It was around 1990 when first time I visited the lush green valley. A dense forest, scary wild sounds, chirping of birds, cool breeze and what not. I was simply mesmerized. After a walk of an hour down to the hill, I reached a village called Rathed. Nearby a hut in the village, a tribal fellow was ready to greet us. His sincere salutation and a glass full of water showed me a great hospitality. I was feeling little tired after the hike down to the hill. The tribal folk looked and passed on his cute smile to me, I thought he could understood how tired I was. He got up and went outside and brought a twig of tree after 3 minutes. He handed over the twig to me and asked to chew it. I felt so refreshed after chewing the twig. An instant energy and refreshing mood, I could feel immediately. Actually he was a Bhumka who is like a priest, a curator and God sent angel for the local tribals. On the first trip only, I could avail chance to meet Bhumkas and also I was lucky enough to enjoy tribal life style.
My first visit to Patalkot made a deep impact inside me. I thought, I must document the knowledge as nobody knew it except the Bhumka. In other words, that visit laid foundation to my future research.
I do visit Patalkot at least once in a three months as I am in Ahmedabad (Gujarat), almost 1000 kms away from Patalkot. Tribals in Patalkot valley provide me their sincerest hospitality whenever I meet them. Patalkot that I saw in 1990 was quite different from now. This time, the valley is facing n number of threats.
Major population of Bharia community resides in Patalkot valley where life supporting facilities are lacking. The people here depend on plant resources for their livelihood including the native therapy for health care. This treatment is based on plants. Tribals in Patalkot depend upon the plant resources for their livelihood. Bhumkas (Local healers) and few older people know the system of healing. Such knowledge which is verbalized and is limited only to them may be erased in near future. Considering these facts, I aimed to document folklore medicine used for the treatment of various disorders. When I visited the village Kareyam (deep in the valley) couple of years back, I was shocked to find loggers cutting down the trees in the surrounding forest. I rushed to the village chief and asked “What’s happening? Why are all the trees being cut down?” The villager replied, “We had no choice, we need money to survive.” I thought money was never a big issue or matter to worry before recent times. I was literally shocked hearing this. Patalkot people are using the forest plants for their basic needs from the time immemorial and they were never in run of money and they never behaved in such a rude way. I had a discussion for an hour or more, he discussed a lot about the ongoing issues in the valley and the village chief, at the end of talk concluded “I am very unhappy to see the forest disappearing.” I thought there is certainly something going wrong.
Ask Faaglal Kavreti, Sarpanch (Village Chief) of Sidhouli village in Patalkot, he will tell the real story or meet Tekchand Bharti in Rathed village and he will tell you, how a Thekedar (Contractor), harvesters, people from outside cheated them. Villages like Gaildubba, Rathed and Chimtipur have started tasting the development. Here the development means only electricity, school and primary health clinic. Electricity; God only knows if it works 5 hrs a day? They do have school up to primary/ middle level. In case of primary health clinic, doctor is seen rarely or never.
If , the speedy so-called development continues here, within the next few years, and for the first time in human history, more people will live in cities and towns than in rural areas. This process of urbanization is linked to what has been called the ‘urbanization of poverty’. The indigenous knowledge will be vanished forever, and the first time in the human history, we all would see a human tribe getting disappeared forever. High time to think and act..