Yashoda Umbre and her family were landless farmers in Rajmachi village of Mawal taluka in Pune district, when the Grindmill Songs team met them in 1997. It was not clear if they were agricultural labourers or tenant farmers. Her house was large. "My mother-in-law threw my husband and me out of our ancestral [joint family] home,” she said. “My husband and I built this house [where we now live] with our own labour.”
By the 1990s, because of its famous fort, Rajmachi has come under the spell of homestay-tourism. Villagers had built large houses to accommodate tourists, using their own skills of masonry and carpentry. Yashoda and her husband had also built a bathroom with a proper door for the convenience of tourists. She was rather proud of her bathroom as well as the large house. One of her sons gave us a visiting card.
Yashoda’s eldest son was mentally challenged. The other three were students; one was away at college in Mumbai, and the two youngest sons were studying in the village school.
Yashoda, then 46, learnt grindmill songs from her mother, who lived in Dudhivare village in Mawal taluka. When we visited her, she was reluctant to sing. She said her brother’s daughter had died after being poisoned by her in-laws – and according to custom, women then don’t sing for at least a year.
In the eight ovi here, four in each audio clip, Subhadra Umbre accompanies Yashoda in the singing.
Audio 1: In the first audio, Yashoda sings about the grinding to be done early in the morning so that the children can eat breakfast. She sings about waking up her son’s “queen” – her daughter-in-law.
पहाटेच्या पार्यामंदी, कोंबडा आरवला
बाळायाची राणी, झोपची जागी झाली
राणी झोपची जागी झाली, दुरडी दळण झाल पायली
pahāṭēcyā pāryāmandī, kōmbaḍā āravalā
bāḷāyācī rāṇī, jhōpacī jāgī jhālī
rāṇī jhōpacī jāgī jhālī, duraḍī daḷaṇa jhāla pāyalī
At the hour of dawn, the rooster crows, my son’s queen wakes up
The queen awakens up from her sleep, she grinds a basket filled with one pāyalī
Note: Pāyalī is a traditional measure, slightly less than one kilo. It consists of four seers – 12 pāyalī make one māṇ, and one māṇ is equal to 37 kilos.
बारा बैलाचा गाडा, माझ्या शेता जायाचा
दुरडी दळायाण, तान्ह्या बाळांची, यांची न्याहरी
bārā bailācā gāḍā, mājhyā śētā jāyācā
duraḍī daḷāyāṇa, tānhyā bāḷāñcī, yāñcī nyāharī
A cart of twelve bullocks is used to go to my field
A basketful of ground flour, the little children’s breakfast
दुरडी दळण, हाये माझ्या ना गं दैवाचं
दुरडी दळण, हिनं दुरडी गं हेलावली
duraḍī daḷaṇa, hāyē mājhyā nā ga daivāca
duraḍī daḷaṇa, hina duraḍī ga hēlāvalī
A basket of grain to grind, this is my fortune
A basket of grain to grind, I shake the basket of grain
दुरडी दळायाण, हिनं दुरडी गं हेलवली
बाळाच्या राणीला, मी रागानी बोलले
duraḍī daḷāyāṇa, hina duraḍī ga hēlavalī
bāḷācyā rāṇīlā, mī rāgānī bōlalē
I shook the basket of grains to grind
And I spoke angrily with my son’s queen
Audio 2: In the second audio clip Yashoda and Subhadra sing an ovi about a lazy woman who is angry at having to toil at the grindmill at dawn. Another ovi speaks of how it befits a mother and daughter to work at the grindmill together.
पहाटेच्या दळणाचा, येतो आळशीला राग
बाई माझ्या तु उषाबाई, उठ भाग्याच्या गं, दळू लाग
pahāṭēcyā daḷaṇācā, yētō āḷaśīlā rāga
bāī mājhyā tu uṣābāī, uṭha bhāgyācyā ga, daḷū lāga
A lazy woman gets angry about grinding at dawn
My dear fortunate Usha, get up and start grinding!
दुरडी दळायाण, कोण्या राजाला गं लागायातं
बाळा ना याच माझ्या, घर गं गोकुळी नांदयतं
duraḍī daḷāyāṇa, kōṇyā rājālā ga lāgāyāta
bāḷā nā yāca mājhyā, ghara ga gōkuḷī nāndayata
Which king requires a basketful of ground flour?
In my son’s house, a gokul, people live happily
Note: Lord Krishna’s childhood was spent in a gokul, a community of cowherds who lived together in harmony.
पहाटंच्या दळणाला रात, कुणाच्या वाड्यावरी
मायलेकी दळतात, सात खणाच्या माडीवरी
pāṭhacyā daḷaṇālā rāta, kuṇācyā vāḍyāvarī
māyalēkī daḷatāta, sāta khaṇācyā māḍīvarī
In whose mansion that grinding, at dawn, at night?
Mother-daughter grind on the floor of a seven khan
Note: Khaṇ is a unit of measurement in indigenous architecture – it is the distance between two wooden pillars, usually 4x5 or 10x12 feet. A house of seven khan would be huge.
सयाना सया पुस, कायी अबदुल वाजयतं
पहाटंचं दळयाण, मायलेकीला साजयतं
sayānā sayā pusa, kāyī abadula vājayata
pāṭhaca daḷayāṇa, māyalēkīlā sājayata
Women friends ask each other where is ‘Abadula’ playing (the flute)
The grinding together at dawn befits mother and daughter
Note: At dawn, ascetics and other mendicants play on the flute, and ‘Abadula’ is used here to describe the sound of the flute (and not as the name ‘Abdul’); it may also be used to rhyme abadula-gabadula colloquially – signifying the singer’s term for the sound she is hearing.
Performer/Singer: Yashoda Umbre
Caste: Mahadev Koli
Children: 4 sons
Occupation: Landless farmer
Date: March 15-16, 1997
Photos: Bernard Bel
Poster: Shreya Katyayini and Sinchita Maji