The difference between two things, places, beings, concepts, and creations is what holds the greatest fascination. The moment you are near an Indian village, you know in your mind that this isn’t a town or a city… and it isn’t just the size or the population that gives this impression. It is the way village-folk adopt and adapt to changes and evolution. So you find one talking on a mobile phone and yet sitting on a bullock-cart with loads of ‘chara‘ for his buffaloes. You discover them watching ‘chikni chameli‘ in a house with traditional motifs hand-painted on every wall. You see girls in a foot long ‘ghungat‘ sharing bawdy jokes and laughing. So villages in India are speeding ahead and yet surrounded by that old-worldly calm that says: ‘I have all the time in the world.’
This isn’t all. Where else will I get to sit on a terrace and gaze up to see a zillion stars? I’m sure there is no star-studded canopy over Delhi… at least this is what I’ve come to believe now. The thing with cities is that even if there are night-long electricity cuts, they are not obvious as every house here has inverters or gen-sets. There unending queues of cars crawling on high beam all through the night. The difference between a city and a village is what I love… because even if every house in a village has opted for an inverter, you do have the choice to walk far away from it all in a matter of minutes and be on a machaan surrounded by a vast emptiness and the possibility of a silent conversation with your favourite star.
When I told a friend about my conversation with stars being possible only in a village, he had a look of incredulity and asked, ‘But I thought you met stars only in cities.’ I sighed and told him that I was neither talking of Bollywood stars not the stars who finally end up in Tihar.
‘I meant the stars that are in a galaxy!’ I said.
‘I too have a galaxy in my pocket,’ he said triumphantly, taking out and showing me his latest Samsung smartphone.
This was proof enough for me to know that city folk do not really understand a village, but the village folk understand us well… and this is a mighty big difference between the two.
Yes, there is a world of difference between the villages we see in a Bollywood movie and a real village in India. I mean, in a real village you wouldn’t see a young woman walk by wearing a blouse that is three sizes smaller… or someone wearing a Gujarati ghagra in a remote Himachali village… or everyone dancing as they go to their fields for work in the mornings… or a massive temple where the entire village gathering each evening for an aarti… or a zamindar living in a haveli that resembles a palace. Indian villages are actually quaint places where the city influence exists in discussions and in dreams. These are places where you are likely to see ponds with a lot of moss, large areas where wild grass sways with the wind, cobbled pathways and dusty tracks going all around with cows and buffaloes standing still watching you disinterestedly, and where everyone knows everyone.
So yes, what I love most about our villages is the way they stand out because of the difference in stance that they display. I love Indian villages. I repeat that the one thing I love about them is ‘the difference’ that they display with a lot of aplomb!
18 December 2014