An out-of-the-classroom experience brought to light people who are more in tune with Nature. Anitha Iris and Cherubine Deepika David
Is theory created from real life situations or is it applied to such situations? It could be both. However, it cannot be denied that literary and cultural theories represent the life of people in history.
One such contemporarily debated discipline is ecocriticism. It connects the self to one’s environment and entrusts the individual with the responsibility of converting theories to life-principles. One needs to step out of classrooms to make, learn or apply them.
When 19 students of the ecoliterature course (an optional paper in II B.A. English course) and five staff members including the Principal of Women’s Christian College, Chennai, visited the tribal belt of Attappady (Palakkad district, Kerala) on July 31 and August 1, to do fieldwork on Mudugar (a Dravidian tribal community) knowledge systems, we were stepping out of theoretical knowledge to appreciate and to learn using the methodology of Green Education.
The birds and animals, rocks and rivers that we saw in Silent Valley and the knowledge of their features and physical spaces revealed the context of the variety of life-forms appearing in the oral literature of Mudugar. The true democratic attitude in the way they share their resources among themselves like food, for example, harvested cereals and hunted animal and living spaces are communitarian in nature which was a lesson learned by individuals like us.
The jackfruit from the forest that they gave us as a sign of welcoming, was not just tasting the forest produce alone but also a slice of their life itself. The reverence that Mudugar have towards bears, snakes and elephants, which are their totems, taught us the basic principle of ‘deep ecology’ that gives ‘intrinsic value’ to all life forms.
Mudugar are ‘down-to-earth’ people not merely in the sense that they are ‘humble’ but as a law in their lifestyle, maintain an extraordinary relationship with the living entity, the ever-providing earth.
When we bid farewell to our tribal friends in Thundoor, the hamlet of Mudugar, we were quite certain that we will return to the place for more research. Crystal Maritta Sam, when asked to narrate her experience said the trip was “so green that I was completely absorbed into it.” Vanitha mentioned that it was “an evergreen experience that let us know a new world that humans are so much in harmony with nature.”
We are deeply indebted to Dr. Lilian Jasper, our ecoliterature teacher, who organised the ecotrip and Mudugar-Kurumbar Research Centre’s Director, Rayson K. Alex who was kind enough to host us in Attappady. The Centre is an affiliate of Organisation for Studies in Literature and Environment-India (OSLE-India), Chennai, working towards creating cultural repositories of digital documents on indigenous communities in Kerala.
The authors are II BA English Literature studenst at Women’s Christian College, Chennai.
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