Have been wanting to write this since my return last week after attending the National Symposium at the Jeevika Ashram at the Indrana Village in Jabalpur district, Madhya Pradesh.
Traditionally called the MahaKoshal region, it hosts some amazing diversity in terms of tribal arts, crafts and culture. This place like everywhere else in India is under "development" pangs, with expressways and highway dhabas distanced several centuries between them and the villages on the side of the highways.
Ashish ji house created this beautiful little ashram in this midst that displays tribal art forms, has space for learning and reflection, beautiful kitchen that can feed upto a 100 people, and simple accommodation, open air theatre and meeting spaces.
Most important aspect of this Ashram is the live demonstration space for the tribal arts and crafts, the metal workers, singers, potters, artists... To have a space where they can have their own crafts practiced. Ashish ji wants to create a space for some of the artisanal families to settle down here and practice the same.
Every aspect of the place has been kept simple and elegantly functional and aesthetic. The Ashram has a small exhibit of all the tribal crafts and some sales was organised during the conference that i had attended there last week.
It serves as a place for the congregation of all the friends and associates of late Ravindra Sharma ji, often called just Guruji though he was not in any way wanting to become a "Guru" of any kind. He had brought to light several aspects of the tribal arts and world view. His often axiomatic pronouncements about the tribal way of life can lead to many days of reflection and new insights.
I personal cherish some of the most amazing insights i gathered while in conversation with him in the Kalaa ashram in Adilabad. I had written about the same which was published in a book immediately after his demise by SIDH, Mussoorie (''The buzz in my head").
When civil society institutions of larger kind are closing shutters and the professionals from these are getting scattered all over the landscape as change makers in society, the current times will see the mushrooming of two kinds of branching off of the civil society institutions -
1. Commercial ones that are capable of surviving the market conditions and co-exists with large competitive corporates, these will compromise on old civil society values for surviving in the market and may eventually resemble more the corporate they desist rather than the civil society from which they emanated, and
2. Small niche spaces that work on hyper local issues with clear focus areas and goals to become spaces of learning and practice.
I see the Jeevika Ashram as a space of the second kind. In the coming years i hope this place becomes a centre for practice and Learning of tribal arts, and also interaction with academics, researchers, policy makers and funding agencies.
To me these are the Future Institutions, the new age universities or as we prefer to call them "multiversities", where knowledge will be practiced and shared without being bound by the clutters of colonial and mis-constructed structures and systems.