Rohtak city’s businesses usually run on the mercy of crops of the season from Rohtak villages. If villages make money, so does the city. The retail sector, from small shops to branded shops, from cloth markets to liquor shops, everyone depends on the sale they make with villagers. My earliest pictures of these village folks on shopping trips are of women wearing a small white shirt and the haryanvi multi-layered skirt weighing a few kilos. Their heads and faces were covered with a veil they made with their stole/dupatta and I could only see their eyes. Their jewelry was quite interesting. They would wear white or black silver bracelets and anklets, usually two to three inches thick. Black or cherry colored, pointed from front, flat in heels, unlaced jutis adorned their dark, hard skinned feet.
For all the modesty of the veil, these women would pee on the roadside, showing their bare asses to the rest of the world. That symbolizes other two extremes of Rohtak for me. The veil of shame with a bare ass is akin to a cultural value of respecting elders and respecting the joint family system but using an aggressive language full of abusive words that it’s hard to find if someone is expressing love or hatred for you. Well, I guess I maybe wrong. As the romantics would say, the heart would know. But the rules of romance don’t apply to this land.
It’s not just the language that’s aggressive. It’s the whole body language. You touch the feet of an elder but you don’t let your shoulders loose. They are tight and taut. I was around 8 years old and on one morning accompanied my Granddad on his morning walk. One of his patients, a native Jat lady, met us on the way home. She said, ‘Namaste Doctor Sahib.’ While doing that, she raised her arms above her head, and while joining her palms, she let all her aggression loose. I can still hear the harsh clap of her palms banging against each other. My Granddad, in his usual well-humored and gentle demeanor, with folded palms and a bowed down neck, said, ‘Don’t scare the kid, please.’ They both burst out laughing and I got a huge spine-shaking pat and hug from that lady. It was then that I realized that they were not going to fight. They accepted each other’s way of greeting with perfect ease while I got over the pain in my shoulder.
Years later, when I had finished my college, we shifted home and our new neighbors were not even city Jats. They had agricultural land in their village and they had delegated the farming to laborers. They could easily afford to enjoy all the city comforts. The lady of the house, Auntie, and Mom grew close and Bhabi and me followed her footsteps. It wasn’t uncommon for us to go there and eat whatever was being cooked. It wasn’t uncommon for her and her sons to joke with us about anything and everything. Apart from land, her husband had some business on which he kept traveling.
I remember when my nephew was born. When Bhabi was about to complete 9 months, Auntie’s son, just 20 years old, kept his car oiled and ready at all times, stayed at home at all times, waiting for the labor pains to begin, so that he could drive Bhabi to the Hospital! Auntie tried to send him to get Onions from the market and he replied, ‘Tere pyaaz ka kya karun? Ye machod dard mere peeche se ho gaya toh?’ (What if the mother fucking pain happens when I am out to buy onions?). Now I know, how that lady and my Granddad could share a joke while I hated her for shaking my bones!