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Diwali wars and tribal tricks

9 November 2010

Navarangpur was one of those typical kind Indian towns where you got invited to people’s homes all the time with sincere hospitality. Some situations; beginning with the woman who we met during the festival and who lived in New York but was in town at her family home. One evening when walking towards the local veg market, she grabbed me off the street as I passed her house and got introduced to all the family with chai and sweets on the side. Or like the manager at the tasty local Oriya restaurant where we ate a couple of times, who wanted me to meet his wife and young girl. Or the young man who took me all around on his motorbike to see the fields outside town and up to his small town, to meet his family and his livestock (8 cows). Afterwards the family loaded me with gifts like a bag of crunchy Diwali cookies, sunglasses, some fabric for shirt & pants and even 2 shiny sari’s for poor feverish Ness. Nothing beats such kind impromptu invitations and it’s nearly impossible to turn them down (as Indians do not know ‘no’).

Diwali has just passed. It’s the Indian day of Light, their version of new year with candles and lights on every doorstep and front. And heavy firecrackers all day and night, just like new year in the west (and just as annoying as in Holland). Ness was still recovering, so the firecrackers couldn’t cheer her up and she put empty coconut shells on her ears, which did help to cut the noise. At evening time the main road outside of our hotel turned into a battleground with groups of youngsters shooting rockets and throwing firecrackers to each other. It was impossible to go out and grab some very tasty lemon rice curry from the Trinath restaurant, bah. Funny, picture this; here you are right in the Maoist/Naxalite rebel area, seen as a dangerous no-go zone by Indian officials and obedient citizens alike, and there is this temporary street war being waged right on the tribal highway that runs through town as the main road. Only it’s a rather harmless war, or at least if you’re not out there in the line of fire(works). The only good effect of it was that it also scared the scruffy homeless dogs off the street for a while, though afterwards they returned quickly enough to retake their patches and growl & howl each other for it, just like every night.

We returned to Koraput for some nights where we took a personal car tour to 3 tribal villages hidden in the remote lush green hills around Koraput. In a Paraja tribal village the people were in quite jeery spirits. Especially a few younger women who had been drinking the *padang* brew, a strong homemade rice liquor. One made an attempt to sing and dance while the rest of the village laughed at the comical scene of her drunken moves and off key singing. We had a looking in with the kids in the local school, shy and studying us with open mouths until they sweetly started singing a song in Oriya. Back on the road to the next tribal village, while passing a huge factory where Indian fighter jets (MIG’s) are made. Quite a clash of cultures and in these wilds of Orissa, industrial townships and tribal life exist close to each other. Upon entering the village of the Mali tribe, you could see it was a richer community; the Mali are cultivators of vegetables and good merchants on local markets. Nice people who wear their riches on their body in golden jewelry. The women with golden nose rings, often 3 at the same time; 1 in every nostril and in between the fleshy bridge, punk style so to speak. Also they were tattooed with tribal family patterns on their arms, above the ankles and on their feet through a slow process of pinpoint engravings in blue ink. We ate a fresh tomato given by the Mali and had to get back to Koraput as it started to get dark.

We have just retraced 380 km’s on track to Balangir for participating in some Sambalpuri video shooting action on thursday with a famous movie director (of local Oriya fame that is). The elevated views from the 8 hour train ride from Koraput to Balangir were amazing and time flew by. The track rolled through and past bumpy green hills basking in a crisp yellow sun under a blue sky, wide rivers streaming through basins of red earth with tribal folks collecting water or washing themselves, looking up to the train and waving. Such rural green beauty that you don’t get to see as much in other states. This part of India has the most railway bridges so you can imagine what sweet panoramic views it must give.

Some pics, following the order of words;

kid staff dinner at trinath resto

visit outside Navarangpur, baby posing

tribal women outside Navarangpur

tribal school in Paraja village

Ness at Mali tribal village

Mali tribal tattoos

green views from train; Koraput district

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