Monday, 5 May 2014

Annadaanam

Hunger has set in ... and hunger is not permissible.

In Varalu's house (after her brother sent her out she has moved into a hut with her three children) there is no rice. Her parents have moved in with her. There is no empl
oyment, and their cow will start yielding milk only after 4 months. She get a small stipend for teaching Sasi and for boiling and giving milk - But 1000/- cannot feed 3 adults and three children. Her mother, Chinapaapakka, is in a depression - and there was really no rice in the house. Kala confirmed it when she came yesterday. Every house will be this state - now or soon. There is no money or work. So there is work for us.

Annadanam is intrinsic to the village ethos. Some months ago Chinapaapakka had people from a distant village come over with a bag and ask for rice at each home for annadaanam at their village temple far away. As she gave rice, she explained to me, "When people ask for annadaanam we have to give - even if we have to eat less that day. That is dharmam." Later she said, "If they misuse it it is their karmam ... we have to give that is dharmam."


Another time Eashwaramma explained to me, "When we have food, we have to eat and give to others to eat. That is dharmam. Then the god also comes along with us, and there will be rains." She told me that when dharmam is practiced people who have food, eat a meal and share a meal. She said that now rains have failed as dharmam is failing ...

In Indian religion, a wise friend told me, there is Satya which in individual dharma, and Riti which is the cosmic Dharma. When Satya is followed, th
en Riti also stays on course. Varuna is the God of Riti. And if Dharma fails, we withholds the rains. We need to uphold the Dharma ... we need to prevent hunger ...Eashwaramma gives with respect to each mendicant who knocks at her hut.  Today these upholder of dharmam in each village are in dire need. It is our turn to uphold dharmam today. 

Three months ago, “How will we manage sangati (rice) without going for labour ?” asked Chinapaapakka. Eashwaramma said, “God will give sangati – if not for three meals, then for one meal.” Lakshmamma, older and wiser, added, “God may say go to the forest and collect devadaru leaf and cook and eat it. But even that thought God has to put in our head.” ...  


Let their god work through us. The village temple is sacred to them and rice and dals we donate to the temple will be had as temple prasadam. The money is given to the temple, and every week on Friday they will collect their share from the temple. So the sanctity is there, and also the fact that there is no 'donor' they need to feel indebted to ... it is their god.  
 


Everything is a process ... the village people are discussing. For bulk cooking as in a temple annadaanam (and the village concept of shareing of food is so deep - that no one who comes by will be refused ... people who pass by will be called out to. ) much firewood will be needed. They will have to collectively organize that. Collective processes are the cornerstone of any process - and that is what is getting harder as times corrode.

Firewood is also not available as it used to be ... one has to scour far and wide for it. There is attrition in able bodied people ... with large scale migration due to unemployment. So only the weaker are left behind.


But the people will work it out ... but it takes time. Once they needed to have a village meeting to discuss the running of the village bore. They called for a madhyastham at 10p.m. Only three men came, waited for an hour and left back. The next day they put a lock on the bore saying that till the meeting happens, there will be no water release. People ran from pillar to post for water. Next night there was an attendence of 5 at the meeting ! The lock stayed. The third day the village congregated for the meeting, issues regarding responsibilities were resolved. And water was released.


Processes take time - and have their own dynamics. The village people are discussing the details of the annadaanam. Processes happen in an organic manner ... and the time required is figured out by them. Someone says, 'Where's the firewood' (a real question today !). Someone else says, 'OK, just for the children maybe'. Today Eashwaramma told he that Angadi aame ('shop lady' - the proud title claimed by the tiny bunk shop owner, who sells soaps and matchsticks), said that if people were giving rice and provisions, and as times were hard, then people should contribute wood each day ...

All these churnings are theirs alone ... and various other factors belonging to ancient past will also direct the discussions ... but all this is a necessary part of a community and its dynamics.
...

The village people do not wish to light a big fire (firewood is very difficult) and make a big cooking process at the temple. They are anyway cooking at home with a little wood and some twigs and would like to be given rice that they can cook at home.

Their suggestion is best and most suitable - as always. the answer that comes from the ground is the best. my 'notional' 'annadaanam at the temple' may not make the best sense here - it just adds to their work/ to firewood needs ... at any and every point it is important to reverse one's ideas, and be guided by the village people when it comes to addressing their conditions. this is something that takes a long time to learn - it is called flexibility and humility ... i still need to get there.


The Generosity of those in need - I spoke to Eashwaramma, and bowed in respect to my village people. They discussed the annadaanam threadbare ... and i waited, knowing that village processes have their own timeframe and dynamics.

The village is divided by the railway track into the 'upper village' and the 'lower village'. They wanted to include the 'upper village also'. I identify more with the 'lower village', as our home is there, and kept suggesting that it be kept limited to that. But the decision is theirs.

Eashwaramma was clear - that they decided that there should be fair sharing, and that when rice was being given to the village they would all share equally. So my vilage people decided that they would take 3kg every week, instead of 5kg - so that the rice could be shared with all houses 'eguru' and 'diguru'.

For a village, where there is unemployment, and rice is at a premium, this is a significant choice. Now based on how much is given for annadaanam they will share.

At 2kg rice + 1 glass dal (costing 70/-) - it will cost 5K for the 70 families. Every Friday the annadaanam will be done at the temple. If we have more money, we will give 5kg rice per family which is more decent (and what my village would have got, if they had not decided to share with the opposite village) ..

A it turned out, the money we could raise was limited, and the annadaanam at the temple would not have sustained ... so we diverted that money to more targetted contributions to individual families that were most in need.

But village after village would be in the state our village is in. Annadaanam should be organied in all village temples. Annadaanam is seen as auspicious, and has a hoary tradition. In annadaanam no one is beholden to another, as food is donated to the temple in humility and is accepted in humility. And only God is seen as the giver.

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