By Late T R Varaaha Murthy, M.A.
It is an urgent need that our school students should have knowledge about human ways of life of the past and its development towards the present.
As though to offset this need, veteran scribes Dr A S Kodandapani and Keshav V Morab came out with a vivid description of our past and the present in their cute volume ‘Living then and now’, comprising sixteen chapters.
A joint family of the past consisted of grandparents, parents, their brothers and sisters, living in a large house sharing the responsibilities of the family and enjoying night dinner together.
After discussing the causes for disintegration of joint families, the authors bring the readers to the present day. They see the plight of old people who are looking for an old age home, after being abandoned by the family. They critically view the humiliation faced by the elders, post sacrifice of their comforts to bring up their children.
People depended on an amusing fuel to cook food and heat water, during yesteryear. Jungle wood and dried cow-dung cakes normally served the purpose. Charcoal replaced firewood in the kitchen. Kerosene entered the kitchen with a pump stove, and cooking gas replaced it. In modern homes electricity is used in addition, as a fuel supplement in kitchen.
Kerosene lamps were replaced by electric bulbs. Electricity has become an indispensable necessity in human life today. It has replaced grinding stone in the kitchen. Refrigerator, washing machine, fan, radio, television are other common house hold appliances that need electricity. Water pumps for irrigation and industrial water-supply too need electricity. Now the demand for electricity is maximum in the production sector. Man is now trying to generate power from sun, wind and other sources.
Young girls of those days wore a long skirt and a jacket. When they attained puberty, they used to add a dawani (a long covered piece of cloth fixed at the waist and thrown over one of their shoulders). A woman dressed herself with a saree and matching blouse. A widow would get her head completely shaved. Today salvar and kamiz, which was once a normal dress of Punjabi women, has become a regular attire of Indian women. Beautiful saries are slowly losing their popularity. Of late, young educated girls or young women who go out for work, prefer to wear pants. Plaits and ponytails of hair are almost vanished. Nowadays the females go to beauty parlours to get a hair cut, that suits their appearance.
Marriage in the past has been a gratifying occasion for both families of the boy and the girl. A middle man’s negotiation would help bringing the families of the boy and girl closer to each other. Elders would arrange the marriage after considering various factors that lead to the happiness of the married, and the harmony in the relationship of the families. Inter–caste marriages were not permitted. But such marriages are acceptable among people of modern outlook. The aesthetic sense of marriages of olden days is overtaken by the grandeur of the occasion today.
In the past, there were very few schools. The number of students in a school was not much. Girls from affluent families only were sent to school. They usually discontinued study after primary education. Matriculation was the required education for a government job. College education was beyond the reach of common man, as colleges were situated in far off cities. Engineering or medical colleges were very expensive.
Today there is a rush for admission in schools. There are numerous private and public educational institutions. Even children around three years of age are admitted to school after paying a large amount of fee. A degree has become a common qualification for a job seeker. There are varied branches of education which assure an excellent future for a student.
Rural employment was limited in those days to agriculture, cattle/sheep raising and vending of milk and milk products. Young people began to migrate to urban areas for employment. Nowadays the opportunities are open for more rural oriented highly remunerative jobs.
Educated women volunteer for outdoor work after their routine household chores. Though child care, the major responsibility which holds back a woman from making full use of her ability. Modern cities have become more attractive for educated young people because of the highly rewarding, remunerative jobs and sophisticated life style.
The coins of the days of British rule carried the image of the British king or queen. One rupee coin was of silver. After Independence, one rupee coin was made of alloys. The notes of those days carried the image of a British ruler. After independence they carried the image of Asoka pillar. Now we can see the picture of Mahatma Gandhi on notes.
In older days health care did not draw the required attention of a common man. Sanitary conditions were very bad. Deadly epidemics like plague, cholera or small pox haunted people. Indian medical practitioners like vaidyas and hakims attended to minor ailments like cold, cough, fever or headache. Hospitals of course began function in towns and cities. But there were no hospitals for special cases in Bangalore. People used to go to American hospital in Vellore, Tamilnadu.
But today Bangalore attracts patients not only from all over the country, but also from abroad.
The authors take us to rural houses built of mud and country tiles of the past, and bring us back to the present high–rise buildings of the modern cities. Most of the people these days are interested to follow Vaastu, an ancient science of construction, while building their houses.
Water supply in rural areas and growing cities continue to be a very hard job for governments even today. The authors admire a devoted politician of old Mysore state, Abdul Nazir Sab, former minister for Rural Development, who implemented a scheme to provide bore wells in every village of the state. After the tenure of that minister, bad planning and rigging of too many bore wells has hit the ground water resource very badly. Eventually, time has come to be serious about rain water harvesting, recycling of waste water, desalination of sea water etc., for augmentation of water supply.
Underground Drainage has put an end to the hideous custom of making people carry night-soil on their heads.
Authors praise Basavalingappa, former minister for Urban Development, for this remarkable change. Today we enjoy attached bathrooms with toilets. Benefit of this change is yet to be experienced in rural parts, as villagers even today use open fields as their toilets.
Dealing with transportation, the authors bring the readers from narrow dusty roads to the present days flyover and monorail. From bullock carts to cars, trucks, buses, trains and airplanes. They could have mentioned water-ways also.
From the folk arts, dramas, village festivals and devotional discourses, we have moved towards cinemas, radio programs and never ending TV serials. From rural games like humbling a powerful bull, kabaddi, kho kho, gilli-danda and wrestling, we have moved to international games like foot ball, cricket etc., which attract large crowds.
The chapter ‘Politics’ mostly refer to the rule of Maharajas and today’s democracy. The authors surprisingly missed out the essential discussion on ‘Communication’ which has helped the growth of industry, commerce and all around development of mankind.
The book is just a tip of an iceberg. The subject leads to a deep study of human race like Anthropology. Simple, short and beautiful representation of the near past and the present is an inevitable subject to be introduced in our schools. I wish our learned authors to consult educationists, and arrange lessons according to the needs of various standards.
Subjects like crime, investigation (including sting operations of TV Channels), judiciary and administration deserve to be added to the volume.