by Vanessa Pinto
WALVANDA-MAHARASHTRA, SEPTEMBER 1, 2014: SYM (Salesian Youth Movement)- Don Bosco Youth Services organized a rural life exposure camp cum outreach trip to Walvanda, Jawahar Tehsil, Thane district from August 29-31, 2014. The aim of the camp was to experience the life of the Warli tribes living in Walvanda. The expectations among the youth were to acquire knowledge by interacting with the tribe and to have an adventurous trip.
They had a long fun yet tiresome journey both by bus and train. On reaching Bosco Samajik Vikas Sanstha (BSVS) they were warmly welcomed by Fr. Anaclete D'mello, Director of the Technical Institute. The welcoming gesture of applying tika on everyone's forehead and the traditional Maratha cap made the youth feel closer to home. The BSVS was originally a resort, which was converted into a technical institute, where both the tribals and students from cities come to study because they provide more practical work than other institutes.
After breakfast Mr. Melwin took the first session where he explained, the vision and mission in spreading education and development for the people living in these tribal regions. They were then divided into three groups and were given an activity to interact with the villagers, where they learnt about the way they lived, their economic system, their culture and rituals. The tribals influenced by Hinduism, were celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi. Their houses were made of bamboo, cow dung, manglore tiles and rope made from trees. "This indicates their simple life that we urban youngsters are not used to because of the luxury we experience in cities," commented one of the youth. The Warlis have many types of tribes such as Kokni, Warli, Katkari, Marathas, etc. They earn their living by cultivating pulses, rice and other vegetables.
The Warlis follow many rituals such as; a puja is performed when the child is five days old and only then is put into the cradle. Twenty years back, when couples got married, ladies from the neighborhood used to sing traditional songs and bless the couple. Nowadays, they get married calling a local pundit to perform the wedding ceremony. The parents are now in agreement of love marriages as they fear their kids would commit suicide or conduct the marriage ceremony without their knowledge. The Warlis believe in nature and its forces. They have local deities such as 'Narandev' God of rains, 'Hirva' God of nature, 'Vaghadev' Tiger-God and 'Kaansaari' the Corn Goddess. The Warlis even perform pujas for abundant rainfall. The tribals voiced their difficulties of being exploited by builders and officials who wished to capture their land. They are completely depended on the forest. They willingly answered all questions put forth by the youth and were very kind.
In the evening, the youth were taught warli painting by Shri Sitaram. The warlis believed that, people who drew warli paintings were not less than Gods. The campers enjoyed learning and competing against each other in drawing the best. Thereafter, they had to perform a skit and song on the topic "Rural Values for Urban Youth". There are two types of tribal dance – gauri nach and dhol nach. At night, they went to watch the tribal dance Tarpa, but could not watch the dance because it was not the proper season and time to perform the dance. The next day they had a session conducted by Fr. Glenford on "River me" where they sat on the bridge over the river, and discovered their original selves deep within and tried to understand their relationship with nature, family, etc.
The campers went on a long walk through the interiors of the jungle, and realized that they were very fortunate to have better modes of transport in the city, and that taking long walks every day in the village was difficult and tiring. In the afternoon, they were invited by the villagers for lunch. The tribals were welcoming unlike in cities, where people usually wait for their guests to leave. The tribals welcomed the youth as if they were their family members and provided them with whatever they had. Their simple yet delicious meal left them spell bound.
The last day was really exciting as they had the joy of spending time with over hundred kids from the village. The games, songs, dances and the little refreshments they served them were highly appreciated. The youth took the time also to challenge them to study well and to have big dreams worth living for. In the evaluation that followed, the youth agreed that the overall camp was well organized, the content, moments of interaction were very fruitful and the many spiritual celebrations added to a holistic experience. The youth thanked to Fr. Anaclete, Fr. Cleophas, Fr. Glenn and Ms. Marina D'costa for the well planned programme and the many benefactors who sponsored this trip for them. Many have pledged their support and willingness to return back to volunteer and assist in this beautiful Salesian project for the tribals.