Finding Myself in Tripura

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What was the common factor that linked visiting the Indian hill state of Tripura, researching rural development programs, studying forest agriculture, crossing of a river in spate of rain on a single bamboo pole bridge—and being aquaphobic? Me. I spent two weeks of my summer vacation in Tripura as part of a rural development study group, on a trip that involved visiting tribal schools, adult-learning centers, village head offices, and government-built roads and houses. That fortnight changed my urbanised perspective, permanently.

My first day in Tripura began with a forest official taking me to government-owned agro-forestry plantations. I was apprehensive. It was hot, the distances involved were long, and I had to walk uphill on narrow tracks along steep hill-sides. With no fencing to hold on to, I could think of nothing but how to avoid plunging into the valley two hundred feet below. But I was determined to visit the plantation and was compelled me to bash on regardless. So, after a gruelling hike of seven kilometres, I reached a tiny plantation where patches of lychees, black pepper, and lemon were being cultivated. The farm was in a bad financial state; black pepper and lemon market prices were on a decline, and lychees...

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