“Cuckoo Forest School – heaven in a humble abode”.
Cuckoo Forest School
The plan to visit the Cuckoo Forest School started when my friend Muhil told me about it in a brief chat and we both started surfing online to know more about the school and their contact details. The mission of the school is alternative education of teaching music, arts and sustainable living. I don’t know who coined the name ‘alternative education’ as I believe this is the fundamental education required for children. The vision and mission of the school captivated us and we decided to visit the school directly to know more about it. As we are attending Tamil Nadu ebirders’ meeting at Yelagiri, we wanted to extend our travel to foothills of Jawadu hills, where we found the bliss in simple life.
The Green Abode
Mr. Stalin, volunteer at Cuckoo Forest school made arrangements for our stay. We landed at Singarapettai around 7 pm on 22nd October 2017 and it took about 6km journey from the bus stop to the school. Surrounded with the darkness, we found few kudils with light and bright and warm welcome from volunteers Mr. Muthu, Ms. Ponmani and Mr. Ramesh. Subramani anna welcomed us with the traditional snack foxtail millet balls – mix of foxtail millet granules and honey. When I held the ball in hand I went back in time to my Tamil classes, which resonated “தேனும், தினைமாவும் – குறிஞ்சி நிலத்தின் உணவுமுறை” (குறிஞ்சி – மலையும் , மலைசார்ந்த நிலமும்). Millet and honey – primary food of mountain dwellers as per Tamil Literature. When I swallowed it, I can’t see the mountains around as it was night, but imagined them all around. The millet ball was very tasty and my taste buds thanked anna.
Myself, Muhil and Niveditha with Cuckoo volunteer Ramesh
My friends and me were pouring questions to the volunteers Ponmani, Ramesh and Muthu out of curosity to know about the school, which they answered eloquently. They explained us the history of Cuckoo movement and interactions went till dinner time. My friends Suhirtha Muhil, Kirubha Nandhini, Ramesh, Niveditha and myself sat along with volunteers for dinner. We had delicious vendakka kuzhambu rice, curd rice and kaara boondi.
After dinner, volunteer Ramesh explained the bamboo lamps, wall sculptures and we all enthralled on seeing the crafts that are made out of scraps obtained from forest – i.e. bamboo, leaves, mud and stones. The games pallankuzhi, aadu puliyaatam, chess which were engraved on the floor of the building never missed our attention. Everything fascinated us and the table – a huge tree trunk is one of my favourite. A big black scorpion paid a visit to welcome us. We made a brief butterfly roosting survey and found the hanging beauties – ‘Mottled Immigrants’ on nearby plants. After a short chatting about bird calls and tasty herbal tea, we all went to sleep.
Welcome by scorpion
I am not sure whether sleeping in library make me wise. But, we slept in library. Unlike rooster in city, rooster here seems an early riser and started its alarm clock “Kokrak-ko-Ko” at 3 am. We all woke up around 5 am. After having tasty herbal tea made by Subramani anna, Kirubha has left our party sooner for her work and we four of us as planned during previous night, set a sail in forest for bird watching along with the volunteer Ramesh and the pet Jordan.
The birds calls of Indian Pitta, Gray Junglefowl, Greater Coucal, Jerdon’s Nightjar, White-cheeked Barbet were the first to reach our ears when we started our bird watching. We spend 3 hours in the forest. The long, chill but raucous stream gave us more enthusiasm with its uproar. We spotted and heard the calls of many bird species. To name a few – Black Drongo, Shikra, Red-vented Bulbul, Yellow-billed Babbler, Indian Robin, Oriental Magpie-Robin, Common Myna, Purple-rumped Sunbird, Indian Peafowl, Spotted Dove, Chestnut-headed Bee-eater, Indian Roller, Coppersmith Barbet, Common Iora, etc. The migratory species Greenish Warbler, nests of Baya Weaver should never be missed to mention. The colourful flying friends – butterflies were flying merrily once the sun started shining and the colourful Small Orange tip, Three-spot Grass yellow, Tawny Coster, Blue Tiger, Pied Pierrot, Common Jezebel, Common Rose, Grass yellow, Banded Peacock, Psyche, Striped Tiger, etc enthralled us by their dancing movements. Muhil explained about the dragonflies species during our trail. And we all interacted about birds with volunteer Ramesh.
Muhil explaining about a bird to Ramesh
கேப்பங்கூழ் (Ragi porridge), கொள்ளு (horse gram) chutney and lady’s finger made by samayalamma and Subramani anna quenched our hunger. It is purely a delicacy. We wrapped up our stay with happy memories. Me and my friends are thankful to all the volunteers and the Nature for making our visit one of the memorable event of our life.
கேப்பங்கூழ், கொள்ளு chutney
The Cuckoo Forest School at Singarapettai is a standing example for the lines ” கைத்தொழில் ஒன்றை கற்றுக்கொள், கவலை உனக்கில்லை ஒத்துக்கொள்”. Self-sufficiency and sustainable living is the synonym for Cuckoo Forest School.
To know more about Cuckoo Forest School, visit http://cuckoochildren.blogspot.in/2012/12/cuckoo-forest-dear-friends-welcome.html and their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/cuckoochildren/