Awadhani handed over his book ‘Prakash vata’ to me. He wrote about Dr Prakash
Amte, the younger son of Baba Amte and his work in the tribal land of
Hemalkasa. The story inspired a film.
am not writing about the film. I am writing about what I saw and what impact it
had on transformation of people.
reached Hemalkasa by 3 pm. Hemalkasa is a small place compared to Anandwan and
Somnath projects. But it is different. It is different because the people are
different. Their concerns are different. The challenges are similar only in
magnitude and scale but not in their nature.
you reach Hemalkasa, you see a well-planned but a tiny colony. It suddenly
comes in front of you after you have travelled in jungle for several miles. You
are surprised by this urbanish scenario in the midst of a dense jungle. The
colony was recently painted so it stood beautiful in the hot sun of June with
temperatures touching forty plus. A small group was waiting to meet and
photograph themselves with Dr Prakash and Dr Manda Amte. The movie had raised
them to celebrity status. The doctor duo obliged and met the groups.
Prakash and Dr Ms Manda Amte called us [I was travelling with my friend, Anirudha]
to their residence for a chat. It was hot and humid afternoon. The Amtes speak very
softly so listening to them is a challenge when a ceiling fan is whirring above
one’s head. They were speaking about the challenges before them. The Madia Gond
tribe was hostile initially to the Amtes, but later accepted them. Poverty and
malnourishment of Madia Gond is to be seen to be believed. The Amtes offered
health care and then education. Today more than 650 students study in the
Madia have exceptional ability to bear pain, they said. While our discussion
continued, an assistant brought a tab. It showed the fracture suffered by an
old Madia woman. Dr Prakash spoke to her in Madia language. We could not follow
a word! Not even a word, although we understood the context. The doctor held
her wrist and then fingers. Then with some force he stretched them. The lady
cried in pain. Plaster of Paris was applied quickly. Some brief conversation in
Madia followed. The woman got up and smiled as if nothing had happened.
climb trees and sometimes fall down fracturing their limbs” the doc said. I was
still reeling under the shock of seeing the doctor duo speak Madia language so
fluently. “Their daughter in law has compiled a dictionary of Madia language
words,” my guide told me.
is the taboo subject of Naxalites. Nobody shows undue curiosity. Everybody
quickly agrees that the real solution is dialogue and education – it is not
violence. This is one area where anyone who takes initiative can earn suspicion
and displeasure of either or both the groups. It is better to maintain neutral
and education are connectors. Amtes have set up a 50 bed well equipped
hospital. From maternity to complex surgery is possible there.
Prakash took us to his zoo. He called out ‘Rani, baher ye!’ [Rani, come out].
Out came Rani, a crocodile, and gave us a good look. “Offer them love, and they
will not harm you, they will love you” the doc said. Offering love to a
crocodile sounded very strange, but we were seeing evidence that his advice
worked. We then went to meet the leopard. It seemed to obey instructions of Dr
Prakash. Then the doc entered the cage of a hyena. The hyena put its head down
and placed it on the doc’s feet! It seemed as if the hyena was paying obeisance.
The doc opened hyena’s mouth and placed his hand inside. The hyena allowed this
intimacy; it did not bite! I have seen hyenas hunting on National Geographic,
it is fearsome scavenger which takes away the killed prey even from tigers. Oh
yes, we have to offer them love and they reciprocate!
came the turn of the Banded Krait which he held by its tail as if he was
holding a plastic line. The deadly poisonous snake [a bite will kill the victim
instantly] did not resist. It did not move. I moved back in sheer fear.
Remember what he said? Oh yes, we have to offer them love and they reciprocate!
hyenas, leopards, crocs and deadly snakes seemed to respond to love! How about
those men in the jungle? Some of them Madias were responding to the development
efforts so positively. And what about the taboo category called Naxalites? They
at least were not causing any harm.
were then taken to the confluence of three rivers – triveni sangam as it is
called. Indravati, Nibra (Pamul Gautami), Kotri (Parlkota) meet there. They
merge to form Indravati.
[Pic shows the Triveni sangam, or confluence of three rivers]
is a confluence of three institutions in Hemalkasa – The Government, The Amtes
and The Madias. As of today, the Madias are going with the Amtes. They will go
with the Amtes, no doubt, and you know why. Oh yes, they offer them love and
care and the Madias reciprocate!
sets up a dispensary in a jungle. Nobody sets up a school there. Not unless you
wish to open a social transformation factory!
Pics: All my work. Copyright
The enormity of the work of Dr Prakash Amte and family is stunning. When he commenced it
[and for several years thereafter] Hemalkasa was almost inaccessible. When Henry
Morton Stanley set out in search of Dr David Livingstone and found him, he is
reported to have said ‘Dr Livingstone, I presume?’ Livingstone lived with the African
tribes. There is some similarity in the stories of Amtes and Livingstone
[though admittedly the stories and the purpose of their association with locals
Labels: Anandwan, Dr Manda Amte, Dr Prakash Amte, Hemalkasa, Madia tribe, Prakashvata, Social transformation