KOZHIKODE: “We have been under quarantine 24x7 for decades, even before the advent of the coronavirus," smiles Parappanpara native Raghu.
He is spot on describing the extremely disconnected life his community has been leading since time immemorial. The 29-year-old is among 60 Cholanayaka people who live in the most isolated and difficult-to-reach tribal settlement in Wayanad district -- Parappanpara under the Moopainad panchayat.
Even after two waves of Covid unsettled lives across the country, not a single person in the settlement has contracted the virus. That when Wayanad has had 4,318 positive cases in the second wave among its tribal population, 1,575 of whom are active. The district has also seen six Covid deaths.
Belonging to the Primitive Vulnerable Tribal Group, the Cholanayakas are completely cut-off from the mainstream and live inside the forest in perfect harmony with nature.
"Let alone Covid, I don't remember anyone from among us going to a hospital for treatment. We have our own herbal medicine in the forest. In fact, flu is our biggest disease," Raghu said.
Rajesh K, the secretary of the District Legal Services Authority and a Sub-judge, recalls an incident when he visited Parappanpara last year.
"I noticed rashes on the forehead of a Cholanayaka kid. When I asked the tribal chieftain about that, he smiled and replied that they had their own medicine for that," Rajesh told TNIE.
According to Integrated Tribal Development Project district officer A C Cheriyan, the Cholanayakas do not want to come out of the forest nor do they like anyone intruding into their lives.
"They are leading a contented and healthy life. Even deliveries happen inside the hamlet. They feed on tubular crops, vegetable cultivation and fish in the Chaliyar river. Once in a month or so, they come out of the forest to the uphill Kadachikkunnu to sell the honey collected and to take the ration provided by the government," he said.
No human-wild casualty has been reported from Parappanpara either.
"Wild jumbos destroy their huts frequently. When the forest department built a water tank for Cholanayakas, the pachyderms shattered it the very next day. Yet, neither the tribe nor the elephants treat the other as an enemy. They co-exist," added Rajesh.
Local ward member Yasodha Chandran said that two of the Cholanayakas have been administered the first dose of the Covid vaccine and that they are planning an exclusive vaccination camp soon. The settlement is in mourning now as the tribal people lost their chieftain, 74-year-old Cheriya Velutha, recently. He died following a cardiac arrest on May 19.