By Anjali Shivanand* from India
August 5, 2015

I grew up in a city that had not yet witnessed urban “development”.   I would cycle my way in and out of the myriad by-lanes to stores, the library, friends’ place and even to my dance classes. But this lifestyle started changing rather rapidly with the onset of vehicles, industries and one of the most compelling factors that changed it all was the transition in technology. From being an era just restricted to telephones, televisions and radio (to certain extent), time quickly whizzed by and we witnessed its metamorphosis to another with mobile phones, laptops, tablets and many swanky gadgets. Looking beyond these is what the Sarongge experience was to me. It made me realise the extent of my materialistic life.  

The excursion not only informed us about the reforestation process undertaken in Sarongge, by involving people in the area, but also gave us an opportunity to reconnect with nature, enjoy the serene sky and feel the fresh air. A walk into the wild with a local guide provided us insights that no encyclopaedia can substitute. The early morning experience of waking up to the cold shivers followed by enthusiasm of fellow participants to soak in the experience of observing sunrise on the beautiful Sarongge Hills was a delight! But the skies had something different in store for us, it was largely covered with clouds and there was no trace of the sun, but nonetheless the colourful dawn kept our spirits up and going.

Summer School

After a delicious breakfast, the participants were all geared up for a two hour walk along the  Sarongge National Park ,which was earlier used by locals for farming. Because of the intervention by an international organisation working for environmental cause, the locals were convinced, to stop farming in the area. Provision of alternative forms of employment for their sustenance was ensured. The walk in the jungle was an experience worth a lifetime, that no tourism package anywhere in the world could provide. The local guide provided us insights on the nature of trees grown, suggested certain berries we could taste. We went our way through the forests clicking pictures here and there! The walk was not exhausting but rejuvenating, the experience energised every atom in my body and made me contemplate the kind of lifestyle I was leading back home, how simple things like a walk in the woods brought  about thoughts lost in the subconscious out to the forefront.

Some of us walked back to the base camp and few others preferred to take a ride in the truck. Our arrival was followed by a discussion on the Adopt a tree initiative by the foundation, in which individuals, corporates and other organisations can adopt a tree for a certain sum of money. Samsul Maarif from Centre for Religious and Cross Cultural Studies shared his experience of working with the indigenous people in Indonesia and their attitude and perception towards eco-tourism in their area, the nature of violation of their rights with respect to land encroachment and the indifferent attitude of the indigenous people on aspects relating to utilisation of natural resources available in their territory. Debates have centred around issues relating to providing them access to schools and hospitals and how a certain portion of them are receptive to the idea while the rest have their reasons to oppose. Lack of political will and a non-participatory process adopted by the Government to independently take decisions without hearing the voices of those affected, make us ponder over the fundamental values the system of democracy is founded upon.

Consequently, the participants were provided with a delicious lunch and some strolled along the  organic farms while few others enjoyed the sight of Rabbit Farm. Contributions were also made by the summer school participants which lead to adopting five trees in the name of  “International Summer School on Pluralism, Development and Social Change, 2015”.

The excursion was definitely one of the best memories I will cherish from the summer school, it not only gave us a chance to connect further with fellow participants but also reconnect with nature!


*Anjali Shivanand is a Research Assistant at Centre for Child and the Law, National Law School of India University, Bangalore