Ode to the Countryside : A Photo Essay - Part 1

2/05/2014 05:34:00 PM

Its a simple life. simple world. simple pleasures.

Its been a year and 2+ weeks since last I was in India and I am missing home a tad too much. So I thought why not reminisce it a little through images. These images are a little old, Six years actually. I shot them when I went to India in 2008, March I guess, and stayed back in Dad's village in Uttar Pradesh, for a month or more. My mom's village in Madhya Pradesh, I have very vague memories of. I hardly got a chance to visit since I entered teenage.

This place has changed so much  in the past 6 and 16 years when I used to go there regularly in summer vacation. Now when we are there, there are hardly any cousins to play with, any goats to take in the fields for evening walk, and sadly, we can't strip anymore, and jump in the canal close by for a cool bathing experience, neither do I see many tube- wells that had the pressure of a water fall, what a back massage that used to be. Well the childhood is gone. but I have fond memories. and I am gonna scroll through those slowly.

BTW this essay will also give you a glimpse of how a north-indian village actually look like. those imitating the experience in resorts or trying to get a good feel of rural life. this is quite it. Unfortunately my story telling would only be limited to the photos I have. those months of summer, the art work and all that is sort of gone. I think people in village are as busy and disabled by new world's charms as we are. its just the surrounding that makes it look different. I have another set of images of the few weeks I spent in 2012 that I'll be sharing in second part of this essay.

So here we go. I am sharing most of the images I have except some personal ones, I think for most of my readers these would be something they're seeing for the first time. all these photos are shot by my "now dead" canon digital camera. no processing.

A Morning from the roof top. These days the ceilings are constructed using cement and concrete, and they've a plaster floor on top, in earlier days, people used long stone beams or the flatter -wider ones those were tiled and the gap in between was filled with cement. the roofs were also made of heavy and long wooden stems with dry grass and other material used as tiles. all these roofs had sand on top and needed regular care unlike the new one that lasts long. some of these old house you see are still using the old method. 

Chappar or the shade hand-made by Bamboos and dry grass / some left over of wheat plants as well i think. this was one awesome social activity as I remember, guys from neighborhood, all coming together making these huge structures and fixing it at the roof. 
very cool during long treacherous months of summer  unlike those of iron sheets now used quite often.
these things and how the local stuff is used to make 'em is what makes any place unique isn't it?

Tractors and trolleys - the most used mode of transports in the village. of course they have companions in the form of jeep. there in the hiding is my car. I think this was after the accident i had in Agra. the dry crop on the right that lay on the rooftop is sesbania or dhaincha in local language. an extremely useful green manure. 
the little pond is there since I was little. only reduced in size.

This is how every morning look like from my roof top, people starting to go about their usual business, making cow-dung cakes, getting ready to go to fields, cleaning the cattle area and etc etc.

a small shop, someone opened, these are wooden structures called khoka, ( not the mumbai underworld money term) they sell stuffs of daily use like candies for kids, cigerattes and local beedi, matchbox etc.

the chulha made in Tasla or huge tavaa pan, with tiny cow dung cakes.

ploughing with oxen, a lot of it these days are done using tractors, because thats quick. precise ? I know not.

Another Chulha, Generally these are fixed structures, but sometime one can make such as above so that it can be moved around, the wood I am guessing is from sesame and sesbania. also in the picture is the Indian Spade or Fawda.

This one is interesting. So this image from March/April right about the time when Holi is celebrated. these are the garlands made of cowdung or that of buffalo a few. little cakes with a hole in the middle to hang em in the jute rope. every house makes 30-40-50 such garlands of size big to small in circumference so that they can be put on top of each and a pyramid is made out of those. thats the holi structure thats burnt on the last day of holi i.e. holika dahan.

A kid playing around in the sand, in my front yard, mostly she was interested in me, cuz I look a little like alien.. darn, I fit everywhere and I dont fit anywhere at all. such a contradiction I am.

A kid taking a lavish bath near the handpump. we used to have lots of wells earlier but as time passed, most of those were dried off. these are govt hand pumps and i think they go 20-30 meters deep.

A close look at the farmer's life. 

Andi or The Castor oil Plants - these were planted by my grandmother I guess. Dont have to tell you how useful they are.

Ploughing is pretty interesting technique, and very important in deciding what crop the soil can take up the next season. I remember when we are kids. we hung around, and used to help in the fields, during time or reaping, that time, these bridges were measured by hands, for example if you want to plant potatoes you need that much soil to hold a plant that can carry as many as 5-20 potatoes in it.

