Paddy Fields

These vast green carpets in villages are a feast to our eyes. These beautiful paddy fields once were the symbols of villagers’ prosperity. Today, behind the glow of these greens there lies cries of villagers for their debts which are resulted from increased prices of daily laborers, expensive fertilizers, less profitable final product value and unpredictable weather patterns. The end of Indian village agriculture is the end of village life, which in turn is the end of Indian culture and values. So, Lets help the soul of India that lies in villages.

Image source is here

Haridasu

Haridasu, a symbol of Hindu culture and tradition, who ushers the Pongal festival spirit and brings good fortunes to people. Haridasus start their day at 4am. They walk through the streets very fast with bare foot by singing songs on lord Vishnu. People have to be ready with rice/alms for haridasus to drop them in the Akshayapatra (holy rice bowl). The Haridasu in the picture/video is explaining the history behind Haridasu tradition. He sadly admits that the Haridasu culture is on the edge of extinction and seeks the support to keep it alive for the generations to come.

Gaede (Water buffalo)

Gaede (female water buffalo) was the most important animal in almost all houses of Andhra villages in 1980s and 90s. This animal was the main source to villagers for milk, ghee and other dairy products. Thanks to gaede’s mercy, very few people in my grandfather’s village used to buy milk. In villages, farmer’s day starts with milking the buffalo manually with hands (between 5-6 am). Some rich farmers could afford servants to look after their cattle and milking cows and buffalos.

I heard and saw an interesting phenomenon with this milking process. Some of the buffalos only give milk to their owner or a particular servant. They get very angry if someone else touches them. Sounds like these animals form a trust bond with their owner or care taker.

 

 

 

 

 

A responsible farmer would be very careful with the wellbeing of his gaede. He would provide healthy food, clean the body in a village pond with dry rice grass as scrub. Farmers who can afford would build a separate facility to house their gaedes, poor farmers have to tie them under the trees in their backyards.

Apart from milk, villagers found ways to make use of gaede’s dung as a cooking fuel. Villagers collect its dung and mix it with rice husk and press it against a wall or tree trunk with their hand to make pidakalu (dung cakes). These air-dried pidakalu are excellent source to make fire. The ash that comes after burning it would be used as dish washing powder, the coarse texture of the ash is very effective to clean dishes.

Milking gaede and looking after its well-being was man’s responsibility and women would process the milk to prepare coffee, tea, yogurt, buttermilk, butter, ghee etc. Selling milk to neighbors was also a profitable business in villages and the money that come by selling the milk and other milk derived products would serve as pocket-money for the women, usually men won’t use this money.

It’s amazing to see how many people used to get benefits in a number of ways from this humble animal. Sadly, having gaedes as a domestic animal is no longer a viable option in villages today (2011). In my recent visit to India, farmers expressed the concerns that it is getting difficult to maintain them. So, villagers are now relying on commercial dairy milk. Villages that nurtured hundreds of gaedes are now backing off. Commercial cattle farming may be a choice to fulfill the needs but that sweet mysterious bond between the gaede and the farmer and his household will soon be disappeared.

Photos from: Kamal Vas Narayanam (Gaedes in the pond and pidakalu on the palm tree).

Gaede Miliking: http://www.adventureworldtravel.com/

Palaka (Slate)

Slates were the essential part of the primary school education when I was growing up (1980s and 90s). In those days kids used to learn their alphabets and writing skills on slates using slate pencils (kaniki or pala kaniki) or chalk. These thin slabs of rock with wooden frame are bit heavy and fragile in kids hands but very cheap and save lot of paper and ink. Kid’s first lesson was to learn alphabets. Teacher would write two big letters (eg. A and B) on the slate. Kids have to repeatedly rewrite on these letters with a slate pencil by pronouncing them loudly for several times. When kids do these lessons, class rooms resemble like noisy fish market. Once he/she learned how to write A and B letters, teacher would erase the slate and write next set of letters and this process would be continued until the kid learned to write all letters. This was how first lessons of school used to begin in those days.

As kids are cool, they also found different unwanted uses of these slates and pencils in those days. Some hungry kids used to eat slate pencils and slate frame and for some angry kids it was a powerful weapon to throw at their enemy to take revenge.

The fragile thin rock slabs were later replaced by metal slates coated with black paint and the heavy wooden frame was replaced with plastic with a handle on the top. In those days slate was the major writing medium for the rich and poor, but today (2011) mainly serving the poor. Indians love for this little beauty now forcing them to keep this method of learning alive by developing iSlates, a low-cost solar-powered electronic notepad.

Photos are from here, here and here 

Thati Chettu (Palm Tree)

In summer school holidays (1990s) I always used to crave for eating thati munjalu (Ice-apple in English) at my grandparents place (Chintalamori, Andhra Pradesh). The English name of the tree is Asian Palmyra palm (please refer to wikipedia for more info). Collecting fruits from this tree is not easy. We used to run after our friends, relatives and servants who could climb this tall tree to cut the fruits for us. Once we got the fruits from the tree the next step was to cut the top layer of the fruit skillfully to expose the juicy jelly core in three separate eyes (holes?) of the fruit. Once it is cut open, you need to know how to use your thumb to scoop the munju (jelly) from the each eye of the fruit. In cities, they sell scooped jelly bit, easier to eat but no real fun, you got to get dirty your hands and mouth to enjoy its taste :)

Kids in those days (I’m sure even today 2011) used to love this fruit so much not only for its amazing taste, but to play with the eaten fruits by making toy vehicles. In summer holidays, every kid in the village would love to play with this pollution free vehicle with no speed limit (depends on how fast you run with it).

