Journey of a Missionary Priest
To the High Ranges
Fr. George Pallivathukal
|Fr. George Pallivathukal|
So far our tour was on the plains. Our next destination was Sukjhar which was on the top of mountain range. There were many forest villages on the top of maountain. Sukjhar had one gond catholic family. They were previously living in the plains, but migrated to Sukjhar about eight years back. This place was about 40 Kms away from Junwani. Fr.
Paymans had visited the village once about five years before my visit.
Climbing the sloppy mountain was a big job. The climb was about 8 Km long. We started off from Bhadua's house in the afternoon. Bhadua had hired a donkey from the village to carry our luggage up. We were climbing with the help of our sticks. Half way I was tired and my legs would not move a step further. Bhadua tried to help me to climb but he too was tired. So he told me to hold tight on the tail of the donkey. The donkey was pulling me up. The poor animal had to support the weight of our luggage as well as my weight. We reached our destination by evening.
Our visit brought surprise and happiness to Sonu Singh and his family. We went with out prior information. Our group consisted of Indal Das, the local catechist of Dumartola, Moti Singh, Praksh, Bhadua, and myself. The family went out of their way to accomodate and entertain us. That evening we did not go out visiting the village. Climb of the mountain was tiring enough. My feet were swollen. Sonu Singh, brought some warm mustard oil and massaged my leg and feet and washed them with warm water. The treatment given to me gave me much relief. By morning my tiredness had disappeared.
Our Plan was to leave the village after Mass and breakfast. But Sonu Singh would not let us go. He said "now you are my guest, I will tell aou when to go". He requested us to stay at least one more day with him. We agreed to his request. Sukhjhar was a beautiful village in the middle of the forest. There were a few more villages like Sukhjhar on the hil top. I went around seeing the places. From the border of the village, I could see the valley of Chattisgarh. Sukhjhar was a village at the boarder of the states of Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh. This village was inhabited only by Gongs while other villages had a mixture of other castes also.
To celebrate the visit of the swami, Sonu Singh killed a goat and invited the rest of the village for an evening fellowship meal. Although Sonu Singh was a christian, the villagers of Sukhjhar had no problem with his being a christian. Being on the top of the hill the poison of caste or religious rivalry had not reached this village. During the day many people came to visit me. I found the people very simple and friendly. In the evening the whole village gathered together in the house of Sonu Singh. People wanted to know where I came from, my qualification etc. They also asked me about the progress of Junwani mission. I got achance to talk them about Jesus Christ and how one of his disciples, St.Thomas came to India and preached about Jesus,etc. People were listening to me with rapt attention. I did my job of introducing jesus to these villegers. Now it is for the spirit to work in their hearts and make them accept Jesus in their lives and also it is for my successors in Junwani to follow up and keep contact with this village and the neighborhood.
After two nights of stay in Sukhjhar, we packed up to go to the next destination which was Muranda. Many villagers accompanied us till the boarder of the village and shook hands saying "Jai Jesu"to one another and left the place. They told us to come back to the village again very soon.
Our next destination was a village called Muranda in the middle of the forest. This village was inhabited totally by the Baigas, the most primitive tribal group of Central India. Fifty years back they were still living in the middle of forest, living on wild fruits and roots. They used to cut trees in the forest, burn them and cultivate "Kudki" a type of grain common among poor people. This village had about 20 Baiga families. Fr.Paymans had a special liking for these people. He had made a Bamboo Hut in that village and he used to come there relax. Many of the villagers of Muranda had visited Junwani and so these people knew us and were quite friendly with us. None of them were christians. Their leader and our contact person who used to come to Junwani often was shri. Panku Singh. Fr.Paymans used to help them generosly.
Although the walk from Sukhjhar to Muranda was about four hours when I reached the place and saw the beauty around all my tiredness disappeared. There was a beautyful stream flowing down the village. The best thing I enjoyed there was a dip in the stream of cristal clear water flowing down from the mountains. I played in the stream to my heart's content. I could see spotted deer and other wild animals freely moving around near the stream and the village. There were Peacocks freely moving around in the village and a variety of birds all-around. People told me that there were also tigers in the neighboring forest. But they would not harm the people because people were not a threat to them. We spent two days in the village enjoying the natural beauty of that place and the friendship of the villegers. We really enjoyed those two days and relaxed. We had our own provision with us and so we were not a burden to the people. Many of them used to attend our Mass in the morning and the Rosary in the evening, but they were all silent spectators. They did not know our prayers. I do not know how much of our mode of worship and prayers they understood. But they were quiet and prayerful all through our prayers.
Our next place of halt was Soda-Salaiah. After two luxurious days in Muranda we left for Salaiah. First we had to climb down the mountains. Clinmbing down was easier than climbing up. With the help of my bamboo stick and with the help of Bhadua I managed to come down to the plains. Bhadua, being a man living in these hilly areas, could easily negotiate the climbs and journey through the forest. For me this was my first experience of mountaineering. When we came down to the plains, Motisingh, Catechist and Bhadua left us for their respective villeges. Indal Das, Prakash, and I then walked towards Salaiah.
|A Tribal Family|
Like in other villages here also we followed the same routine. Soda- Salaiah and the surrounding villages of Dhomni and Marpha together had about 20 ctholic and catechumen. In the evening we visited our faithful and the functionaries of Dhomni, Marpha, and Soda. After the visit we had Rosary and confession as usual. In the morning too we had Rosary during which the baptized made their confessions. It was a custom among the catholics that whenever we went on tour to their villages or they visited the centre at Junwani they all made their confession and recieved Holy Communion. After the Mass we sat for sometime exchanging news and then visited families of Salaiah village. We had some students in our school from this village. I visited their homes because it was time to reopen the school after summer holidays. Although we had planned ten days of tour we decided to return to Junwani from Salaiah because this village was rather close to Junwani and we were rather exjausted. I sent word to Junwani that we would be returning the same evening.
Fr. Paymans took me directly to the dining room, ordered for tea together. His custom was whenever Fr.Terence or I returned from tour he would leave whatever he was doing and come to the varandah and receive his co-worker and lead us to the dining room. That day our main meal would be in the evening. At noon he would eat two slices of bread and have acup of tea and wait to have the meal with us in the evening. This was his way of making us happy and feel welcome. This was also a sign of appreciation and recognition of the hard days we had spent in the villages. This is definitely a practice worth imitating.
I always cherish the memory of my first independent mission tour of interior villages. I had many unforgettable experiences in that trip. This was the begining. There were many more such visits to follow. However I gained a lot of self confidence from this mission visit. In the evening of the day I returned from my mission visit, after the evening meal I narrated to Fr. Paymans all that had happend during those days. He was happy. He complemented my sharing with the sharing of his own experience of many years of his mission life. He was in a way introducing the new comer into the art of mission work by narrating his own experience.//-
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