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Field to Factory: Film and ethnography of industrialisation in Chhattisgarah, Central India


Living Memory Commentary   11th August 2002

Shobha’s narration

For my marriage some relatives came from Andhra Pradesh, from my parents’ birthplace.  They said, ‘your grandmother couldn’t be here. Why don’t you take your husband to meet  her and to visit your ancestor’s village?’  This was when we started to make a film about my family.

My parents left the village before I was born but they brought me back every year.  So for me this journey was familiar; for my husband it is the first time. He had not even been to Andhra before. 

The village is called Chinnamangulapuram and is in Shrikakulam district which is famous for Naxalites.

My mother went home for the birth of her first children and now I am showing my husband the house where I was born.

Shobha

:

Ajay , this is my Birth Place.  I was born in this house.  My grand father gave this house to his brother’s son and built a new house there.  This is where my uncle lives.

Shobha’s narration

This is the new house built by my mother’s father where we are staying now.

My mother’s mother is telling Ajay about my parents’ marriage

Grandmother:

 I sent my eldest daughter to Bhilai where my son-in-law was working.  They have got five children now.  My daughter married a close relative. 

Shobha’s narration

My father’s elder brother is taking about our land and conversion.

Shobha’s uncle and Shobha’s translation

Three brothers are living in another state.  Counting him there are 4 brothers. They have

all got plots of land here.  First we saw one plot over there.  Now this is my mother’s property and on this side my father’s.  This land belongs to my father’s middle brother, this is father’s and this is the youngest brother’s.

My grand father converted when he was about 30.  Then after that we converted too.  

We studied in convent school.  Since our family was big I let my brothers stay at school.  I studied only up to class 5.

.

Shobha’s narration

Our stay  in the village was a joyful time for us. I might have grown up here but my parents migrated to take up a job in Bhilai, a big steel city.   I am also fond of Bhilai but I always feel sad when I leave this village.  This time it was made worse because I had some very bad news to face. 

Just before we were leaving I phoned my sister and she said my father is seriously ill. It was very painful to hear.  Physically I was present in Andhra Pradesh but mentally I  came back to my parents, brothers and sister.

My mother is sensitive to every little hurt. So how can she bear such sorrow?

I was thinking my father is such a strong person, if he admits he is ill it must be very bad.

My father used to arrange everything for us. So how will they be able to manage?

My brother, Babu, is the oldest of the children still at home. So he has got more responsibility.

I was thinking about my next brother, Ravi, who has never yet suffered anything and about my little sister Jyoti, how is she feeling?

When we arrived I was to hear that my father was suffering from cancer and did not have long to live. For me this was the worst news I could ever hear. My father was very dear to me, perhaps even closer than mother. I could not think about anything else, certainly not the film.

I said to my father, I’m sorry I have been causing you trouble with my camera. I won’t cause you any more. But he said no, nothing has happened to me yet.  I can still dance if you want me to; I can still sing if you want me to. Who lives forever on this earth?. But my memory will live on in your film. 

Shobha’s Father

I came to Bhilai at the end of 1949. Up to March 1961 I worked in the Steel Plant.

Then I was laid off.   After that I went to Chintapilli Selaru for the Andhra Pradesh Dam Project.  I was there for three months.  Later when my uncle and I heard that the Plant was going to give us our jobs back, we came to Bhilai.  But, started working in the Railway’s signal Department in Construction because the plant job was delayed then I remained in the Railways.

I got married on 13th Feb 1966.  There is an objection to people marrying close relations.  We had to try very hard to get permission from the Bishop. 

It is not good to marry such close relations because my mother’s blood and my mother’s brother’s blood is the same and another thing is that if we have marital problems

we can’t share them with any relatives because they may feel insulted as they are related to both sides.  But in one way it is good because even if my parents are not at home and my wife is alone, I’d have no need to worry about the safety of the home. That is how people lived in those days and so did we.

I have got 6 children.  The eldest daughter got married to an employee of the Vishakpatnam steel plant.  The second daughter did film training and married a co-worker.  My eldest son is working in Raipur and is not yet married.  The youngest son is in  the 2nd year of B.com and is progressing in playing the tabla .  The youngest girl is studying in 10th class.  Along with her studies she is following our musical tradition.  I let my elder daughter do a degree.  People enjoyed her music.  The second girl also did a degree in music and the youngest son also did a degree in Tabla.

Shobha’s narration

I am very lucky that my father blessed our marriage and that my married home is not far.

When our marriage was fixed my husband asked me where I wanted to live.  I said I always lived with my family. Now I will be leaving them I want to live with your family.

In my in-law’s house there are only Ajay, his parents and me. My brother-in law lives in the Gulf with his wife. My married sister-in-law often visits with her children.

