village of Pusegaon, the centre of our observations, is 90 miles south of Poona,
itself 110 miles inland from Bombay. This group of villages, Pusegaon, Koregaon
and Aundh, thus lies on the upland plateau immediately to the east of the beautiful
mountain range of the Western Ghats.
climate from the view point of holidaymaking or relaxation is nearly perfect;
the days not too hot, the evenings delightfully warm, and every night there are
superb technicolour sunsets over the distant blue hills. But as far as farming
goes there is not enough rain around 20 in. a year and most of that at one time
in the monsoon season.
district lies on the fringe of the easily cultivable land in fact is classed as
semi-barren; water and irrigation are the chief concerns. Moving away from the
few parched rivers the differences in type and quality of the crops can be seen,
from the profitable sugarcane and potato, to wheat and greater millet, then these
in poorer quality and yield, and to spiked millet and other hardier but less valuable
grains. Driving east for only a few hours one can see the whole pattern of cultivation
change as the land becomes more parched until it can no longer support crops and
the only life is the occasional herd of half-fed goats.
rare The people of this area are the Marathis, whose history is as interesting
as any in India.Once
they were a warrior people with a large Empire; the tradition of militarism has
remained. Recruiting was very heavy here in both the first and the second world
wars and one can detect a typical inheritance from the years of discipline in
that the people are cheerful and hardy and uncomplaining. Although there is much
poverty, begging is rarely seen in these villages.
as we were soon to discover, they are most friendly and hospitable. Due, I suspect,
to a fine piece of work by the Central Office of Information, an article announcing
our coming and describing our project was published in the local-language newspaper
five or six weeks before we actually arrived.
everybody was prepared and eager for our coming. We were able to make contact
immediately with the Government officers, such as District Magistrate, Development
Officers, Social Workers and with the Field Research Supervisor from the Economic
Institute at Poona, Mr Jogiekar, and with teachers, doctors, landowners, farmers
and all the people of the village.
had already been made, there was a great determination that we should miss nothing.
there is a system of Inspection Bungalows for the use of travelling Government
officers. Having established ourselves on a semi-official basis, we occupied on
of these in Koregaon, 10 miles from Pusegaon, where there is no such Bungalow
and the people are too poor to offer alternative
Also we need privacy in which to work, and somewhere safe to store our equipment.
days consisted of sorties out from this base, visits to local industries and schools,
interviews with Government officers, local agriculturists, teachers, school children
was our main interest. It is a village of 2,500 people. As with all Indian villages,
its physical size is much less than expected, but, of course, Hindus live a family
life in its extremest form three or four generations under one roof and for a
poor family, a small roof has to suffice.
approached Pusegaon over a bridge. The river-bed is wide, but much of it is pebbles,
little water flows. What does exist has been conserved by irrigation channels
artificial pools, and in these, and in the river itself, people are washing their
clothes, their cattle and themselves. Scores of six-yard lengths of coloured sari
cloths lie parallel on the banks, drying in the hard bright sun, looking like
banners awaiting flying; in a pool on the right a bull is being manhandled and
a small boy washes its back; a truck has been driving into the river and its driver
is at work on it with a long brush; and wherever we looked men were washing themselves,
sometimes, quite comprehensively, making a form of privacy by their total disregard
of onlookers. And children were everywhere, some playing, some watching, some
just being. All of them were excited at our approach, none of them too shy to
crowd around the cars.
the river the village starts, the huts coming down almost to the water. But the
bank rises steeply and there is an immediate right-angled bend; thus little can
be seen of the village. The houses are simple. Most are built of rough stone or
wood slats covered with an earth and dung mixture, many of the roofs are thatched,
with straw or plaited palm leaves and often this too is spread with dung.
is no glass to be seen, where there are windows these are merely barred and shuttered;
but most buildings have none and must use the doorways for light and ventilation.
is by oil lamps, some free burning and some under pressure; many accidents are
caused by continuing to use old and rusty equipment, the thatch burns easily and
the loose and flimsy clothes are hazardous.
one side of the square is the Dispensary used by the doctor for consultation and
treatment. It is an old, low building with a thatched roof (unsanitary thought
our doctor), its walls were once whitewashed and now carry posters about tuberculosis
and family planning.
the other side of the road is the Police Station, a single-storied building with
a tiled roof that sweeps down over the verandah in front of which are steps and
flowers. Over beyond it is a large circular well surrounded by a 2ft. stone wall
and with the usual drum, rope and bucket; just adjacent a pile of dung is drying
in the sun, and nearby is a loose heap of wood in which rats can be seen.
are all over the place, walking, straying, sleeping bulls, cows, bullocks, sheep
and goats and many unhappy looking dogs.
riverbed is wide, but much of it is pebbles, little water flows. What does exist
has been conserved by irrigation channels and artificial pools, and in these,
and in the river itself, people are washing their clothes, their cattle and themselves.
