In the preceding days, patchy communication with the base, notably, Ramya Rajanna, who was herself caught in the midst of the great Chennai floods of 2015, with no power, no water and pretty much no everything, had prompted Mr.Alwaye to quite literally, step in with his team members ( from Coimbatore onwards). He was also invited to do a speech at the Bharatiyar University event in which, I was accommodated for a special evening session before the cultural event unfolded with great dances and other folk acts.
Mr. Alwaye’s involvement with us, and the very fact of being with us for the meetings and talks seemed to have impacted him profoundly. He got more and more engaged with the idea of the walk and shared a lot about the Niligiris ecology, habitat and fair trade. He shared much about the history and the struggles of the Nilgiri adivasis too (the umbrella term for the aboriginal population of South Asia, reminiscing about his own education as a great struggle. He was one of the early representatives of the indigenous community from these enchanting mountains, to become a senior manager in the Kodanadu estates.
His interest and passion for the larger sustainable ecology in the new times was infectious. He came with many ideas about how to take forward the FTT idea. The meeting at Kotagiri hence in my view had the genesis in the last couple of days of intense interactions which was so direct and interactive though much of the great support we received from him and the NAWA organisation was also done with enormous generosity and commitment. The seed has been sown and NAWA therefore feels that they are in some kind of cooperative race with Pondy and Auroville to set the first fair trade town in India.
After a sumptuous lunch, something I am usually not very keen on at all, we walked up the hill and down the slope. A tad misty with a bit of drizzle, it was around 3 in the afternoon when stepped out, and the shy sun begun to rear its head and peek at us, having been completely absent for the previous couple of days and appearing just as we started the walk to Ooty as if to say go ahead you are safe in my land-left me baffled as always.
We stepped up the winding roads and the traffic zooming fast and furious. Mr.Alwaye stepped with me to demonstrate his energy and did a 100 meter dash before bidding farewell .The NAWA vehicle joined us until the Summit - Ooty.
This last bit of walk in some way was very different, Ramya was walking with Natesa ahead of us. Me and Devina were at the back – catching up and capturing, interacting, reflecting about the days before. It was a bit disorienting yet oddly appealing. We soaked in the beauty of the mountains and also saw the beasts- Bison’s , a herd of them