Towns and cities have always been points of attraction to people in rural areas. There is a big difference between urban lifestyle and rural lifestyle even today, except for the villages very close to the cities. Towns and cities are the last hopes of people from villages. Thousands of people migrate from villages to bustling cities to earn their livelihoods, especially when nature disappoints them and their farms fail to meet their basic needs.
I have been selling my old newspapers and other waste materials to Madayan, a 35-year-old soft spoken man for the last 15 years. I have always admired his peaceful face, innocent expression and polite behaviour. He used to come on a bicycle from house to house. He became my friend and we spoke of many general topics.
I slowly learnt about his personal life – what brought him to Yelahanka, his family members, his business position and so on. I was impressed as this young man’s standard of living gradually increased. He added a tricycle that could carry burden and then a TVS-50 which he occasionally uses. He came alone from his village and then brought his entire family over the years. He rented out a neat and small house (a single bedroom tenement) and also put up a shop of old newspapers.
Madayan is from a village in Pennagaram Taluk, Dharmapuri District, which is very close to the famous Hogenakkal Falls. He is one among the thousands of people who came to the city of Bangalore to earn their livelihoods.
Rains failed and the 10-acre land became useless for the family of five members – Madayan, his parents Sriraman and Manimegalai and two sisters. The problems of poverty were unbearable he says. The small town of Dharmapuri could not employ all the farmers in the surrounding villages, who were struck with poverty and unemployment. Hundreds of them moved away to different cities like Coimbatore, Chennai, Salem and Bangalore.
“Even today if I can afford to dig a bore on my land, I would love to go back to my village and start farming on my 10-acre land. But I have come too far away from the life that I led as a youngster”, says Madayan.
His village life
Most of the people of his village and the surrounding villages owned cows and buffaloes of native species and lived by selling milk to the nearby towns. Madayan recollects how a group of people belonging to a particular tribe called ‘Koduman’ (as told by Madayan) who lived on the nearby Muthoor hills, were entrusted with the duty of taking care of all the cattle of the surrounding villages.
They used to possess them, graze them in the forests and take care of them on behalf of their owners. The villagers in turn would pay them on an annual basis and provide them with the foodgrains that they grew on their lands. Whenever they wanted the animals for ploughing or for Pongal or sale or other reasons, they would fetch them back.
“We all lived so peacefully without any big tensions. Eventually, the forests were acquired by the Government and the tribal people were resettled elsewhere. That system too died with their shifting out of the forests”, recollects Madayan. He also recollects the legend about Lord Narasimhaswamy whose temple is very ancient and is situated at Halepura near his village.
It is believed that the Lord jumped down from Muthoor hills and the spot where he stepped on is where the temple is constructed. The annual Rathothsava of this temple was a very grand affair. But this celebration has been withheld for quite sometime now, as the wooden chariot has become very old and requires repairs. “The ex-Chief Minister of Tamilnadu Jayalalithamma has donated a lot of money for renovating this chariot”, says Madayan.
“One of my friends came first to Yelahanka Satellite Town, which was a newly formed town in those days and started buying old newspapers from the new residents. There were no old paper shops then. He had to sell them in City Market. But he could earn Rs 2000 to Rs 3000 a month, which was a big sum for poor people like me. So, I too came here, as the area was growing and there was business for more people”, says Madayan.
“Today there are around fifty old-paper marts run by my friends from my village and nearby villages operating in and around Yelahanka, upto even Doddaballapur,” he adds.
Madayan started his business on a bicycle, going from house to house. He carried on like that for fifteen years since 1990-91, when he came first. He used to earn around Rs 3000 per month. Thereafter, he put up a shop and today he says is able to save Rs 5000 per month and it is out of these savings that he could dole out donations of Rs 15000 per child to Seshadripuram High School, Yelahanka, where he has admitted his two children Shivaprakash and Abhinaya. They are studying in the first standard and UKG respectively. The monthly fees for the children amounts to Rs 1800 totally.
