22. Crossing with cauldron

According to the English calendar, the date of Dussehra varies every year. But we don’t care about it. Whatever be the English date, we have decided that we will celebrate our birthday on every Vijayadashami as Mission Tirhutipur was formally launched on this day last year. Just as parents and relatives have a special enthusiasm for the first birthday of a child, we too had a lot of excitement about the first birthday program of the mission.

In the last one year, we were put through many challenges. One such challenge was crossing the Beso River flowing between Tirhutipur and Sunderpur Kaithauli. Since we had no infrastructure in Tirhutipur, for everything we were dependent on my ancestral village Sunderpur Kaithauli. Therefore, crossing the Beso river was very crucial for the day-to-day affairs of Mission Tirhutipur. 

Last year when Govind Ji had come on Vijay Dashmi, we managed to cross the river by laying electric poles on the broken bridge. In the following summer, Government Agencies uprooted the whole bridge and started the construction of a new bridge in its place. So when the rainy season started, there was no bridge. The old was lost and the new could not be created. The same thing can be said about our villages too. The systems and the institutions of the past have become almost obsolete, and unfortunately, nothing new could be created in their place. In such a situation our villages are forced to live with an ad hoc arrangement. Their past looks romantic and the future is said to be promising, but the present is quite challenging.

The happy moments of the past and the bright dreams of the future are helpful in dealing with the challenges of the present, but only if we keep on doing our duty in the present. If we talk in the context of the Beso river, as soon as the rains started, villagers built a temporary bridge transcending the pleasant past and promising future. This bridge, made of bamboo and eucalyptus wood, was fine for normal water flow, but it was not strong enough to survive the onslaught of floods.

It happened as expected. In September Beso showed her formidable form and swept away the entire make-shift bridge. Not only this, all other roads connecting Tirhutipur with our village were also submerged. We were hopeful that by the first week of October, the effect of the flood would subside and we would travel 12 km to reach Tirhutipur by car but that did not happen. The date of Dussehra was getting closer and there was no improvement in the road access.

Govindji has been a good swimmer. In his student life, he has crossed the Ganges many times by swimming. But at the age of 78, it was not appropriate to encourage him to swim. When no solution was in sight, I raised this issue with Govindji itself.

I told him that in the past when there was no bridge over the Beso River, people used to cross the river with huge iron cauldrons. These cauldrons were meant for boiling the sugarcane juice, but they also served as make-shift boats during the floods. Govindji listened to me attentively and said that he had no objection to crossing the river in the old way.

Govindji had agreed to cross the river while sitting in the cauldron, but our other companions were apprehensive about this idea. To allay their fears, I conducted a mock trial by ferrying some people in the available cauldron. Fortunately, this trial proved successful and all the apprehensions were dispelled. We had also arranged for a big tube with the cauldron to deal with any untoward incident. By the day of Dussehra, our preparations were complete. 

Our much-awaited test started on October 15th at 3 pm. The people of Tirhutipur gathered on the banks of the river to receive Govindji and other people coming from Sunderpur Kaithauli. Five swimmers of the village were fully prepared to escort the make-shift boat. First of all, sweets were sent across to be distributed as Prasadam. After that, one by one, children, old and young, men and women, fat and slim, all started crossing the river. This journey of  few minutes was so exciting that no one will be able to forget it in his/her life.

Govindji crossed the river in the first batch so that he could get maximum time to interact with the children, old people, women, and youth of Tirhutipur. When everyone arrived at the Mission Ground, the predetermined program of Havan started there.

It was a fantastic moment to see Govind Ji sitting on the raw earth with vast paddy fields in the background.  When Panditji spoke Swaha during the Havan, not only Govindji but hundreds of children of the village were also reciting Swaha with a resounding voice. After the havan, Govindji once again had informal talks with the villagers. All this continued till sunset. Thereafter, everyone came back to Sunderpur Kaithuli by make-shift boat.

All India Campaign:

There was no pressure of any formal program on 16th and 17th October. So I got enough time to interact with Govindji. Our conversation mainly focused on the ways and means by which the condition of each Indian village can be improved upon with the help of civil society. We discussed all possible options and decided to launch Gramyug campaign at the national level making Tirhutipur a base camp.

Gramyug campaign will be based on three Sanskrit words – “Manasa-Vacha-Karmana”. That means it will be carried on in three phases. Firstly, it will be ensured that people start thinking about the village at a personal level. After this, the ground will be prepared for collective discussion and debate about the village. In the last phase, more and more people will be enabled to do something by connecting with the village at the grassroots level.

Gramyug campaign will follow the policy of encouraging a large number of people (esp. residing in cities) to do small works in the villages. It will not be our priority to initiate big works with the help of a few people. In other words, Gramyug campaign will be a game in which everyone will be encouraged to enter the stadium and play along with the main players. There will be almost no arrangement for an audience gallery.

Vijay Dashmi is also known for the tradition of simollanghan i.e. crossing the boundary. This day invites us to think big and venture beyond our known potential. Keeping this tradition in mind, we have dreamed of ‘Gramyug’ on this Vijayadashami day. Right now this dream is limited to Shri K.N. Govindacharya and a few volunteers of the Mission Tirhutipur. We wish that this dream becomes your dream too. When we all will be possessed by this dream, it will be the responsibility of Lord Rama himself to make it come true.

Last diary of the series:

In the coming days, we have to make extensive preparations for the Gramyug campaign while doing the works of Mission Tirhutipur. Therefore, I am postponing this formal series of Mission Tirhutipur Diary for the time being. I hope that the preparation for Gramyug will be over in a few months and I will join you again with a new series. However, before concluding this series I must say thanks to all of you who read my diary regularly and appreciated my efforts. Thank you once again.

Vimal Kumar Singh

Convener, Mission Tirhutipur

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