I hail from a small district in northern Bihar which is approximately half the size of New York City. The name of my village is Pardesia. It is a small village with few hundred inhabitants located in the outskirts of Sheohar. We used to visit our village during vacations to stay with my grandmother for a month and so, every year. Some of the best memories of my childhood were molded in this very place. I know they are the best memories of my life because I still remember them and cherish them. I just drown in the innocence and beauty of these memories.
It was sometimes when the world had just set foot in the new millennium. Science and technology were at a boom. India was on a fast track of transforming itself into a modern and digitalized nation. But away from this entire race to make life faster and easier was the village of Pardesia. Life in Pardesia was still going on in the same way as it has been going on for centuries. This simple, mundane and monotonous way of life was the beauty of this village. Here people still searched for happiness in the smile of others and collectively share the hardship on their shoulders. People were still connected with other people and cared about their emotions and problems. Almost everybody personally knew everybody in the village and everybody was related somehow to everybody in the village. Everyone was someone’s uncle, aunt, grandpa, grandma and if he or she was none of these then he or she was their brothers or sisters. Everybody knew of every single detail of what’s happening in the village either outside the house or behind the closed gates. Such was the social structure of Pardesia.
Pardesia was surrounded on all its sides by a stretch of sprawling field of various crops in various seasons. Paddy crops graced the field in monsoon and were replaced by wheat crops in the winters. There were patches of Litchis and Mango copses distributed across the village. Guava and custard apple were almost found in every courtyard and backyard. Large and majestic trees of Indian Bael and medicinal Neem provided shelter to the people on their gates. Banyan and Sacred Peepal were the shelters to farmers returning from their fields in the burning sun of June and July. They also served as a platform where everybody assembled at evening or in morning or basically at any time of the day for discussions and refreshments. You could always find people under the trees sitting on the wooden platform playing cards or simply talking. The most awaited guest in the village was the postman for his stories, gossips, letters and Money Orders. He was the link of communication for the villagers with their loved ones who were in other towns and distant lands. I remember running towards the gate whenever the postman came. I did not even read the letters but it was a different feeling whenever the letters arrived containing time in them.
Most of the houses in Pardesia were made of mud brick and straws. There was only one shop in the village. It was like a Wal-Mart for villagers. You just name the commodity and he’s got it. The shopkeeper was the go-to man if anyone in the village wanted anything. My mother used to send me to the shop for different things and I used to run towards the shop with a copy in my hand that had the credit account in it.
The main way of transportation was bullock cart and bicycle. Anything with a motor on it was hardly seen in the village. Whenever we came to the village we took the bullock cart to the village from the last train station. It was a hell of a ride. It was a roller coaster in the back of the cart. I used to enjoy the ride to its fullest; it was like a ride in an amusement park or something even better. The bulls walked in exact rhythm with the sound of bell around their neck.
Most of the population of the village was illiterate. Most of whom had never gone to schools ever; however there was a primary school in the village. People were but very conscious about the education of their children and would go to lengths to ensure their proper education. Some boys were also sent outside the village in the neighboring towns of Motihari and Sheohar. My mother was the first graduate women in the village, and there was kind of hype in the village about it. My father was part of a group of few men who were educated in the village and he was respected for that. Most of the men in Pardesia were farmers and believed that the art of farming was the one that is going to earn them food for their family rather than the art of reading and writing. My father got educated on the insistence of my grandfather who himself could not read or write, but wanted his son to be a well-educated member of society. I was sent for tuition to a well-respected teacher in the village who was also my relative. I used to go to his house every evening pacing my tiny feet as fast as possible on the earthen road of the village as the rumors of ghosts were very common in the village. There he used to teach me how to read and write. I carried a wooden pen, an ink pot, a notebook and blackboard and chalk with me.
Once, my grandma told me that when she was newlywed, a river used to flow through the village. She told me that if the river was still flowing, our house would be in the middle of the current. It was fascinating. There is also a very interesting story behind how the river changed its course. It had something to do with a group of nomadic people who came to the village and their dark magic spell. It was intriguing. The villages had some of the darkest and deepest secrets of universe buried in them. There were numerous ponds in the village and several wells as well. However, I saw them being hardly used other than the purpose of bathing and washing utensils or occasionally clothes. Almost all the houses had hand pumps. Once when people were going out fishing to one of the ponds that belonged to my family, I decided to join them against the better judgment of my mother. I went to the pond which had very little water and was mainly mud all over the base. I played in the mud and shallow water for nearly half a day until my mother sends for me. I also learned how to catch fish with bare hands. I managed to catch a fish or two with my tiny hands. But the adventure at the pond got me sick and I had a cough and fever for several days. I was sent to a local quack in the village. He gave me some sugar balls which had to be taken three times a day. The village doctor had no formal degree in medicine and was very ordinarily educated but then also he managed to get people cured of their sickness by those magic sugar balls. He must have some magic potion.
Days in Pardesia were very ordinary and monotonous. But people always found ways of happiness in the monotonous and ordinary moments. People used to get up early in the morning and feed their cattle. The hens and crows marked the start of the day. Women used to get busy in their daily chores. Men used to go to the field. The first half of the day is the busiest part of the day in the villages. The afternoons were lazy and boring except for the singing of Koels and Mynahs in the mango groves. Children of the village used to keep them busy with all kind of games throughout the day. I once learned to make a balance out of two earthen pots. I also learned to make bow and arrow and they were my finest creation which I preserved on the uppermost rack of my house. The setting sun brought with it the halt in the life of the village. The cattle were tied inside the barns and sheds. Houses were then laminated by earthen lamps and lanterns as there was no electricity in the village. Women of the house used to cook food in the light of lamps on the stoves which were fueled by wood and straws and were generally in the courtyard. I used to sit by the stove near my mother when she made chapattis for everyone. The sound of crickets and other insects broke the haunting silence of the night.
Now when I sit in my flat in a multi-storied building, I miss the good old days. I miss the fragrance in the wind of my village. I miss the innocence of my village. I miss my childhood. I get nostalgic in my bed looking at the spider on the ceiling. Is that the same spider that I stared for hours in the bed in my village? I miss the harmony of people among themselves and with nature.
I miss the chirping of the crickets and the singing of Mynahs.