January 6, 2013
The old order changeth, yielding place to new;
And god fulfils himself in many ways
Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.
Alfred Tennyson, Poet laureate of England (1809-1892).
Rural life has transformed over the last few decades for better or worse. But we have no time to pause and note the changes, weigh the blessings and curses brought about by the advancing technology that has junked our rural traditions and practices. I was woken up to this aspect when I saw children being shown around the rural areas in a recent Daijiworld report. One of the photos showed the traditional laat to draw water from a low level water source and hoist it to a higher level so that it can irrigate paddy fields, coconut/arecanut plantations and vegetable patches. It worked on the principle of alternate weight and counterweight – just like tower cranes work on high-rise construction sites. The wooden contraption needed three/four people to operate and some more to direct the uplifted water from the channel to the target areas.
Today, the rural areas are labour-starved. Enter electric power and motor pump. Switch on the pump and direct the water pipe to desired targets through a flexible pipe. One person, even a lady, can handle the operation – subject to dependable and timely power supply.
Cattle rearing was part of the rural scene. Now there are no persons to take them to grazing nor to make the ‘bed’ for them in the cow-shed. Now sterilised, packaged milk is available in corner shops. They no longer need compost generated in the cow-shed – there are chemical fertilisrs and insecticides.
For travelling at night, the way was lighted with a blazing light, Sood, fashioned from tying together dry cocanut palm fronds. When it burns out another is lighted and the discarded stump sometimes started bush fires. There were hurricane lanterns, of course, which withstood outdoor breeze; but you have to have oil to keep it going. Now the torchlight with batteries has made the old lighting device a fading memory. In case there is no torchlight, one can make do with mobile light.
Making noodles (Sheyo, sheme) out of rice batter was on a contraption that required physical force of at least two able-bodies persons. Afte batter in shape of noodles, two men had to stand on the handles of the contraption and force the contents down. It was like hammering a nail into the concrete ground. Then came the innovative screw-type contraption. It is like driving a screw into the wall with a screw-driver. One person can manage it.
Grinding masala or rice for batter with hand-turning stone grinder was a daily torture stretching over couple of hours. Men flattered the ladies that clinking of their bangles while grinding added taste to the curry. Now electric grinders have almost banished traditional grinders.
Making hot water for bath in embedded giant copper vessels (Bhan) was part of the bathroom fixtures. Now geyser or solar heaters have made the old bhan a ignored relic of the past.
In the absence of roads and automobiles, people used to walk miles together to visit relatives and on business in Mangalore. I used to walk, in my early teens, to visit an aunt, from Kurial village to Tacode, near Mudbidri, a distance of about 22 km, crossing a river, in the absence of abridge, wading through water. A relative at Siddakatte, was rest and refreshment point. When I joined St. Aloysius College in 1954 I had to walk behind my father, carrying a small trunk, containing clothes and bed-sheet, on the head, across hills and valley for a distance of 20 km till we got into a city bus at Padil. Now many have two or four-wheelers and buses cover all the rural areas – involving a walk of maximum one KM.
Rural farming households were marked by barns in the forecourt – a circular structure of woven cane topped by conical crown made of hay to prevent rainwater seeping into the stored paddy. After the two crop seasons, Enel and Suggi, the paddy was soaked, boiled in large copper vessels, dried in the forecourt (Jaal) and hand-pounded with sturdy poles with steel teeth (Musal). Now, as soon as the paddy stalks are thrashed, the raw paddy is taken to the rice mill and you get cash-cum-rice as you choose.
Moraji Desai drank and latter day cow urine patrons market gomuthra. But, human urine was a favourite for vegetable patches. Households used chamber pots to collect human urine, bringing the pots within the safety of the house at night, lest the tiger waiting for the dog should maul the urinators outside the safety zone of the house. Such urine, collected in pots and carried on the head, was the best nourishment for vegetables. Chemical fertilisers drove out the urine treatment of plants. Now they are trying to crown organic farming and urine may regain its old glory.
One can expand the list, as readers would surely do. But the point is about junking traditions. But, is inevitable as hinted below:
Today is not yesterday: we ourselves change; How can our Works and Thoughts, if they are always to be fittest, continue always the same? Change, indeed, is painful; yet even needful; and if Memory have its force and worth, so also has Hope. – Thomas Carlyle, Scottish essayist and philosopher (1795-1881).
Author and journalist, John B Monteiro is the anchor for the newly started Bondel-Kadri Laughter Club, launched on December 22, 2013 by Mangalore City South MLA J R Lobo at Kadri Park, which functions daily from 6.30 to 6.50 am. Entry free; exit at will!