Fishing for Childhood with Divya and Shivu
by Madappa PS
The carefree laughter of Divya, wafts between the brown silver oak trees, as the wind carries it across the leafy areca plantations, sending a cool embrace from the lakes nearby. Shivu, like the cacophony of crickets lets out “Ammmmmaaaaaa” as his little bare feet leave a crunchy note of dried coffee leaves as he runs towards the rustle of the coffee plants to hide from his younger sister. She holds a bug that she wants to put in his shirt. Divya, continuously laughing, the trail of her father’s voice fades out into the orchestra of a coffee plantation at work.
Divya and Shivu, belong to the indigenous tribe called the Yeravas from Kodagu, a district known for plantations and landscapes and a culture worthy of tourism. The Yeravas constitute the major workforce in the plantations and are crucial for the local economy and the landscape.
Ever since the lockdown Shivu and Divya have been at home like most of us. However, for them access to e-forms of learning is an unheard thing because of multiple reasons. One, they go to the Government run primary school which has been grappling to reach out to students as they come from varied socio cultural backgrounds. Two, they cannot afford smartphones and the other likes such as tablets and laptops due to economic reasons and the fact that they do not have anyone in their close social structures who is technologically literate. Poor planning from the school management also adds to this. But for Shivu and Divya it means they are on an indefinite summer vacation.
They spend all their time following their parents, who work in the plantations. The kids have a complete system of entertainment and games in place that keeps them occupied. At any given time, they are surrounded by four dogs that closely follow the kids and the family around.
When the entire family goes fishing at a community pond, the kids follow suit, closely watching their families and pick up skills that they will master over the next few years. Fishing is a community activity as it builds relationships, strengthens levels of trust, is an activity of leisure and most importantly, it serves in procuring food that will be cooked by the entire family.
The kids “practice” catching fish, in the nearby paddy fields, catch crabs and contribute to the household. While at it, they make sure to have fun.
Shivu and Divya can identify numerous flora and fauna; identify them by their local names, their properties and its usage. They can also name birds, and hunt them down with little catapults bought from nearby stores.
They understand animal behavior in more nuanced ways than I possibly can imagine and are rarely threatened by snakes and other creatures. These kids also help out in household chores ranging from chopping wood to cleaning the house and contributing to the cooking process. They also swim!
There has been little to no protection from the government except for the free ration and a few pension schemes that assist the community. Some benefits from the midday meal schemes, nutrition support and primary health care are some of the other opportunities that are provided by the government. Lack of access to higher education, alcoholism, debt are some of the issues that have been affecting their community.
Shivu and Divya can continue catching crabs, shooting birds, and playing games, carefree and happy, before adulting hits them like the unsuspecting mud ball from their catapult aimed at a crane. They are nine and seven respectively. They still have time left to savor their childhood.
Madappa is a part time dreamer, part time photographer and a full time food conninsuer with a terrible sense of spelling.