From the Director's Desk
-Susan S. Wadley, Professor of Anthropology
Greetings from the South Asia
Center at SU! This fall, I visited India for the first time in four years, and
the nth time since my initial trip in 1963. I was bemused by
my friends in IT talking about buying food on-line. When we couldn’t get the
books we wanted from Amazon in the US or at my favorite Khan Market bookstores,
we ordered them from Amazon India and had them shipped to our B and B in Delhi!
And a news article recently featured buying cow dung pats on line, for the
urban crowd who still might want a bit of dung for rituals.
But change has hit more than
the urban upper middle class. Karimganj (pseudonym Karimpur), made famous as
the ‘village behind mud walls’ hardly has a mud wall left. . . bricks abound. A
branch of the government dairy has increased the water buffalo population
enormously (and I saw my first water buffalo birth, one check on my unwritten
bucket list). There are now three bank branches, including an ATM machine (government
subsidies for everything from payments to widows to pregnant women to work
projects are now made through government banks and accessible through an ATM
machine). Most notable was the intrusion of the government everywhere in the
village—paved roads, latrines scattered throughout the village (though I never
saw signs of use), government-built pumps, about ten solar panels (!), an
easily accessible police force (demonstrated by a minor squabble be-tween two
families), and more.
The nearby town now extends far
beyond its old limits. On the by-pass road, one can see lavish-looking schools,
car dealerships, modern hotels, and endless building projects. The bazaar in
the old city was as crowded and dense as ever, with the traditional goods for Divali
(sugar of various kinds, including my daughters’ favorite batasa,
new brooms to sweep out the old year, puffed rice, cotton for clay lamp wicks,
statues of Ganesh and Lakshmi for pu-ja, and of course lots of fireworks)
alongside the latest rural-oriented (synthetics and ruf-fles predominating)
fashions and tubes of henna, now mixed with chemicals to deepen the colors.
Our trip ended in Madhubani,
where we celebrated Chhath puja with our Mithila painter friends. Chhath
puja was a good reminder of the dominance of the local, despite the
globalization that is transforming India.
More to study and more to learn…