Village in Ugetsu

the contribution of the village (1.6)

Village in Ugetsu

The Villager’s ideal : “to delight in their food, to be proud of their clothes, to be content with their home, to rejoice in their customs.”

In India, only the village is described as permanent. It survives. It endures.

“Dynasty after dynasty tumbles down. Revolution succeeds to revolution. Hindoo, Pathan, Mogul, Maharatha, Sikh, English, are all masters in turn but the village communities remain the same. In times of trouble they arm and fortify themselves. A hostile army passes through the country. The village communities collect their little cattle within their walls and let the enemy pass unprovoked.” – Charles Metcalfe

But the permanent feature in the country needs reform.

“What is the village but a sink of localism, a den of ignorance, narrow-mindedness and communalism?” – B. R. Ambedkar.

Backwater and fundamental. Mired in memory as it is “preserved in Polish swamps, Swiss lake bottoms, Egyptian delta mud.”

The contribution of the village to the history of any structure is typically exaggerated. In China, the village becomes part of the myth of a peasant uprising and revolution. But in India, the village is the cause for a concerted effort of constitutional reform.

In Ugetsu (1953), the village potter clearly delights in food and clothes. He wants to give his wife the best, but he is poor. Certainly it is arguable that he wants this as a means to affirm his manliness. Yet, he is earnest. The hyper inflated prices of war time give him an opportunity to sell his wares at great profit. So he takes the chance; takes a shipment of his goods to the city. An opportunity, albeit scorned by the village chief: rebuking wealth made in war for its ephemerality.

The delight of the villager is his dreams. But the profits made in the war overcome reality with ghostly phantasms that point back: not to the village as a refuge laden with the goodness of moral fortitude, but the village as ruin. An object possessed by his possession. To break the spell, a priest appears in the potter’s path. He inscribes prayers on to the potter’s body. By carrying these the haunting visions that keep him captive are released, but the reality of what has happened remains: his family and the village are consumed by the ravages of war.

Going forward is to carry. A father carrying a child alone. Perhaps with the help of the village remnant.

What will it take to raise this child?
A village. Maybe.
A single parent with the prayers inscribed on his body and the spirit of his wife by his side. Maybe.

Quite curious really: that the “male parent” needed to fertilize the “ovum” of the village form. The genetic metaphor: the need for “a whole set of complementary chromosomes”. A mash mash mash of structured sets of information from different sources: muddled visions of un-had memories of the distant villages included.

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