Peasant Autonomy
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Story 145

A small village in Madhya Pradesh, India – 1993

The mysterious bird

for bigger picture click on this photo

(Photo: DraconianRain)

Madhya Pradesh.

“Everyone talks about it. The shadow of the great black mysterious bird is seen everywhere, in all the villages of our Nagesia people.” Suddenly the face of Shankar Nagesia clouds over. From spellbound and longing, it takes on an expression of deep pain. “Our ancestors are anxious,” he murmurs, “they are confused, they are displeased. We didn't protect their graves. We are guilty.”
Then, Shankar starts singing the songs of his people, about the mountains and the forests which were once there, about the rivers and the streams, the animals and the plants: Actually we were kings at that time. We had everything, we didn't owe anyone anything. Our ancestors were content. They were blessing our life. Then the intruders came. We withdrew to our forests, higher and higher in our mountains. But they built roads and caught us nevertheless. First we became their subjects, and later on their slaves. Everyone has debts now, we are almost all debt slaves.

for bigger picture click on this photo

(Photo: Dinesh Valke)

Madhya Pradesh.

The intruders have built their roads, their houses, their hospitals, and their schools on top of the graves of our ancestors. So they are displeased and confused. Hence they send the mysterious bird, which is hovering above our last forests, our poor huts, our impoverished lives. We only see his shadow, but that is reminding us that once we were kings, that we had everything we needed, a rich and free life with our feasts and sacrificial rituals. We respected our age-old norms and protected the graves of our ancestors.

Our ancestors didn't abandon us. They sent us the mysterious bird. And we have our songs. We don't leave. We stay with the last graves that remain.


The book Imaginary Maps from the Indian author Mahasweta Devi portrays in three impressive stories the bitter life of the indigenous peoples of India.

Go to:
= the next page: The missing girl - a village in Anatolia, Turkey – 1995, story 146.
= the Table of contents, story 145.