Taking along new visitors for their first walk to ‘Broken Bridge’ (BB) from the SEARCH campus is an eye opener in many ways. First one has to get up early morning to go there being the one of the eye openers, to be back before the 830am work hour with time enough for breakfast etc. Second is the short cut through thickly wooded area through narrow walkways, which present some jungle surprises depending on the season. Third is the bridge itself, but let’s not jump ahead right now.
The last time it happened was about couple of weeks ago. Few interns from Mumbai and Fellows from US together had planned for this walk since weeks, but everyone’s schedules took time to match. Couple of visitors also could join in, and we all got together at the ‘chowk’ (square), which is kind of the center of the campus. Fortunately the Mess people had prepared tea early enough so all those who love their morning cuppa wanted to have a break even before we began the walk.
There was tangible excitement in the air so no one really minded the short delay and chatted in small groups. The two campus dogs, Zombie and Koyal, a Doberman couple somehow smelled out that there will be a long walk and energetically ran around everyone to get us moving. Those who were drinking tea, finished it quickly and we started following the eager dogs towards broken bridge.
The Shodhgram (SEARCH campus) gates face East and if you walk out early enough in the morning, then invariably will be greeted by an orange sun streaming in from far away rice fields. Basking in the sunlight and shadows created by bamboos at the fence, the group followed the dogs through the road and soon cut right towards the jungle shortcut. This time the surprises were giant spiders 15-20 cm big, and their 6-8 foot diameter webs, gleaming in the sunlight, as these spiders appear only after rainy season every year.
We strolled through the mud pathways, some chatting with each other, some in a silent observation mode and some rushing here and there with their cameras to capture the experience. About 2km ahead, we came across the bridges (one broken and other new one which is standing). The smooth river sand invited us to walk around and explore the broken bridge, as water levels had receded enough to climb around the huge slabs of cement which had collapsed around. The dogs ran through the river splashing water and the humans basically rested in the banks, lost in own thoughts.
For me the focus points were the 2 ends of the bridge, longing to be together again. Connectedness is something we always crave for in general, but what things prevent that? How can they be overcome? No immediate answers dawned, but a slow realization emerged… even though non-functional, this broken bridge can be a symbol of my search. Another eye opener was that, I probably should share this with others and they might come up with their own symbolisms or some interesting interpretation.
The walk back was brisk, as if everyone was eager to begin the actualization process of their recent realizations. Or maybe it was the long delayed breakfast awaiting at the mess. That is, eye openers in the physical or psychological sense are part of this BB walk.
Venkatesh Iyer, a psychologist by training, currently serves as a coordinator and Mental Health officer at SEARCH, Gadchiroli. In his role, he looks after mental health intervention and research aspects of SEARCH, as well as the coordination of the internship/fellowship program and also serves as the resource person in Nirman project and in areas of internal training and development. Prior to this, he worked as a consultant at Quantum Market Research Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai, in consumer behavior research and also as a Psychologist at the Institute for Psychological Health, Thane.