A Day In The Life Of A Hindu Tribesman Under British Imperialism Creative Writing Samples
In the edge of the great forest of our ancestors, lies a little village called Chaudhary. My name is Sandeep Balasubramanian. My children, five boys, and one girl share a mother who is also my wife. We live together with my four brothers and their nuclear families. Our chief, the great Sumra, used to be powerful and well feared throughout the region. However, all his authority and power changed with the coming of the British. The British came and took power from our chief, and just like us, he became a commonplace figure who pays tribute to the white man and his gun. Life has become different and much harder for my family and me since the British came to conquer our lands. With each passing day, it is a struggle to stay alive.
My day starts very early because I am a farmer. The British have made it mandatory for us to cultivate commercial cash crops. These include crops like tea, coffee, indigo, opium, cotton, sugarcane, and oilseed, which they utilize for their industries in the form of raw materials and trade (John 22). We no longer have the freedom to cultivate food crops for our daily consumption. Since they control the opium trade strictly, we hardly reap any profits from its cultivation. Indigo, which they utilize in their far off homeland for the production of clothing dye, had to occupy approximately a sixth of my land in cultivation. Consequently, its growth is detrimental to the fertility of my land hence making me reluctant to grow it. However, I have to farm to feed my family and pay the exorbitant tax that the British impose on my land. Soon after waking up, I offer my prayers to the gods of my Arya Samaj doctrine. I leave for my farm, which is a few kilometers from my village and next to the forest, with my four sons. With us are my bullock cart, cattle, and camel.
I get to the field before the sun comes up and get to work with my animals. I plow on the land without giving much thought to the merciless sun that brings forth excess heat. Thoughts about my family regularly raid my mind, especially those concerning my daughter, Sher. If it were not for her mother and grandmother, I would have committed female infanticide and thrown her into the forest. A girl child is a burden in our culture since, when ready for marriage, as a father I would have to pay a fortune to the family of her husband (Dutt 17). I spend my days on the farm thinking about Sher’s dowry.
When noon approaches, my wife and daughter come to bring us our lunchtime meal that always comprises of roti and chutney. Because of the persistent famine that has engulfed India, this is all that we can afford to eat. According to me, the cause of the constant famine is the British obsession and insistence on the cultivation of cash crops rather than food crops. After the meal, I leave the boys to continue with the farming while I go to meet up with my best friend, Imran. It is during the afternoons that we venture into the forest near our village to hunt for some game meat. The British oppose this practice as they have taken ownership of the forests and introduced a number of laws. They use it to get timber for industrial purposes and construction (Crosbie 19). Consequently, they have prevented our village from hunting in the forest or practicing shift cultivation like our ancestors. However, since they do require our cheap labor, they have stopped us from moving away from the forest by offering us pieces of land near the forest to continue with agriculture. We usually hunt for a few hours taking care not to come to the attention of any guard or British officer. We then take our hunting prize to our respective homes where my wife and daughter prepare the deer meat for consumption. Some of the meat undergoes preservation and storage for my family while I take the rest to the market for barter trade to gain a few spices, tobacco, and vegetables. At this time of famine, game meat is a very exorbitant possession.
When darkness starts approaching, I leave the market and head home. There, my wife, children, and extended relatives greet me. I then sit on a stool outside my house and smoke my hookah while reflecting on the events of the day. My sons join me in the compound in smoking the hookah while my daughter helps her mother in preparing the evening meal (Sramek 70). We chat about various things including how the farming progressed in the afternoon. I then leave to feed the camel and the cattle before settling down for supper. At this time, I leave for the chopal where I meet my brothers and other males of the village. Here, we smoke more hookah, and there is occasional sipping of traditional coffee that we brew after stealing a few coffee beans from the plantations owned by the British. It is at the chopal that there is the resolution of disputes, payment of debts, and the institution of new regulations. The main discussion centers on the agendas of the Non-cooperation Movement. The movement, led by Mahatma Gandhi, is necessary to regain independence from the British, their laws and products.
Since the arrival of the British, their unfair rules and regulations have been a constant theme in the discussions at the chopal. Our kings have always ruled us, and it seems unfair that the foreigners now rule our land and make decisions about how we should live and act. Of concern has been the attempt to curtail some of our cultures. These include the taking of more than one wife, the caste system, the practice of Sati, and the marriage of our children at an early age (Major 53). To us, this seems like an attempt by the British to force on us their religion of Christianity, which considers our culture barbaric and outdated. It is at the chopal that the chief regularly updates us on events in other villages. These activities include various revolutions like the Indian Home Rule movement led by our fellow tribesmen, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, and Muhammad Ali Jinnah, to demand autonomy from the colonialists across our country.
While on my way home after long discussions at the chopal, I pass by the crematorium. This act is a daily routine because of frequent deaths within our region due to the Bubonic plague. In addition, the Jallianwala Bagh massacre led to over one thousand deaths of my fellow tribesmen during a series of nonviolent demonstrations against the arrest of two of our leaders. Luckily, I survived the ordeal after running out of the open gates of the garden. Since I am a great reciter of funeral rights, my presence is always mandatory at cremation events. I witness the gathering of wood by other tribesmen and the eventual cremation of masses of corpses. I then assist in disposing of off the ashes into nearby rivers and streams, a ritual that we have practiced for years (Dutt 23). We have to cremate the bodies at dusk since the British are not in favor of the deposition of ashes into water bodies. Instead, they want us to bury the dead, just like them (Major 78). I engage in few conversations on the sustenance of the burial rites since my culture sees burials as blasphemy.
After the crematorium, I head back to my hut. I find that all my children are asleep, and my wife is the only one who is awake. We set up a shrine to perform puja prayers. These prayers are important to my fellow tribesmen and me since they aid us in worshipping and honoring our various deities. While performing puja prayers, I use the tobacco I traded from the market. It serves as a uniting line of communication between our deities and us (Crosbie 47). Our spirits are fond of tobacco; therefore, I smoke a hookah full of tobacco to offer them the smoke, and I place some of the dry tobacco on the shrine. After the prayers, my wife and I retire for the night on our mats.
Crosbie, Barry. Irish imperial networks: migration, social communication and exchange in nineteenth-century India. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011. Print.
Dutt, Romesh Chunder. The Economic History of India Under Early British Rule: From the Rise of the British Power in 1757 to the Accession of Queen Victoria in 1837. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis, 2013. Print.
John, Ian St. The making of the Raj: India under the East India Company. Santa Barbara: Calif: Praeger, 2012. Print.
Major, Andrea. Sovereignty and social reform in India: British colonialism and the campaign against state, 1830-60. New York: Routledge, 2011. Print.
Sramek, Joseph. Gender, morality, and race in Company India, 1765-1858. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. Print.
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