Friday, September 02, 2005


This was one story I absolutely loved doing. It was in my first sem when we had not yet learnt to get assignments done the easy way. I was to do a feature and I came up with this idea to go to a tribal colony.
These are Jenu Kurubas, literally meaning honey shepherds in Kannada.. They do not tend cattle though and earn a livelihood collecting honey and other forest products and today by working as coffee estate labourers. They are supposedly nomads of royal lineage from Tamil Nadu, though there is no documentation.
Tribals usually have a distinct culture of their own but these people are pretty much integrated into the mainstream society. Their Gods are called Komaralinga and Kannambadi Taayi. They live in 'Haadis' or a close knit community which are known for their cleanliness.
According to some government officials I spoke to, there are around 814 families of these tribals in Kodagu.
The women in the picture are all from the same family. Friendly and very sweet all of them.
That was about them. I had a tough time going to their camp or haadi.The men are always drunk and get into serious fights. One man, with a very prominent sickle tucked into his waist, was particularly bad. He thought I was from the government and began to tell me about the problems they faced, how they were abused and tortured, how poverty was killing them, how they were not given the land they were supposed to get..... One line he said still reminds me of the helplessness of my profession. He said, 'You will fill your white paper with black ink and walk out of here, what of us? Our situation will always be the same.' This got to me. Those were the days when I was still thinking of how I could change the world and the like. I was still ideological and too sensitive towards such issues.
(For my own sanity, I have improved to such a large extent that I have learnt to look but not see now. In other words, I am now fit to be a journalist.)
Nevertheless, it was a good experience. Sadly, I could not make a good story out of it. Now that I look back, I suppose I was too affected by what he said to exploit them for a good story. I know it is with such sadness that a good story is born but I was only trying to maintain my integrity until commercialism demands otherwise.


San Nakji said...

I think that kind of thing would really be hard for me to bear.

What language do they speak?

Jonathan said...

As a writer, you can only describe what you see. You have to look very closely and then by writing what you see after looking very closely you will reveal truths. That is really all that a writer is required to do.

Deepa said...

i agree to the above words. you can only write well if you detach yourself from the situation and look at the people as just a good story and not as human beings. this for your own sanity. i am more 'acclimitised' to the journalistic atmosphere now.

Karthik L G said...

wht language did these tribals communicate in. i wud luv to do a complete foto feature of these guys' daily activities.

is there a journalism uni in coorg?

Deepa said...

they know kannada very well. like i said, they are almost totally in the main society. among themselves they speak a variation of kannada. there must be a name for it but none of them knew what it was.
a photo feature would be a good idea, though they can be a bit hostile to outsiders. they think (rightly) that the world is out to exploit them. all the trainers in Dubare elephant training camp belong to this tribe.
you would find a lot of subjects in Kodagu for a photo feature. let me know if you are interested.
there is no journalism uni in Kodagu. my home is here. i live and study on campus in mangalore university.

Karthik L G said...

it wud be a wonderful experience to visit coorg. can u mail me , so tht the talk cud be taken offline
id in profile

have a nice day