Birds and Animals Must Eat Their Share of Crop

My friend Nagraj told me this, his firsthand experience.

He was visiting a forest in the hills half a day’s journey from Bangalore. There he stayed with a friend. He noticed that one young adivasi worker slept in the field to watch the ripening crop from wild boars and other animals. Nagraj too, wanted to sleep in the open, under the forest sky. His friend discouraged him for he thought it might be too cold for a soft city man. Or, some big cat or a crawler may accidentally come and cause harm. But in the end he agreed to let him go out with the Jeyn Korubu boy.

The Korubu boy had skillfully made an 18” high bed with bamboo legs. It was wide enough for two, so Nagraj was easily accommodated. The bed was not even, nor smooth and soft, but Nagraj had no objection for it was out in the open. Lying on it one saw the lights of the night and heard sounds of the jungle. The whole vast sky with millions of stars was open to view all night. The experience was so thrilling that Nagraj went daily on all the days he was there.

One night both the ‘watchers’ fell asleep. First the wild boars and then other animals came to nibble on the juicy ears of the grain crop. The owner heard of the damage and scolded the boy. The lad did not say a word. Apparently he was not sorry, so there was no need to say a thing. The owner was unhappy, but he knew what was in the boy’s mind and he did not press the point.

Next night Nagraj asked the boy, “Clearly, you saw no reason to regret having slept. Why is that? Do you not think the owner has the right to demand safety of his crop?”

The boy was quiet for a while. He then said, “Whose land? Whose crop? Who’s right to eat? The birds will eat, then the animals, and what remains is our share. In my view birds and animals have the same right as my employer to eat what the forest has produced. All of us have the right to eat. No one has the sole right to food, for that would starve all the others to death. The forest then will be in danger of dieing.”

“But your employer owns the land,” said Nagraj.

“The Great Spirit of the forest owns the land. All animals including humans are children of the forest. We may live in it and eat its fruits, but no one can claim ownership. This is what we Korubus believe.”

Nagraj fully agreed and never forgot the words of the boy.

14 March 2009