The best way to know the self is feeling oneself at the moments of reckoning. The feeling of being alone, just with your senses, may lead you to think more consciously. More and more of such moments may sensitize ‘you towards you’, towards others. We become regular with introspection and retrospection. We get ‘the’ gradual connect to the higher self we may name Spirituality or God or just a Humane Conscious. We tend to get a rhythm again in life. We need to learn the art of being lonely in crowd while being part of the crowd. A multitude of loneliness in mosaic of relations! One needs to feel it severally, with conscience, before making it a way of life. One needs to live several such lonely moments. One needs to live severallyalone.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012


Pockets like North Korea in India – you may find it bizarre or 'yet another sensational headline from the TRP hungry news media of India - but that was my first thought after reading an article on the Wall Street Journal website. The article titled Starving in India: Surviving on Toxic Roots, dated April 11, talks about members of a tribal community in a Jharkhand village Hindiyankalan. It was third in the series ‘Starving in India and the focus of this write-up was how the primitive tribes and the weakest communities in India are surviving the malaise of chronic hunger. Certain findings of the research scholars behind this write-up were so similar to a memoir article that I had recently read on the CNN website.

The CNN article titled In North Korea, a brutal choice, dated March 26, talks about plight of the majority of the North Koreans living in absolute destitution, through a North Korean refugee in US, Song Ee Han.

The Hindiyankalan write-up presents misery of the Birhor tribe in India through the story of Sahria Devi. Birhors, estimated to be around 10000 in count, depend on collecting and selling honey and wood from the forest and selling soops for Rs 15 for livelihood as the write-up suggests. It counts problems like unavailability of subsidized food, 4 or 5 days a month mid-day meal to their children, no health and education infrastructure to support them and no livelihood options locally.

The Hindiyankalan write-up says the Birhors survive on next-to-nothing – a small amount of rice with locally available spinach, Chakora, and that too, just once a day, and Gethi, a toxic root. They eat Gethi after draining its toxin that requires 24-40 hours, the article says.  (What Gethi compensates for in the daily biological routine?) 

In October 2008, the villagers ate raw Gethi roots. The hunger level had become so extreme that they could not wait to detoxify it. They fell ill and the unavailability of the health infrastructure compounded by the connectivity problems led to the death of eight of the villagers. Sahria Devi lost two grand-children and daughter-in-law.

The article is a detailed account on the misery of Hindiyankalan Birhors. And what is happening with Birhors is happening with almost of the primitive tribes in India. (Remember the recent controversy on inhuman treatment and exploitation of the Jarawa tribe of Andaman?)

What is happening in patches in India is an endemic in North Korea.

Through around two decades in the life Song Ee Han, the article explores the epidemic of the famine that plagued the Korean nation after its supply line, the Soviet Union, was gone. What began in early 1990’s is still continued, fueled by an autocratic regime of born goons. Mrs. Han lost her husband after he was taken in police custody for carrying rice for his dying family from across the China border. Her two children starved to death. A daughter left home to earn and never came back.

The only food stuff available to the North Koreans then was the government rationed rice. Mrs. Han’s family had not heard of something like pressure cooker. Whatever little rice that was being provided by the government was never enough, and that amount too, was getting reduced day-by-day. They were literally dying of hunger and so were many other North Koreans. And midst all this was the absolute rein of the brutality of the North Korean police and security forces. Killings and rapes were so routine. The only option they had was to cross the border to China but that, too, had a brutal choice for her to make.

She had to take the cruel decision of leaving her 5-year old son behind in North Korea as she and her two remaining daughters were so weak to carry him and it was impossible for them to cross the 100-mile distance to the China border while taking him on their back. Her plans of bringing the son back once she had made her two daughters arrive in China failed. Her son died of Refeeding Syndrome after he was given something to eat by someone after days of hunger. Incidentally, the person Han had left her son with abandoned him as rain and flood delayed Han’s return to North Korea.

I literally cried after reading this story and was left thinking for days and so when I came across the other write-up on Hindiyankalan Birhors, it added to the existing line of thought.

Hunger deaths, no support infrastructure by the state, primitive ways of living, life on margins - North Korea - pockets like North Korea in India! 

Please go through these two articles and share if you felt the same:



©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey -