Wednesday, February 03, 2010

The Old Days

Krishnammal told me more stories of her growing up in Ayyankottai. She says that as late as the early 1930s, the people still had virtually everything they needed (except good houses). The Dalits (the overwhelming majority of her village) had land and cows and chickens, and always had enough to eat. Her father used to trade coffee powder and honey with the tribal people in the nearby mountain range for many varieties of fruit. She used to go to her uncle’s house with her sisters to eat wonderful kurds. Cloth was mostly supplied by the village weavers.

She didn’t grow up even knowing what caste was. Yes, there were eight or nine higher caste families, but they didn’t have many children. They sat in the front of the classroom, but it really wasn’t a big deal. The schoolteacher (of higher caste) took meals in their home. It wasn’t until she came to Madurai that she really knew what caste was.

What they lacked was currency. It wasn’t exactly clear to her why it was needed, but slowly but surely the men would go to the nearby town to buy luxury goods and, especially, alcohol, until by the late ‘30s, most of them had lost their land, and ended up at the bottom of the employment heap. As she remembers, no one really understood what had happened until it was too late.

Her other strong memory of the period was learning to sing “God Save Our Gracious King” (George V). She hadn’t a clue who he was, and no Britishers frequented Ayyankottai.


Post a Comment

<< Home