Memories of Village Bihar

F. Tomasson Jannuzi



I arrived in Bihar in 1956 as a student from USA. I was excited at the prospect of getting to know “village India” – I was on a mission to understand the dynamic features of India’s rural economy. I had got to know a little of India as a Senior Fellow at Dartmouth College in the United States, and as a post-graduate student at the School of Oriental and African Studies and at the London School of Economics and Political Science in London.

As it turned out, I had no idea how incomplete and fragmented was my knowledge of India, and especially “village India.” My sense of rural India did not differentiate between the descriptions of villages in the Punjab articulated by distinguished representatives of the British Raj like Sir Malcolm Darling (author of Punjab Peasant in Prosperity and Debt) and the writings of Harold Mann (who described agrarian conditions in Maharashtra).

What is more, my perceptions of village India were wrapped, in a sense, in the Khadi of Indian nationalism and the modernizing ideals enshrined in the Constitution of India, the writings of Mahatma Gandhi, and the polemics of some of the politicians and urban intellectuals who led India to freedom from the British. I was assuming, naively, that “village India” was infused with commonalities: twin bullocks pulling a plow, Persian wheels lifting water from wells, mud huts of uniform design, thatched with straw.

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