October 27th 2010: Day Three Tamil Nadu, Cauvery Delta – Breakfast with the Puducherry Governor, Sirkazhi, Kumbakonam, Thanjavur and Odugunkatti
The second day in Puducherry began on a note of surprise. The yatris were invited to the Raj Nivas for breakfast with the Governor. As we left our place of stay, St.Francis, Xavier church, Uppalam, the bus drove down the beach road paying witness to morning walkers and several young school children with their bags packed dressed in browns and blues. The welcoming French town off the road with its simple ambience soon opened its way into a poised new location where the Raj Nivas stood.
The elated yatris entered Raj Nivas with peaceful gestures with-out slogan shouting. As we entered the grandiose of a sitting room lit by crystal chandeliers and silver antiques guarded by men in uniform on both sides, we were soon greeted by His Excellency Dr.Iqbal Singh, Lt.Governor of Puducherry. Dr.Iqbal Singh, uncle of Mr.Kultar Singh a yatri on the bus was pleased to meet us all. His appreciation for the yatris was most profoundly expressed by offering us all a sumptuous breakfast made by a chef from Bihar. The menu included a lavish spread of Indian simplicity. Parathas, dhoklas, uttappams, sandwiches and the lip smacking vadas with sambar and chutneys.
The Governor was apprised by the mission of Kisan Swaraj Yatra and had opined that it promotes the vision of sustainable development for all. It is in his good office to announce Puducherry a GM free state and to promulgate policies that support organic farming in the state.
Post the Raj Nivas visit the Kisan Swaraj Yatra travelled through the Cauvery Delta Region. Home for more than 1.8 lakh rice growing farmers, it is popularly known as the rice bowl of South India. The first half of the morning was spent at Sirkazhi a town located about 40km from Chidambaram. Kisan Swaraj Yatra addressed a meet with the Organic Farmers Collective of Sirkazhi. The meeting was held at a road opposite the bus station. The Yatra made its way in to the crowd with sloganeers repeating vaazhavidu vaazhavidu – Vyavasayagalai vaazhavidu meaning let the farmer live and have a livelihood. Several other such powerful Tamil slogans drew attention which was followed by Maram Thangaswamys exchange of thoughts and ideas of organic farming and tree planting. He is an organic farmer from Tamil Nadu. The yatris shared the motive and the demands of Kisan Swaraj Yatra on a quick note. The farmer’s collective expressed interest to share the anguish by willing to submit a petition and a cumulative protest rally at the collectorate on the 11th of December.
The second public meeting at Aduthurai was called off due to time constraint and other factors like the speed of the bus. The next meeting for the day was held at Kumbakonam. It took us about an hour and half to reach. The public meet was held at Veera Shiva Mutt near the Maham Maham Kunte. The Mutt is headed by a swamiji who was on silent fast(mouna vrat). The swamiji’s message to the yatris and the yatra was cited by his followers. The public meeting included the several organic farmers from kumbakonam where Kisan Swarj Yatra demands were read out and individual yarti exchanges were made. The farmers association of kumbakonam offered to host a protest march on the 11th of December and send close to 100 farmers for the Rajghat event. Post the meeting we had the pleasure of savoring an organic meal sponsored by the association. It was a traditional meal of rice and curries served on a banana leaf. It included Tamil Nadus specials such as Kara Kolumbu, Pudhina Chutney and several others blessed with the goodness of spices from south.
Post the yummy meal we set off to our next destination. Thanjavur, A town known for its rule by the Chola Kings their architecture and art. The public meeting was held at a centrally located missionary space called The Besant Hall. The hall witnessed farmers from in and around Thanjavur. To our surprise when they were asked to raise their hands to understand how many of them pursue organic farming, it was a full house. Post the exchanges from the yatris and the other dignitaries present, the yatris presented all the demands of the KISAN SWARAJ YATRA to the farmers. The farmers have volunteered to put all the demands into practice on their own fields and have promised to carry the Kisan Swaraj Yatra mission forward in all the districts of Tamil Nadu. And organize a local rally at the collectorate on the 11th of December. They also promised to send 2 bogies full of farmers to Delhi on the 11th of December for the Rajghat event.
Our third meeting ended on a satisfactory note. We had one more event planned for the day at Odugunkatti, A small village in the Pudukkottai District. This is also the place where our night stay has been arranged. Before heading to the village, while at the historic town of Thanjavur, we decided to pay a visit to the famous Thanjavur temple built by the Chola Kings. The dusk was fast approaching as we were rattling our way in to an architectural marvel. The fading blue sky offered a perfect back ground to the gopuras, giving it a majestic feel. The art was to die for. Before we realized, it was dark. And we had to rush back to catch up on our last meeting for the day. The visit was quick, super quick and breath taking, making it all the more worthwhile.
The meeting at Odugunkatti village was at the Panchayat, Gram Sabha. The bus had its usual chokes and hiccups in terms of speed. We fled past dark woods only to reach a place a few hours late. There were nearly 200 women who were waiting to hear us speak. The women came from different villages and had already been waiting for the last 2 hours. We gave a quick introduction about the yatra and its demands in the presence of two Panchayat leaders. The president, Mr.Dandayudha Pani and the Counselor, Mr. Murugeshan. Several handbills printed in Tamil have been distributed and signed petitions were collected as some discussion prior to our arrival has already taken place.
The accommodation and dinner were arranged 2km from the Odugunkatt village at Kulunji Ecological Farm. Oh, the word Kulunji literally means green manure. Post our meeting we reached there with in no time. It was close to 10pm and the hungry yatris were offered a yummy organic meal yet again. Seasoned millet rotis with a nutritious dal and a side dish were a perfect way to end an exhausting day.