Reminiscences On Kalpathy Village
I have nothing else to do, this morning, so thought would reminisce on our native village, Kalpathy, and its progress over the eight decades that I have watched.
This village is at least 600 years old, so are many of the houses. Most have undergone structural changes and additions, to take care of increased requirements of the families. For instance, when children start going to college, they needed exclusivity for concentrating on their studies and to detach themselves from routine family happenings. This was why, they started building the up-stairs, a revolutionary concept in those days. The Josier House up-stairs came into being in the 1920s when my eldest brother Manian (Rajan Anna's father) went to college. It was a great and proud moment in my parents' life My father spent quite a sum on the construction, and the place was exclusively Manian's. There was Manian's table, Chair etc. When my mother came as my father's second wife - the first one had died of small-pox leaving four children, Pahi, Manian, Raman and Krishnan, Pahi married and the others school-going- and she started getting children in quick succession, we needed more space, so the Kitchen and beyond portions were added. Also, we had cows and buffaloes for which cattle-sheds were built.
Then, my father started buying up agricultural lands - he bought , in all around 200 acres in various locations, during the 1930s. Several cart-loads of paddy would be delivered, twice every year, by the tenanting farmers. These had to be measured, dried and stored in barns, both for own use and for sale of surplus in the lean months, when demand and prices would be higher. Therefore came the wood and steel frame-work in the front, also the barns, of which we had five. In addition, my father would store paddy in houses taken on mortgage or bought.
What I say about our home applies to several other homes in the village - in fact in all the Kalpathy villages. There was neither electricity, nor water supply. Even Kerosene oil had been introduced only in the 1920s, its usage confined only to aristocratic homes, They would use Hurricane lamps, with a glass shield, that had a flame-controlling turning screw. They cost less than a rupee each.,We had three or four of these at Josier House, because we all had to study in its light. The lumen out-put of this lamp is the same as that of our foot-lights, in modern homes. Even a Sir.C.V.Raman studied under similar lights. Every evening, the seniors would clean it, refill the kerosene oil and keep it ready. Poor homes used Maavilakku, made of chalk-stone (much like the Kamakshy lamps) and using gingely or castor oil and wicks made of old and torn clothes. One of these lamps would burn the whole night, for security, also for lighting the hearth in the kitchen, in the morning. I remember, one tin of Kerosene oil i.e. 4 gallons in a tin cost less than a rupee. This would be used over a month or more.
As for beds, only aristocrats had cotton beds. Rarely, the bridal couple were gifted two such beds and four pillows. Manian, Raman and and Krishnan got such gifts. Since I got married in Bombay and to an upper middle.class wife, I was gifted a teak-wood double bed with springs and Dunlopillow mattress and pillows! Back, in the village, most people slept on grass mats spread on the floor, many huddled together as in my child-hood.
No one wore chappals in the village and shoes were very very rare. A, ll college staff and students had to wear coat and turban compulsorily.
I had seen Manian going to college dressed like this. Most boys were married while in College or were around 17 or 18. Girls were, very very rarely sent to the high school. They got marri/ed around 12 or 13 years, and mostly in the village itself or a nearby village. Malabar-Tamil marriages were a strict no-no, mine was the first in our family, and my father started with a lot of hesitation.
All this has changed now. I have been an admiring witness to the phenomenal changes that have overtaken the village. Many of the old-timer families have abandoned the village and migrated to the metropolitan cities for better prospects. Many have written off the village and keep no contact. A few, however, miss village life and yearn to be a part of it even now. They visit the village, especially during the festivals, support the village temple and activities with funding, and keep friendship. It is because of this group of dedicated village-worshippers that Kalpathy village is now the most prosperous, lively and active place. Most weeks, there is some fuction or the other, free food is provided at all festivals. Sometimes, it is delivered at homes by volunteers. People visiting the village during festivals are provided free lodging and food for about 10 days. Right now, there is the Bhajanotsavam. This is a masive effort for 5 days. On all days, around the clock all visitors and participants are given free food, coffee, tiffin.etc. The expenditure is funded by well-to-do persons here and outside. Offerings, are pouring in. On Car Festival day, everybody attending joins a mass feast - around 4000 or so -are treated to a very sumptuous lunch . This goes on till the last person is fed. On most other days also, some kind of food is distributed in the temples. It can be said, safely, that no one, just no one, goes without food in the village. Whenever there is a marriage or other function at the village Kalyana Mandapam, any one can walk in for breakfast, lunch or tea and be served.
As a result of availability of good food. the people here are healthy and, believe me, since Dr.Krishnamurthy died a decade ago, around 6000 people in the neighbourhood are carrying on without any Medical assistance. We do have heart, eye and other problems, which are taken care of by services available in the town. Another important feature is that, no one is unemployed or depending on another. It is difficult to get any kind of domestic help. It is all do-it-yourself. There are dozens of caterers for all occasions, who deliver to order in the homes. Even domestic funcions of all kinds are catered to by these set-ups, No barber, no dhobi, no carpenter, mason or tailor who is free-wheeling. They have to be discovered! In many cases, it is seen that students from High Schools and Colleges work in the evenings and wek-ends and earn their way. Most Courier companies engage students to deliver mail, mostly in the evenings. Bi-cycles have disappeared, except as ornamental pieces. It is either a Mo-bike or a Car. I forgot, no drivers for cars are available. You drive yourself, or call a cab, many are available in the village itself. We are lucky (thanks Vasu) to find an auto-driver, who doubles-up as Car driver, when we require. He is just wonderful and exact. He helps by doing much of our shopping too!
The changes I have seen over my life-time are mind -boggling. There is hardly a home without mobile phones or internet. ALL the girls in the village - of course, all the boys too - are working and living well. The women, especially the girls are so empowered that they would not let any one, not even parents, make their decisions. Marriage for girls is no longer a problem, they are so much in demand, Kalpathy is also a Fashion Centre, most up-to-date. One has to see it to believe it.
On the whole, I believe that the village has re-discovered itself over the years, and for the better.
9th August, 2012