I can call it a miracle or a divine design that a dream of connecting with a tribal family got fulfilled when I got to know we’re visiting such a family; deep in the forest of north Gujarat. Our host for the next two days was scheduled with a Muslim family inside the Balaram-Ambaji Wildlife Sanctuary. I was thrilled but the way, I was told, was like climbing Mt. Everest. I crossed my fingers; both of hands and legs!
With help of Google Maps, lots of walking in the wild, and a little bit of asking local humans, we reached at the base point. This was small hamlet from where we were supposed to start. Our host was to meet us at this spot. We were greeted warmly but the rural family. They offered us water and food. The head of the family had already been directed by our host.
I fondly, interacted with the children while Yogesh Mathuria and Vijai Yadav were busy talking other things and taking directions to the destination. The children couldn’t speak my language and I couldn’t speak theirs but see the magic; we were good friends in no time.
Heart-to-heart communication showed us a way.
Once again, I was prompted by love that it has no border; none of those we humans create. I had an iPad Mini on me and aha! Before I go ahead, I need to thank my previous employer who gifted me this gadget for working for a decade with them. So…I went ahead to teach them photography. I just showed them the basic tool—view and click button. To my surprise, actually not, some of them clicked beautiful pictures – of their home and school. One such special child was Bibili. She was too much. She’s the girl is extreme screen left and seemed like the leader of the mischievous gang!
After sharing our good-byes, we started our journey to the top of the mountain. Luckily, we had a small boy to accompany us. He took us though the forest, river, Greenland, bushes etc. We were quite slow and cautious and this boy was like a rocket. Although, I have a good experience of trekking but this time I was thrown out of my ego by this little tribal boy. Time and again, this trip never missed any opportunity to show me my real face.
Finally, after a rough and tough walk, we reached our destination village—Khatisitra.
This village—in a small district—was like a dream come true. We’re welcomed in a beautiful tribal style by the family of our host Mustukhan Sukh. It’s a small hamlet deep inside the forest; not even on the map of India. It has been completely forgotten by the government and people. There is nothing that a rural village of our country has. It shares border with the western state of Rajasthan and is very close to the popular hill station—Mount Abu. The location on the border is its biggest problem as well as advantage. But, the people are colorful and lovely!
Within no time, they made us so comfortable. Our host has done his graduation in rural studies and post-graduation in social service. He always wanted to serve the rural community and in the young age of around 25, when most of the youth are busy thinking to either go abroad or earn lots of money and fame, he left his home to work for the rural population of his state. He came to this area and adopted this village and started his journey to serve these tribal.
In the start, he was not welcomed because people thought that he is one of those people that comes there to do nothing or destroy their peace. They condemned his stay. But, he was very clear. He wanted to open a school there and work for medical assistance. Even the forest department threatened him several times because of his home school he started in inside the forest.
There were many instances of quarrels but one day there was a medical urgency where he was of big help to the villagers and this marked his victory in their hearts. He put his life in trouble to support a delivery case and saved both the mother and child. This made him a hero overnight plus almost two years of hard work.
Now, he is the official village mentor and has been given a land by the tribal head to run his home and a school. There was no education in the area and now, 60 students attend school to learn primary education.
He, along his wife Mumtaz, serves the tribal village and has written their life to the service of this village. The forest department is now supporting him and encouraging more such work in the area. Not only this, he has also started Eco-tourism in his tribal village to make community self-reliable and lift them economically and socially.
What a wonderful contrast! In a world where our country is seeing terrible hatred between two communities, especially Hindu and Muslim, we see a Muslim man serving 100 Hindu families. In a world where there is growing hatred for a specific community and they are being targeted as terrorists, there is this man who has given all his luxuries of life and sitting deep in the forest and doing the work that Government and all of us should have done.
One community cannot be terrorist, maybe a few from them but definitely not all. We need to change our mindset and understand the real meaning of terrorism and people associated with it. Muslims—the real ones—round the globe are doing awesome work and Mustukhan is the best example I have come across.
There is no electricity, so in the night, we did camp-fire. We talked about our experiences of life. Yogesh Mathuria has been all around the world and was talking of the outside world. The tribal village head has been all around the forest and was talking about the inside world. Spoken language was a problem but Mustukhan did a good job of translation. We asked them about our country, the Prime Minster etc but the only world they know – is their tribal village.
We talked about their dreams, needs, wants and to my surprise; their wants are just so simple and basic. They have mini-menu of life. They love and seek love and love only. They’re often afraid of being wiped off by the greedy corporate and politicians. Youth, both girls and boys, asked us various questions about our mission and the outside world. I found them to be very sensitive and compassionate. After the camp fire, we had delicious food prepared by the ladies of the house. There was some dance and songs to accompany the dinner.
Next morning, we were scheduled to leave a little late i.e. after sunrise. The tribe gathered to wish us luck for the journey and I had already made up my mind to offer them support. We asked them about their immediate requirement. The tribal village head immediately replied.