How Green Was the Village

The village was aligned along a main road from east to west. The houses were constructed on both sides. There were small lanes from the road after every eight houses or so to go out from the houses easily to the fields for agriculture work, to the jungle for fire wood, timber and other forest produce, to the tanks for house hold work or for taking bath and washing the clothes, to take the animals to drink water and wash them, bringing water for preparing malted Ragi (a nutritious millet) porridge (locally known as Madhia Page), mud for cleaning the houses, bringing Sarai, Mahua and Palash leaves to use in rituals and for making plates for marriages or any other community functions, bringing ropes for binding Tendu leaves, Charoli nuts which were exchanged for salt and Bel (wood apple) for eating and applying on the supda or utensil made from bamboo for separating the chaff from the grain, so that it lasted longer. Bhilava (Marking Nut) flowers were brought for eating and its nuts for medicinal use. Many leaves, fruits, nuts, roots, flowers, skins of the trees were useful for the people. The north and east sides were surrounded by dense forest. No one could go alone outside of the village into these forests even in daytime. There were three small hamlets in the village. Two of them were called Harrapara and Badhapara but the third one was not given any name. There was no respect for them. They were called by their caste name directly and the rest of the village practised untouchability with them. People used to say that they skin the dead animals and eat their meat. They used to make ropes for agriculture work and shoes for people out of the skins. Ironically these landless people were forced to do this work to fulfill society’s requirements yet they were considered to be untouchable while their products were freely touched and used. They were the poorest of the poor in this village. The eastern part of the village had the cremation ground for all types of community members but the western part of the village was reserved only for the cremation of Tribals. The people had many animals for farming, milk and compost fertiliser for the farms. Both sides of the village had gothan where the livestock used to rest before and after going for grazing in the jungle. They rested and drank water from the small stream. The animals used to gather and take rest there and then the man, who takes care of them, brings the animals to their houses. They were very systematically sent to their houses one by one without any mix ups. The Bardiha or herdsman follows all animals until they reach their houses. Early in the morning, he took the animals from the houses shouting “Dheelo”, asking the people to losen the ropes with which the animals were bound inside their houses. Before this he went to the houses to milk the cows. For this service he got to keep the milk every fourth day. All the animals had wooden or metal bells around their necks which made a very nice musical tune as they walked through the village. These bells were for the animal’s safety when they went to the jungle. In this village there were seven ponds and all were made by the village Panchayat and a dam which was constructed by the government on the stream coming down from the hills. Two of the ponds were made by individuals for storing water for their agriculture use. They were given the names Bodru pond and Kalar pond. One big pond stored water for the whole year and people used to drink water from there. But in this pond people couldn’t stand in the water while swimming because of its depth and muddy bottom. But there were a lot of fish and lotus roots and flowers and leaves for eating. In summer many of them used to bring the roots and boiled and ate them for cooling of the body. The other ponds dried out in summer. Every pond used to be known for its positive and negative specialities. The Kalar pond was known for its leaches. They were painful for the animals and human beings both. If anyone stayed in the water for two minutes the leaches got stuck on their body. It was more painful for animals because they couldn’t take off the leaches from their bodies. When the animals sat in the pond, many leaches got stuck on their bodies and sucked their blood and separated only after having their fill. When the buffaloes came out of the water they would have the leaches hanging from their bodies to the great merriment of the children who would poke the leaches. The people were aware about it and so took their bath quickly. This pond’s water never caused people to fall ill after bathing that is why despite the leaches people went to bathe in it. The Bodru pond did not have leaches, so many people used to swim in it, especially the children. But people fell sick when they bathed in it in the rainy season. The other four ponds were a few kilo meters far from the village and so were used only when the people went to the jungle. There were many wild animals like – leopards, tigers, deers, bears, monkeys, wild dogs, wild hens, wolves, hyenas, peacocks, porcupines, mongoose and rabbits. One day a leopard entered the village and was there till the morning at the back side of a house. When the woman woke up she saw the leopard was sleeping under the shed. She told her husband and both of them closed the door and went out from the house with their children and told their neighbours. One by one the news reached the villagers that they should all stay in the room that had wooden ceiling and close the door. Houses generally had one or two rooms which had a wooden ceiling below the tiled roof to store grains and other produce. Those whose houses were far way were informed by the Kotwar or village messenger. All the villagers were scared by the presence of the leopard in the village. When the leopard woke up, the sun was rising and she could not go to back to the forest. The bold men were trying to get her out from the house. She was unable to jump out of the house because she got disturbed. The leopard went from one house to another house scared of the people who had gathered. The people were trying to chase her away to the forests as without that they could not even go for the morning ablutions. Then the people closed the door of one house in which the leopard had entered and one of them whose name was Ganesh climbed up on the roof. He used to drink liquor all the time and was already drunk early in the morning. He said he could kill the Leopard and then took a spear and climbed up on the house’s roof and hit the leopard with it. She became angry and attacked Ganesh but luckily he didn’t fall inside the house and saved himself. He was injured seriously by the leopard. After this drama people went walking to the Sub- divisional office 8 kilo metres far from the village and informed the forest department. The people stayed inside their houses. They could not cook food. Children also stayed without eating. Everyone waited for a solution. Around four o’clock, the Zamindar of the village, who used to live in the city, came to kill the leopard by getting the permission of the administration. He was a master hunter of wild animals. First he analysed the situation where the leopard was locked in the house. He made the plan and the villagers as per the plan stood with their local weapons to guide the leopard back towards the forest. He alerted the people and fired his gun. The leopard came out of the house and ran fast on the special path opened for it and then the crowed ran behind the leopard thinking that she would go back to the forest. But when this happened the dogs became more active and they ran faster than the men. The leopard got a chance to hide herself behind the bushes of a small hill. Then the dogs encircled the leopard and the master hunter killed the leopard. The villagers were announcing that the leopard has been killed successfully and brought the leopard to the village and kept it on a table in front of the Zamindar’s home for paying it respect. Some women were offering flowers, some were covering it with new pieces of cloth and some people were praying. Then the leopard was taken in a procession around the village and then and given to the forest department. Things have changed drastically over the years and now the forests and their wildlife have reduced greatly and people rely more on the products available from the market than on those from nature.

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