the left are many tall trees in which peach-coloured flags are flying indicating
that a temple is close by, and down the road towards us, flooding around the many
led and wandering beasts, was a flock of sheep guided casually by a shepherd in
an impressive red turban and a small boy with a long stick.
nudged our way through the sheep and up into the village. The road jinks left
and right around some two-storied houses (one belonging to the leading doctor,
we discovered), then runs straight for about a quarter of a mile.
is lined with low huts and a few shops and half way along is a square with some
important looking buildings, beyond this there are huts on one side only until
the road divides and a new concrete bus shelter marks the end of the village.
road is a narrow ribbon of tarmac with wider strips of dirt and stones on either
side; on these, and in the square, the weekly bazaar is held, often overflowing
onto the road itself.
these occasions all necessary goods and articles can be bought, and even a few
luxuries; kitchen utensils in a great variety of shapes and sizes, mainly in earthenware,
but also some of aggressively shining brass; cloth for saris and dhotis (loose
garment for masculine legs); small articles such as mirrors and combs, gaudily
painted; and many different kinds of fruits and vegetables.
bazaar day the village is crowded with people from the surrounding district, all
in their brightest clothes, the food sellers sit crosslegged behind their pile
of red chilis, and colourful fruits which are laid out on rugs with the handscales
ready for measurement, gaily dyed rope decorations swing in the breeze, the mirrors
and the pots and pans catch the sun, and piles of cloth compete with each other
for attractiveness everything is bright and colourful and noisy, and the mixture
is smells is amazing!
today there is no bazaar and the village is on normal working duty. It looks very
brown and drab, particularly in contrast with the clothes of the villagers. This
is partly caused by dust, but mainly because the building materials are mud bricks.
the children of the village were a constant delight. They never tired of the cars.
On every occasion that we entered the village they would pursue us, screaming
with excitement; when we stopped they would crowd around, hands out for the boiled
sweets and mints that we carried.
apart from the crowds that followed the cars, children are everywhere. Small boys
play in the dust, naked except for a silver chain around the waist (this is the
earliest gift, at the time of name-giving, and is always worn when older, around
the neck), little girls, giggling behind their sistersí skirts, eyes round and
shining their pixie-like faces have not yet attained the near-classical serenity
that comes with maturity to the women of India: when young, and excited, the girls
look like mischievous monkeys.
in their sistersí arms ogle you solemnly from eyes ringed with black paste in
the manner unfortunately so common in India.
schoolboys wear a uniform of white shirt and khaki shorts, with white khaki. Caps
(as worn by leaders of the Congress Party), but without shoes. It is extremely
difficult to judge their age. A boy guessed as nine will frequently be 14; undernourishment
is all too common, but also the stock tends to be slight and wiry.
young girls wear blouses and skirts, Western style and very colourful, their hair
is tightly scraped back into plaits and on the way to school they carry large
slates and look very serious.
13 they begin to wear blue saris over the white chotis or short bolero blouses,
and suddenly achieve all the dignity and grace of their mothers and sisters, and
inherit the beauty of movement characteristic of women who can carry two brass
jars full of water on their heads and a baby on their hip with no suggestion of
smile shyly, but laugh easily and delightedly, the dark serious eyes suddenly
bubbling: their long plaits are woven with flowers or fern, and many coloured
bangles glitter on their wrists.
their foreheads is the love mark, a red spot, or tear-shaped mark. All the little
girls wear these as a general sign of family affection, but in girls of 15, 16
and 17 it may have reverted to the traditional meaning, that is of a specific
loved-one, namely a fiance. In India marriages are still arranged, but they will
proudly tell you that the system is much relaxed "nowadays we see our wives
first sight it appears that the whole village is built on this one street, but
in fact it spreads out over a rough circle. The back lanes are narrow, dirty and
rutted; here are the meanest huts and the lowest castes, the potters, the rope-makers
here the huts are interspersed with tiny dusty paddocks for small animals and
fowl and there are many low trees.
reminded me of a bunched up allotment area on a hot, lazy summerís day, but with
pigs and hens largely replacing the flowers and vegetables adjacent to the potting
shed - and with the important exception that here it was no potting shed, it was
the living place of a whole family.
the fringe of the village are the schools, primary and secondary. These are in
stone buildings built by the villagers, and they are very proud of them. Equipment
is very scarce. The junior children sit on the floor as they recite their lessons,
and all articles for demonstration, wall-charts etc. are home-made.
the schools are far from big enough. Pusegaon High School serves 12 villages.
In spite of education being compulsory up to 13, one frequently sees school-age
children working in the fields. They even pass school waving cheerfully to their
classmates. But until the schools are made large enough to hold all the pupils
no action can possibly be taken by the authorities.
TO OUR LIFE IN THE VILLAGE [
Malcolm T McKernan, 1960 Photographs © Tony Morrison