So these cowdung cake structure is different everywhere you go. I don't know what's the english name for these its called Kanda in local language and these are again made very precisely so that each can fit in the chulha perfectly on both side and top. if not made correctly they might not last long - hear anything about how organic and well thought things are in the rural areas ?
I think we just fake it when we talk about saving the world from global warming.

thats the lunch time, and boy is helping his grandfather by bringing lunch in the fields
the machine is a chara hand machine ( Chaff cutter) I am sure most of Indians have heard the word chara with ghotala a zillion times by now.( rest of you read corruption here)

I think these fields are ours, the folks that works for us, since we hardly lived in the village and just came to check how things were, unlike now, when my parents like to spend most of the time there, these people are the care takers, and kheti-badi i.e. farming is mostly done in sharing in the profit. 

I am forgetting the name of the plant, might be fennel (saunf ) when I was a kid I could look at the plant just one glance and tell you what plant it is but I think so much being away I have totally lost it now. 

This one should be easy Ah. Garlic or perhaps it could be onion as well. told you - lost it
the soil is wet and is cracked, mostly this is how these plants are pulled out with out harming the soil. 

Some bean in between - local. don't ask me the name.

As I was telling you, above. the bunch of garlic i guess. these people, they all know me and work with us, though i am no longer useful, just an spectator. 
This is one good thing about village - Almost everyone knows everyone else. though I happen to go there only after a while and that makes me a stranger to the new crop... yes crops of kids. however they often recognize me. funny.

She's kiddo of the couple above.

This used to be a much prettier sight earlier. from where I am standing, we had a beautiful huge tamarind tree behind me on the right and a babool or Vachellia nilotica Tree in that empty space in bottom 1/3 of the image. this is  my favorite morning and evening walk from home to the fields and small canal thats behind me, as-in in picture.

Few kids I met on the way that day. all helping at home after school.

What plant it is again..?
 Sorry forgot. 

Coming to the food part. Thats besan curry. made with besan ( gram flour and curd) and its very yummy specially with rice or poori.

haha this should be funny. yes I just had a bath.. "here" in the open :P

Umm where is this - out around the village somewhere. I love and miss these quiet strolls. 

A bird i found resting on the pile of fuel

though blur i just love this photo. 
After milking the cow, a little milk is left over for the calf and the boy is released, so intriguing to see how it runs to his mother.

Milking as you can see it.

and this is the process of taking the cream out of curd, this is how ghee is made. and well what you are not seeing here is that I am doing it today. 
talk about exercise, f'ed up my joints totally. took more than 2 hours. 

here is my reward. Naini or very fresh butter - makkhan ( my most favorite), lassi and Aloo paratha. 
these breakfast are to blame for the weight that I put on, I have been trying to get rid of it ever since. this is mid 2008 i guess. 

thats buffalo's evening ritual. they give more milk than white cows usually and thicker as well. 
I love the former the more. Taste of milk i mean.

quite time for the cattle. evening.

and for the little boy.

Oh these kids are celebrating Chaitra Navaratri - funny I saw them for the first time wearing saari, they'll go to a small temple in the field worship the goddess and dance and sing. 
so much fun. I did join them.

this used to the biggest pond in the village. and its dry now. and I cant hate it enough.

One of the houses in the interiors they all belongs to relatives, one or the other. in fact 2/3 of the village are my relatives. first/second/third/fourth/fifth cousins and so on. 

the chara machine in the house and little goat thats very hungry.

the old sesame tree and our old house. 

thats my cousin's pet i think. 

the canal I was talking about, they are mostly the small secondary level tributaries coming out of first level  aka Nahar from the river - the size is like in the above image. 

this one is from my aunts village, not the one in mine, all these are from river ganga i believe. and they are all used to water the fields. 
I love this image. no make up - still, so serene and beautiful.

The mud road that goes to my Aunt's place. I went there to drop her back home. couple of the images coming now are from on the way to her place and back.

the Wheat crop almost ready for harvesting.

Most of the empty fields in the summer are wheat field after harvesting they are left empty till monsoon comes and then the next season of farming begins. 

the kids rest under a mango tree while parents work in the filed. this is a trolley - thela in hindi

Wheat field - green still, and not yet ready for harvesting.

