Livelihood Concerns

Surviving on jugaad with help from Sai Baba 400 km from home

The collapse of their livelihoods has forced these Andhra families to travel to Tamil Nadu in search of a living for two months every year.

The camp looked intriguing. About a dozen tents – no more than plastic sheets covered by old sarees – standing in the midst of a strange amalgam of jury-rigged vehicles one day in March.

One of the vehicles was still recognisable as a cycle rickshaw, despite its reinforced axle, thickened frame and motorcycle wheels. The rest were cycle carts – the kind vegetable vendors pull around in India's streets – with motorcycle engines welded onto the frame. The open cart had been replaced by a large metal box with faded posters of the Sai Baba of Shirdi, a Muslim spiritual leader who became immensely popular with Hindus in the 19th century and is still revered today.

Each of the carts housed a shrine of Sai Baba. And yet the group, camping along the road to Pichavaram, a fishing village in coastal Tamil Nadu, were not devotees travelling around the country spreading his gospel.

They were not even Tamilians. They were from a village near Nellore in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh and had been on the road for two months.

Thokala Yedukondalu, a young man in the group, said they had left their village on these vehicles after the harvest festival of Sankranti in January. The families, many spanning three generations, travelled first to Chennai, then Pondicherry and Chidambaram in central Tamil Nadu, camping at each place for a few days. Every morning, the men headed from the camps to the nearby villages on their carts to collect alms in the name of Sai Baba. “We make enough money to eat and pay for petrol,” said Yedukondalu.

(Photo credit: M Rajshekhar.)
(Photo credit: M Rajshekhar.)

How long had they been doing this, I asked. Four years, said one of the men. And what had prompted them to undertake the long journey? Given my decrepit Telugu, I could not fully understand their response. All that I could follow was that their traditional livelihood in the early part of the year involved drum-beating and bulls, and in recent years, the number of cattle in the village had come down.

The government had failed to come to their aid. “Naidu is not doing anything for us," said an old woman, referring to Chandrababu Naidu, the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh.

As its traditional livelihood crumbled, for two months every year, this community had jury-rigged itself a new livelihood.

The story of this community is not unique. Travel around India and you find Biharis in Chennai, Manipuris in Thanjavur, Odias in Andhra, Tamilians in Odisha. The country is on the move. The migration cycle is tied up to the availability of work.

Every year, by the end of March, the group heads back to their village, said Yedukondalu. Till the farming season starts, they make bricks and work as coolies.

Then, they work on the farm till the harvest. Come Sankranti in January, and they are southbound again.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Children's Day is not for children alone

It’s also a time for adults to revisit their childhood.

Most adults look at childhood wistfully, as a time when the biggest worry was a scraped knee, every adult was a source of chocolate and every fight lasted only till the next playtime. Since time immemorial, children seem to have nailed the art of being joyful, and adults can learn a thing or two about stress-free living from them. Now it’s that time of the year again when children are celebrated for...simply being children, and let it serve as a timely reminder for adults to board that imaginary time machine and revisit their childhood. If you’re unable to unbuckle yourself from your adult seat, here is some inspiration.

Start small, by doodling at the back page of your to-do diary as a throwback to that ancient school tradition. If you’re more confident, you could even start your own comic strip featuring people in your lives. You can caricaturise them or attribute them animal personalities for the sake of humour. Stuck in a boring meeting? Draw your boss with mouse ears or your coffee with radioactive powers. Just make sure you give your colleagues aliases.

Pull a prank, those not resulting in revenue losses of course. Prank calls, creeping up behind someone…pull them out from your memory and watch as everyone has a good laugh. Dress up a little quirky for work. It’s time you tried those colourful ties, or tastefully mismatched socks. Dress as your favourite cartoon characters someday – it’s as easy as choosing a ponytail-style, drawing a scar on your forehead or converting a bath towel into a cape. Even dinner can be full of childish fun. No, you don’t have to eat spinach if you don’t like it. Use the available cutlery and bust out your favourite tunes. Spoons and forks are good enough for any beat and for the rest, count on your voice to belt out any pitch. Better yet, stream the classic cartoons of your childhood instead of binge watching drama or news; they seem even funnier as an adult. If you prefer reading before bedtime, do a reread of your favourite childhood book(s). You’ll be surprised by their timeless wisdom.

A regular day has scope for childhood indulgences in every nook and cranny. While walking down a lane, challenge your friend to a non-stop game of hopscotch till the end of the tiled footpath. If you’re of a petite frame, insist on a ride in the trolley as you about picking items in the supermarket. Challenge your fellow gym goers and trainers to a hula hoop routine, and beat ‘em to it!

Children have an incredible ability to be completely immersed in the moment during play, and acting like one benefits adults too. Just count the moments of precious laughter you will have added to your day in the process. So, take time to indulge yourself and celebrate life with child-like abandon, as the video below shows.

Play

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of SBI Life and not by the Scroll editorial team.