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The complications of the simple village life !

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rahul.mesh View Drop Down
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    Posted: 18 Aug 2017 at 1:26pm

The complications of the simple village life!

This blog post is translation of an article published in marathi daily 'Loksatta' under column 'Ghatmathyavarun' on 5th May, 2017.

“Why do you want to leave the comfort of your home and roam the mountains, in this scorching sun, carrying this burden on your back? What purpose does it serve?” Time and again I was asked this question by villagers, who found the whole idea of this expedition crazy. Their surprise was evident and their question direct. To them my hardships were comparable to the exile in Ramayana!! For them my joy of roaming through the mountains, of scaling different heights, of walking with a backpack with no definite purpose was totally unfathomable.

In the city we try to satisfy our questions in a supposedly civilized manner by asking indirect questions and oblique references. But here the questions were direct and endearingly open. They asked me about everything, right up to how many children I had and why after the birth of my daughter I did not try for a son and how could life be meaningful without a son and so on. Their innocence was heart-warming, though their directness stumped me. I used to smile and try to change the subject.

As endearing was their innocence so also was their hospitality. Utmost care was taken of my comfort. At times thinking I had not eaten enough, more food was pressed on me. A direct and caring command would follow. “You have hardly eaten anything! Have a small piece of this bhakri” This directness may be considered crude by ‘civilized’ people like us, but I thought it more as a reflection of their simple life. The proximity to nature lends a natural flavour to their questions, with no artificial and roundabout ways of talking!
Of course this simple country life has its darker side. Apart from the natural and geographical disadvantages, the villagers are till date ridden with casteism, superstitions, babas, sadhus and other charlatans.  At Tryambakeshwar I met a baba, who accompanied me till my next destination.  Throughout the journey he regaled me with stories of his power, which he used, to cure people of every known illness.  On the way we met so many people who worshipped him and asked him to grace their house or help them in some way or the other. Their belief in bhagats and babas is much stronger than in medicine.

The most disturbing was the prevalence of caste system and its obvious manifestations in the day to day village life. Villagers would offer me- a total stranger- food and shelter but would not help somebody from a lower caste. If I asked for an address of somebody, who belonged to a lower caste, nobody deigned to answer my question. On one such occasion an old lady, waving her hand in the general direction answered –“probably there somewhere”. More than the answer itself. I found the tone disturbing.   I was quite taken aback with the disgust in her tone. With the same expression and tone, she inquired after my caste. So whether I should be helped or not would be determined by my caste. The tone was so offensive, that a person like me who was not really a part of that social milieu, could feel the insult that the question carried with it. I can only imagine the plight of the lower castes living in such conditions. I did not answer her but went on my way. The villagers have closed their minds and eyes to the caste-based discrimination. Sadly the wide open spaces around seem to have no effect on this.

Prasad Nikte

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