Chapter 9: Mosaic to Monoculture

Unfortunately for my lactose intolerant belly, Punjabis have milk coursing through their veins. Kurd is served as a side for every meal, ghee, an extract of kurd, is melted on top of every chapati, and lassi is offered at most social functions. At the start of every interview, my translator had to preface by warning of my lactose intolerance, which most Punjabis treated as a serious ailment, so that I would not be served one of their infinite variations of milk. Get to the point! The history between Punjab and milk goes way back. Preceding the Green Revolution, every Punjabi family-owned cows.  From these cows, the family derived all their daily dairy (say that three times fast!). As all bovine aficionados are aware, a cow cannot provide milk unless she has recently given birth. Thus, at any one time, a family might find that their cow’s udders were utterly empty. Luckily, the village had a form of milk insurance. Very little milk in the community was sold. Instead, if somebody saw that a neighbor didn’t have milk, they would hop over and share their supply.  This transaction represents the social support network that existed in villages preceding the Green Revolution.

The milk insurance system was only one example of Sher Pur Kalan’s social support network prior to the 1960s. Before the introduction of hybrid seeds, chemicals, and innovative agricultural implements boosted yield rates and augmented household income, Sher Pur Kalan faced a collective struggle. At that time, there were a few necessities that each family lacked.  To ensure that each need was met, the community wove a social support structure from the strands of their collective struggle. This social support network manifested in a variety of mediums. If somebody died, the community organized funeral preparations so that the family could grieve in peace.  If any member of the community was impoverished or malnourished, the community would collect resources to ensure their sustenance.  Families used to work in the fields together, helping others harvest their land before addressing their own.  Weddings were not a selective affair; they were a community celebration. As a form of celebration, every family from the community would contribute to a collective urn of ghee from which they would make homemade sweets that were offered at the reception.  Families even coordinated a cooking schedule which specified that on Mondays, family A would prepare dal for the 4-5 other families involved.  Then, on Tuesday, Family A savored the feast that family B prepared (27). Almost all respondents who had lived in that era reported that love permeated Sher Pur Kalan and people were truly happy. In the 1980s, however, the social fabric began to disintegrate, and, according to my interview subjects, this sense of communal love was jeopardized.

Before, if somebody needed flour, they would simply knock on their neighbor’s door.  Now, people have become more prideful about their wealth and their social status.  For this reason, members of the Sher Pur Kalan community alienate themselves from neighbors out of the fear that, if they were to ask for help, it would be perceived as a sign of weakness.  Once, people were willing to blindly donate their effort for community betterment. Now, people have trouble placing blind faith in the collective.  For example, one respondent said that his daughter-in-law refused to contribute money for a communal construction project because she didn’t see how it would benefit her personally.  Competition has taken the place of cooperation. One community member notes that there isn’t even cooperation between close family members anymore.  Specifically, his son will visit the Cooperative Society to rent a tractor before asking to borrow his cousin’s. The professor of geology aptly described this transition, saying that before the village was a mosaic; now, it’s turning into a monoculture painted in one shade: greed.

Citations- 

Singh, Sunny. Organic farmer. Personal interview. Sher Pur Kalan, Punjab. 7 May 2019.

Anonymous. Farmer Family. Personal Interview. Sher Pur Kalan, Punjab. 18 April 2019

Anonymous. Farmers. Personal Interview. Ludhiana, Punjab. 21 April 2019.

Anonymous. Farmer family. Personal Interview. Sher Pur Kalan, Punjab. 27 April 2019.

 

Anonymous. Farmer family. Personal Interview. Sher Pur Kalan, Punjab. 19 April 2019.

 

Anonymous. Farmer Family. Personal Interview. Sher Pur Kalan, Punjab. 18 April 2019

 

Anonymous. Housewives. Personal Interview. Sher Pur Kalan, Punjab. 5 May 2019

 

Anonymous. Retired military personnel. Sher Pur Kalan, Punjab. 28 April 2019.

 

Anonymous. Professor of geology. Personal Interview. Sher Pur Kalan, Punjab. 13 April 2019.

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Chapter 8: Joint Family Collapse

Chapter 15: Conclusion

Chapter 10: A New Perspective

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