September 2020 Newsletter

Nine months have passed since our last publication, but the world has turned round and round and up-side-down many a-times since…

…Nothing gave us an inkling that the whole world was about to go into the thralls of a pandemic, yet who can now remember a time when that wasn’t a fact of life?


The Halt which these events brought for us, at Marudam and The Forest Way, wasn’t perhaps as dramatic as it has been in some parts. Life continued to continue, and much has come to pass, still is passing, to land, to plants, to animals and to folks.

Here are some glimpses from that time:

Covid Relief

We were lucky to have the privilege to play a small supportive role for families under stress during the lockdown period. In response to our appeal we received around 15 lakh rupees and we managed to support more than 2000 families – some of them more than once – through this period. We primarily supplied families with rice, lentils and oil and, when required, with medical supplies. In addition to the families needing support in and around Thiruvannamalai, we also supported farmer and migrant families and crafts people in villages near Sirkazhi, and fishing community families near Chennai and Nagapattinam.


Fires

During the month of March, around the time the country was entering full lockdown, there was a spate of Forest Fires on the Hill. At great effort and personal risk, all were successfully put out by our team, with the help of volunteers and Forest Department staff, minimising the damage and keeping the forest safe. As always, the fire lines played a pivotal role in making it possible to contain the blaze.


It’s planting season

Yes, it’s that wonderful time of year when saplings leave the nursery and find new homes in the earth. In recent years, we have started to feel that the days of mass planting on the Hill are coming to an end, as the forest is now self generating.

So our work there is shifting towards a pure focus on protection, monitoring and education. But our drive to rewild the surrounding bio-region continues. This year we are working on a number of new and exciting sites:

Aadaiyur Eri
Aadaiyur village, 1km from the base of the Hill, is home to our planting and forest protection team. We are so happy to help with planting a grove next to the village

Kosaalai Eri
Two more forest patches are being planted at either end of Kosaalai lake, between Aadaiyur and Adiannamalai villages.

Nedungavadi Eri
Nedungavadi Village is also home to a number of our forest team. The lake next to the village is contiguous with a large scrub forest. The crew are delighted to be planting on home turf.

Samudram Eri
Below the earthen bund of the huge Samudram seasonal lake is an area of municipal land, already partly planted with trees. We have been invited to take on the project, and to create a mixed park including food forest for the village children, livestock fodder for livelihood, play and education areas, and patches of native forest. We’re very excited with this new venture.


Climate Change Curriculum

Marudam teachers, together with friends and associates and along with Socratus Foundation, have been hard at work creating a curriculum for climate change, aimed at 16 year olds and above. This is being offered as a free course, accessible to all on the Thinkific software platform. This is a work in progress – a few modules have been put up, the rest will follow in the coming weeks and months. This work has kept many of us very busy throughout the lock down. The Project has been supported and funded by SELCO.

https://curriculum-for-a-changing-world.thinkific.com/


Tamarai Kulam

Work on the park has continued pretty much throughout the lock down

Naama, our Artist in Residence, and some of her work


Farm

Sesame harvest
Ragi harvest
Rice planting
Vegetable garden

Thanks to corona and the extra time in our hands, the vegetable garden received generous doses of care and affection from adults and children of the community. We worked through the summer every morning, remaking beds, feeding them with compost and mulch and getting them sowing ready. Finally the rains graced us and we put new seed into the soil, fruits of which we are savoring on our plates during community lunches.


Weaving Center

At the weaving center, we continue to explore possibilities, designs and processes in the journey of turning seed into cloth:


Skyscapes

Tremendous skies are the magnificent backdrop to our life:

and sometimes, if we are lucky, the same skies open up and feed us with life-giving life-affirming …

Rain

It has been a patchy season though this year with very low summer showers but also a relatively benign summer. We enjoyed a wet July with more than 10 rainy days though the quantum of rainfall was not high. August was disappointing – it is normally our second highest rainy month of the year. It started well with a good shower, but followed with three dry weeks. September has begun with our biggest shower in recent times. We are keeping our fingers crossed for good rains for the rest of the year.


News Bulletin

New Vehicle

More than 15 months after reaching out for funds to get a new vehicle for Marudam, we finally bought one a couple of weeks back. We bought a Force motors – Trax as per the original plan. Here are some photos. The vehicle is mainly to be used for the afternoon Kindergarten trip and for trips involving a small number of students. Thank you everyone for supporting us.


Post-harvest Machines

Recently we purchased three new post harvest machines for grains and pulses – one for cleaning, one for milling, and one for splitting. These machines help us bridge the gap between the field and the kitchen with our own crops, as well as with that of other small scale farmers in the area. Kamalakannan is happy to elaborate more to anyone who is interested. You can call him at 9940181247.

Older
Students

(some of whom can be seen in this photo from 2015)

We were happy and moved to see some of our oldest students leaving the familiar nest of Marudam. Over the past few years they have moved to a range of different pursuits after appearing for either State, IGCSC or NIOS examinations. The transition between school and what is next has been a different process for each student, and we wish each of them the best, while keeping in close touch and supporting when possible.


Dear friends departed

We have been extremely sad saying goodbye to two close friends, Pattu and Bindhu, who passed away recently. May they rest in peace.


Wild Encounters

Orchid blooming at the park
Sunbird nesting
Bulbul chicks
Caterpillar dressed for the Carnival

Space Changes

1. New Classroom Block

See a visual presentation made to detail the work done for the ground floor roof of this building here.

2. The land to the east of us was bought to be turned into plots 😦

Left: Before – vegetation growing wild, providing home to a myriad forms of life.

Right: After – all vegetation chopped, burned and flattened, leaving barren land, destroyed lives and us heavy hearted.

3. New neighborhood springs from nowhere

A government scheme to provide housing to two landless adivasi groups has resulted in a new neighborhood appearing just across the road from Marudam School. 75 families will move in to start a new life. We are offering to plant trees to soften their landing, and look forward to getting to know new neighbors.


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