Under the Greenwood Tree

By: M.N.Sulehri
Last week, a discussion on Hardy’s Wessex set in my mind the time when I was a school-going kid. The village life then was heaven with all its charms and blessings. The exquisite landscape, serpenting streams, green trees, beauteous pastures, and meadows; enchanting guava, mango, and Jaman orchards, surrounded by acacia, poplar, and sisso trees; the fragrant flax fields with yellow flowers, sparkling water of wells, oxen with jingling bells hanging from their necks, the ducking of hens, talking of parrots and the like were the important constituents of that earthly heaven. People lived in mud houses. They used quern to make flour, mud hearth to cook, and hand pumps to get water. Some of these alluring elements are still there to be enjoyed but no one has the time to spare, the eyes to watch and the ears to listen to the melodious songs of nature.

They have stepped into the 21 century and own a dish, internet, television which have changed their vision of life. The rural society is undergoing a rapid change “Lassi” and milk, their traditional cold drinks, have been supplanted by modern ones, like Coca-Cola and Pepsi. Quern has been replaced by flour mills that not only grind wheat but also crush their mutual love, sympathy, and affection. Mud-walls have turned into brick ones that have cemented them to eternal animosity and voracity. Enmity over petty affairs has divorced the old fraternity which was once the hallmark of village life. The enticing gardens have been changed into brick houses with booming indifference and malice that have hardened their hearts.

The milk of humanity and sympathy has oozed out of them. At present, the tickling breeze mopes over their condition. The tattering of birds seems like the sound of death bells. Charms of moonlight seem to depart forever. They don’t gather in open areas at night. The elders have forgotten to recite “Heer”; the youngsters give a deaf ear to the folk songs and stories. They believe in modernity and watch English or Indian movies. They can’t make headway by listening to the conversation of their elders. Instead, they watch “Titanic”, “Fire”, “Commando” and many more like that. It is a very irksome job for them to play “Gulli-danda” and “Kabadi” because they prefer to spend their ‘precious’ time playing games on mobile. Why should they lag behind the city dwellers? If they have lost the memory of the pitcher, they have refrigerators, capable enough to freeze anything, from water to the mutual feelings of love and affection.

To be very frank, they are tenable to do this. When we, as the followers of Islam, can afford to forget its matchless principles, can they not say goodbye to their old way of life? We have become ignorant of Hadrat Abu-Bakr’s righteousness, Umer’s Justice, Usman’s generosity, and Ali’s bravery. Western civilization and materialistic pursuits have made us unconscious of our magnificent past. Our worldly pursuits have left us with little time to think of Tipu’s gallantry and Qasim’s intrepidity. Constant vigilance has lost its meaning for us. Work, work, and work, as far as we think or act, has turned into a stereotyped axiom. Iqbal’s lesson of the ‘self’ (Khudi), appears to us only as a bookish reality.

The great tragedies of the past and present are unable to move as. The movable event of 1971 is commemorated every year with awful moans. The papers are blackened with ink. But, the annals of history are still yearning for truth. Alas! We have no resolve to capture the glorious past, to restore peace and prosperity, and to clear the clouds of disappointment, uncertainty, and hardheartedness.

These are a few bitter truths through which the change in rural society, though negative to some extent, can be justified. One can ask if all this can be done and accepted, why should the villagers stick to their rustic lifestyle? They have equal rights to join the ongoing apathetic national move. O.K; they are justified. But what of those starry nights, breezy mornings, invigorating evenings, pulsating days, and beguiling aura that compel one to contemplate over the mysteries of nature. Now, the open areas of the village remain mantled with wilderness in the evening, while laziness prevails over the morning time. Dove, the minister of peace, has migrated forever to unknown alien lands. People smothered in their houses with the setting sun. The streets that throbbed till late at night, now in the early hours of the night look no less than Robert Frost’s “Desert Places”.

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