Apart from amusing kids, this tree is very important for villagers for many purposes.

Similar to coconut tree, every part of this tree is useful. The fan-shaped dried leaves of this tree are essential to make roofs for the huts in villages. Some villagers use fresh leaves to make as small pouches to carry their lunch and other food items to field work. The fiber from the leaf stem is used to make ropes. These are very strong, villagers use them for many purposes: to tie their cows and buffaloes, to make wooden ladders, construction of huts etc. The long dark black coloured stem is used as beams to build houses and huts. The dried leaves and stem are used as a domestic cooking fuel and to make  fires in the village festivals. This tree also produces an intoxicating drink called “kallu”, poor man’s wine. This tree indeed is a poor man’s Kalpavriksham – a tree that grants boons and fulfill’s one’s wishes.

Photos are from here, here and here.

Village Gossip

In Andhra Pradesh villages (1980s and 90s), after having breakfast, lunch or dinner, farmers gather one by one in front of a temple or a house to share whats in their mind. Some people bring news papers, some bring their cigars, some come with big mouth and some just turn up to clean their ears with a match stick. No hurry, they have all the time, one person initiates the topic slowly, a sentence which could be finished in few seconds might be dragged to a couple of minutes. Slowly conversations get the momentum and people who are well versed would raise their voice and talk loudly to prove their knowledge and point. Sometimes, everyone would suddenly stop their conversation to focus their attention on the someone who was walking on the road-because he was a new person to the village, then someone would explain to the rest of the group that this kid is the second grandson of Mr Narayana Murty, everyone would be relieved of the suspense about the new guy and continue with their conversation. Some times, these meetings would go for hours and hours, people who began may not stay until the end, new ones come and join the group. They talk about their agriculture, village matters, neighbor issues, state and country politics etc. These meetings in fact help them to update their knowledge about the world.

I think its in our genes. I can see that all this social networking started from these street corners, high-school and university campuses. No matter how far we go but we all want to be stay connected. We love sharing our happiness and sorrows, we enjoy listening to mysteries and gossips, we like making our point in front of a group of people, we feel good to talk about the trends and developments, we are curious to know the history of the new kid in the block, we love showing our new stuff to others, we prefer hanging around a café and just do nothing – Because we are the only known life form that can consciously experience and express our being on this planet. What happens when everyone gets busy and have to stay apart due to work, money or family demands? We are intelligent enough to find ways to stay connected to share what’s in our mind – Origin of FB, Twitter, MySpace etc.

Photo is from here

Post Box

Post box was the major source to collect and transfer written messages to desired destinations in 1980s and 90s. There were different shapes of post boxes but the bright red coloured hanging post box(see photo) was the most common one in those days. It was a great feeling to see this type of post box still in use today (2011) in some rural villages (Andhra Pradesh) of India. As a kid I used to grab letters from my father’s hand to drop it in the box. Parents and school teachers used to send reliable kids to these post boxes to post their letters. So as a kid it was a proud feeling and great achievement to drop letters in the box safely in those days. My father used to tell me that I should shake the box after dropping the letters to make sure that they won’t get stuck in the hole. These post boxes used to hang on the windows of the houses, banks, schools, current poles etc. As e-mail, e-card and mobile phones are now ruling the communication world, these humble hanging post boxes have to wait longer hours for the customers to fill their empty stomachs.

The Zing Thing! Gold Spot!!

Gold spot was a popular fizzy orange-flavored soft drink in 1980s and 90s in India. It was the most preferred choice of soft drink in villages (Andhra, India). In those days people used to feel proud to offer this drink to friends and relatives during weddings and on the other special occasions. In rural India, when a guest visits a house, a family member of that house would quickly run or cycle to nearby shop to buy a Gold spot and bring it home to proudly offer it to the guest. Its advertisement in movie theaters and TVs with a catchy tag line “The Zing Thing” was very familiar (see below video). This brand was bought by Coca-cola from the Indian company Parle and eventually replaced by Fanta. Gold spot is no longer available in the market, but it has got a good spot as a refreshing soft drink in the hearts of Indians (80s and 90s) who enjoyed this zing thing.

Photo is from here

Logarithm Book

I saw my brothers using this mysterious book that has no letters but just numbers on every page (1980s). It’s a must have book in our intermediate in 1990s (years 11 and 12). This whole book is now replaced with a little log button on the calculator. Amazing!

Memory origin: 1990s, Andhra Pradesh, India.

Photo source: Click here

Natraj Geometry Box

Natraj Geometry box is one of the favorites of our time (1990s). It was a very common item in every kid’s school bag. It was the most expensive of all items I used to carry to school (excluding school bag). Apart from the geometric functions, this box used to serve as storage box for money, goodies etc. I saw friends keeping their favorite God’s photo, time-table, stickers etc inside the box. The noise (due to metal compass, pencils, pens, sharpeners etc inside the box) of the box when kids walk or run in the school compound was very familiar in those days. Boys keep it in their pockets and girls used to carry them around the school as if its their hand bag. Memory from: Place: Korukonda, East Godavari Dt, Andhra Pradesh, Country: India.

Photo is from here