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Back To The Heartland

Back To The Heartland

June 26, 2011
Sanghamitra Mandal

Is pastoral India giving way to clan ruling where nothing matters except caste?

My friend Manas, a software engineer, is definitely in the wrong profession. For all his fascination for air shows and aero technologies, he should have been flying one of the most sophisticated aircraft in the world. Or he might have made it big in Bollywood, the way he can mimic people to perfection. But funny as it is, the story he once told me left a deep impression in me and I want to share it.

Manas’s father was a Delhiite and in the Air Force, and he would get transferred every other year. But papa was quite affectionate and would rather take his family in tow, instead of leaving them in Delhi. Consequently, young Manas was shifted from one central school to another and came to know quite a few lads whose ancestral homes were in remote villages. During every school vacation, these boys visited their respective gaon and came back full of most impossible tales of love, laughter and adventure. And they would often ask Manas whether he had been to his gaon too. The young boy blushingly replied that he had either stayed at home or gone to Delhi to visit his grandparents.

His friends looked at him incredulously. Gone to Delhi? Well, that’s a big city, with loads of people and lights. How could it be one’s gaon, when the vast stretch of green, wavy rivers and rippling hills were so glaringly absent? How could a city be the idyllic heartland where it was all play and no work? Where life might not be lived with a capital L but with small cheers. Manas, too, felt miserable and one fine morning, solemnly declared that he must visit his gaon at least once or he would never go to school again. “Sana, you should understand the tremendous peer pressure at that age,” he laughed. “Living without a gaon was like being an outcast — it felt like a person without his roots.” And what he said touched me quickly as I was new in Delhi at that time and seemed to have left my roots behind without much regret.

We work in different organisations now and only exchange an sms or two throughout the year. However, the gaon story has stayed with me and I never stop smiling whenever I think of the idyllic heartland. It’s a romance every one will love to nurture as we live and work in an impersonal, cultural boiling pot — racing against time.

Yet, India has suddenly proved that its cosmopolitan attitude is a mask and a fake. Khap panchayat diktats started to rule our life; common men and women fell victim to honour-killing and journalists are not spared either. The medieval carnage of love, sexuality and humanity seems to have returned in its worst form — in the guise of upholding the traditional rural culture. One cannot but wonder how that little, nostalgic niche, that simple, rustic but good-natured gaon culture has become so blood-thirsty and parochial. What has gone wrong with bonding and fraternity? In the North and North West and even down South, why has the tradition of caste changed the face of humanity? My heartland was never like this. And I need to rediscover my home again. Hume gaon jaana hai…


  • Amit B
    Amit B
    13.07.11 12:08 AM
    loved the story narrated.yes,there's a vast change in society and 'gaon's ' are not far behind.there have been some modernization in villages but that's limited to only fancy cars ,bungalows and electronic goods after selling their lands for money.but deep in cast differences and honor killing is more rampant than ever.
  • tys
    27.06.11 06:47 PM
    anything held too tightly tends to take on the shape of the person holding can happen to cultures too

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