Ruminating Patalkot

It has been almost a month and I still dream of the monsoon magic of Patalkot. Sometimes I wish I lived there amongst the tribes.


  • No  track of technology, fashion or markets
  • No need of an MBA
  • No Ipods, laptops or cellphones or roaming charges
  • No packaged water, cheesy pizza or low carb diets
  • No DishTV, Aaj Tak, bad movies or broadband
  • No cars, petrol shocks or parking dilemmas
  • No power outages, pollution or bad sewage system
  • No medical insurance, pension planning or tax returns
  • No credit cards, verification or cyber laws
  • No competition or capitation fees for kindergarten admissions
  • No masters degree abroad, H1B visa or stamping!
  • No job hunting!

Just live in a paradise, grow food, trees and even medicines. Walk barefoot, breathe fresh air, toil the body and keep fit. Live minimally and and live off the land. But I guess I will be stiff bored in two days without the usual poisons. We have come a long way from living off the land to crippling our lives badly by just losing the cellphone!

Patalkot is a home to the Bharia and Gond tribes and is situated in a deep horse shoe shaped valley near Chhindwara, Madhya Pradesh. The forest at Patalkot is secluded in a valley far away from civilization. The tribes have been pretty much self sustained, growing their food, sourcing clothing and building their homes without dependence on the modern world. They also possess an astute knowledge of rare medicinal plants local to the valley and their application as a cure to a lot of ailments. It is a skill they have been passing down the generations. Had Dr. Deepak Acharya not documented about it, I would not have heard of it. It was this site that kindled the desire to do the central India road trip.

Destiny turned a full circle when I reached Patalkot. A man came over to me at this place (pic) wondering why I was here (I was flashing my Nikon with a 300m ‘long tom’ like a bad wannabe!). The man turned out to be Dr. Acharya himself who was on a holiday visit (it was August 15!) to his favourite place on earth. Dr Acharya probably took me to be a realtor looking out for fresh pastures to kill! According to him, the government of MP was contemplating a golf course here (see the pic above) to tap tourist potential and ‘develop’ the place. So far their efforts to reach out to the tribes in the valley (see below) consist of electricity to one village (Rathed) and a primary health center where no doctor ever goes (why exactly would these people need a health center when they have all the cures within their forests). Otherwise, the people here have been living the same way as 500 years ago. They grew millets and maize and sold it at the nearest ‘civilized’ villages in their vicinity.

They had a pretty life until probably civilization touched them and things started to go southward for them. Exploiters and forest mafia began cutting their trees, harvesting rare medicinal plants and tearing the ecology apart. A lot of rare species of herbs have already vanished from the valley due to the unchecked pilferage. To add, the government scheme of rice for two-rupee a kilo has weaned away the tribes from their traditional farming to selling off their indigenous wealth for cheap food. The new generation of tribals having tasted life outside their valley refuses to carry the legacy of traditional medicine or indigenous farming. They migrate seasonally to towns and cities in search of livelihood. The lack of water accentuated by the mass deforestation also forces the tribals to migrate to cities and towns every summer. Dr Acharya tells me that deep in the valley is another valley (the term ‘patal’ probably refers to it) even deeper where the Bharias did not even know the existence of salt! Now that they tasted salt, they wish to taste the rest!

I was in a prominent mall in Chennai last week wading through the mulling crowd. Lack of space, fresh air or natural climate within and my mind naturally sought the rain drenched Patalkot. I looked around and found a lot of brands – of clothing, brands of jewelery, shoes, accessories, fast food, and gadgetry. Globalization is a major shift in lifestyles of the civilized. What I saw around were fruits of globalization – mindless consumption. We have migrated to a new lifestyle; one that hinges on dependencies and we only moved from old ones to new ones (read my list of Nos above). Somewhat similar to the indigenous tribes of Patalkot.  Only they migrated from a life of self sustenance to that of dependence. They had no definition of economy before but now they are entering the strata called ‘poor’. A whole eco system is therefore vanishing.


7 comments so far

  1. Sriram on

    ah.. nice one! Beautiful place.. i too long for these things when the stupid urban environment gets on my nerves 🙂

  2. nomad on

    Great place it looks from the photos… lucky you that you managed all of it. Would love to read more from your adventures.

    Coming to the point… I think we have completely lost our sense of balance and are hell bent on destroying the balance in nature. We humans are worst kind of scum to inhabit this planet and we’re hell bent on accelerating our demise.

    Golf courses… bah !!

  3. Bheel Thomas on

    Great post with a great piece of writing. Thanks for bringing up Patalkot in the form of your post. I also had a privilege to meet Dr Deepak Acharya. I heard him in a conference at Delhi. He is unsung though a popular hero among young brigade of his field. I wish if I can meet him once again. He has a wonderful idea about translating tribal knowledge into final product. No Government in any state has floated any such idea. Dr Acharya’s plan can change picture of Indian tribesmen. Are so-called sensitive politician listening me?

    Thanks Reunny for such a nice writeup.


  4. Raghu on

    Awesome description Ranga…! Hats off..!
    A very good insight into Patalkot….!

    Superb writeup..



    Great post sir ….
    Thanks for …

    ramkrishna dongre


    Great post sir ….
    Thanks for …

    ramkrishna dongre

  7. Krishna Kumar.S on

    Awesome.Running short of words. I can understand your thoughts very much. I agree with you entirely. Sometimes, in life even I have felt like going to forest and staying there. Growing with nature and medicines!

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