Mangal Macche, 17
Titirgaon, Jagdalpur, Chhattisgarh
Moved to residential school here to escape Naxal violence
Home is a confusing word for 17-year-old Mangal Macche. His village is called Ambeli, deep in Bijapur’s forests, “kuchh kilometre” from Kutru town, he says.
But that is not his home any more, not since 2007, when his father married another woman and Macche was sent off to Gayatri Ashram in Titirgaon in Jagdalpur, over 150 km away, with 16 other children, who were orphaned or whose families were hit by Naxal violence. Macche’s mother was killed by Naxals when he was just five. “They killed her because my father had joined the Salwa Judum,” he says.
A Class IX student and a yoga instructor at Gayatri Ashram, Macche feels “my home is now my school, and my village is just my village”. He has visited his village only twice in the last eight years “for fear that Naxals would harm me”.
Six months ago, he visited Ambeli for barely a week, and even for the short visit, he carried the five things always with him. “There is little else I have,” he says.
There are at least eight photographs Macche is proud of — a frame of himself wearing an orange costume and dancing, another of a street play he and other students staged for dignitaries in Jagdalpur, and of him performing yoga in front of state Education Minister Kedar Kashyap. “When I went home, I took along the photos. So they will believe me when I tell them what I do at school,” he says.
His science book
He likes science the most. “I always carry the science book with me to read… I want to become a doctor and go back to my village, treat my people,” he says.
His school uniform
Mangal Macche has only two sets of clothes — a pair of shirt and trousers that he wore on his journey, and his school uniform, which he took along to the village. “This school gave me my life. This uniform means everything,” he says.
When Macche first went to Titirgaon, he carried a a blanket along. Now tattered, it is his “only memory from the village” which he always carries with him.
The white string
Asked about the fifth item, he falls silent. Repeatedly, he says “kuchh nahin”. Then he talks about a memory, of his mother laughing with him as she worked in the fields. There is nothing to remember her by now, except one thing. Thin, tenuous and fragile. He looks down at his right hand, at the white string hanging from his wrist. It was put on him as a child by his mother.