Yesterday we had a meeting with Meenakshi Gopinath, a woman that has worked in grassroots organizations in adivasi villages, as well as in different institutions in the government of Madhya Pradesh (India). It was a privilege for us to share this talk with a person with such a broad view of the Indian reality.
Her manner of speaking was impressive to me. Calm and confident, without the typical declamation of that who speaks to a public, we could rather feel in her house´s living room. No single word was wasted in circumlocution, redundancy or courtesy. On the contrary, she went straight to the point, charging every sentence with deep contents. Elegantly dressed in a yellow kurta with a red scarf hanging on both sides, we could see in her a woman of this world but also above the world.
While talking about her experience in advasi villages, she first highlighted their full detachment about material wealth. She explained to us that detachment does not mean not enjoying a beautiful sunset, or not having a favourite food. It means to be able to let go of it without clinging or struggling to keep it by your side. For example in adivasi culture when a person dies their belongings are not inherited by his o her relatives, but they are buried together with the decesaed. Which shows how nobody eagers the possible inheritance, let alone have a dispute about it. Despite their material poverty, they just let it go.
Even when it is time of distributing lands they are able to do it without arguments, there is no clashing of personal ambitions. Behind this detachment there is a lack of fear. Lack of fear to loss, which ultimately is a lack of fear to death.
The second attribute Meenakshi standed out about adivasi culture is their innocence. She offered the example of a family that had suffered a huge amount of violence. She remembers how in spite of the grief, there was no trace of hatred or resentment in their faces. Their hearts were clean. She explained to us that this innocence is related to a culture of respect and harmony with nature. In the villages she has been to, for example, peasants bow before ploughing the land, they let the grass grow before cutting it and they do not drink milk, because the milk is kept for the calfs. She remembers a occasion where she was invited for lunch and how, to prepare the food, they only captured the exact number of fish that they were going to eat. This contrasts with the culture of excess that we are used to.
In conclusion, Meenakshi was able to transmit to us some deep, powerful ideas about adivasi villages, joining the individual, the familiar and social and cultural aspects, in just a short tree-shade meeting.
The article was written by Jai Jagat international marcher from Spain, Dr. Javier Leal.