Monday, September 10, 2012

Salaiya

We went to the field today. I was more excited about doing something than the purpose of what we were doing. We had been divided, us five students, so that we were all stationed in different villages with different teams. I was with Mankiji and Kuldipji.

The groups left at around 11 in the morning, after a hearty breakfast of puri-like 'leetis', aaloo sabji, and tea. There's always tea. I left on the bike with Mankiji, a tall, lanky, middle-aged man who speaks with a soft lisp. His voice is calm, the kind that is naturally polite. We picked up Kuldipji at the entrance of the village assigned to us - Salaiya. It is the closest of all the villages, only 10 km away. The three of us wobbled on the muddy path, until the bike could not take the unstability. Kuldipji and I walked the length of an especially squishy stretch. We when drove the rest of the way to a cul-de-sac. A man wearing a blue, plaid dhoti and a white thread slung across his pot-bellied torso greeted us.

His name was Ram Naresh Yadav, devotee of Lord Ram. He even had his name carved into the concrete slab on the well in front of his house. We were ushered inside and invited to sit on the three chairs in the room. When he went to get water, Mankiji explained that the two of them had studied in school together. On the other side of the wall, two female heads were staring at me. One was covered with the pallu of a sari, the other was plaited into a braid. Were they not allowed to come into the room we were in? Was their role in this moment to prepare food for us and wait for the patriarch of the family to summon them to do otherwise? I realize reality is not that dramatic, that such a life of routine and roles survives due to the balance it creates in the institution called family. However, this is just one perspective, a structuralist-functionalist one which stipulates that society can only function in the stability created by the contribution of different institutions, all of which work together to ensure the order in society. Another lens through which one can analyze this situation is where the oppressor nor the oppressed is aware of the exploitation that is occurring. Or perhaps they are, but they don't want to change it, due to a variety of reasons.

Casual conversation was being made. Yadavji pointed out that his wife was sick. They had taken her to a big hospital in Ranchi. I asked what the problem was. Tension, he said. Why it was there, he did not know. He continued: what is tension? It comes and goes, it is a mental condition. Yadavji did not seem too worried. The conversation shifted to the condition of the world. Some things will never change, he said. Just look at these people, said Yadavji, they are called Narbali. They kill humans and sprinkle their blood on their rice fields, thinking it will increase production. Imagine!

The OBCs (Other Backward Classes) are the hotshots in these parts of Jharkhand, particularly the Yadavs. In other words, this individual was part of the upper class in Salaiya. He had a boy called 'Chottu' whom he summoned to serve us water. He believed that the world will never change because of the Others. I though of Gandhi's words - Be the change you wish to see in the world. Be. You. Not 'Make Others Be'. In many ways, Gandhi was a wise man. It would do Yadavji some good to read upon this fellow Ram-devotee.

1 comment:

  1. To experience a slice of the life, that exists in some other part of the world, thru your blog- I want more. But really do I ? as it does disturb me in ways, which I do not understand. In my mind's eye so are you.

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