Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Madhya Pradesh Diaries

As I travel through dusty heartland of Rural central India, the landscape bathes in the summer sun and blue sky. The wheat which has become yellow golden, the green sugarcane fighting the sunrays, becoming yellow, the trees stark, stripped of their leaves, brown bark, yellow dust swirling upto the branches. And then suddenly, a green palm tree, which has survived the harsh environs.

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I meet some farmers, bodies darkened, hands callused, their sweat and grime in my hand- the golden wheat, which is on my table every night because of them. I can see the elements have worn them out, weathered faces, hard luck, dependence on the climate, they still welcome me warmly.

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At 41 degrees temperature, as they harvest the grain, suddenly one farmers pipes up, telling his ghoonghat clad wife, "Look how smart this city girl is, she even talks to men. You should learn something from her." And they break in peals of laughter.

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In another village, we ask if the women go shopping. No, the reply. Not even saris? No. House hold items? No. Anything? They shake their heads and say, "But they are not the decision makers, madam. They stay at home look after everything here."

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Another evening, there is a wedding in the village. Suddenly, our arrival means, the bride and the groom are relegated to the sidelines. We are the new celebrities and we have to make polite conversation with the thousands of guests present there. The women are in another corner, in their bright colourful saris. I walk upto them and take a picture from a digital camera. They shyly come forward to see it. And then there is a stampede to get their pictures clicked - from the old grandmother to the 6 year old girl!

Later, the village sarpanch and elders sit around me at 1.00, I chew on my batley (a local delicacy) and drink the purest aam panna, I have ever had. And in that night, as I am thousands of kilometers away from home, under a star studded sky, discussing politics, wheat prices, inflation and culture with them, they are in awe of me. "Aap itni door yahan baithi ho, koi darr nahi lag raha, ghar sey itni door?" I shake my head, "Its my job."

And then one of the farmers sings this song, inspired by his land-

Chali rey chali,
Kisan ki lali,
Bhariya rang ki chunariya,
Oodh kar chali,
Kisan ki lali,
Khet khaliyaon ko chali...

As I leave, the moon spreads its light, the cool breeze envelopes me, the darkness hides the starkness of the farmland. I trudge back to the hotel in the city at 5.00 A.M

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Halfway through my trip, I am suddenly homesick. A person who is ever ready for the new adventures and quests, I am suddenly missing my home, my room, my bed. It's strange. Or maybe its because I am working with the
ogre.

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For the Nth time I am really irritated. yet another person had taken me to be a tourist guide. Yes, I work with foreigners. No, I am not a guide. I am a journalist. I wish someone would ban that RIN/Surf ad with the girl-tourist guide!

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One summer evening, my driver Khan Sa'ab, a frail old man touching seventy, turns to me and speaks to me in perfect English, "You are a great lady." Why, I ask. I have never seen a woman go so deep in the country side. And that too, to tell the story of our farmers. Who really cares about them? I tell him, "I hope, I can change that a little bit."

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This diary (blog post) will be updated in the coming weeks as I travel more. Stay tuned and keep checking back here!

20 comments:

Curious said...

Oh some beautiful writing thr zephy...

n.aka.zephyr said...

Hey Curious,
Thanks :)
I have lots of inspiration :D

Kamesh said...

Hi N :)

I m back frm Korea..

Where r u travelling in MP?? mera home state :D:D

Can't say if this is a good time to be there coz of the summer but u will really have some amazing experiences..

Have lots of kheera and kakdi in the summer there.. they sell it very cheap there and its good for u..

Take Care.. will look forward to updates frm u.

Vrij said...

Awesome.. I have always wanted to just travel through our countryside.. not on a job though!

n.aka.zephyr said...

Hi Kamesh,
How was your trip??

I didn't know you were from MP!!

Well my base is the capital city and I am travelling from there.... We had to do it in summer time coz we wanted to capture the situation at this time....

garmi sey haal bura hai....

thanks for the tip... will buy both and eat... otherwise glucon D hai naa... zinda rehney key liye :D


take care!!!

n.aka.zephyr said...

Vrij,
me too!! but jab mauka lagey tab fayada uthana chaihiye...

i mite come again in the future sometime... hopefully not on the job!

Kamesh said...

Don't u remember that different parts of my body are from different places in India :D:D
I hv spent my entire childhood and did my schooling in MP and my family is based there..

My Korea trip was extremely good..

