A HARVEST OF WINTER WILDS

One December morning, we take a short jeep ride from Vazhachal for a trek up Iruppupara (literally “the rock for sitting”). The agenda: to document the harvest of wild tubers, as part of the People for Nature Fund Fellowship of Reshmita Raman (courtesy Keystone Foundation, Nilgiris). Her father Raman and uncle Jayan lead us through rough terrain and share a glimpse of their impeccable knowledge of wild resources.

Iruppupara has one grand view of the Charpa range, Chennaay Para, Kundoormedu and even Nedumbara above old Parambikulam. It is as if the two men know every fold of the mountain like the back of their hand. It took them one glance over the nearby canopy to spot the Diascorea climbers. Once they had zoomed into their climber, they’d start digging. An average tuber could take anywhere between quarter of an hour to two hours to be dug out completely, without damage. After two days of walking, we have gathered four kinds of rare wild tubers – Nootta, Kanjil, Theyvan and Chavali. We all agree on putting up these rare wild tubers for a display at Moolika, the tuber festival in Vazhachal around X’mas. After the event, the women have decided to cook these for the community members or perhaps for the children at the hostel.

Traditionally, the Kadar people were hunter gatherers. They never really settled down or farmed. In British times there are records of how the Kadar of the Cochin forests went down to the plains with forest produce and returned with rice and goods in barter. Even in today’s cash economy and food habits dominated by the PDS, they have retained some of their foraging lifestyle. It is to celebrate this that we have partnered with FDA Vazhachal to organise Moolika.

The forager’s way of life is awe-inspiring and humbling at the same time. In tune with the changing seasons and bounties, learning to be patient even when resources are scarce. And always leaving some for the wild. Botanist Robin Wall Kimmerer is right when she says that indigenous way teaches to always give back more than you take.

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