Heroes of Trikkaipetta

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.

Famous loops to Wayanad

*****

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.

Our host Baburaj M and his Vechoor cow

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.

Village walk with Baburaj

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.

Baburaj escorting us to our wandering feet

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 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”

Meet K.

In K’s paddy farms

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.

Following his footsteps will help kids love and live the life.

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.

Stalin, the bamboo artist

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.

Stalin busy with his art work

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!!

Series Navigation<< Being a Guest in Wayanad

3 Comments

  1. We all have different experiences, but something is common and especially if it is selfless love, it is so easy to recognize. Jaishree has written a complete article about the heroes of Trikkaipetta; still I felt that so much is left unsaid, some of my own observations and experiences.

    Baburaj and Srija: While booking the Wayanad trip, Jaishree had booked a popular homestay in Kalpetta and the owner happily gave some discount as well. I do not remember why but we were looking for another accommodation, so we could spend some more time in another area of Wayanad region, visit places around it and then move to Kalpetta. During this search I stumbled across the Bamboo Villa in Trikkaipetta. With its Chinese/Japanese design, it looked slightly out of place. The tariff including meal was quite less, and there was not much review available online (as it was and still not listed on trip-advisor). So we were apprehensive. Sometimes not so costly options make you feel uncomfortable as well. However, while talking to him, I felt re-assured to give it a try.

    As we reached Bamboo Villa we were lovingly welcomed by Baburaj and Srija. It was already lunch time. After taking a quick wash/bath when we reached the dining table, a big surprise was waiting. There was so much on the table lovingly cooked by Srija that it gave us a feeling as if we are visiting a close relative. It was delicious and there were so many varieties that we have to request Srija (Baburaj’s wife) not to prepare so many dishes and burden herself. It just set a precedent for that wonderful experience.

    Baburaj is a gem of person; his whole focus is on the overall development of his village; how to create more job options; how to provide more opportunities for all; how to empower women; break the caste system. I must admit and also as Jaishree wrote, as soon as he was back from his strenuous work-day I used to jump over the opportunity to talk to him and I was so eager and quick that Jaishree had to remind me, “Manish, he is just back from his work. Not even, properly entered in the house and you are already rushing over to talk to him.” And Baburaj used to calmly assure me that there is nothing wrong in it. He does not need any personal time and he is all ready to talk his guest and quench their thirst to know more.

    I remember one evening, I went to him with a strange request that there was a big spider on the ceiling of the house. He asked me, “What do you want me to do? Do you want me to kill it? Sorry, I would not do so. Even in this denial my respect for him grew bound and leaps. Why should you kill a living being when it is not causing any discomfort to me? Finally he just shooed it away and it hid.

    During my visit it was a normal sight to see him getting-up early and cleaning the whole area around his house and neighbourhood, and yes it was well before the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. The country definitely need foot soldiers like him who not only preach but believes in keeping the country clean. Once again Baburajji, I salute you for your relentless hard working attitude.

    He took time from his busy schedule to take us on trip to some green area around his house and discuss with us his idea of ecological growth, why he loves to be part of the bamboo initiative, how one of his friend did something unimaginable to draw the attention of authorities to the plight and negligent attitude towards Idduki cave art. He irked the authorities, but able to get their attention too. Why he loves to be part of the Chakka festival – the jack-fruit festival. He has one of the most forward looking person I met in rural India, working hard for himself and for all in his village too.

    In the end, when we were taking leave from him. I was speechless for the unforgettable stay we had with him. And then when I offered money for the help in his house (a kind lady with every smiling face), he said, “Please offer it to her directly, she would be more pleased”. And it was indeed true. It gave me too a pleasant feeling to say thanks to her.

    You are simply Awesome Baburaj.

    K – the birding expert. I still remember the first time we met you, you were coming from the paddy field, your long hairs swaying on both sides. Thanks for inviting us to your home, sharing with us the photographic treasure you had. It was amazing. I had never met such a celebrity with such a humble demeanor. And yes, the woman of the two personalities are amazing too. Srija compliments Baburaj and same is true for his wife too who is a school teacher (sorry I forgot the name). She too is increasing her foray in photography, though she is more interested in life around her. She got a district level award too for her one of the photograph. Said so, K is amazing, he has a peaceful face that I guess birding build in you and his photographs are mind blowing. We are privileged to have met you.

    Stalin – The soft-spoken ever-smiling artist with keenly observing eyes and a creative mind.

    Thanks Jaishree for refreshing the old memories and the Heroes of Trikkaipetta, you deserve the applaud. Thanks for making our stay so memorable.

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *