A visit to Supu*, a small village on the outskirts of Udaipur, Rajasthan, changed my mind on how I used to perceive an Indian village. My father belongs to a remote area in West Bengal, and I have been visiting my native place at least once a year since I was a kid. I have seen my village grow and develop from no electricity, no roads, no bridges to have electric connection with a few hours of power supply, kuchcha roads and makeshift bridges. This time, when I had to visit Supu with my co-fellows, I had a similar image of a rural settlement in my mind but I was surprised with what we saw.
The roads were made of concrete. There was well-connected power supply. The houses were mostly spacious and multi-storey. Even the small homes were made of pakka material. After an hour of walking around the village, we found that even the poorest families had a proper house with all basic amenities like running water and electricity. I was happy to see a developed village, in its conventional sense. As we talked to a few residents, we understood that they are self-sustained. In most households, a member from each family had a stable source of income from a job they had taken up in a city. Additionally, there was agricultural land, another means to earn livelihood. They were familiar with both the urban and rural lifestyles by working in a city and farming in their own backyard. The bubble of a poor village was burst.
The next day, as we went back, we visited the Government school there and met the students, teachers as well as other staff members. We were amazed as we got to know that the school has a smart class which has been built by the Rotary Club. Again, the perception of a village in my head got a better picture. The in-charge of the smart class, Manish*, was excited to have us and give us a demo. We were also enthusiastic to go back to class VII and revise our History lesson in a more interactive session.
Post session, Manish shared his life story. He happened to drop out of college twice as he was not enjoying the course, and finally graduated with a B.Sc degree before joining a firm to work in marketing. But, he was again not finding joy in what he was doing. He left the job and came here as a teacher. Now, he was satisfied and content. It has been 10 years and he still feels excited to come to the school every day. “No matter what you do in life, the most important thing is to be happy.”, said Manish. We could relate with him and his words motivated us to face the unknown that lay in front of us.
We went on to interact with different families of the village from different economic background. What was noticeable was that irrespective of the economic condition, the men and women were educated. All of them had completed their graduation and some of them had a B.Ed degree. Although they didn’t have a job, they aspire to be teachers. When we asked about job opportunities in Udaipur or nearby cities, they replied that there were better opportunities there but they wish for a Government job in their village itself. They were waiting for the recruitment process.
I was taken aback with their decision to stay at home and not exploring the prosperous options available to them. I wanted to say that they were being foolish by not looking at the available opportunities and confining in their homes waiting for government jobs without any assurance that they will get one in their village. But I controlled myself and rather, had a general chat to know more about the village.
Later at night, while talking on a call to one of my friends who used to work with me in Kolkata, he told that he is rejecting an offer for a job in Hyderabad as he wants to be at home. That conversation made me realise how easy it was for me to leave my family in order to work outside Kolkata. I decided to not argue about it with him and understood that most of us may have the same intention of staying close to our families irrespective of being from a village or a city.
One cannot say that a villager is more eager to stay in his/her village while an urban person can easily migrate to another city for work. The decision to stay close to one’s family is entirely personal and may not have much to do with an urban/rural background.
Our mind is often occupied with the experiences and memories we have had, and so a single story of a topic is often developed. With new experiences, I will try to create multiple stories of the same thing and see different colours I may not have seen before.
*Names changed to protect identity