“As my income increased, I brought my entire family to this place. I got my sisters married and I too got married. I have two little children and we are a happy and contented family today”. His wife Revathi, who married him as a 16-year-old girl is a very shy lady. It is a great sight to see all the members of the family helping Madayan in the shop during the evenings. The children play around and also complete their home-work at the shop. When I asked the little boy as to who helps him in his studies, he says, “we both attend tuition classes”.
Are there quarrels between the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law? Madayan replies shyly, “village life is entirely different. Everything is transparent. People gossip, talk aloud and quarrel openly. It is a common sight to see women fighting with each other in the open. But this locality is a decent locality. Our houses are located so close to each other. Even if we talk aloud our neighbours will hear. So, all of us are very conscious to lead quiet lives here. Moreover, my mother and wife are thankfully very friendly with each other. I ensure that my parents and my wife are comfortable and all their needs are well taken care of.”
What has happened to Yelahanka Satellite Town in these twenty years? “Those days, the population was very less. Houses were scattered and there were very few shops here and there. Traffic was very limited. The town was very peaceful. The town has developed four-fold now. It is a very busy town today. Traffic has increased and population is thicker.”
Doesn’t this mindless development bother him? “No, not at all! Development has increased the scope for my business. I am able to give a decent lifestyle to my family. Growth and progress happen only this way. That cannot be helped. Of course, one thing that could possibly make growth friendlier is planned development. Shops should not be coming up anywhere and everywhere. They should function only in the shopping complexes and sites allotted for the purpose. Roads should be broader and traffic more controlled.”
Madayan, who has just studied up to sixth standard, wants his children to study well and become empowered. He is not particular of what his children should become in future but he definitely wants them to be educated and aware. He feels going back to his village is not practical at this stage, though he does miss the peaceful and calm life that he led in his childhood. At present his sister and brother-in-law are taking care of Madayan’s land. They grow dry land crops like millets on the land.
Bangalore over the years
Bangalore too has changed leaps and bounds in these twenty years. Madayan fondly remembers the lovely avenue that connected Hosur to Bangalore. “Huge green trees on either side of the highway and open fields all over made our journey from Hosur to Bangalore heavenly. Today all those huge trees have been cut for the six-lane highway. Huge buildings have covered the open fields. Maybe this is the only way to feed the ever increasing population”, says he philosophically.
Madayan has no time to take his family around Bangalore city. All of them are busy even on holidays. He says he has shown Lal Bagh gate and Cubbon Park to his family members, while traveling by bus to Dharmapuri. The family owns a TV, which is the only source of entertainment. They generally watch Tamil channels, as they are more comfortable in Tamil and cannot follow Kannada in detail, though all of them have working knowledge of Kannada. Madayan says, “is it not natural for us to select the tastier item, when we are served many items? We have limited time for entertainment and would want to watch what we understand easily.”
According to Madayan, one big difference between his village and Bangalore is that back in his village people are respected for their religion or caste (for example, a Brahmin who performs pujas in a temple is given a lot of importance), while in Bangalore people respect the rich more than the others and caste or religion do not really matter here.
If everybody from the villages keep migrating to cities like this, who will grow our food grains? “That’s a pertinent question. We cannot eat money. We need food grains. But the Government has to think about this big problem. How long can the poor farmers bear the adversities of nature and lead hopeless lives? They need support from the Government. I heard in other countries, the Government supports the farmers a lot by giving grants and subsidies. Our Government too should adopt such steps and make life in villages more attractive”. ⊕
It is these small businesses who are the backbone of any country. Even in the west, it is the small businesses whihc create jobs. Good on this gentleman for achieving what he has achieved. However sad to see his skill not utilized in the agricultural land. In Karnataka if the roads were good and government really provided technical help to the farmers they would not have needed to come to town. The cities are sucking up good people from the villages and leaving the villages dry. This will have massive urban as well as rural consequences. Government needs to construct water harvesting ponds in every village and provide solar or gobar gas plants and road connectivity which will help villages to thrive rather than dry up of its youth.