Life in K V Kuppam is very different to life in the UK in some respects but there are also many similarities. From an early age a child will be expected to contribute to the household. They may take a calf or a goat to water, sweep the house, fetch water or wood or help in the fields or with a home industry. In the past some children dropped out of school by the age of seven in order to help the economic situation of the family. Nowadays the government offers incentives, such as free school meals, to encourage all children to complete at least a basic education but there are still some families who cannot afford to keep their children in school until they reach the age of 15 years.
The main focus for most families is to earn enough money to give their children a good education in order for them to achieve academic success and find well paid employment. There is a great deal of competition for jobs and even achieving a good degree does not guarantee employment. Many professions have a waiting list and available jobs are then allocated depending on several factors, including which caste the individual belongs to. Many children in K V Kuppam area take school very seriously and work hard to pass their examinations.
Most people enjoy relaxing with friends in the evening after they have finished their work and daily chores. Children drift in and out of other children’s houses, but in no sense would they be invited formally to come to play. There are few toys in the village. Many children spend leisure time reading their school books – there is very little else available for them to read.
People like to watch television, go to the cinema occasionally and listen to the radio, read books, go to evening classes, do lotteries, go to tea shops, entertain guests, go shopping and gossip. Over the last twenty years or so television has become much more common, even in the more remote villages. People who have a TV allow other people, and especially children, to watch. There are now many more channels available but the most popular programmes are the stories (serials) and Tamil and Bollywood films.
Films at the local cinema are also popular as a treat. Tickets cost Rs 6 for space to sit on the floor and more for a seat. Parents take babies and children to the cinema and there is always lots of bustle and excitement. People talk and children make a noise. In the really popular films the young men in the audience all sing along to the best known songs. Most films have singing and dancing and are about romance, city life, family arguments, policemen, gangsters and fighting. They have beautiful heroines in tight fitting clothes, dashing, plump heroes and incredible story lines. Huge posters of film stars advertise the films – in cities there are giant, painted, cut out billboards of the actors 12 metres high. Serious artistic films are very rare but the cinema offers a few hours escape from everyday life.
Some people read magazines which are often about film stars. Newspapers are relatively expensive so not everyone can afford to buy them. People often share them in tea shops. There is a public library in K V Kuppam and RUHSA provide a mobile library. Some people attend evening classes, often to improve their literacy or maths skills.
People enjoy buying lottery tickets. Lotteries are organised by local governments to raise money. Everyone hopes they will win a prize of tens of thousands of rupees. Tickets can be bought at tea shops. These tea shops, really just stalls, are a meeting place for men, who sit around drinking tea and sweet coffee, reading newspapers and chatting. There are no pubs but there are places to buy alcohol. Government ‘wine’ shops were set up in 2003 to replace private shops and prevent the selling of illicit home-made alcohol which is dangerous. The shops also bring in a great deal of revenue for the government.
Families do not go on holiday in the way that British families do. Festivals are the main break from the daily routine of hard work, although they also entail a great deal of extra work in preparation. Families may visit a local temple on a festival day or go on a pilgrimage to one of the important temples at festival time. Mostly they spend time with friends in the village and the young people working away will return home to celebrate festivals such as Pongal and Divali. The women of the household serve food to the visitors first and eat theirs afterwards. They would not sit down to a meal with visitors as we do. People will offer food to each other to be polite and show respect, and are offended if the offer is turned down. It is regarded as rude if a host does not offer food, even if it is not a meal time or the guest is not hungry or the host cannot really afford to share the family’s food.
Bull races have traditionally happened every year around Pongal time and young men, in particular, like to run with the bulls. This is a dangerous activity and often results in injury. It’s not much fun for the bulls either! In July 2007, following a petition by the Animal Welfare Board, the Supreme Court finally banned the bull races because of cruelty to the animals.
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