“........It is my belief, Watson, founded upon my experience, that the lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside.”
I read that one long time back perhaps when I was only in school. Had it not been for the internet I would never have been able to quote it accurately and in full. Till school I idolized village life like all educated Indians do; it was only when I started studying in the university that I had my first brush with people from villages; even these were not pure villagers because as can be imagined only few of them could have managed to qualify an entrance exam for a masters degree in English literature even with more than nearly sixty five percent reservation. In the university I first had the experience of ‘pits’. Even in higher education and that too humanities stream I could see these ‘villagers’ treating their fellow lady students as sex objects. Their really uncouth nature and primal instincts came to the fore during festivals like holi. Though most female students stopped coming to the university around holi time some of them did come for reasons I never understood and these were actually chased and groped by their fellow ‘villager’ students; needless to say the local students never ever joined these goons. It was this that first made me hate the semi ‘villager’ crowd the worst was yet to come.
My first real brush with a real village came when I was sent to meet a tailor working in a village about fifty kilometres from Lucknow. Since I had been given my first motorcycle I was always looking for just such errands. I sped down to the village in no time but once off the main highway it was a struggle getting to the tailor’s place as there are no real roads in villages. I reached the place and my ordeal started. Villages by and large stink generally of cow dung but this one had all types of odours; and then the insects – there were swarms of them including mosquitos and they bit me everywhere. To top it all I ran out of petrol and the tailor was gracious enough to get me a litre of it. It was good enough only to get me out of the person’s area but once his ‘house’ was out of sight my motorcycle just would not move and was releasing clouds of smoke. I realized that the petrol was adulterated. It is nothing unusual; most villages in my part of the world have almost everything contaminated. Villagers do not hesitate to spray and mix all kinds of toxic material with food stuffs to make them look good. I somehow found a real petrol pump and the guy there made me drain every single drop of petrol before filling the tank and said I barely missed destroying my engine.
My second experience of hard core villagers was when I was travelling to Lucknow from Allahabad. I was unlucky enough to be travelling on the same day as a Bharti Kisaan Union rally. Once the train began to move all the villagers took their positions. They occupied every seat, then the aisle and then the space near the toilets. When the ticket checking clerk tried to enter the coach they kicked him back on the platform threatening him with dire consequences. So I was there standing on my feet right outside the toilet for the whole time with no opportunity to sit throughout the journey though I had a reserved seat. There was a family in a much worse position. They were returning after visiting Sangam as they had had a baby many years after marriage. The mother was overweight and could hardly stand with the infant in her lap and pleaded with the villagers to allow her to have at least one seat but they absolutely would not listen. These goons committed many bailable offences along the way and it was a great comfort to finally alight at Lucknow. A stench of sweat is trade mark of villagers and it can make you throw up in no time but traditionally Indian literature celebrates ‘pasina’ or sweat of a villager.
Most villages have full fledged goons or semi goons as their representatives in assemblies and most pradhans are not the sort of guys you would allow in your homes. Villagers have little knowledge of law which they take into their hands all the time. Just flip through case files in any police station in a village and you will find most heinous crimes being committed for the smallest of disputes. That is what Sherlock Holmes was referring to. It is the community or mob or tribe that is important for villagers and they would support even a murderer if “he belongs to our village”. It is rather a miracle that wonderful cities like Lucknow have come up amidst a maze of criminal-infested villages in UP but sadly the weeds are overrunning the garden again. Whether you like it or not; whether politically correct or not migration from rural areas is spoiling everything that was beautiful and civilized and valuable in cities like Lucknow and I am sure many others.
Villagers in India in my opinion are like black holes- their income is tax free; they do not pay VAT/CST; they get seeds and fertilizers at highly subsidised rates; admin ignores their petty crimes and they do not have any deadlines to beat still they are always beating their breasts about their plight whereas their counterparts in cities with much smaller incomes have to fend for themselves without any help. Is this fair? To top it all one would laugh if an urban lower middle income person were to come out on the roads to demand scrapping of his vehicle loan but villagers do it all the time for their loans as if it is their birthright to take huge loans and then turn wilful defaulters.
Villagers have little regard for freedom or even dignity of women; just flip through any newspaper and you will see majority of news is about violence against women in villages also most violence against women in cities is committed by people with a rural background.
So the big question for research is who actually romanticised life in villages in India? I have no answer to that and am sure neither do most of the well networked ‘intellectuals’; all I can say is that it is one of the most sinister myths preserved and passed down in India.
Beware of farmers and their representatives they are everywhere!
copyright Anurag Kumar - please do not reproduce without permission