Time for a reality check

Published on Mar 27, 2006 04:11 PM IST

Ashok Das explores how women in an Andhra village are ostracised during their menstrual cycles.

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HT Image
None | ByAshok Das, Hyderabad

For all us city-slickers basking in India's nuclear status or boasting of the malls next door, here's a reality check: A village in Andhra where women are ostracised during their menstrual cycles and where the only concrete structure is the village temple.

But before we go any further, it's important we realise this is just an instance of how a big chunk of rural India still lives.
 
Vemaiahgariillu is a tiny village about 70 kilometres from the famous pilgrim town of Tirupati in Chittor district, home to former CM N Chandrababu Naidu.

While urban India moved ahead, this village seemed happy to stay behind in mediaeval times.

The first thing that strikes an urbanite would be that no here wears shoes.

The village has 25 families and the residents eke out a living by farming or herding sheep and goats.

Barring a few essentials like salt, which is not locally produced, the village is self-sufficient.

And then for what seems an antiquated rule: Women are banished to a cottage on the outskirts of the village for five days during their menstrual period.

They are "unclean" and so, aren't expected to bathe and can eat just one meal a day.

The rules are strictly laid out. Any resident venturing outside the village will have to take a ritual bath before re-entering.

Outsiders coming to the village have to leave their shoes and then walk barefoot.

There is a well at the entrance where any one entering the village will have to take a bath.

"It has been a tradition for ages. We don't find it unusual," says Venkat Chalapathi, a villager.

"These people are strange. They do not mingle with us. They even have their own concoctions to treat diseases," said Ramarao from the neighbouring village.

But how do they tackle major crises like drought, epidemics? By praying to the village deity.

"We believe that if we pray to the village goddess, diseases will be cured. We have not been disappointed so far," said Chintakka.

Not surprisingly, the village doesn't have a school. Till recently, no one knew what that meant but now, a few boys go to a school in the neighbouring village.

The boys are not allowed to eat the mid-day meal in school and it is mandatory they take a bath after school.

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