Padamonnai song was written in 1989 while I was working in Chhattisgarh. I was staying in a small village called Kash in Gariabandh block, Raipur district. I came to village Kash with the help of Krishna Prasad Sinha (Sinhaji), to learn about and experience North Indian village life. The river Pairi flows close to the village of less than a hundred inhabitants. Sinhaji introduced me to his friends in the village Mehatar Ram Devavansi and Santhuram Nirmalkar. Mehatar is a farmer and an artist. He is well versed in the folk-art form, Chattigarhi Nacha. He also knew many Chattisgarhi folk songs and social awareness songs in Hindi. Nirmalkarji is a member of Gayatri Parivar, a religious organization. He used to sing bhajans and conduct pooja in villages. My food and stay were arranged in Nirmalkarji’s house. Sinhaji is a trained social activist of Prayog and he is a good singer and a theatre artist as well. He had a farm in village Kash. He used to come and stay with his friends and do farming there. He entrusted me with his friends and went home. My organisation AWAZ led by Adv. PA Cyrus gave me a monthly allowance of Rs 500 which took care of my food and stay at Kash.
Soon I became friends with some of the children in Kash. Some of the names I remember are Punaram, Faguram and Gangaram. I used to go with Mehatar to river Pairi to bath in the morning and in the evening, I used to sit with the children to learn Chattisgarhi language and in return to teach them English. Sinhaji used to visit in connection with his organizational work. I used to help him write reports. Sinhaji and Mehatarji use to teach me folk songs and social awareness songs. Mehatar took me to the performances of Ramayan Natya Mandali reciting the story of Ramayana in Chattigarhi language. He once took me to a Chattisgarhi Nacha performance also. This helped us to organize a theatre festival in Kash village in which 11 Ramayan Natya Mandalis from neighbouring villages took part. The theme was ‘Safeguard the Environment’. I had a few Malayalam poetry books with me which I used to read and take notes. I also kept a dairy to write my daily experiences. Sometimes my friends from my parent organization used to visit. The Kash area is full of Saal and Mahua trees and I will never forget the lush green landscape. The people in the village are very loving, Nirmalkar’s wife, Bhabhi used to give me food. I also ate from Mehatar’s house. All of them, considered me a member of their village. After several years, I revisited Kash village with my wife Suneela and son Sangeeth. While we were talking and walking towards Mehatar’s house, Bhabhi recognized my voice without seeing me and called me ‘Santhos..‘.
I used to do meditation and yoga near the river Pairi and it was an intoxicating experience to sit on the windy riverbank full of Saal and Mahua trees. One fine morning, while I was sitting there, a few thoughts came to my mind which I put together as the song ‘Padamonnai’. The life of a river is its flow. River flows from the mountains to the valleys, from higher up to lower places. While flowing, it gives its lifegiving water to all living beings on the way. It flows and shares its happiness all around. The moment the river stops flowing, it will start degenerating. The river must flow towards the ocean, its final destination with all its tributaries together. Human life is like a river. Our life should flow like a river. We are destined to work together with all people around us, sharing our energy and resources. Shoulder to shoulder, we are called to strive towards a society that is just and peaceful. If we stop our flow, our sharing, our working together, individuals and institutions will start degenerating. Therefore, we need to sing together and flow together as a river committed to a better world.
Santhosh George Joseph
25th March 2021