Katchipattu - A Periurban Photostory?

Katchipedu was my first known encounter with the periurban. Its streets were narrower, drains open and houses half constructed. I was told that the people had mobile phones and strong internet connections. I could see that they lacked basic infrastructure.

Armed with a Nikon D3200, I attempted to make sense of life in this hamlet to the best of my ability.

The narrow sandy road contrasted the broad and well maintained highway, less than 250 metres away. Katchipedu is located behind the Rajiv Gandhi Memorial. A DTH dish sticks out among the cobbled huts. An Ambassador car lies abandoned. I immediately spot an open drain lining the street. There are few vehicles on the streets. I spot one BMW driving. Not all roads had tar or cement.

Houses

There were many kinds of houses- thatched straw huts, unfinished brick huts, single storied houses, two-three storied houses, most with construction pending. The only men I saw at work were building a house.

Waste

Garbage was strewn everywhere. Open grounds, dried up water bodies and channels no longer used were found to be littered with plastic waste. Wastewater flowed out from houses and backyards into the street.

Animals

Cows, buffaloes and goats were a common sight in the village. They grazed on the water bodies that had dried up. Chicken and pigs were being reared too. The village had its share of stray dogs.

The village had its share of stray dogs.

Land

Great expanses of land remained unused. Much of the vegetation on this land is constituted by Prosopis juliflora, locally known as the seemai karuvelam.

They are said to possess the tendency to deplete water tables and prevent the growth of other trees with their strong penetrating roots. Upon the government’s orders, these trees have been burnt.

Youth and Children

The youth of Katchipedu participate in every political event possible. Their notorious reputation prevents them from acquiring jobs in the nearby industrial estate, in spite of their degrees and diplomas. They work temporary jobs instead – in construction, as swimming coaches and salesmen…Unemployment is a pressing issue. The villagers have many lands fit for agriculture, but farming no longer proves viable. Many of the lands have been sold. One of the young men we met had harmed himself after his bride-to-be backed out on the day of their wedding. Another young man, aged 26, married and father of two, claimed to be the elder of the village. Many of the young boys we walked past were quite eager to pose. Some even told me to put up the pictures on Facebook.

Women and Water

As is most evident in the pictures, women were more reluctant to pose. I attempted to photograph a mother combing her daughter’s hair. Both covered their faces.. The village got most of its drinking water from the school. Water for other purposes was sourced from a borewell. Many women gathered at a public tap with plastic pots to gather water for the daily requirements of their households.

We saw a mother and a daughter carrying large bottles of water. Their load seemed burdensome and the road before them long. Water is scarce in the village and most of the ponds have run dry.

Still water was being wasted due to broken pipes.

Icons

Just as I was beginning to wonder whether or how caste operated in this village, my co-intern pointed out that the image of Ambedkar and the flag of a particular political party was strewn everywhere. Katchipedu was a Dalit hamlet. The image of Ambedkar was printed and painted almost everywhere from marriage announcement banners to the walls of houses. Through Ambedkar, the village seemed to assume a sense of collective identity.

Anecdote

We met a man dressed in white on our way. He stopped us and asked us whether we knew who he was. We didn’t. He said he was the headmaster and that he would teach us something. He asked us when the battle of Panipat was fought. We didn’t know. He asked us when Independence Day and Republic Day were. We said 15th of August and 26th of January. He told us that the battle of Panipat was fought in 1526. He said that with this mnemonic technique, we would never forget. He then went on about how when he had done well in school and had been given the opportunity to study engineering and medicine, he chose not to and had decided that he would help mould more engineers and doctors. He said that he had not been late even once in 25 years of experience. He added that the village now had about six engineers.

Katchipedu was like no place I had ever ventured into. The purpose of our visit was to survey the water bodies, but I found myself lost in the walks between, in the pots and pans, the houses with rods sticking out, in the fetching of water and the combing of hair, in anything ordinary, yet remarkable.

AvinaashEnergy
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