Kottaimedu – Between Two Worlds…

Readers please note – This article is part of a series that chronicles the journey of Kottaimedu, a Kattunaicken village in Gudalur in its attempt to return to the best of traditional practices while keeping in mind modern needs and advances
Kottaimedu is a small village, a hamlet really, with around 20 houses scattered over two hillocks. A stream flows down below, the forest spreads in rampant majesty to the north (?) of the village, the land surrounding the houses is fertile and the streetlights shine bright just 100 metres away. An idyllic setting, one would imagine, except the reality is different.
The stream has gone down to a trickle, polluted by the effluents of urban living upstream, the forest is mostly out of bounds to them, their crops and their lives equally under threat from increasing man – elephant conflict and electricity cuts off abruptly at the entrance to their village, as does the pukka road that happily winds its way deeper in to the tea estates.
ACCORD and AMS got together with the villagers and held a discussion as to what they defined as the essential components for a self sufficient village. While we had anticipated some of the needs that would come up, others surprised us all.
The first thing that came up was the need for a common area for the community to get together. Adivasi culture is extremely community oriented and this need is usually satisfied through a Deva Pera, an amenity Kottaimedu was lacking because of its recently settled status.
Up next were more conventional necessities – a proper access road, electricity, safe drinking water, nutritional support, better housing and lastly livelihood training.
It was agreed that everyone would work together at solving all these issues with the community providing most of the necessary labour. First up was the road.
A 1ft wide pathway was, with time and effort, converted to a 13ft long kachha road that winds more than 300 metres to the main road. The entire labour was provided by the people voluntarily. A good beginning for what is an ambitious attempt.

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