Paper unit, which was actually being used for Lantana furniture. Lantana, introduced as an ornamental, has rapidly become a huge pest in the forests, overrunning all other forest-floor vegetation, so it's good to see it being used commercially:
One of the lantana chairs greeted us here:
We watched some of the tribals shaping the furniture:
We went and sat on a cairn, a circle of stones that surrounded a pre-historic burial site, recreated with actual stones...it was amazing to sit on something that had been used 5000 years ago, by our forebears!
We proceeded to the venue for meeting the children; here's the sign over the porch:
"Vivekananda Hill People Primary and High School", it says.
...and the foundation stone:
The hall was on the first floor:
The children sat down, facing each other:
Initial questions to each other were inhibited, and halting; but soon, everyone warmed up! They asked each other about their methods of play, their food, and their daily activities. The Valley School children looked very thoughtful when the Soliga children said that every afternoon, after school, they went into the forest to get firewood!
The VGKK children sang a lovely tribal song for the urban children:
And the Valley School children reciprocated:
Then they all joined in singing the Indian National Anthem (though apparently Jiddu Krishnamurthi, the founder of Valley School, did not believe in borders and therefore in national anthems):
(that's the first time I've taken a longish video, I wanted the whole anthem!)
Borders or not...I was truly moved as the childish voices sang in unison. I can't see this video without moisture forming in my eyes....
It was a real pleasure to see the bright and curious children...I particularly liked the white ribbon butterflies that brightened up the girls' hair:
At the far end was a plaque with a picture of Dr.Sudarshan, who, in 1987, came here and started to work among the Soligas:
I think both sets of children (and certainly us adults) learnt something from the visit.
Here are a couple of thoughtful Soliga girls; they seem to be musing, “Are these children from Bangalore so different from us?”
Thank you to ATREE and VGKK for organizing this interaction!