Saturday, 24 May 2014

When village people come to the city (3)

The village people and the village children look happy and beautiful in the village backdrop even with their torn clothes, or with the typical shiny new clothes that they like best. But the same children when the come to a city look ‘poor’. Their dresses look cheap and shiny and they look dark and undernourished.

Is it that the backdrop  of nature and trees takes in all differences as part of nature itself and celebrates all life. Do people living with plants and animals subconcsiously become as accomodating and large as nature itself ? An Eashwaramma with a squint or a Devarajulu with a wooden leg are taken as they are and so seem as normal as full bodied people. Kiranmayi who used to drag herself and her dysfunctional leg had always got on in the the village. It was when she came to Chennai, that from the bus stop onwards people started staring and pointing and she started feeling a  ‘freak’

Is it too much of ‘man’ in cities that brings with it perversions of classifications of rich and poor, of better and worse. Is it the presence of overfed kids and obscene display of wealth in a city that makes makes comparative poverty stand out? My village children when they come here comment on how fat the children in a city look.

Then there is at best a condescension and at worst a sweeping derision of the villages that the average city dweller has in his heart. In city schools, in both upper middle class schools and lower middle class schools, a child would say ‘Do you know I went to a village. It was so boring and dirty. Poor people shiver in front of fires in winters. They have no gas to cook on.’ And the other children would concur that villages were so dirty, and so full of cowdung. They neither know the satisfaction of hard physical work, nor the warmth that a wood fire can give to the heart and soul. With ignorance sheathed in layers of arrogance and foolishness, shallowness and superficiality they look down on the ‘poor’ with pity or disgust. Is it then the poor start feeling poor ?

Also the hospitality, the culture and the decency that exists in villages is absent in the cities. In a village the generosity of the people overwhelms the economic poverty. In a setting devoid of that culture, the economically poor look poor.

Many children of the upper caste village whose parents have moved to the cities are growing up there and also go to the city schools. The city ignorance and the city airs are absorbed quickly. When these children came to our home and realized that the floor was mopped with cowdung, they swiftly jumped up, and refused to sit again. When my daughter brought in some cow urine to treat the winnow, they looked horrified. It takes far less than the duration of a  generation  to lose roots …

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