Women from the Khadakwadi hamlet of Kolavade village in Mulshi
, Pune, sing seven verses that describe life under a hot summer sun, in this instalment of the Grindmill Songs Project
On a hot summer day in April, we reach Khadakwadi, a hamlet of Kolavade village. Over two decades ago, the original Grindmill Songs Project team had recorded ovi at this hamlet. The project is now hosted on PARI and the present team periodically revisits some of the villages to meet the singers again.
We have with us a list of 21 singers when we reach Khadakwadi in Mulshi taluka of Pune district – most of the women are (or were) from Maratha farming families. Kolavade has a population of about 1,000 – 188 families reside here (Census 2011).
When we arrive in the village, Lilabai Kamble, 58, takes us straight to the hall in the Ram temple premises – the rectangular hall is open on the sides and covered by tin sheets; a two-level boundary wall doubles up as seating.
Lilabai beckons to the ovi singers from their homes, and a few women start gathering at the hall, one by one. Many on our list are away, some have died in the interim, and a few remain untraceable.
All the women say they still use the grindmill occasionally to make gram flour, rice flour for ghaavan [pancakes] and to grind turmeric for the haldi ceremony at weddings.
Lakshmibai Ubhe, one of the ovi singers on our list, is now over 65. “Monkeys don’t allow us to grow anything other than rice in our fields,” she says, and adds with a proud smile, “I have four daughers and a son, 11 grandchildren and two great grandchildren.”
Muktabai Ubhe, 60, has studied till Class 7 and is fond of reading. She says, “I have read Shriman Yogi by Ranjit Desai, Pandav Pratap Hari and other religious books.”
A man with an axe on his shoulder stops by and roars, “What is going on here?” We tell him the women are going to sing grindmill songs; he nods his consent and walks away.
Six women settle in a row to sing grindmill songs about summer, consult each other, hum and whisper as they try to remember the tunes and verses learnt across generations of women from their villages.
Muktabai starts singing the first ovi about a carpenter who feels the heat of the hot summer sun. The singer tells her son that the man is building an upper storey of a friend’s house. In the second song, she feels the sun’s rays and asks her son Bhiva to hold the umbrella over her head. These lines imply that a son willingly listens to his mother and is always there to help her.
In the summer, the sun ‘talks’ to the tree and it gives shade. In the third ovi, the singer says that her mother’s darling son (her brother) is walking on the road. The next couplet tells us that feeling the heat of the sun, the woman stands in her brother’s shadow.
The fifth song is about the immense heat in the summer month of Chaitra (April/ May). The singer’s son escapes from the heat by relaxing and enjoying in a policeman’s drawing room. This possibly implies that familiarity with the village policeman is an advantage.
“When I see shade, I go running,” the singer says in the sixth verse. She stands in the shadow of her brother, who is “like a mango tree with thick foliage.” Implicit in these lines is the support that a woman seeks from her brother in difficult times; he is someone who listens to her and will not disregard her requests.
In the last ovi, the singer says that her son, who is in the prime of his youth, feels the heat acutely and takes along an umbrella when he goes to another village.
अशी उन्हाळ्याची ऊन ऊन लागत सुताराला
सांगते रे बाळा तुला माडी बांधतो मैतराला
उन्हाळीच उन्ह उन्ह लागत माझ्या जिवा
वाणीच्या माझ्या बाळा वर छतरी धर भिवा
उन्हाळ्याच उन्ह उन्ह झाडाशी बोलत
माझ्या माऊलीच बाळ सोन वाटन चालत
उन्हाळीच उन्ह उन्ह करील माझ काही
बंधू माझ्याच्या मी सावली उभी राही
उन्हाळीच उन चैताची केली भारी
बाळा माझा उन टाळी चौकीवाल्याच्या रंगमहाली
सावली पाहुनी मी तर जाते धावूनी
वाणीच माझ बंधू अंबा डौलाचा पाहुनी
गावाला गेल बाळ छत्री नेली संगतीला
बाळायाच्या माझ्या उन लागत नवतीला
aśī unhāḷyācī ūna ūna lāgata sutārālā
sāṅgatē rē bāḷā tulā māḍī bāndhatō maitarālā
unhāḷīca unha unha lāgata mājhyā jivā
vāṇīcyā mājhyā bāḷā vara chatarī dhara bhivā
unhāḷyāca unha unha jhāḍāśī bōlata
mājhyā māūlīca bāḷa sōna vāṭana cālata
unhāḷīca unha unha karīla mājha kāhī
bandhū mājhyācyā mī sāvalī ubhī rāhī
unhāḷīca una caitācī kēlī bhārī
bāḷā mājhā una ṭākī caukīvālyācyā raṅgamahālī
sāvalī pāhunī mī tara jātē dhāvūnī
vāṇīca mājha bandhū ambā ḍaulācā pāhunī
gāvālā gēla bāḷa chatrī nēlī saṅgatīlā
bāḷāyācyā mājhyā una lāgata navatīlā
In the hot summer sun, the carpenter is feeling the heat
I tell you, son, he is building an upper storey for a friend
In the summer sun, I am feeling the sun’s rays
Bhiva, my good son, hold the umbrella over me
In the summer sun’s heat, the tree gives shade
My mother’s darling son is walking on the road
Hot summer sun, I am burning in the heat
I shall go and stand in my brother’s shadow
The summer sun makes the month of Chaitra very hot
My son escapes the heat and enjoys in the police officer’s drawing room
When I find shade, I go running
To my dear brother, who is like a mango tree with thick foliage*
My son went to another village, took along an umbrella
In the prime of his youth, my son is feeling the heat
Note: *The brother’s shadow provides shade like the thick foliage of a mango tree.
Performers/ Singers : Sitabai Ubhe, Sindhu Ubhe, Muktabai Ubhe, Sulochana Dhage, Lakshmibai Ubhe, Nanda Ubhe
Village : Kolavade
Hamlet : Khadakwadi
Taluka : Mulshi
District : Pune
Caste : Maratha
Date : These songs and some of the information was recorded on January 6, 1996. The video and photographs were taken on April 30, 2017.
Photos: Namita Waikar and Samyukta Shastri
Poster: Sinchita Maji