Village has changed, and all in it

Village has changed, and all in it

Lt Gen RS Sujlana (retd)

Lt Gen RS Sujlana (retd)

Visits to the village were rejuvenating, one always returned fascinated with the natural surroundings. A recent trip to the village brought back memories. The early morning ritual of rushing to the chabara (rooftop) to breathe the serenity of green fields, across which lay a thick grove of trees, a trip there was a must. Within was the Persian wheel operated by a pair of buffaloes, their eyes blinkered, robotic-like circumambulated the same path. The wheel creaked and squeaked, the troughs poured out water and disappeared into the well. It was hypnotic. To reach the grove, one walked along the fringes of the chhappad (pond) where buffaloes lay submerged, enjoying their bath; the egrets on their backs pecked insects to their fill, while the cowherds tried their luck to catch fish. One returned home balancing on the vattan along the periphery of the fields — a slip and it was a puddle of water. The walk ended at the tubewell, the gushing waterspout filled the cemented chubuchha (trough). A dip in that mini swimming pool was pure manna! Hunger pangs rushed us back home to sumptuous paranthas with fresh butter, omelette, pickle, all unforgettable.

On the last visit, by habit, I went to the rooftop, only to face cemented walls all around. Disappointed, I quietly came down and stepped into the gali, thinking that a walk to the outskirts of the village would give me what I was looking for. But alas, instead of the huge expanse of green fields, I saw scraggy patches of greenery, no sign of the village pond or the grove. Saddened, I headed back, only to see a bare corner which housed an earthen furnace, operated by an elderly lady (bai) who meticulously kept the fire going by twigs and branches to keep the cauldron sand at the right temperature. Here, one would carry raw grains from home, and returned with the popped corn, roasted gram, chickpeas or ground nuts to relish. Her cut was just a handful of grain that added to her daily earnings.

Another corner revived more memories of the local tandoor, which was heated up in rotation by women. Turn by turn, each household woman baked fresh tandoori rotis, which were fluffy and thick, punctured with small depressions (kujje) to be filled with clarified butter. And my God, what a taste! Sadly, tandoori rotis now came from a dhaba, typically thin and dry like any urban food outlet.

The drive back was rather depressing. Modernisation had had a telling negative effect. Environmental degradation was absolute. There was no sign of the rain harvester pond, every nook and corner was laden with garbage and plastics, the treasure troves that were etched in memory were nowhere. The village had really disappeared!

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