My notes and musings …

The Silencer

with 2 comments

Our first visit to Sitapur earlier this year was soon after Holi, the festival of colors. At that time of the year, the harvest is completed and a three to four week window opens up when there isn’t much work in the fields. The heat and the hot wind apparently does not deter people from stepping out of the house and travelling. Almost all the members of the sanghatan are farmer-labourers and thanks to this window of time, we were able to meet with a lot of them in different village and regional meetings.

Most women members bring their kids along to the meetings. The venue of the regional meetings are usually equidistant from the villages in that region. In the few kilometers they walk to get to the meeting, the kids fall asleep in the arms of their mothers. As the meeting begins and people start speaking, the kids start waking up and pretty soon they get active with their own games and exploring. As two or more kids start playing together, the noise level goes up and the people at the meeting start asking the mothers to control their kids. Usually this means that one or more of the kids get whacked by their mother(s) and soon one can hear more than one kid wailing away. Once the wailing starts, invariably, almost all the mothers I noticed employ the silencer – dragging the kid into their lap, they stick the kid to their breasts and start feeding! With no fighting or wailing kids, the meeting goes on.

Breast feeding in public is an accepted practice in these parts. Infact, in some cases the women do not even bother covering the kid or their exposed breast under the free end of their saree. Though there is a sad facet, I feel, to this story. Almost as a rule, every woman of child bearing age had a baby in her hands or on her lap, and may be even a kid one or two trailing along. On the other hand, when visiting the villages, I noticed that that most couples had four or fewer kids. So I must confess that the fertility rate is much lower than what I expected seeing all the babies in public places. But yes, it is higher than the global or even the national average.

Written by Dwiji

Monday, August 11th, 2008 at 10:10

Posted in Asides

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2 Responses

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  1. Considering that these are farmers, isn’t it a good thing for them to have at least 2-3 children, since as they grow up, they support the farmer in farming the land? Could it be that this is also a reason for higher birth rate?

    Of course, I can see that over time, this might lead to fracturing of a large land piece to smaller and smaller portions as it gets divided in inheritance.



    Thursday, January 19th, 2017 at 20:02

    • There are many different reasons for families to have multiple children. Almost all of these, we have come to understand, can be traced to the fact that these are poor families. At a very basic evolutionary level, any species in a resource deprived environment will try to improve the chances of their genealogy’s survival.

      When concluding this article, I was lamenting the fact that we still have such stark contrasts even among the rural poor in states like UP as compared to those in the more ‘developed’ southern states. That there are still so many communities in not just UP but many other places where access to resources, to a safer less risky life is still such a challenge.

      As for the specific points you sought my opinion on … yes, having more hands to earn is an incentive to have more children. And very rarely do these families have a significant enough land holding that they can live off the land. They do need to find other sources of income and so the issue of further division of land holding in the next generation may not figure so high on their priority list.



      Thursday, January 19th, 2017 at 23:23

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