In this personal essay, Dr. Kiran Bhairannavar reminisces about the trips to his parents’ villages in childhood and reflects on the real definition of an Indian Village.
The answer to this simple question is a difficult one. Being bred in an urban centre in India since my birth, the village has always been the ‘Other’. It is an imagination, a multi-layered one. It is a perception that is not a single monolith. And therefore, the answer is neither direct nor simple nor straightforward. It meanders and bends with my own visits to the village. After all, isn’t our knowledge constructed through our senses of perception?
I never liked visiting my parent’s respective villages because there were no toilets there. Private acts had to be performed publicly, under the open sky. Bathrooms were a mere open square in the kitchen. But I had no problems with the dung smeared floor, the dusty roads, the thatched roofs, the goats, the dogs and the buffaloes, and the queer smell of the surroundings. The water tasted weird. “That’s from the well, dear”, said my paternal aunt. “That’s the river water”, consoled my maternal grandmother. I hated the way people stared at us as we walked towards my respective parent’s natal homes. When we drove into the village all eyes were on us. Village children rushed behind our car. When we stopped, they all gathered around in awe, as if looking at the car for the first time. Probably they were.