View Full Version : The Village - Chris Cork - 19th November 2012

19th November 2012, 09:54 AM
Although past what many in the village consider to be its prime almost twenty years ago, it was still in good shape. As first seen the roads were brick paved, there were drainage channels either side of the roadway and floodwaters reportedly drained quickly. Not every house out of the 200 or so had electricity, nobody in the village owned a private car and there were few televisions. There were a little over a hundred Christian households and a little under a hundred Muslim.

Two churches, one Catholic and the other Protestant, a mosque and a village school under the wing of the Catholic nuns who had a small convent in the village. The school was a happy place, bustling with pupils who were being taught in classrooms that were basic but sufficient. The village itself was happy in general terms. There were family squabbles but not much beyond that and families cooperated to squeeze as much from the land at the edge of the sand-and-scrub-desert as they could.

Visiting in early November and remembering back to the early 1990s, the village was by comparison a husk, and a bitter one at that.

The paved roads and the drainage system had disappeared. The potable water supply that had been installed for all households no longer worked, as families were unwilling to pay the 30 rupees a month it cost. Poor water is now drawn from the communal tankie and waterborne disease is rife.

There are still no private cars but all houses have electricity and there are satellite dishes on a dozen or more. The scattering of PTCL landlines has given way to the ubiquity of the mobile phone and even the poorest families now seem to have a member who has one.

The houses are poorly maintained, shabby, and did not have the scrubbed-and-clean look I could see comparing the photographs I took nearly 20 years ago with the digital images of today. The village school, once a pride and joy, has fallen into wrack and ruin. Desks lie around broken. The staffroom has no furniture at all. The small convent has long ago fallen into ruin as well and several houses, once lived in by families I knew well, had literally crumbled back to the dust they came from, their door-posts riddled with termite borings and old pots scattered around the courtyard.

The physical deterioration was matched by a crumbling of the social infrastructure. Where there had once been interfaith harmony there was now a festering set of niggling problems that have the capacity to spark into a vicious and vengeful life of their own.

Factions and groups have grown up fostered by individuals keen to build their own power base. There are legal battles being fought over petty matters and families are selling land, often at reduced prices, to pay their legal bills. The land itself is now divided down into penny-packets, divided by each generation and now the plots are too small to support even a small family and families in the village are large.

There were few men of working age left. They had gone to the cities to find work and the village was full of mothers with young children and the elderly. Nobody I spoke to over a weekend-long visit was optimistic for the future of the community, and nobody expressed a desire to stay any longer than was absolutely necessary. All spoke of similar villages, shadows of their former selves, within a twenty mile radius. My own family has made their plans to leave. Photographs and memories are fading, and so is the village I once loved.