Has Technology Junked Rural Traditions?

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!

By John B Monteiro
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Comment on this article

  • Rita, Germany

    Mon, Jan 13 2014

    The Technology has not Junked rural traditions.It has helped the poor People in their daily hard life.previously women had to work hard in the kitchen during feasts,marriages or when a Group of relatives came to visit and stayed upto weeks.And women had also to help in the fields ,Marketing eetc.but there was more life in the family .Nowadays both of them have to work,no household help is available because many of them are in Gulf countries, there is no other way than to help yourself with other method.Todays world is dealing only with technical methods one has to go with it whether you want or no.anyway this article is quite good and Shows the present Situation.

  • John Tauro, M'lore / Kuwait

    Wed, Jan 08 2014

    Mr. Monteiro’s article took me to my glorious past. People in those days, though poor and hardworking lived contented and cheerful lives with whatever little they possessed. Indeed a sharp contrast to modern day hectic, restless and depressed lives. Goli baje, sajige and sheme bajil were our delicacies. Today’s children talk of Chinese noodles and macaroni which was unheard of in those days.

  • Kenny, Mangalore/Canada

    Wed, Jan 08 2014

    Good article to remember our past.
    One thing to note here is that the 'needful change' in this world was there all these centuries. It is only noticeable now because the change happens in such a short period of time as compared to our life span. With our extended life span we can see for ourselves how things have changed over the years.

  • Antony D'Cunha, Permude/Muscat

    Tue, Jan 07 2014

    Truly, the author took us down the memory lane with his in depth knowledge of rural upbringing and exceptional qualities of story telling.

  • ad, mangloor

    Mon, Jan 06 2014

    Indeed Mr. Monterio. Tech has not only junked rural traditions and lifestyle, it has made life un-meaningful (if I may use that word) because the meaning of life has become obsolete and boring. Imagine sitting in front of face Book and flipping and flopping and chatting whole day?

    Identification has made more unsecured and secured. Number of cards one has to carry are multi-fold. Still further proof may be need. What happened to the identification our forefathers used, "he/ she is someones son/daughter"-this was an identification in villages.
    Life has become mobile, personalized,individualized, and above all no one trusts anyone anymore. Mother, gather, children and it goes on.
    Food wise too. who knows what you are eating and where it is coming from and what is it?
    diseases are increased at pandemic level, diabetes, blood pressure and cancer and many others.
    Some might argue technology has made life easy . Yes its true. But it has more problems than solutions.
    Tee old "slate " has been replaced by I-Pad.
    Skype has made face to face talk has made distance without one.
    Physical and farm exercise has been replaced by Gyms.
    Clean fresh water from wells has been replaced by bottled and paid water.
    Washing cloths has been replaced by machines.
    Wood cooking has been replaced by gas or electricity.
    The Bhan you are quoting has disappeared by Geysers.

    Life indeed has changed and children have no more traditions to carry on, foods to continue, languages to carry on. As it goes….

  • John DSouza, Mangalore

    Mon, Jan 06 2014

    Technology has junked rural traditions as well as urban style and practices
    Time cannot be re-winded or stopped, but the life to be moved with real time
    Modern technology and latest models are accepted blindly and comfortably
    Move with the sharks, go with the wind and float in the direction of flow force
    We just follow, copy, cut, paste, present, compare, compete, fashion and style

    If not true, no reason we pay for costly fuel, enjoy pollutions by burning our budgets
    The great joy of vehicle engine invention made to keep the bullock carts on wheels
    Then situation was suitable with less people and enough fuel to ignore the real need
    Sad thing is we not only got rid of bullock cart, but even its excellent concept of move
    Unfortunately, we care, carry and move enormous dead weight on wheels like infants

    A new concept with pull and move, (instead carry and move) can play a wonder
    Perhaps it reduce fuel consumption, save billions of dollars, eliminate pollutions
    Drastically reduce the costs of producing, running and maintenance of vehicles
    Option is to have a peaceful society, stable economy and clean environment
    The mobile is on sky high progress, but the auto-mobile is suffering on ground

  • Lydia Lobo, Kadri

    Mon, Jan 06 2014

    Thank you for this wonderful article that brought back memories of our once-manual-life. It was labourious but was interesting too to have the entire family assemble to do the work - may it be annual fire wood or cow shed leaves gathering, harvesting. Mid-wife coming to help a woman in labour and preparation of Thiklen. Birth certificate was non-existent - my parents registered my birth at two places with two different birth dates giving me herculean task to prove that both the dates are mine own !

    I miss family and entire vaado getting together for engagements, roce or marriages in our own houses with a jumbo size 'Dukor' reserved for the occasion. Todays marriages are nothing but a fashion parade courtesy catering food and hall functions.

    Indeed made me nostalgic.

  • Molly Munro, Kulshekar

    Mon, Jan 06 2014

    Thanks for the lively article highlighting gradual changes in various fields with the advanced technology. As we cross certain age adapting to such changes may be sometimes hard and confusing but it definitely is worth living to experience and witness such changes.

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