In today's piece about his time in the village, Gandhi fellow Kabir Arora reflects on caste, rainwater harvesting, green building materials, and useless government schemes.
My accommodation was in Baas Dhakkan but my school and kids belonged to Lohsana Chhota. This gave me an opportunity to explore two villages in one go. I have not visited Lohsana Chhota for lot of reasons, but still have some insights about it. Baas Dhakkan became my baas for a month. Confusion emerged from this too, as my wards and I were still in different spaces altogether.
Baas Dhakkan or Dhakkan Ka Baas's literal meaning is "Residence of people who have Dhaka as surname." I'm still not sure under which Jati they are identified; most probably either with Jaat or Rajput. It's just a random assumption. Nobody asked me about my caste except the PT instructor of the school, who later announced that I belong to Vaishya Varna- which is historically not correct. Aroras are the only non-mercantile community by caste (belonging to Khatri varna- distorted version for the word Kashtriya- Gazette having details of Jatis in Punjab) but engaged in trade. As the caste question never came across, it was tough to explore the caste composition of the village. Hinduism, but of a Northern Rajasthani version, was followed in both villages. There were few Muslims and other faith followers. Ramdevra and Guga Peer were the two main deities worshiped there. The deities are also respected by Muslims of the region. All the villagers used “Ram Ram “ for greeting each other. Ram here does not refer to Ramayana's Ram, but to Ramdevra.
Lohsana Chhota had 225 houses where as Baas Dhakkan had 220 houses. Lohsana Chhota was under Lohsana Barra Panchayat Samiti. The Public Health Center and Higher school were both in Lohsana Barra which was quiet far from the village. Both the villages had Anganwadis and Primary Schools.
The villagers have a long tradition of harvesting rains. Tanke or Kund commonly used words for rainwater wells. There are two kinds of well structures used in the villages of this region. One has a dome like structure Ghomut in the core, very deep to store water; the periphery has a cemented floor in a circular pattern bordered with a small wall to keep insects and animals away. The floor is inclined towards the core and the Ghomut has a lot of pores on all sides so that harvested rainwater can go in core. The other structure is similar to urban rainwater harvesting structures where people use the roof for gathering water which is collected in wells through pipes. The roof is cleaned properly before the rainfall.
The underground water is very saline, so it is used in toilet and washing utensils. This year, it rained a lot so all the wells were filled to their utmost limit. In order to provide tap water to all houses in the village, the government constructed wells to extract water from underground aquifers for storage in tanks on the ground in Baas Dhakkan. They are now lying as abandoned ruins. People prefer to use their Kund for water. Clearly this is a case of implementing the government scheme for the sake of implementing.
The construction material used in the village was also from the local resources. Mud huts, we all know use material from surroundings. The concrete houses too, used sand, limestone, boulders which were gathered from the areas around. Many houses were more than hundred years old.
Nowadays cemented houses are also being constructed but people there don't hesitate to question their age span.
For more of Kabir's experiences, see:If I were my own teacher: confidence, colour and voices