Women from the Khadakwadi hamlet of Kolavade village in Mulshi taluka , 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).

PHOTO • Samyukta Shastri

Arch at the entrance of Kolavade village in Pune district's Mulshi taluka

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.

PHOTO • Samyukta Shastri

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.

PHOTO • Samyukta Shastri

A mango tree in the courtyard of a house in Khadakwadi in Kolavade village bears its first fruits for the season

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.

Watch video: 'My son escapes the heat and enjoys in the police officer’s drawing room,' sing the women in Kolavade

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.

PHOTO • Samyukta Shastri

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

Namita Waikar is a writer, translator and Managing Editor at the People's Archive of Rural India. She is the author of the novel 'The Long March', published in 2018.

Other stories by Namita Waikar

PARI Grindmill Songs Project Team: Asha Ogale (translation); Bernard Bel (digitisation, database design, development and maintenance); Jitendra Maid (transcription, translation assistance); Namita Waikar (project lead and curation); Rajani Khaladkar (data entry).

Other stories by PARI GSP Team
Photos and Video : Samyukta Shastri

Samyukta Shastri is an independent journalist, designer and entrepreneur. She is a trustee of the CounterMediaTrust that runs PARI, and was Content Coordinator at PARI till June 2019.

Other stories by Samyukta Shastri
Editor and Series Editor : Sharmila Joshi

Sharmila Joshi is former Executive Editor, People's Archive of Rural India, and a writer and occasional teacher.

Other stories by Sharmila Joshi