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Bilog village, Bhagirathi valley, Uttarkashi


early 1994


Tegh speaks of old times and the changes that he has witnessed in his community. He describes the religious ceremonies that used to take place and says many traditional customs are now disappearing: “Traditional performances, like observance of Navaratras, folk songs, folk dances, singing of auspicious songs by women etc, are vanishing rapidly. As far as musical instruments are concerned, they too are disappearing.” He explains: “Earlier people were religious, whereas the present generation is more interested in drinking, eating non-vegetarian food, and playing cards.” He advocates “some convention on Ghandian thought” to lessen this increasing generation gap and suggests that to preserve their customs they “should have a organisation like Akashwani (All India Radio) comprising 15-20 villages, which can be a source of entertainment and training in musical instruments like the tabla etc.”

He also makes many suggestions for future schemes to curb migration from the villages: “…job-oriented measures, like promotion of small-scale industries or programmes for vegetable growing, provision of pesticides etc, could help in preventing migration.” He feels that there is a need for the development of small-scale local industries and that the government should encourage horticulture. He also discusses the way agriculture has changed following the introduction of fertilisers and new seeds. He also displays knowledge of the Hindu scriptures and the use of herbs in traditional medicine. Yet the government’s restrictions on herbs, designed to conserve them, acts against the locals, who are rarely given the contracts to gather them. Outsiders seem to benefit from the loans and training available; “we are not allowed to collect [them].”

detailed breakdown

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Section 1-2  Restrictions on land use by the landlord and harassment by the village head (who belonged to an upper caste). Family history and background. The family’s main source of income is agriculture although the yields are not sufficient.
Section 2-3  Details of customs surrounding birth, marriage and death. Bride price prevailed in the past. During marriages a goat was slain and guests were served. Now, there are many more guests, the dishes are less rich. Changes, too, in the rituals for the 13th day after a death.
Section 3-4  Reveals knowledge of traditional medicine and remedies. Plants were used with sacred formulas. Some diseases are under control now such as cholera, chicken pox, measles and malaria but “now some strange diseases are coming up, which did not exist in our times.” People were healthier in the past.
Section 4  The nuclear family system is “considered appropriate in modern times” but now no one to look after the sick, whereas the joint family system “helps during hard times.” In 90% of families, women are the decision-makers in the domestic domain. Strict rules for attire in the past: “In our times, men did not wear shoes or chappals.” Anecdote about acquiring his first pair of shoes. Changing ideas on food habits and lifestyle.
Section 5  Story about a wild bear. His luck at avoiding imprisonment over the illegal sale of bulls. The sense of nationalism that prevailed during the 1962 war.
Section 6  Anecdote involving a ghost-scare. Changes in education. In his school days “education was organised according to the agricultural season”, and school was closed during harvesting; few attended schools. In the past “people had profound knowledge of astrology, which is now replaced by science.” The “load of books” is a problem with the current system, “Education should be job-oriented.”
Section 7-8  Changing values: “Society is becoming ostentatious.” Argues that government should promote Gandhian ideology. Details of traditional rituals, particularly animal sacrifice, which ended 20 years ago.
Section 8-9  His experience of being possessed by spirits, leading to his taking up vegetarianism. Women’s education: “few people are interested in educating girls” because of fear they will give up domestic chores. Migration – families left without an earner. Calls for local small-scale industries and vegetable growing programmes.
Section 9  The village used to produce cotton “and villagers themselves spun material sufficient to meet their own requirements.” Now replaced by wool. Scarcity of wood - a problem for making agricultural equipment. Rise in crime: “Personal disputes have increased.” Calls for “extensive propaganda against liquor and drugs” as a measure to control crime.
Section 10  “Traditional performances...are vanishing rapidly.”, and with them, traditional musical instruments. The custom of sowing hariyali (sacred shoots of barley) still prevails.
Section 10-11  Deteriorating social relations. “One can observe a decline in mutual relationships compared to earlier times.” Farming – major changes with government’s introduction of fertilisers and seeds. Production of millet has decreased in favour of rice. Increased use of fertiliser but people still use cow dung and traditional ploughing and sowing methods. Problems with water; irrigated land some distance away. New scheme to bring water to the village, but the locals employed are not doing a good job. Calls for a fibre industry to be promoted, using the abundance of bhimal. Some traditional industries continue, but support and training is lacking/haphazard.
Section 12-13  Corruption: the siphoning off of government grants. No storage and marketing facilities for fruit; middlemen exploit growers. New cooking technology is convenient but the food is less tasty. The status of women: “tremendous changes” in dress and eating habits. “Even men never used to wear chappals so how could women?” Calls for the development of and training in small-scale industries. The Government should encourage horticulture and “take responsibility for purchasing the yield.” Need for radio links between villages.
Section 14  Life under the Raj: “administration was excellent” but exploitation by agents was also prevalent, and “the custom of begar (forced labour) was really an atrocity”. Recites some proverbs.
Section 15-16  Government scheme to supply medicinal herbs to cooperatives: “They are really exploiting the treasures of our jungle.” They give contracts to middlemen, not locals. Forests of oak and burans vanishing. “Nowadays chir pine is more popular.” Certain wild animals declining. Government’s introduction of other animals to the area. Village afforestation efforts. Corruption of forest staff. Alcohol problem - “does not prevail much here.”