The Train Journey

We decide to start the first leg of the journey from Shimoga. Not only because it is close to one of the oldest Hakki Pikki settlements in Hasthapanahalli and the most well known one in Chikmatti but also because it is home to Kumuda, an unusual Hakki Pikki tribal woman who has providentially come into our lives and has been telling the story of her people in her own  unique way.

The travelers, story tellers  and gatherers, apart from Vinod and his enthusiastic assistant, Nabhi, sound engineer Hari and the mandatory me, include young  Srivathy and Bhanupriya,  slightly older young turks, Srikant, Chandar, Vishnuvardhan and the older voices Hari and Ragini. Partha, another kindred soul volunteers to join us with his camera as the official photographer!

The process kicks off on the train itself with each taking photographs and videos of the other….with mobiles and the community camera. Partha is busy capturing it all.

We reach an eerily quiet Shimoga late in the night that has settled down to uneasy sleep after some serious flexing of communal muscle between the Popular Front of India and Hindu right wing organisations. The streets are desolate but dotted with men in uniform who we end up having dinner with in one defiant little khanawali that was serving fresh food for the rare person who dared to be out despite the fear that was draped all over the town.

Little were we to know that the slowly but surely deepening fault lines of religion ripping through the country were to follow us as we continued our journey deeper  into the lives and lands of the itinerant Hakki Pikki tribals for who faith has been as fluid but as essential to their collective identity and culture as water is to life.

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