Shobha

What are you doing Amma?

Amma

Get lost.….

Shobha

What are you doing Iesha ?

Sister-in-law

I am watching you

Shobha’s narration

The family migrated from Kerala and settled in Bhilai about 30 years ago.

After coming here there are many things I had to learn: how to make Kerala food; they speak malayalum and I have to struggle to understand them.

Shobha

Where will you put this green veg?

Shobha’s narration

The strangest thing is they are not Christians. In fact they are Hindus. But Ajay and his parents don’t really believe in any religion.  They don’t mind that I am a catholic. Ajay even drops me at  the church most Sundays.

Both the families blessed the marriage. Even the local priests also blessed me. But the church excommunicated me.

My marriage is not blessed in the church so the church does not give me Holy Communion. Receiving Holy Communion means to receive the blood and body of Christ. Still I go to church because I believe in Christ and it is written in the holy bible “A person who is baptized by the Holy Spirit  is a Christian.”

Shobha

Father I was looking for you.  

Father

What is going on?

Can you teach the Catechism?

Shobha

You want me to teach the Catechism?

Ok tell me.  Am I worthy to teach it?

Father

Why not? yes, yes, certainly worthy.

Shobha’s narration

But when the church asked me to teach the catechism to catholic children then a question comes in my mind that when the church thinks that I am not worthy to accept Holy Communion then how can they think I am worthy to teach the catechism?

After my father’s death I went again to Andhra because my father’s brother and my mother’s brother came to the funeral and invited us back.  I was glad to get away from all these worries.  My mother’s brother’s daughter was to celebrate Pushpavati. It means a girl has reached puberty.

Shobha

How are you ? 

Aunt

We are fine.

Shobha

What are you doing ?

Aunt

We are working, Cooking food.

Shobha

Where is Auntie? 

2nd Aunt

Your Auntie is there.

Shobha

Is it dal? And are you preparing Rice? Call my Aunt.

3rd Aunt

Shobha, when did you come?

Shobha

Yesterday. Come here….come here…

3rd Aunt

How is Amma ?

Brothers and sisters are alright ?

Shobha

Yes, every one is ok.

Who did you make this swing for?

Uncle

I bought this for your sister.

Shobha

For sister ?  Not for me?

Uncle

Yes for you too.

Shobha

Now you are free.  My sister got married and now you are having a rest.

Uncle

Yes I am passing my time by swinging and minding my crops. 

Shobha

Come here.  Who is the food for?

3rd Aunt

For you.

Shobha

For me, I am not hungry.

3rd Aunt

You eat a little bit.

Shobha

Ok, come this side, not there, here.

Shobha

Who made the food?

3rd Aunt

I made it.

Shobha

You also sit down.

Uncle

You eat I will swing you.

Shobha

No, No….

Shobha’s narration

Pushpavati means … In Andhra Pradesh when a girl reaches puberty  her family  organizes  a function.  It is to tell  people our daughter has become a young woman and is ready for marriage.  Even poor people  celebrate it.  For nine or eleven days they tell the girl to sit on her own and isolated from others.  Her father’s sister or her own sister, these two relatives make the girl sit seperatly,  dress her and put turmeric on her body.  Only these two relatives can do this for her.  These nine days they give her a special kind of food without chilly or anything non-veg. .  They invite all the relatives like grandmother, grand father & uncles.  They all give good presents.

If they are rich they give Gold, If poor they settle for clothes.  Now Ajay & I came here to see Uncle’s daughter and to bring her some gifts too.

Because of my marriage I began to think about other marriages in the family. Was mine so very strange?

We  all used to marry cross cousins like my parents. But my mother’s brother didn’t. I ask him why?

Mother’s Brother

If we marry some one who is not our cross cousin because it is good to increases

our circle of relations.   That is why I decided to marry a girl who is not from our family.

Shobha

Is it good or bad to marry  close relatives?

Mother’s Brother

Marriage between close relatives is not good for  future generations.  Science tells us  that there is a genetic problem in marrying blood relations.  I can’t explain in depth. Not only in Andhra Pradesh but in many other states  people believe that if they marry a sister’s daughter they will be inhibited towards each other and will not be able to lead a happy life.  I also realized the same thing.  So I married a girl who isn’t  a blood relation.

Marriage between close relatives is not good.

Shobha’s narration

This is Pushparani , my father’s eldest brother’s daughter, who not only did not marry a cross cousin but married a Hindu boy.

Shobha

Akka, What are you doing?

Akka

I am cleaning tamarind.  Tamarind?  No, my dear I mean about your Job. 

