A WISE nonagenarian in my village Anta, reverentially called Tau Gyani, was a raconteur, besides being knowledgeable. He passed away some years back. On hindsight, and in view of the Covid-19 lockdown, I recall what he said about my village having been a single, independent economic entity, once upon a time, when it came to making do with the locally available resources then.
He vividly remembered the names of those who cultivated land and produced grain, not for themselves or their families, but for the entire village. He recalled the hard work put in by these tillers. The natives of Anta never had to buy grains etc from elsewhere, whether it was wheat, rice, cotton or sugarcane. Anta remained in a perpetual lockdown all the year round since it was inaccessible on all sides. One had to cross streams, rainy rivulets and swamps to reach Anta. It was only after weeks, or months, that one visited the nearby town of Safidon, which was called shehar. Hence, Anta was an archipelago for all practical purposes, and as such, had to depend entirely on itself. Tau Gyani said Antawalas never needed outside support.
There was only one blacksmith in the village, Ram Raj. Tau Gyani recalled that he was deaf. He was available to the entire village for even carpentry work, He would fine-tune the ploughshare of the tillers and wouldn’t expect an immediate remuneration but would wait for six months, when the next crops would mature, and his patrons would be in a position to pay him, in the form of grain.
One Jumman julaha would weave cloth and durries for all. Mamraj, the barber, would double as the matchmaker, suggesting matches for eligible bachelors and bachelorettes, in consultation with the village priest. This duo too was paid on a six-month basis in kind by those who availed of their services.
Munshi, the cobbler, was the head of a couple of families. He not only provided footwear in the form of juttis but also was available for removing animal hides and burying dead animals. The scavengers lent his family a helping hand in such operations. They also got their remuneration on the maturity of crops.
There was no dearth of milk, but some Gujjar families were known to rear livestock and make ghee available to village residents during pregnancies, wrestling bouts and other activities involving physical labour.
When the crops matured and reached the barns, all those who provided services during the preceding months would gather to take home their share of grains. Tau Gyani recalled,
‘It was a happy society... happy times with limited demands.’ His only lament was the lack of educational and health facilities that forced Anta to look towards the shehar.
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