The whole of the village seemed to take its time waking up the morning after the festival. In a place where 9 pm is just about the right time to clean up after dinner and go to sleep, the night’s revelry must have tired them out. The loudspeakers had blared on all night long. We had stayed to watch the dances till midnight. The next morning, not everyone seemed to have been happy with the choice of entertainment. But there wasn’t much time to dwell on that.
By the time I caught up with Gi and Tha in the village, the procession had gone around the village and was returning to the temple. In a departure from the ‘tribal’, simpler way, the idols were now being taken around in a tractor, done up grandly with flowers and lights. The women of the village walked in front, a plate of coconut, bananas, paper flowers, incense sticks and a sweet-meat make of raw rice powder and sugar/jaggery balanced on each of their heads.
If there is anything that never fails to make me all awed, it is the sheer colour of the countryside. I know I sound like a city-slicker playing tourist and raving about the real India in the villages. I am not; I come from the country side myself. That is why I miss the colour so much. At the village, from the shades they drape around their idols and in their homes and in their attire, there is so much colour that I click away pictures to sweet glory. The paper flowers are stuck into the sweet-meat, the coconuts broken into halves. The plate is an offering to the God from each house in the village.
The women go three times around the temple, following the idol in the tractor. They then settle themselves in front, waiting. For a long time, I am not sure what everyone is waiting for. Everybody is talking to the other, catching up with friends, the young boys eyeing the young girls, the older people sitting down here and there, the kids running riot. I see that the morning is a nice break for everyone from the routine of working in the fields or minding children. I wait too.
Someone nudges me and tells me to take a picture in another angle. Such words are not those I usually hear and I look around to find a young, pretty woman. Waiting, for the prayers to begin and the animal sacrifices, she explains. Ah, that’s what we are waiting for! As I write this, I know that she had a beautiful name, but for the life of me, I can’t remember what it was. We began talking and she tells me she lived in Bangalore with her husband who worked in the ‘company’. Sittilingi is where her parents life and she has come down with her family just for the festival.
Soon, there is some palpable excitement on the other side of the field. My new friend tells me it has begun. It, being the animal sacrifice. Every house has brought either a chicken or a goat to be sacrificed. The priest has finished one part of the prayers and is now there, along with several others and people are filing in with their chickens. Tha tells me that the sacrifice is done only with the ‘consent’ of the animal! And how do you get its consent? A few drops of water are sprinkled on their heads, and they of course try to shake off the water. That is seen as the chicken or goat agreeing to be sacrificed! Though I found it too gory to watch, it reminded me of the hunters of yore who apologized to their prey, saying that they had to make the kill to be able to feed their families. Very respectful to the rules of nature, really. Another thing that amazes me about tribal societies; the closeness they maintain with the earth.
The animals are still being sacrificed when I walk back to the hospital. Once back, I get a lot of invitations from the staff to go to their homes for lunch. There is much feasting that afternoon, chicken, or mutton, on the main course. Being a veggie, I am stuck to lunching at the mess itself.
It’s a nice slow day. But then, no day at the village is hurried. There isn’t the kind of running all day long that I come back to in the city. As always, I am humbled by how sweet and hospitable people are. They will welcome you into their homes and make you feel like the most special person. Just sweet and genuinely nice, that’s what everyone I meet is. I fear that exposure to what the sociologists prefer to call the mainstream society is making them change. New ideas are good, so is development. But the cost of such exposure is nearly ripping them apart. That is so palpable too, if you scratch the surface with one nail. That is what is incredibly sad.