At present I am free.  When I was working in a private hospital, I used to do night duty and there was very busy work. Due to this my health was not good.  So I left the job and am trying for a government job.

We both were working in a health department that is why we thought our mutual understanding would be good.  So we got married. 

Shobha

How many years ago did you get married?

Akka

It was 8 years ago.

Shobha

You got married through Hindu rites.

Akka

Yes.  First we got married by Hindu rites because it was my husband’s wish and the elders also persuaded me.  So, I agreed to a Hindu marriage.

Shobha

Where did you get married ?

Akka

I got married in our own home.

Shobha

What about you? Do you want to clean this tamarind?

Uncle

Yes, give it to me.

Shobha

No, don’t  do it.  Just you listen to our discussion.

Then when did you have a church wedding?

Akka

Within a year my husband came to believe in Christ. Then he agreed to a church marriage.  On 1st of January in our village church we got married. 

Shobha’s narration

I was hoping  Pushparani’s parish could explain in what circumstances the church will bless a marriage.

Priest

We only give dispensation for special reasons. There is no rule but in recognition of a couple’s social and  cultural background we can get a dispensation to perform their marriages.

Shobha

Whom does the church first prefer? A mother’s brother, mother’s brother’s son or father’s sister’s son ?

Priest

We tell people to stop marrying these relatives.  It is good not to marry blood  relatives.  We worn  them that it will cause hereditary problems for  future generations.   

 We explain to them but because of their circumstances in  the village they are not able to find some other marriage proposal.  So they marry blood relatives. 

Shobha’a narration

This is mother’s sister who also married a Hindu.

Shobha

What sweets are you cooking?

Grandmother

I am cooking food not sweets.

Shobha

Your grand daughter and grand son came, so what are you cooking for us? 

Grandmother

Anything, I will cook whatever you want.

Shobha

Go on uncle is calling you.

Mother’s sister

I did not like him because he is from a Hindu family and I was born in a catholic family.

But when I thought about my health, and that  he is working in the medical department as a Lab technician.  This was the only  reason.  Since my physical health was not good  I thought I would marry him and he would take proper care of me. 

Because my mother will be not with me forever.  I need a life partner,  I don’t mind. What cast he is.   I need a good husband, who can take care of me, love me.  There is a saying “Marriages are made in heaven”. 

It was God’s plan for me to have a Hindu Husband. 

My Husband loves me and cares  for me and within one and a half years of  our marriage, God blessed us with a baby. Her  name is Lohita Rani.  She gets a lot of love from us.  We all live happily together with my father-in-law, mother-in-law, brother-in-law and sister-in-law.

In fact ,I came to a Hindu family, but my husband’s brother was trained in the Christian religion and became a protestant preacher.  He serves God and preaches in the church. 

Shobha’s narration

I am again talking to Grandma, asking her how we should marry.

Grandmother

You are calling me young lady. Am I young?

Shobha

Yes you are young.

Grandmother

My grand children  have children. Can I still be young?

Shobha

Yes, why not     They all got married young.  

So, you are still young.

Grandmother

Look, look how she is teasing me.

What you say is alright.

Shobha

In our village we can marry our mother’s brother and mother’s brother’s son.  Whom should you prefer and who should get first preference?

Grandmother

How can it be?

Shobha

Tell me here both relations are going on .

Grandmother

Suppose one sister is married to her mother’s brother and the  next sister is married to mother’s eldest brother’s son,

Society will not accept this kind of relationship.

If you marry your mother’s youngest brother, then what is the relationship with your mother’s elder brother’s son?

The relationship is that  he is my “Son”.  So, how he is suitable for your youngest sister?

Shobha

Among these two relatives, tell me which is the correct one?

Grandmother

The first preference should be for your mother’s brother..  He has a right to marry you but catholic priests does not permit that.

But we have this kind of marriage all the same.  

Shobha

You are supporting  your son. 

Grandmother

I am not supporting him but here it is a tradition.  But priests don’t permit it.

May be in your state priests allow such marriages.

When my youngest daughter married  to a Hindu the church stopped giving me communion.

But in your state the priest accepted your marriage.

Shobha’s narration

She is teasing me about my own marriage but I don’t mind.

Shobha

In what sense?

Grandmother

He accepted a Hindu marriage. 

Shobha

No, My marriage was not blessed by Hindu rites.

We only exchanged garlands. 

Shobha

I want a camera, tripod and tapes for shooting.

Which one? It is there.   

Shobha’s narration

I am glad that I married a person of the same profession and that I can remain close to the church and to my family. But we can’t expect always to be happy. There are two sides of life – joy and sorrow.  Today we are living in a man’s world whether at home or in the office, in the temple or the church. We have to prove we can also achieve things.