Hey mauka mila to pachmarhi ghoom kar aao.. its a beautiful hill station and a welcome relief from the summers.. and its close to Bhopal.. there's Bhimbethka (oldest man-made cave paintings)..
aur bhi bahut kuch.. the big lakes in Bhopal, etc..

aur info chahiye to batana :D:D

moai said...

That's India I wanted to visit. I wish I had. But will ever a EUcy find this land. I know peasants too. I just have to close my eyes to remember their grey water washed eyes and their white skin marbled by our "bise" (Icewind). They were as superstitious, weather worried and warm at heart as the ones you have met. Now they're few of them left. They re old. Sons and daughters gone to the city. And they know that agriculture is no longer a matter of hard working men but of engineers and managers.
What is best?
How shoul I know?

n.aka.zephyr said...

hey kamesh,
now that you say it.. i remember :)
abhi toh kaam sey hi fursat nahi ho rahi.. i hope i get time to goto sanchi, bhimbetka and pachmarhi... par abhi toh mushkil lag raha hai :|

i had an ice cream soda at top n town in bhopal today... seems like they have a monolpy on the ice cream market in the city!!

its crazy hot these days abt 45 degrees in the hinterland area :O

i hope i can survive this and come back to delhi sometime next month :D

n.aka.zephyr said...

hey moai,
this is the india i also wanted to visit... finally got a chance!!!

and msot of the farmers i met wanted their children to become engineers... it seems our farming community will dwindle in the times to come... and no one knows what is better... city life or the village life because both have their pros and cons...

take care!

taureandude_23 said...

hi NG
a wonderful account of the rustic countryside you are presently working in. the 1st two paras were very vivid in their descriptions and created the whole scene in fronta me.

i liked the format of the post instead of writing a countinuos post, you made a collage of thoughts at different times. quite an innovative style. it many a times happens that we want to write but writing continuous posts jus dosent do justice. ill try this technique now that im goin to my native place. small doses of thoughts, lets see how the final recipe turns out. country side loitering is quite a contrast from the city loitering that we are accustomed to. when we see the villagers toiling to get two square meals a day, it makes our city based issues seem so trivial.

paras 3 n 4 are quite contradictory, and this can happpen only in India:D

as for your query on farming life being on the decline, well its not totally that way. in some places the farmers, agriculturists are earning much more than their city counterparts. but at the same time farmer suicides are on the rise. its a shaky ground really and only time will tell if the farming community will be on a constant decline or not.

take care
ciao

moai said...

Could you please translate the song for me please?

Meher :) said...

Zephie..

Do you realise that the way you wrote is absolutely wonderful? :)

It felt just like reading an excerpt from some best seller novel! An no flattery that!

You made the whole thing sound so very enjoyable, more than exciting.. something that you can hold close to your heart! Maybe the fact that you enjoy your work is what reflects there :)

Looking forward for more! :)

Mann said...

Well, I am staying in M. P. for last few years and it is my sasural too :-)

I must say I have visited those place with you --- wonderful description-- God bless them---- and of course you too.

n.aka.zephyr said...

Hi TD

Thanks!

All these things happened at different times so I thought the best way to tell about them would be like this :) In fact I used this style when I wrote my Nepal diaries ages ago…

I am looking forward to reading you posts about your native place… India is such a land of contradictions…. Its amazing how we co-exist together!

Some of the farmers I met were crore patis and some just managing two square meals a day… I’ll write about them soon… I told all of them not to stop farming… being self sufficient in food is very important for any country…

The current crisis is creating problems not just in under-developing nations but also developed nations….

n.aka.zephyr said...

Hey Moai,

I did not do justice to the poem... but here's a translation... maybe i'll do a better one later on...

Walks, she walks
Happiness on a farmer’s face
Saffron coloured chunariya
She drapes it and walks
Happiness on a farmer’s face
Going towards his farmland

chunariya meaning you can check here-
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dupatta

basically the poem is about a farmer who looks with happiness at his fields just before harvest

n.aka.zephyr said...

Hi Meher,

Thanks :)
*grins broadly*

I like my work.... I love travelling, meeting new people and learning about their life... its so fulfilling :)


There is lots more to write and no time :|

n.aka.zephyr said...

Hi Mann,

Welcome to my blog :)

Thanks for liking the description...
come back to read more :)

Mann said...

Hi, Which paper/magazine do you write???

Mann

n.aka.zephyr said...

Hey Mann
I am a tv journo :)