Patwari and the Inexperienced Villager
The rural areas in the east have now come to attract an attention unprecedented
in our history and numerous officials work for the welfare of the villager.
Not many years ago, the patwari was the sole representative of the
administration in the countryside. Being conscious of his importance, he
exacted homage from high and low alike, and they willingly offered it;
in fact they did not feel satisfied till the patwari had accepted
their presents. Experience had taught them that it may be possible to change
what is written in one's destiny but nobody could rectify the record of
There was incontrovertible
evidence to support this contention. There was the tehsildar who
openly declared himself in favour of a party in a land suit. The patwari
so far adopted a neutral attitude. But when he found the balance tilted
against one party without the tehsildar so much as asking his opinion,
he made up his mind to help the other party. No doubt he was able to make
some money as a result of his policy, but he was able to produce recorded
evidence in favour of his party that even the tehsildar himself
felt amazed at his own inability to help his own protege.
was the case of a collector of land revenue to whom the ruler had made
a grant of land for his meritorious services to the State. Since the patwari
not in any way obliged to him he submitted a report on the land available
in his jurisdiction to the ruler. On the basis of the report the land that
the collector got was almost wholly barren and unproductive and did not
compensate him even for the land tax. It was on the basis of such facts
that the saying went round of the admonishment held out by a revenue minister
to one of his relatives in a land suit that even he, the revenue minister
himself, could not help him if the patwari willed otherwise.
the power and prestige of a patwari, it was foolish of any villager
not to propitiate him and, indeed, idiotic to ignore his presence. There
is an ancient saying
(mudan hanza maji nai prasan truken handi gara
ketha khasan), "unless
the mothers of blockheads bear children how
can the households of the clever thrive," and there was accordingly a vain
young man in a village who entirely lacked experience in worldly affairs.
He was strong and devoted his time to his farm and his cattle which rewarded
him well. Somebody had told him that he must be self-respecting and his
notion of self-respect was to mind his own business, earn an honest rupee
and let the patwari
or other officials stew in their own juices.
The young man
was slightly vain and certainly impolitic, and he had created jealousy
in the minds of many fellow-villagers. They approached the patwari to
pull the young man's ears. But the
patwari was shrewd and advised
them to be patient. He had a grouse of his own. Apart from the fact that
the young man never offered any present to him his whole bearing was almost
insulting. He never wished the patwari
and to use his own words,
"he walked with his gaze fixed on the sky." This, according to the patwari,
calculated to undermine his prestige.
cautioned his friends to wait till the time was ripe and he started his
offensive when it was so. He did not, however, take them into his confidence,
for that did not suit his strategy.
Once when the
young man crossed his way, the patwari greeted him in a tone of
warmth and affection. "You do not know me well, but your father was a dear
friend of mine," he told him. "I cherish the memory of that friendship,"
he continued, "and as a friend of your late father I have something to
say in confidence."
What he told
him in confidence was that an unclaimed piece of land lay in the village
which was open for anyone to bring under cultivation as a first step towards
establishing his claim over it and out of deference for the friendship
of his father the patwariwas making the offer to him. "I can assure
you," he said, "that I have not the least interest in it and as somebody
will ultimately take it up, why not you do it?"
The young man
saw the bright prospect of getting a piece of land for nothing and was
tempted. Taken in by the profession of friendship made by the patwari
set about establishing his claim over it. He brought it under the plough,
watered it and put a flimsy fence around it. He also sowed seeds.
All this time
the patwariwas quiet. The young man's attitude towards him had by
now undergone a change. He respected the patwariand even threw to
him an invitation to dinner as the only means of strengthening the bonds
of friendship and affection between the two families. Everything seemed
to be so nicely arranged till the seeds sprouted and tiny seedlings gave
a nice appearance to the piece of land. Then one morning when the young
man went to the field perhaps to do some weeding out he found another man
doing it there for him.
"What are you
doing there?" he demanded. There was no answer.
"Oh, I say,
what the hell are you doing there?" he repeated.
"Why, do you
not see, I am pulling out the weeds from the field."
"But I never
asked you to do so."
"Who the devil
are you to ask me to? I can do what I like to my own land without asking
for your orders."
"But I ploughed
it, sowed the seeds and put up a fence around it."
"You are raving,
that is what you are. The land belonged to a collateral of mine and I have
inherited it.... "
By this time
a few people collected there and the two saw the claimants coming to fists.
Peace was restored with some difficulty and it was decided that both parties
should approach the patwari. They did so but the latter had left
for some other village in his jurisdiction. When he returned late at night
the young man was already waiting for him. The patwari heard his
narrative and said:
"Did you not
plough the land?"
"Did you not
sow the seeds and raise the fence?"
"That I did."
object to your doing so?"
is thus established and no one can dispute it."
The young man
left his place satisfied. The next morning the other claimant also left
the presence of the patwarifully satisfied. During the day, however,
the two claimants fought with fists and shoes and cudgels and were with
great difficulty prevented from using scythes and shovels. There was great
apprehension of breach of the peace and ultimately the parties had to approach
The court took
a long time in recording evidence, examining documents and sifting revenue
papers. All this while these parties had to woo the patwari for
his support. Not only was his palm greased and overgreased but he was frequently
a guest of honour at the house of the one or the other claimant.
The vain young man's behaviour had undergone a change. The villagers could
not help giggling when they saw the person who fixed his gaze on the stars
once contemptuously ignoring the patwari, follow him like a lamb.
And the patwari had a peculiar wink in his eye indicating as much
as: "Do you see how humbled is the haughty wight? Others beware betimes."
It was a long drawn out suit and the patwari was transferred during
the time it was pending. What happened to them he never bothered about.