Anish and Sreejith still cannot forget the five-year-old girl helping her mother in the field at an obscure village in Uttar Pradesh. The blazing sun and a temperature of 45 degrees centigrade had made the kid exhausted, along with an empty stomach. Witnessing the scene, the two youths, belonging to Ayoor in Kerala, stopped their bicycles abruptly.
These and other moving sights and experiences are a part of the bicycle expedition taken out by the students of Doon PG College of Agricultural Science and Technology in Dehradun. The trip takes the message 'Save tree, save river, make earth beautiful' to villages across India.
The agriculture students are aiming to learn about rural life in India as well as traditional farming practices during their cycle trip, which is already a month old. Anish Jacob, son of Jacob Daniel and Annamma of Bethel House, Arakkal in Ayoor and S Sreejith, son of Sreekumar and Lathamani of Krishnakripa, Arakkal in Ayoor will reach their native place only after another 15 days. The youths are now covering Tamil Nadu.
A child's sad plight
Sumitha Devi and her five-year-old daughter are paid 50 paise for each sapling they plant or weed removed. The day Anish and Sreejith met them, the mother and child had together made a paltry Rs 75 till noon. The encounter made the agriculture students realize the grave and unjust mismatch between work and pay in the farming sector.
Sumitha Devi said that the child was sent to school with the only intention of savouring the midday meal. Thoroughly shaken by the family's plight, the youths made no effort to say goodbye to the mother and child while resuming their bicycle trip.
More touching experiences
The Keralite youths arrived at another village. This was near the UP- Bihar border. They sought permission to spend the night at a petrol pump in the area, but it was denied. The distraught youths were waiting for any help when two villagers approached and invited them to their village. A single room school was made available for the youths to spend the night. Soon, other villagers too arrived, each with some food item. It was a moving experience, say Anish and Sreejith.
While passing through UP, the youths were on one occasion at a loss over not finding a suitable spot to pitch their tent for the night. Help came their way from the police, who allowed Anish and Sreejith to stay in the police station.
On another day, the duo was cycling along a seemingly uninhabited village, hungry and tired. Hearing a call from a mango grove, the youths applied brakes to their bicycles. It was a farmer, Kumar, inviting them to join him for lunch. When the youths went near him, Kumar kept two plates before them and gave a portion of his meal.
Odisha, the most tough section
Anish and Sreejith found cycling in Odisha the most difficult. The fields were all inundated following rain and their cycles needed repairs.
The Diga village on Bengal - Odisha border resembled Alappuzha, say the youths. Prawn farming is a major enterprise in the area.
Each sight and encounter has been a learning experience for the agriculture students. While embarking on the trip, they hoped to familiarize themselves with food habits in villages, habitation in rural areas, unique farming methods etc.
After setting out from Dehradun, Anish and Sreejith covered Uttarakhand, UP, Bihar, Jharkhand, Bengal, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. Now cycling in Tamil Nadu, they will soon reach their homes in Kerala.
Starting at 6 am every day, the duo pedals 130-140 km every day. They continuously travel till around 10 pm, when they search for a suitable spot to spend the night. After pitching a tent, Anish and Sreejith find time to interact and share food with villagers.
By the time they reach Ayoor, the youths would certainly have received knowledge and insight into various aspects of life, apart agriculture.