“Yahan sab badiya hai, log bhi ache hai, mein bohot khush hun”, said *Helly Bai with glitter in her eyes. Helly Bai runs a small shop in Katara village to add to her earnings from farms and land.
As a part of India Fellow program, we were introduced to the villages to widen our understanding from social, economic and cultural perspectives. Me and my three co-fellows visited Katara village, which comes under the Badgaon Panchayat of Udaipur. It’s a small village of 130 odd families and is predominantly a middle caste village with Suthars (ironsmiths) community forming the majority of it. Katara is 8 km from Udaipur and has direct road connectivity, but no public means of travel. Most people own vehicles and regularly commute to the city on which they rely for services like banking, medical, education, etc.
As told to us by a retired professor from the village, some 450 years ago, the village was inhabited by tribal community settled around a well called Katara and hence the name stayed. Rana (the ruler of the region) wanted to settle carpenters in the region to get a steady supply of tools for his army. He drove off the tribal community, killed their leader and settled Suthars along with two families of Rajputs on each end of the village for their safety and guard. Slowly, the village progressed and other communities like Prajapatis (potters), Nangarchis (dhol players), Gametis (animal carcass and leather work) and Meghwals (untouchables) also settled in the village. Meghwals stay on the far end of the village and interact least with others. Traditionally, there are some communities that the Hindu Verna system does not even include in the Vernas. They are also often refered to as Avernas. Meghwals fall in the ambit of this.
As per a woman tuition teacher, Nangarchis are allowed to enter houses but food is not shared with them. Castism is subtle and no one acknowledges it directly. Inter caste marriages are looked down upon and couples who do so, while not honor killed, are excommunicated from the families and caste. All communities live in their respective clusters with least mixing of houses from different caste groups.
Katara is not the typical Indian village that we generally imagine. It’s a well to do village with many amenities like 24 hours electricity (they share same line which goes to the Govt. Tuberculosis Hospital in nearby Bhid), private piped water supply, paved roads and proximity to the city. Close to Katara is Tiger Hills, where many housing societies, farm houses and resorts have come up. Tiger Hills also has Pratap Garurav Kendra, a museum of Maharana Pratap of Mewar. People proudly recall visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the inauguration of the Gaurav Kendra. Tiger Hills also has a helipad which is used by politicians and businessmen who frequent to their second homes here. It has tremendously increased the land prices in the region and Katara is now in the purview of this. According to a local school teacher, one of many reasons for the affluence in village is from the sale of farmland which fetches a huge amount for them. Most families have at least one person working in big cities like Bangalore, Delhi, Mumabi and Surat. Many work in marble sector and carpentry. Few who have stabilised themselves in big cities have attracted many more.
We met Helly Bai while walking through the village. Helly Bai is from a Suthar family and stays in a thatched roof house separately from her son, who lives in a newly constructed house right adjacent to hers. She is a strong built woman, with confidence and pride glittering from her eyes and body language. She travels on her own to cater to her needs, and is not dependent on others. She has to collect water every day from a nearby tube well. She proudly tells about the plot she owns in the Tiger Hills, where many politicians, businessmen and bureaucrats reside now. She believes Tiger Hills has helped the village in many ways – with employment and great price for land. She thinks that in 5-10 years, the village will become part of the main city, as Udaipur is now a smart city and on an expanding spree. She reminds me of many strong and independent women I know in my life and I felt respectful for her.
Moving further into the village we met D Deva, who is a DJ and a local sensation. We met his mother, *Poorna, who treated us with the best meal I’ve had had in a long time. She takes care of the house which spans more than 2500 yards and of 2 cows, her big kitchen garden and manages a small chakki for family requirements. “Hum log yahan bohot pehle se hai. Hamaara bada maan hai yahan” says Poorna. They too are from Suthar community but use a Brahmin surname to match their affluence and status. They believe that their family was the first one to settle in the village and all Suthars are related to each other as they have same ancestry. She gets her water from a direct pipeline from the farm tube well to her house and she has put a RO machine to cater to drinking water needs. She has resources and affluence but is still dependent on her husband and son for anything which has to do with the outside world. She works tirelessly and believes that is her destiny, making her peace with it.
Both Poorna and Helly Bai represent two different pictures of mothers in the village. One is independent but struggling while another is affluent but dependent. Helly Bai also provides for the family by sharing her income from the shop as well as provides employment to her daughter when she is away. Poorna’s life revolves around her house and family with little margin of going out. Both love their family and children irrespective of whether they get anything in return and have dedicated their lives for them. So much for being mothers!