Beginning with the honeymoon trip, continuing with popular destinations such as Nainital, Khajuraho, Munnar and likes, travel acquired another meaning of “going to live and experience life differently” in addition to its earlier meaning of “going to see something”. This change has been a major deciding factor to finalize travel plans since long. Of course I do not have a complete freedom, as kids have their own likes and dislikes, suitable to their age.
With all these limits and the unlimited flight of dreams, I zeroed on Kerala once again. Yes, once again, after our first trip in 2008. Back then, we covered some popular destinations like Munnar, Thekkady and a lesser known place ( at that time) Kollam. This time it was again a balance between known- Kochi and lesser known- Wayanad.
Wayanad itself is not much explored and the place which we decided to stay in Wayanad – the village of Trikkaipetta, was even less explored. Even we did not know what to expect there, except that there was a bamboo craft centre.
Climbing the famous loops of Wayanad, we finally reach a small hamlet called The Bamboo Village. We are being hosted at a house chiefly made of Bamboo. The house owner is waiting outside his three storeyed Bamboo house. He welcomes us and escorts us inside his home. Our eyes wander and wonder, at the clever craft of building a house with bamboo. He takes my younger one, who is just five, to show the ducks, fish and the kingfisher and soon we hear both giggle and gossiping.
Meet Baburaj M., our host, the founder member of a non government, non-profit organization called URAVU and now its president.
URAVU, which means source of water, life and creativity, started out as a small shop selling different kinds of spices. Years ago, to help locals and creating awareness about organic farming, Baburaj along with his friends and other community members, started URAVU. During the course of this long journey, they spread the benefits of organic farming, they established a bamboo craft centre where local people work to create art-effects and utility items from bamboo. The reasons behind choosing Bamboo were its easy availability, easy cultivable nature with minimal water and it being environment friendly. Today, Uravu provides technical training and employment to local women. Uravu also conducts design development and product diversification programs for artisans and runs a Common Facilities Center for bamboo processing.
Later on, to boost earnings, they started the Bamboo Village programme, where tourists are hosted at the participating family’s own home and the family itself provides the home cooked, organic food to the guests. Now, the village is busy hosting curious travellers and crafting various bamboo products in their spare time.
He escorts us on our aimless wandering when he is free, turning the walks into a guided tour. He effortlessly speaks about the bamboo varieties, then traditional farming, native cow breeds, native rice varieties, cultural ethics and traditions, all in a step of his stride and in a gentle tone of his voice.
A perfect host, a loving father to his daughters, loving husband, and a passionate, hard-working organic farmer, a teacher, president of URAVU….an all rounder in the game of life.
“Why do you not do birding trips, or write articles or publish photos?”, Manish asked politely.
“I am not interested in any kind of publicity. I am happy doing what I am doing being a farmer and a wild life explorer and photographer. But yes,I do sometimes send my photos to a journal “Sanctuary Asia”
On one of the days in Wayanad, we take small lanes and pagdandi, walk along a few farms to reach K’s farm, where we are to meet him (with a prior appointment). It is a paddy farm and he is bent down with some of his tasks. We call him from a far and he stands up and wave to us. He is a lanky man with long hairs and he walks towards us with his dhoti folded half to his knees. His gait is graceful. As he approaches us, his serene smile reflects the serenity of the surroundings, his clear eyes the clear sky and his unassuming personality reflects universe where so much happens and exists and yet he has no ego.
He guides us through his paddy farm, replying all questions about paddy farming and asking a few about us. We stop by a grove of palm trees, where he shows us the Baya weaver’s nest. Then a few more birds like heron, egret and some more.
After an hour of birding and learning about paddy farming, establishing him to be a keen birder and paddy farmer, we reach his home. His wife has just returned from school. She brings us tea and snacks. Our curiosity brings the explorer and photographer in K out. He brings his files of photographs that he shot only and only in and around Trikkapipetta. It is a huge body of work comprising of many species of frogs, snakes, moths, butterflies, birds and their chicks. Not one photograph is a portrait. Frogs are laying eggs and copulating, snakes with eggs, snakes eating frogs, birds feeding their chicks, birds copulating, butterflies emerging from pupa, birds with the kill, dragon flies and many more. Many of his photographs are published in a leading wildlife journal of Asia. His passion speaks in the soft and gentle rustling of his file photos. His knowledge dumbfounds us in his unassuming tone of talking.
Over the cup of tea, he talks about the change in camera gear over the years. He goes inside. When he comes out, Tanmay shouts – ” You have a gun!”.
His tinkling voice corrects him- “No. It is my oldest camera, where you really shoot a photo like shooting a gun.”
A loving farmer, a keen wild life explorer, a naturalist, an ace photographer and an utmost humble, gentle, intelligent human being. The real Hero of life..
“Oh! I am sorry but you can not shoot these art sculptures. These will be put in an exhibition to be held in Bangalore.”
I look at the out of box representation of the five elements- earth, water, air, fire and sky. These are big sculptures and made entirely of bamboo. The idea is unique, the craftsmanship is excellent, and the expression of these sculptures is pulsating, invigorating and draws the viewer in.
Meet Stalin, The man behind this unique creativity.
He is a simple young man, no a boy. Even his stub do not lend him an artsy look. A simple shirt and trouser, curly hairs, medium height and weight, slippers. He looks nothing more than our boy next door. He takes us around the URAVU shop and tells us the various techniques used to impart impressions on bamboo and to mould bamboo to suit various designs and utility products.
I have no photographs to show his art expressions and ideas in bamboo. But he sure left his impressions on our heart forever. We bumped into him many a times during our wanderings; sipping coffee with locales, gossiping with his friends, immersed in his role as a sculptor, and always smiling……the art designer of life.
All in a small hamlet of Trikkaipetta!!