Why i took this pic? Oh yes.. the pipal tree or fig tree -- ficus religiosa
very important in religious ceremony, this and banyan. 
Actually all of them are. 

Castor Plants, local herbs and grass, around a handpump, there is a shade behind, there are no concept of farm houses here. all the fields that belong to villagers are at walking distance. so genrally a hut is made at the center somewhere to rest in the days of summer. in hindi they are called "Haar" and best place to relax IMHO.

Ah the jackfruit tree. and the bundles of wheat crop. 

the tree unfortunately doesn't belong to my family. this was on the way to my aunt house, but sincee they were looking so fresh and yummy I stole a couple, alright I asked the kids wandering around me and bro, who;s tree it was and if i could pluck few raw jackfruits. and they not only gave me permission but told me the entire history.

The curry made of these raw baby jackfruits was the yummiest jackfruit curry i ever tasted in my life.

and they did not do it for the picture.

On the way to main road - state highway i guess.
the highway used to be lot greener when i was young, continuous expansion of the roads resulted in cutting all the trees and now they look mostly barren with no shades to rest and no fun to walk on to. 
I still remember the tropical fruit trees of jamun or Syzygium cumini
hundred of trees along the highway, 
3km of walk one side to the village from the railway station, plucking fruits, eating em on the way, cool wind blowing my hair-- what a bliss it was. 
Hate it that we'd never get that time back again.

A small temple on the way. another awesome place to just sit and relax, with no one to bother you. 

On the state highway. this road must take you to Kanpur I believe, and in other direction to Agra. two very prominent cities in Uttar pradesh India.

That structure is also a temple + house - I have to tell you, most of the people have very big houses or used to have atleast and every house will have one such temple in the front yard. with the calming sound of morning and evening prayers bell, you dont have to run around searching for nirvana, nope.

the view on the way, that should be milestone on the left.

the railway line that runs 2-3 km away from my village, we used to go to the local station walking, it was long but lot of fun. now 15 minutes and 100 bucks and a private auto will take me to the city station. 

I think we are back to my village now, this should be where the big canal is.
 i am missing an image here, fun part, I can jump in any waterfall around the world, but I never had guts to jump in that Nahar- river canal - the flow was crazy and I never knew swimming. I still am a novice at it i guess. 

the kid is taking his goats for a walk, I had a few goats ( my property  yeah :) )too and I used to do that too during my summer vacation, so much fun it was.

The green sight on the way to the village. I think the best time to be here is monsoon..the view is just fantastic then and if you are foodie, then nothing beats winter. so much variety and everything fresh - "tell you what, Organic is the word cheaters invented. 
Taste it till you know it.

One of the galli in the village. On the left is the village's primary school.

since the school in villages dont close until late may, this one used to be open in summer days. I used to join my cousins for their classes, and I had quite a setting out there. The Teacher ( Whom we used to call him Master ji, fondly - One of my favorite people in the village ) never left a chance to make fun of me. 
He called me - "Dilli ki Billi"
A Big city Cat that just ran over here from Delhi ( Yes, you can laugh) 

This is how i fondly look at the place taking my own sweet time. 

This must be babool tree, or something similar. Another very useful one and found easily in these areas.

and we are back to food. you should know whts cooking in there. thats milk that would churn slowly the whole entire day on low flame, to make nice Mewa, which will be ultimately used in ...

....these. Gujiya, those are called in local language and one of my favorite home made sweet during holi festival. 
Well, we dont leave a single chance of eating yummy food. now you know why we have so many festivals.

Oh the kids I told you about in a picture above, they are getting ready for the party in the field. 

fresh chara, and someone is spying on me from behind the machine.

and here is where I meet all these spies. so 2014 it is ?  and I took this shot in 2008. 6 years, and half of them would be married. Ah.. I hope I am exaggerating here. time has changed, only here for this part alone , I'll cherish it and call it for good. 

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  1. @Poonam, your pictures are truly amazing. You have captured the scenic beauty of rural India very well. I enjoyed seeing the photographs and hope to see more like these. You have a fine hand at nature photography. I guess you must try other parts of rural India.

    1. Thanks very much Soumya. I am glad you loved the images.I have some more from rural north and south india. will post 'em sometime.

      Have a great weekend - p∞nam

  2. Just tripped across your blog accidentally. Wonderful essay of village life!

  3. @Abhilash - Thank you very much. Glad you liked it. Have a good one.


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