Fading Folklore

Several years had passed since I last visited my village. Therefore, after finishing my college this summer, I decided to take a trip to Dhanchui. Located thirty four kilometers east to Gaya, this village is relatively better off as compared to an average Indian village. Economic prosperity aided by fertile land and remittances from emigrants residing in Mumbai and gulf countries, near absence of crime and enduring communal harmony are defining features of this area.
Initial phase of my trip was marked by merriment and exuberance, but the nostalgia was soon overpowered by a deep sense of anguish caused by a deeper observation of fading folklore. The social milieu had completely changed from what it used to be in our childhood days. There was no hustle of playing children in the streets, cricket pitches had disappeared into wild grasses, handicraft had lost significance and lives had become secluded.
These observations were in stark contrast to my childhood memories. Back in our childhood days, streets and open grounds used to be buzzing post noon with children playing myriad of games. Gillidanda, marble games, Kho-Kho, Hide and Seek, Cricket etc. were prominent outdoor games. Whereas, the rainy season used to bring a whole host of indoor games ranging from Ludo to Carrom to Antakshari. The season would culminate into an annual Kabaddi tournament which would congregate people from all caste, class and religious backgrounds. These games not only ensured enjoyment and physical health of the participants, but also created lifelong bonds of friendship and social cohesion.
Household squabbles in the neighborhood used to be regular sessions of schadenfreude assuaging our eternal appetite for entertainment in the pre internet era. Whereas, post squabble reconciliations used to be great lessons in peaceful conflict resolution. Rumors of haunted houses and trees used to be nightmares for every child and their propagation a fundamental responsibility. A casual conversation with an elderly would earn you a plethora of sociolect proverbs, idioms and anecdotes which had been crafted and preserved over centuries. Their proverbial taunts would swiftly set in motion the indolent lad.
Starry nights used to be accompanied by soul-stirring folk tales replete with ideas of justice and morality which were instrumental in character building. These tales were the sole contact between the elderly and the children of a family and perpetuated all the traditional and cultural hues from one generation to the next.
But everything has changed now. The arrival of dark clouds over the sky no longer invites playful kids to swirl around in the refreshing breeze and sing melodious songs expecting an exhilarating rain. Now, they go to sleep without knowing the fate of the crooked king who had established a despotic regime. The intergenerational bond is loosening, which is creating superfluous familial relationships. The rich cultural heritage and nuances of the dialect are eroding with every passing soul.
What could be the reason for this decay of rustic ethos? How have the characteristics of urban life sneaked into a rural setting? Has urbanization set its foot in the region? A closer look at public infrastructure and availability of basic amenities, or the lack thereof, in the region indicates otherwise. The government school which we attended is now faced with an existential threat posed by paucity of teachers as well as students. Inadequate recruitment of teachers and their perfunctory teaching has forced students to explore alternative career options. Healthcare services and hospitals are nowhere to be seen. Dilapidated condition of the roads makes a taxi-ride from the railway station to the village akin to a roller coaster ride. Lack of employment opportunities has forced people to migrate to urban places.
On the other hand every house is fitted with a dish antenna which carries urban culture directly to peoples’ homes. Smartphones have become ubiquitous and internet a basic need. Traditional means of entertainment are no longer required to spend leisure time and there is no need to preserve them.
People have acquired secondary characteristics of urbanization whilst they still remain deprived of basic amenities. Urbanism has arrived but urbanization still remains elusive.

– Monazza Aarfa
Jamia Millia Islamia

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