There are many events in one’s life that is beyond belief. They are difficult to be rationalized by the human brain that constantly seeks to explain them from the plane of reason and logic. We seem to ignore the fact there could be many things that are not explainable only because we have not found explanations to fit within the dimension of science, as we understand it. I had a much-cherished experience that occurred in early 1988. It was around 7 or 8 months since I had begun living with the tribals in Brahmagiri and was slowly getting to understand them and their ways. There was a small plot of land opposite to where I stayed and I was toying with the idea of doing some farming on it. I was talking to Muddiah who did not seem to be enthused by the idea. He said that it would be good to start farming only after calling the ‘spirits’ of the local ‘jamma’ (land belonging to a particular tribal clan).
A few weeks later he asked me to come to the ceremony of calling the spirits. As we walked towards Elachikattehadi where the event was to take place, he mentioned that this was arranged to find out if the monsoons would set in on time. Only if the spirits assured them that the rains would come, would the Chieftains permit the tribals to begin the agriculture operations for the season.
I found it fascinating that somebody could actually believe that the ‘spirits’ would have knowledge of the area’s meteorology. Skeptical and unsure of what to expect, I went along with him. What happened next defies imagination. The ‘Spirits’ possessed the elderly chieftain, who kept repeating that it was going to be a bad year. He asked the tribals not to undertake any farming activity that year and said that there would be just a few pre-monsoon showers and then no rain at all. He was categorical in his pronouncement that the tribals should not work on their fields, but instead find alternate employment to sustain through the year.
All this seemed out of this world and difficult for me to believe. All my urban education did was to make things worse, as I could neither believe nor rationalize what had happened. Muddiah must have sensed my discomfort. He tried explaining to me that I could wait and watch and then find out if this had any truth in it. Experience, he said, would be my best teacher. This seemed a valid argument and I told him that the world in which I operated had taught to me to experiment and only accept claims made with the proof of experience and empirical evidence. Muddiah shrugged and gave a faint smile, as though mocking me.
As predicted, there were a few pre-monsoon showers and not a single family engaged in any farming operations. All the surrounding villagers had begun to cultivate and sowed cotton seeds. I was unsuccessfully trying to convince the tribals to not let their land stay fallow. Obviously the ‘spirits’ had more convincing power than I did! As expected by the tribals, it was one of the driest seasons that I have experienced and there was not a sight of the rains. Most of the local villagers lost their crops, while the tribals went on with the meager lives with a resigned acceptance of what was ordained.
Even now I try to go over this incident in my mind searching for something to rationalize it with. I search for some explanation, while deep down I am also trying to reconcile what I saw with what I deeply believed to be scientifically valid. I now feel that ‘Science’ has its own limitations and has possibly not yet come to understand this world of the indigenous tribals nor has it attempted to interpret and validate these kinds of experiences.