Rebecca McKenney History and Film Doctor Desai 27 January 2018 Behind Mud Walls:Analysis Williamand Charlotte Wiser and Susan S. Wadley traveled to a village in India calledKarimpur in which they observed the culture of the village during the course ofseventy-five years. They recorded these observations in the book, Behind Mud Walls: Seventy-Five Years in aNorth Indian Village (Wiser, William, et al., University of CaliforniaPress, 2000, 381 pages.) Inthe first chapter, Wiser discusses the challenges of interacting with thevillagers of Karimpur upon their initial arrival.
Suspicious that the Wiserswere officials ready to take advantage of them, the Wisers had to slowly gaintheir trust by offering medical help to both the villagers and their animalsand through casual conversation. Inchapters two thorough four, Wiser discusses who the leaders are and their rolesin the village. He also talks about how the different caste members of thevillage help support the village. Finally, he discusses the role of theUntouchables, who are not a part of the caste, support the village. Among the leadersof the Karimpur that are mentioned in this section include the landlords, the Brahmans,and the Panchayat.
Thereis an impression made by both the villagers and Wiser that the landlords onlyvisit Karimpur on rare occasions. However, the villagers pay the landlord rentfor allowing them to use their fields to allow the village animals to graze andwells in order to water the village fields. Some of the most importantdecisions made in Karimpur are made by the Brahmans. Though the Brahmans”occupy themselves as framers and grain leaders”, they also have a stronginfluence on the village’s religion and socially (Wiser). The Panchayat, or the”assembly of arbitrators”, help “settle petty village disputes” (Wiser). Wiserwrites that in Karimpur there are four castes and that within each caste isgroup of sub-castes. The main caste, in order of social status, are Brahmans,Kshatriyas, Vaisyas, and Sudras. If Karimpur was represented asa human body, the Brahmans would be the head of the village.
Kshatriyas wouldbe the arms. Vaisyas would be the body. Sudras would be the feet. Though theUntouchables are not a part of the caste system or body, they two also have subcastes. TheBrahmas, as mentioned above, are the spiritual leaders of Karimpur. Kshatriyassevere as soldiers. Sudras are the average workers in Karimpur.Thefour sub castes of Untouchables in Karimpur.
They are the Dhobi, Chamar, Dhsnuks, and Bhangi. Dhobiwash the clothing of the villagers. Chamars serve as leather workers. Dhanuks aremidwives and mat-makers. Bhangi are the sweepers of the village. Inchapters five and six, Wiserdiscusses the importance of animals. Wiser also discusses the role of women in Karimpur,the addition of newborns into the village, and some of the marriage traditionsof the villagers.
In chapters seven and eight, Wiser discusses the educationand observed behaviors of the youth of the village. Like most children, thechildren of the village may play and try to get a little bit of education. Someof the children in the village may act as messengers for their parents and helptheir parents with work to help support their families. Wiseralso discusses who the agents of authority are in Karimpur and their roles inthe village.
Some of the leaders in the village include the village headman,the watchmen, the accountant, and the landlords. The “village headsmen”, Wiserexplains, “is a resident of the village appointed by the government torepresent the village in all matters pertaining authority.” (Wiser) The watchmenserve as “representatives of the police in the village” (Wiser).
The accountantis in charge of all the land records in the village. Since he is in charge ofthe records, he also has the ability to threaten to remove names from deedsunless the villager pays a fee. Inchapter nine, the older generation of Karimpur share their perspectives of lifein Karimpur with Wiser. Inchapters ten and eleven, Wiser discusses some of the changes that had accord inthe village after returning to the village after a couple years of absence.Some of the changes that had occurred include the introduction of newseeds for cash props and food as well as the introduction of the bank, and theincreased use of different farming tools. In chapter twelve, “The Young MenSpeak”, the younger generation of the village share their perspectives of life. Inchapters thirteen and fourteen, Wiser discusses some of the observations of Karimpurin 1970. Wiser comments that some of the changes in the village including thebeginning of the teaching of English, suspicion has decreased, the use of cashhad increased while bartering decreased, and the improvement of transportation.
It is also noted that the villagers have started to accept the electricthresher. In chapters fifteen and sixteen, Susan S. Wadley begins sharing herobservations of Karimpur in 1984 and 1998. Williamand Charlotte Wiser and Susan S. Wadley’s BehindMud Walls: Seventy-Five Years in a North Indian Village provides an insightfulview of India village life. When it comes to observations of different culture,it is tempting to only share your perspective instead of allowing the cultureobserved to have a voice which can lead to the wrong conclusions. However, theauthors of Behind Mud Walls periodically record the villagers’ perspective intheir records, most notably in the chapters “Let All Old Things Abide” and “TheYoung Men Speak.
“TheWisers also share a variety of short stories which helps the audience relate tothe villagers. Though Wadley also includes a series of short stories, herrecord of the village seems to be more focused on data rather than storiescreating an imbalance that may cause some audience members to begin to loseinterest. The only other issue that some audiences may have is that it issometimes difficult to tell when stories and observations take place.Oneof the intriguing concepts that all three author touch on is the village’sresistance to change. The older generation of the village summarized thisresistance by stating, “The refusal to change is an amour which we learned toprotect ourselves…We are not blind to the advantages of the new, but unless weknow just where it might lead us, we prefer to let it pass us by” (Wiser).Asa member of the audience who is not familiar with Indian culture in general, Williamand Charlotte Wiser and Susan S.
Wadley’s BehindMud Walls: Seventy-Five Years in a North Indian Village is an insightfulview into another culture. As an audience member who lives in a country wherechanges are created quickly and numerously, it was surprising (at first) howthe villagers of Karimpur resisted change to their way of life. Though this revieweris familiar with the concept of having landlords, she was surprised how Karimpurdid not belong to the people but rather the landlords. It was also a surprise in how quickly childrencaught on to their social status.
For example, in questing a villager about whya bhangi could not attend school with the other boys in the village, the Sahibgot this response. “Thegovernment has no right to upset the established order by allowing children fromant caste or untouchable group to attend school…If the boy must be taught, lethim learn from his own father. Or let there be a separate school for such boys”(Wiser).
Overall,William and Charlotte Wiser and Susan S. Wadley’s Behind Mud Walls: Seventy-Five Years in a North Indian Village isan interesting read for audiences unfamiliar with Indian village culture. SourceWiser, William, et al. Behind MudWalls: Seventy-Five Years in a North Indian Village.
Updated and Expandeded., University of California Press, 2000.