This isn’t a normal fiction book that you’d find in any bookstore. In fact, this isn’t a book you’d find in most bookstores. The reason being that ‘The Remembered Village’ is a socio-anthropological account of a little Indian village in Karnataka. In fact it is considered the magnum opus of Indian sociology. And hence, it is read mainly by budding sociologists and all those curious about Indian culture. But nevertheless, this book makes for a very interesting read on the customs and traditions of Indian villages.
The story of the title is quite a fascinating one. When Srinivas was in Stanford, his three copies of the already written book were burnt down by arsonists. But all his original notes and fieldwork research still remained with him. Hence, using that and mostly his memory he wrote this book. So, this book is written almost entirely from his recollection of the village, leading to the title ‘The Remembered Village.’ With all the influences of westernization flooding India, Srinivas believed that the unique caste system of India would be wiped out entirely and hence attempted to record the same. Hence, the main focus of this book is the caste system of Rampura.
Srinivas enters the village, not as an outsider but as a Brahmin as he too is from a nearby village. He lives in the headman’s house and interacts with villagers of various castes. The ‘story’ of the book is an indological account of the entire village, encompassing all the sociological aspects such as religion, caste, class and economy. These chapters cover most of the book, but each is vast and exhaustive, managing to cover every facet of the village, sociological or not. It describes village life and the complexities of inter and intra caste relations.
The book often feels like a personal report of his stay, with a lot of episodes of his interactions with villagers in plenty. He mentions a time when he challenges the religious ideologies of his good friend, Nadu Gowda. When asked about his religious beliefs, he says he has none, simply to see his friend’s reaction as he is a staunch believer in the almighty. Another instance is when he talks about the irritation felt by Kalle Gowda when Srinivas refused to work and went on long walks. The book is sprinkled with innumerable such memories and it is all these personal accounts that make the book an enthusiastic read. It can be seen that Srinivas became one with the villagers, after sleeping, eating and defecating like them.
The language of the book is extremely simple and the concepts are explained with utmost patience. This could be because the book was intended for a much wider, international audience and not just an Indian one. His study is an ethnographical one, meaning he looks at the village from an insider’s point of view. And he succeeds well on that account. He is probably the only sociologist to write an ethnographic account of his own country. The drawback of this book is that Srinivas, in his research, fails to reach the lower strata of the society due to his own Brahmin tag and due to his place of residence, the headman’s house. Another non-research related drawback of the book would be the overlapping of chapters, which though understandable can be quite irritating.
Hence, this book is quite different from your normal fiction books, and almost like a documentary of south India. But it is quite a diverse read and pulls the reader into the world of Rampura and its happenings, quite easily. An interesting quick fact of the book is that the name Rampura is simply a pseudonym. The actual village was called Kodigehalli.
Overall Rating: 6.5/10
Chaarvi is a mixture of sugar, spice and everything nice, with just a hint of Chemical X. Or maybe more. Unsure of what to focus on, she has a foot in everything – be it music, movies or books. Or even fashion. Or cooking. Or politics. Or Economics. Well, you get the drift. She is a hater of chick lit and all the riff-raff that comes along with it. Spends too much time on the internet researching on things that will come handy nowhere in life. But in reality, she’s a ninja and you better know it.