Village and us
– VILLAGE VOICE –
From The Guardian.
The woman had been sent to the village by the Government, but she did not act like an official. She humbly asked permission to address the village elders. “I’ve come to help your children,” she said. “Or to take them away from us,” the mothers whispered, and hid their offspring.
The elders were suspicious too, but let her have a hut – the most dilapidated in the village. That was how to get rid of an unwanted guest. Leela carried her own water from ihe distant well, and gathered wood for the cooking. The village watched.
At first, making her hut a suitable place to live in and doing basic chores took all her time. But she was going to stay. The children gradually came out of hiding. Leela baked sweets and delicacies, but only one or two children approached her.
The Black Witch, the villagers called her – her skin was darker than theirs. “If the Black Witch catches you,” the mothers warned, “she will turn you into a wolf.”
Leela addressed the village council again. The Government had given her a small food allowance for the children, but only for those who came to her class. All boys and girls between the ages of three and five were welcome.
Sometimes she gave them a handful of rice and sometimes peanuts or walnuts. First just a few came. Then a dozen, then more. Ever/ morning Leela washed them at the well – something their mothers did perhaps once or twice a month. She combed their hair daily not past for festivals.
If a child’s sleeve was torn, she sewed it on, rather than leave it to tear further. But what the mothers appreciated most was the time they gained to work in the fields without the children round their feet.
The day Leela was too ill to take the class, the village was thrown into confusion. Parents had come to expect their new freedom. The women looked in on her, and brought her milk and herbal remedies. The next day she was better. Now Leela could carry out the second stage of her plan.
She invited the women to an evening class, to reach them child care. She explained why cleanliness and diet were important. The villagers grew very few vegetables. “You should grow more.” she insisted. They asked her why. She improvised: “They increase your blood supply.”
The men told their wives to stay away from the class. If they spent their evenings with Leela, the husbands would have to cany water and cook supper themselves. Most of the women obeyed reluctantly. But some of the younger wives kept going to evening classes.
They were curious about the outside world, and wanted to hear more. The husbands grew angry. Leela was spoiling their wives. Where would it end? The village elders had been right to distrust her from the start. She must go.
They tried again to make life difficult for her, but she remained undaunted. The man who owned her hut decided he wanted it for his relatives. Another villager, one of the few men to appreciate her work, offered her his spare hut. The children still came to the morning class, even when the food supply gave out, as it often did.
She saw that as her major achievement. New habits were being formed. Now, when they were old enough, they were more likely to go to the proper school outside the village rather than graze the cattle. She was getting somewhere. But the villagers continued to plot against her. One day her superiors received an anonymous letter. Soon she was called back to town.
A. Mark »he best choice.
1. Leela gave food only to those who came to her class .
a) to attract the other children as well
b) because she had persuaded the government to send food
c) as she wanted the village children to be well-fed
d) although she had enough food for all the children .
2. Leela realised that she had been successful in her attempts when .
a) she found friends to support her against other villagers
b) the villagers tried to make life difficult for her once again
c) the children started going to the proper school outside the village
d) the children kept going to school although she had no food to give them
3. Leela came to the village in order to .
a) help the villagers raise their children
b) learn about the life in the village
c) educate the children and the parents
d) teach the villagers how to grow vegetables
B. Mark the statements as True (T) or False (F).
1. When Leela first arrived in the village, the mothers knew she was going to be very helpful.
2. Before Leela’s arrival, the children combed their hair every day.
3. Not having their children around made the mothers pleased because they had more time to work in the fields.
4. The women looked after Leela when she was ill just because they liked her.
5. The husbands were against the evening classes since they had to do housework when their wives were not at home.
6. The letter was probably sent by the men who didn’t like the changes Leela brought about.