Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Lost in Time ?

Time - The one thing that is the epitome of constantly moving forward and never looking backwards. The only dimension that surges ahead no matter what - come summer or winter, rain or frost, peace or war, happiness or dejection - it doesnt stop for anyone or anything. The passing of time brings along with it many changes. Nations advance, societies change, cities replace towns and villages,modernity replaces antiquity. This in itself is nothing to be worried about, I guess.. Its a given fact that things will change, for better and for worse.
We gain a lot of things as time progresses, but how much and what do we lose ?
Some time back, a friend's mother and I were discussing in general how people used to be quite self sufficient in the way they led their lives. They maintained livestock for their dairy needs, grew vegetables and fruits for consumption, cultivated fields to provide food, knitted clothes, fixed up roofs and walls as much as possible..if they didnt have a particular commodity, they would barter with neighbours and friends and be satisfied. Paying loads of money to get the basic necessities of life was quite unheard of. In fact, if a family had to pay to get something it would indicate a lack of skills or a lack of good upbringing (for a woman who wasnt able to make things herself!!)
However, as time evolved,societies progressed and modernity became the fashion of the day, this ability to put one's own effort into making our lives comfortable is not as appreciated as before and is dying a slow death at the hands of convenience. Farms made way for modern buildings, barns were replaced by garages and old houses were torn down in favour of high rises. All necessities are now purchased. There is hardly a required commodity that is not available if you have the means to pay for it. Making things by hand, at home is left to the few who are either practicing frugal living or have an interest in gaining skills at things like making bread, knitting, woodworking, etc.
What is the point in this monologue, you say ? Well, all said and done, I am all for modernity and convenience where required. But it saddens me to think that all the knowledge and practices of our forefathers and families , small things which were and still are part of their everyday lives, will be forgotten and relegated to memories only.
When I was growing up in Pune, my mother used to reminisce about her bittersweet childhood days in a little village in the Uttar Kannada district. She talked about going to school in heavy rains using umbrellas made with leaves of plants like the palmyra palm , of summer days when she and her sisters would finish their household chores and then dive into the pond for a heavenly swim, of picking raw mangoes from trees and eating them with salt and pepper ! She would go into ecstasies about the sugarcane season when fresh jaggery would be made and the first batch would contain fresh coconut pieces, ginger, lotus stems ! Her memories of my uncle going to village fairs sitting on my grandfather's shoulders, of clutching a 10 paise coin and trying to make up her mind about what to spend it on were very nostalgic indeed...How quaint and idyllic it all sounded. For city bred kids like me, it was both wondrous and alarming !
I am sure there are scores of people from my own generation who share my lack of village life knowledge. On the other hand, there must also be scores of my peers who did grow up in small cities and villages and have had an intimate, first hand look at my mother's experiences. But I cant say the same for our children or from children in the next generation. One might very well say that its not a big deal and today's or tomorrow's kids do not need to know at all, but for me...village life and all the toils and joys associated with it is part of our culture, it has a simplicity of its own, an earthiness and humility that we are in danger of forgetting if we don't hold on to it..
I have therefore made a simple list of things and activities that I can do in my life time, along with my family that will help us preserve this life, if only in memories and photographs:

* Visit our native place during the sugarcane season and participate in the small festival that is celebrated at this time.
* Eat sugarcane with my family.
* Watch the process of making jaggery.
* Learn how to milk a cow (!!!!) ( Cows are notoriously finicky about who they will allow to milk I will have to find a really docile cow back home :D)
* Pick fresh jasmine flowers and make a garland out of it.
* Drink fresh tender coconut water.
* Learn how to make pickles and papads. (This continues to be a major summer time activity in many Indian households today with neighbours pitching in to help.)
* Learn how to pollinate a vanilla flower.
* Learn about the various festivals celebrated in our heritage and then acknowledge those festivals every year.(It doesn't have to be a grand celebration).
* Get acquainted with the stories in the Bhagwad Gita and other ancient texts and read them out to my son as he grows up.

Hopefully I will be able to complete the things listed here and add to this list. I am aware that these are very minor activities and thinking that on their completion I will have achieved something worthwhile would be very absurd. That is not my intention here at all. My wish is just to remember that we have a culture that is very rich and ancient. It doesnt deserve to be neglected and forgotten. This effort would just be my attempt to keep up with Time, but not forgetting about what it has left behind in its march towards the future.

What would you have in your list if you compiled one ?


  1. Awesome post!


    me has a similar list.. and it is way too long... but me too has milk a cow in it! and i had read the Bible cover to cover instead, and T and me completed that last year.

    and read "in defense of food" if you get a hold of it.. about how food habits have changed.

  2. Chhaya ...."Lost in time" is a good read. Wonderfully composed and written. Time as you said never stops for anyone. Change in time brings change in everything. Simplicity still exists if one allows it to be a part. We can't control time but sure can control our simplicity. I recall a wonderful saying once a wise person told me.... "always change according to time or else you will be tortured with its modernization". Nothing wrong in going hand in hand with modernization as along as you keep your foot firm on ground.

    I like your wish list. I hope you will fulfill it :)

  3. Anonymous6:18 AM CDT

    >>What would you have in your list if you compiled one ?

    = spend the afternoon watching herds of buffaloes past by while they go for their evening watering...
    = sit and laze around on a freshly dried cowdung spread floor (!many modern ppl wld balk at the prospect, i know...but its the best feeling!!)
    = go to the cowshed and play with the calves
    = pluck ripe guavas and eat them while feeding the goats too
    = feed every cow wandering at the door with freshly made chappatis while mother and aunts are screaming in the background
    = watch grandfather carefully make and give out ayurvedic medicine and then watch the sincere gratitude of the simple villagers
    = catch baby lambs and feed them zabardasti with food or fruit that they just dont want!!
    = sleep on the terrace enjoying the wonderful clean soft breeze
    = make a dash for safety at spotting monkeys and thoroughly relish spreading the "sensational" news of the monkey "sighting"
    = most of all, the long train journeys with the family, watching the vast grand natural beauty that is INDIA :)


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