Looking at Sainath’s new website, People’s Archive of Rural India, I have grown more and more excited with every moment. The everyday lives of everyday people, the diversity of rural life, rural voices, rural ways of expression … everything he talks about resonates with me and I am eager to take part in this project. Continue reading
We celebrated Sankranti yesterday. We drew muggulu (rangolis) and topped them with gobbemmalu (decorated gobar balls). We danced and sang traditional songs, including “Gobbiyello!” that details, verse by verse, every stage of the growth of a seed from the moment it sprouts, bears fruit to fruit till it ripens and we finish off by eating the fruit – a జామకాయ (guava), as the song goes. Each stage of growth is a cause for celebration and comment:
అవునాట అక్కలార?“Oh, really? Is it so, sister?” Continue reading
Gobbi yelloyi! Gobbi yelloyi!
Telugu Folk Song traditionally sung for Sankranti Festival.
gobbi yelloyi! gobbi yelloyi!
dukku dukku dunnarata … It seems they have plowed
emi dukku dunnarata? What did they plow
raja vari tota lo jama dukku dunnarata in the king’s garden?
They plowed (for) the guava. Continue reading
14th January 2013
“Give J___ Auntie a string of flowers.” my mother-in-law told me. Suddenly I grew tense with a sense of not knowing what to do.
I had a long string of jasmines which I had cut into small pieces and was giving out to my daughter’s friends at her Sankranti party. My mother-in-law and a couple of her friends were sitting on the sofa.
I busied myself in the kitchen so as not to have to respond to her instruction right away. Away from the crowd, I reflected, why had I become tense? I realized that it was because I was not sure how I could give flowers to J___ Auntie, while K___ Auntie was sitting right next to her. Then I realized that the solution was simple, give flowers to both J____ and K____ Auntie.
Why had this obvious solution not struck me right away? Why had there even been a “problem” requiring a solution?
Let us go back to the instruction, “Give J___ Auntie a string of flowers.” In giving this instruction, my mother-in-law had made an assumption. Someone who had not made that assumption might have had two questions:
1) Why had she instructed me to give flowers to J___ but not also to K___ Auntie?
2) Why hadn’t she herself given out the flowers?
For both questions, the reason stems from a distinction made between a married woman whose husband is alive and one whose husband is no longer alive. My mother-in-law had instructed me to give flowers to J___ Auntie because both of us fell into the former category. She did not give out the flowers, nor did she ask me to give flowers to K____ Auntie, because she and K___ Auntie fell into the latter category.
Upon hearing her instruction, I felt the tension of being unwilling to follow it, but it took me some time to unpack all this to understand why. Once I understood, I saw the way. I picked up three strings of flowers and gave one to each – my mother-in-law, J____Auntie, and K_____ Auntie. K___ Auntie immediately asked, “why me?” I just smiled. My mother-in-law explained, “she doesn’t believe that there should be that difference,” and put the flowers into her hair. K___ Auntie replied, “Yes, these customs should change.”
Note: This article appeared as “A String of Jasmine” in the monthly newsletter of Association for India’s Development