Samuthiram Village – A Night at the Movies: By Richard Clarke

We are working with village leadership in Samuthiram Village. This village is right next to Tiruvannamalai, at the foot of Arunachala Hill, about 2 KM from our house. We go though it almost every day going to and from Tiruvannamalai and Ramanasramam.

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Samuthiram Village has many of the problems from this growing region without receiving much of the benefit from the growing region. These problems include increased crowding, increased disease, urban pollution and greatly increased land and living costs. Like most villages in India, there is much poverty with all its related problems. The additional problems from nearby growth just makes the village issues more severe.

This village is one that gets many westerners as temporary residents during the winter season, when people from around the world are coming to visit Ramanasramam. Contact with westerners has helped village leadership see that more is possible for the village. With the help of some of these western visitors, Quality of Life Trust was organized in 2006 as a means of accomplishing this work. Quality of Life Trust has since put in place a small village elder support project, funded by donations, which provides food and housing to abandoned elders, and an Eco San Toilet (a composting toilet) construction program, funded by BLESS, an NGO in Cuddalore.

I have written a bit about the Trust, see

. My wife Carol posted about a ceremony that Quality of Life held. This can be seen at http://infinitepie.wordpress.com/2008/05/19/our-vip-night-at-the-quality-of-life-trust/. See also their web site, http://www.qualityoflife.in/.

The photos below are from a village meeting, where they gathered around my laptop for a show. It was set up on a table outside. Power was strung from a nearby house so we could power the external speakers.

To start, we played a slide show of photos taken at the recent village celebration. First the children, then their mothers and other adults gathered around the computer to see photos of themselves and their family and friends. Then we played a Tamil movie. Finally, we played a video of the celebration (mainly of a meeting with different people talking).

Before we came to live in India one thing we did to give us a tiny bit of flavor of India is to watch Indian movies. These photos remind me of one movie we saw where villagers gathered around a sheet, strung up as a movie screen, to watch a movie. One big difference, though, is that while viewing my laptop, no one broke out in song and dance, as they did in the movie.

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Carol had the camera, and the village children love to have their photos taken.

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Some of the girls climbed on a nearby truck to get a better view. The girls were not at all shy about climbing around on the truck, even while parents were trying to get them to stop.

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Here is Carol sitting in a chair, surrounded by children. (They made sure that they brought chairs for us to use.)

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Here the children are seated in front, with mainly village women standing behind.

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The children naturally, once the movie was over, got bored and entertained themselves. There is construction going on nearby. (This is the case over much of this area, where many people are busy adding rooms that they will be able to rent to westerners during the next winter ‘season.’) So the children started carrying bricks over to where we were and finding different ways to play with them.

The first game seemed to be ‘chairs.’ You can see to the right of the photo below girls sitting on chairs made from piling bricks, with different kids making different designs. Most of the time they got bricks by bringing them from the construction site. Sometimes, while their neighbor was not looking or busy doing something else, they would quickly grab bricks from an adjoining ‘chair.’

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After a while, one girl changed the game from ‘chairs’ to ‘houses.’ After this, they all started to build houses.

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The performance was over. We all went home and went to bed. Now I hear that the villagers want to do it again. Only this time, just a movie, not a boring video of a bunch of adults talking. I sure wish these Tamil movies had English subtitles.

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