Ravi is from the Korku Tribe and lives in Melghat Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh. Having appeared for his class 10 examinations, he now spends his Sundays at a community resource centre, which has been started by the Nature Conservation Society, Amravati. Ravi is an environmentalist and has started an NGO that works towards protecting the forest and its resources. We caught up with Ravi to find out more about his life. Here are excerpts from the interview
ON THE KORKU TRIBE…
We are forest dwellers and speak a dialect known as Korku. My tribe is renowned for its two traditional dance forms, Chattkore and Bhavai. As a community we mainly engage in forest wealth collection. We are also experts in bamboo crafts.
We respect nature and the tiger's forest. In our tribe we call the tiger kula mama. 'Kula' means 'tiger' and 'mama' means 'mother's brother'. Our growing population has put immense pressure on the forest. But we do understand the importance of tiger conservation and have started to work towards it. All our festivals are also related to the Melghat forest, seasons, trees and agriculture.
We mostly eat wheat roti, chawal (rice) and dal (pulses) but we also enjoy eating kodu and kutaki (varieties of rice). During the winter we eat a lot of fish and crab. We even cook fish in a dal, which gives the dal a very different taste. During the monsoons we eat roti with a chutney of kewate (bamboo shoots) and some other boiled tubers with green wild aara (vegetables).
ON THE MELGHAT TIGER RESERVE…
The Melghat Tiger Reserve is part of the Satpuda landscape. My Melghat Tiger Reserve is home to 40 tigers and has a hilly terrain. The area is covered with teak trees but we also have close to 700 plant species and 300 bird species. The tiger and the forest owlet, once an extinct bird, are two famous species of my reserve. Melghat is also known for the largest population of gaurs in India.
ON WHAT HE HAS LEARNT FROM THE FOREST…
I have learnt that the forests and animals actually help us. The animals are scared of us and do us no harm. We should protect them. They are just like us and are part of our planet. When I grow up I will either become a forest officer or work to protect the forest.
ON NOTICEABLE CHANGES IN THE FOREST…
My father says that this forest used to be very dense. Now it is open and sparse. We used to have perennial streams but now they last only till December, with very few lasting up to March. The quantity of water has reduced. My father used to swim in the stream near my village, but now we don’t have that much water to swim in. We can only dip our feet. We need to protect our forest from these rapid changes.
ON HIS NGO…
My group works towards water conservation by creating small bunds near our fields in Chaurakund village. These fields border the forest. We remove weeds from the nullah and plant saplings too. We have already undertaken two sapling drives, one at our school premises and the other near the Hanuman temple in my village. At Harisal, which is about 14kms away from my village, I have started another NGO at the residential Ashram School.
ON TIGER CONSERVATION…
Tigers must be protected to protect our forest ecosystem and that's the message that I share during my conservation talks. I explain the tiger's role in the forest ecosystem and how the tiger-forest equation benefits us in our daily lives. The forest contributes in many ways - it gives us water for agriculture, it provides insects for pollination and it also provides us with a natural pest control system.
ON WORKING WITH CITY CHILDREN TOWARDS TIGER CONSERVATION…
City children should form a group and chalk out plans on how best we (they and us) can work together to protect our forest. We live in the forest so we will have to protect the animals and the forest.
ON HIM LIVING IN A CITY…
I want to visit the city, but I would feel like a complete misfit in the city's posh cement houses. I am most comfortable in my village and that's where I will always live.
IN THE KORKU LANGUAGE
- A tiger is called kula
- A sloth bear is called bana
- A leopard is called bibat
- A sambar is called dhak
- A chital is called chital
- A nilgai is called nilgai
- A bison is called gawa
- An owl is called duda
- A squirrel is called gileri