Tuesday, 1 July 2014

But understanding a village takes a long time.

But understanding a village takes a long time. The very different perspectives and world views of the rural Indian and of educated urban Indian means that what is understood is often different from what is meant.There is scope for misunderstanding even in ordinary communication. For a long time the children and I used to look at the skies in the nights for constellations. Orion was a favourite constellation. After some years, on a starless night, six year old Nandini pointed out ‘Orion’ on the Malleshwaram hill. There were some street lamps up the hill on the path to the temple at at the top, and the pattern they formed from a distance was what she meant as Orion.  And for years we had survived this discussion, each of us meaning something very different by the word Orion – me a star constellation, and she a pattern of dots , maybe as in a muggu (rangoli/ pattern of dots, lines and curves made on the floor at the doorstep) . This communication at cross purposes keeps happening. The rural Indian and the educated urban Indian live in different time-spaces and in different value systems. One is Indian, and the other, in mind and soul, is Western. Within rural India, the feudal landlord and the landless labourer have a common understanding because they belong to the same world view. It takes time for the educated urban person to tune in to that, and only after that can the reality be perceived.

There are the preconceived positions of the educated man. A city friend of ours tried to explain to Rani that by painting a muggu (rangoli/ kolam) with paint on the frontyard, instead of drawing it with the white rock powder twice a day daily, she could be free of drudgery and save time. She did not respond. That it was drudgery was meaningless to her. The word drudgery itself did not exist in her mind. And each muggu made was an act of creation and joy to her. Another city friend was upset at the ‘sanskritization of the natives’ when the children said some shlokas  after lighting the evening lamp in our house before sitting down to study. The ‘native’ has a heart large enough to hold his village Gangamma, the Tirupati Balaji and Jesus Christ. And he hangs all pendents on his neck! Another time when a dalit supporter came and abused the god during Vinayaka Chaturti, telling the dalits that all gods are cheats, the dalits only looked benignly at him. Their gods are all benign and vast and do not need to defend themselves nor do their devotees feel the need to defend them. A vast religiousness encompasses their life. Often the urban educated Indian is far removed from this.

Practices like animal sacrifices in their rituals are conceived as barbaric. But that is part of a non vegetarian community’s offerings to their god. They neither feel defensive nor belligerrant about their animal sacrifices when it is criticized. Their own lore also includes positions against  animal sacrifices. All positions are accepted in humility.

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