‘No man has hired us’ are words we find in the New Testament, but to me they represent T. S. Eliot.
Ever since I first read these words in his poem, they haunted me. I remembered them whenever I passed labourers standing in groups, at crossroads or corners, with their paint brushes or bags of tools, waiting for someone to hire them. Some of them used to get hired every day, but now they wait in vain. So sharing these words, from a different time and cultures, but so relevant to us in India today.
All over Uttarakhand farmers are suffering because of the note ban. Flowers are dying and vegetables and fruits are rotting, as no one has cash to buy them. The concept of a cashless or even less-cash economy can hardly work in a region in which some of the remote, snow-bound villages do not even have electricity, leave alone banks.
In this scenario, it was a relief to read about something better–a fodder cutting contest for the village women of Tehri Garhwal, with really attractive prizes. Women had to cut the maximum quantity of grass in two minutes, earning 10 points for each kilo of fodder. They were also given points for the quality of fodder, and for their knowledge of medicinal plants
The contest was held in Akhori village on 22 December 2016. Preliminary rounds were held in 200 villages, and 31 finalists were chosen from over 2000 participants. Forty-year old Vimla Devi from Chilyal village was the winner. She has been used to cutting grass, she and other participants do so every day. The fodder queen or Ghasyari, received a cheque of Rs one lakh, and a 160 kg silver crown! She cut 4.1 kilos. The first runner-up was Gyansu Devi of Dhansani village, with 51,000 and a 130 kg silver crown. Indira Devi of Akhori village was third. She received 21, 000 and a crown weighing 110 kg.
What will they do with the money? Vimla Devi wants to use it for the medical treatment of her husband, working in Chandigarh. Gyansu Devi will use it to educate her six children.
The Chetna Andolan organizes the competition. Trepan Singh Chauhan, its convenor, said that women were the best ecologists, preserving the environment in these hill regions.
I have been busy with a forthcoming book on 70 years of independence. Of course, that period is already covered in my Puffin History of India vol 2, but this book’s focus is culture. I keep reading wonderful poets and stories in translation–some may be included in the book, some may not.
These two verses below are from Bidyutprabha Devi’s poem, Dilemma, translated from Odia, the language of the state of Odisha [earlier spelt Orissa]. Bidyutprabha is recognized as one of the best Odia women poets. Only writers know how wonderful writing is.
‘Writing is the balm
for all my pain.
It’s the glory of my sorrow.
Writing is rain-soaked woods.
It’s the music of cloud bursts
during the month of Shravana!
I wish I could speak of
the joy that gathers in my heart.
Like a flame
in the mouth of storm,
A luminous lamp!’
(Translation: Sachidananda Mohanty (First published in Kavya Bharati, 1997]:-