I know I’ve already shared too many tales of children who have been affected by radiation poisoning in Jadugoda. Each time I share a story, I battle my own thoughts. On one hand, I don’t want to subject the readers to gruesome images, while on the other, I want them to be aware of the real cost of our “DEVELOPMENT”. An ignorant population is the biggest threat to democracy.

To that end, I try to share the uncomfortable truths that I witness on my cycle rides. They aren’t photogenic photographs necessarily, but the ugly face that our government and corporates are trying to hide needs to be seen and recognized. The last person whom I met on my village visit to Jadugoda was a young girl called Anamika. Her village is adjacent to the pond where UCIL is dumping nuclear waste. She is suffering from this condition called neurofibromatosis, which first got detected last year when a bunch of medical students held a camp in her school in Bango. Activists believe the nuclear radiation poisoning has caused this and similar conditions in children of the region.

The only question that has been stuck in my mind since I met her is, WHAT DID SHE DO TO DESERVE THIS? Why is she paying the price for the negligence of our government authorities? I leave Bango with a sunken heart, my mind as clouded as the skies that surround me. This isn’t a time to stop though, but to ride more. After all, it is my humble cycle that brought me here, face to face with horrors that I never knew about. I will not stop digging deeper for truth, will not stop riding towards the reality.

The road is such a humbling teacher. Like any good teacher, it guides you, taking you where it wants. We think that WE take the road to a destination, but in fact, it is the ROAD that takes us to a destination. We merely share the road till we reach that place. One of the biggest learnings from the road are the people that I meet. It baffles me how complete strangers open their hearts and homes to people they don’t know.

The Birulee family in Jadugoda is one such family I met. They offered me a place to stay, fed me local tribal delicacies, took me to the communities, shared stories of their life’s struggles with me and when the time came, bid me adieu with lots of love. But sometimes I am not surprised at the good in people’s hearts.

After all, I don’t think that we are inherently hateful or fearful people. It is in our nature to be good and to do good. It is our complex urban societies that have conditioned us to be fearful of others, but in simple rural towns, it is heartening to see how welcoming people are. It is a reminder of how all of us once were. I continue to embrace my biggest teacher- the road and continue my journey towards Gumla from Jadugoda. Almost 250 kilometers done so far and I’m loving the state of Jharkhand and its people.

 

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