Life in an Indian Village
Letters from Jitvapur
"Letters from Jitvapur" is a series of eight extended radio features about daily life in the little village of Jitvapur (population: approx. 4,000) in the northeastern state of Bihar. The programs originally aired on NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO'S Weekend Edition Sunday on the first Sunday of each month, beginning in December of 1991 and running through July of 1992.
More than half mankind live in villages, villages of all shapes and sizes, villages that have sprung up within cities, villages with metalled roads and forests of TV antennas, and villages that can only be reached during the dry season down mud tracks, and which are all but invisible to the naked eye.
No two villages are alike; in some class and caste conflicts simmer, in others they're nonexistent; some villages are rich and mechanized; others live in another age; in some villages, there is comparative equality between men and women; in others the old hierarchies dominate; some villages are open to change: others fear it like the plague.
Jitvapur is a small village in Bihar, in the North of India just below Nepal. 600 families live in Jitvapur, a total population between three and four thousand. Nobody's quite sure. There are thirteen different castes in the village. Upper Castes, Brahmins and Kyastras make up nearly half the village; the rest are Harijans and other lower castes. In one corner of the village live several hundred Muslims.
Jitvapur is five miles outside the local market town of Madhubani. The area is famous all over India for its distinctive Mithila wall paintings.
In many ways, Jitvapur is very traditional: Bihar is backward and change has come slowly and belatedly, and Madhubani is cut off from the developed part of Bihar. There's just one rail link and one road to the south; both are useless during the monsoon. In one sense, Jitvapur's obviously unique, but in another it's a metaphor, not just for rural India but for all the villages in Asia, Africa and Latin America where the majority of the world's population lives, often in poverty and hunger, but also with a furious joy and appetite for survival.
In November 1987, Julian Crandall Hollick, his wife Martine and Dean Cappello, traveled to Jitvapur with Rana Behal, Raja Chatterjee and Himani Kapila, in an old Ambassador car driven by Bijoy Tivari, driver sans pareil, and lived on the village for several weeks. These recordings were made digitally using a Sony Digital microprocessor and portable Beta video recorder, with Neumann KMR 81 and stereo RMS190 microphones.
Editor's Note:"We've often talked about going back to Jitvapur since, but somehow it's never quite worked out. Each of us went their own way and developed his or her own career. If we went back today, maybe the village would be physically unrecognizable. But somehow I suspect much would have remained the same.
Littleton, November 2000