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The Idea of Home in a World of Circulation: Steam, Women and Migration through Bhojpuri Folksongs

  • Nitin Sinha (a1)
Abstract

The historical juncture of the 1840s to 1860s witnessed three developments: first, the introduction of the new means of communication (steamships and railways); second, new industrial and plantation investments in and outside of India, creating demand for labour; and third, the expansion of a print culture that went beyond the urban elite domain to reflect the world of small towns and villages. In this constellation of social, economic, and technological changes, this article looks at the idea of home, construction of womanhood and the interlaced lifecycles of migrant men and non-migrant women in a period of Indian history marked by “circulation”. Moving away from the predominant focus on migrant men, the article attempts to recreate the social world of non-migrant women left behind in the villages of northern and eastern India. While engaging with the framework of circulation, the article calls for it to be redesigned to allow histories of mobility and immobility, male and female and villages and cities to appear in the same analytical field. Although migration has been reasonably well explored, the issue of marriage is inadequately addressed in South Asian migration studies. “Separated conjugality” is one aspect of this, and the displacement of young girls from their natal home to in-laws’ is another. Through the use of Bhojpuri folksongs, the article brings together migration and marriage as two important social events to understand the different but interlaced lifecycles of gendered (im)mobilities.

TRANSLATED ABSTRACTS FRENCH – GERMAN – SPANISH

Nitin Sinha. La notion de foyer dans un monde de la circulation: Les machines à vapeur, les femmes et la migration dans les chansons populaires en bhojpuri.

La période historique allant des années 1840 aux années 1860 assista à trois développements: primo, l’introduction de nouveaux moyens de communication (les bateaux à vapeur et les chemins de fer); deuxio, de nouveaux investissements industriels et dans les plantations en Inde et en dehors de l’Inde, créant une demande de main d’oeuvre; et tertio, l’expansion d’une culture de l’imprimé qui alla au-delà du domaine de l’élite urbaine pour refléter le monde des petites villes et des villages. Dans cette constellation de changements sociaux, économiques et technologiques, cet article examine la notion de foyer, la construction de la féminité et les cycles de vie entrelacés des hommes migrants et des femmes non migrantes dans une période de l’histoire de l’Inde marquée par la “circulation”. Loin de se concentrer principalement sur les hommes migrants comme le faisaient les travaux antérieurs, l’article tente de recréer le monde social des femmes non migrantes laissées en arrière dans les villages de l’Inde septentrionale et orientale. En examinant le cadre de la circulation, l’article demande qu’il soit reconsidéré, afin de permettre aux histoires de la mobilité et de l’immobilité, des femmes et des hommes et des villages et des villes d’apparaître dans le même champ analytique. Bien que la migration ait été relativement bien étudiée, la question du mariage est inadéquatement traitée dans les études sur la migration sud-asiatique. La “conjugalité séparée” en est un aspect, et le déplacement de jeunes filles de leur foyer natal dans la belle-famille en est un autre. Par l’utilisation de chansons populaires en bhojpuri, l’article relie la migration et le mariage en tant que deux événements sociaux importants pour comprendre les cycles de vie differents mais entrelacés des (im)mobilités de genre.

Traduction: Christine Plard

Nitin Sinha. Die Heimatvorstellung in einer Welt der Zirkulation: Dampfmotoren, Frauen und Migration im Lichte der Bhojpuri–Volkslieder.

Der historische Wendepunkt der 1840er bis 1850er Jahre brachte drei Entwicklungen mit sich: erstens die Einführung neuer Kommunikationsmittel (Dampfschiffe und Eisenbahnen); zweitens neue industrielle und plantagenwirtschaftliche Investitionen innerhalb und außerhalb Indiens; drittens eine Ausweitung des Druckwesens, das über die städtische Elite hinauszureichen und die Welt der Kleinstädte und Dörfer miteinzubeziehen begann. Ausgehend von dieser Konstellation gesellschaftlichen, wirtschaftlichen und technischen Wandels untersucht der Artikel Vorstellungen von Heimat, Konstrukte der Weiblichkeit sowie die ineinander verzahnten Lebenszyklen migrantischer Männer und nicht-migrantischer Frauen in einer von »Zirkulation« geprägten Epoche der indischen Geschichte. Vom gängigen Fokus auf migrantische Männer wird Abstand genommen, um die soziale Welt der in den Dörfern des nördlichen und östlichen Indien zurückgelassenen, nicht-migrantischen Frauen zu rekonstruieren. Von dem am Zirkulationsbegriff orientierten konzeptionellen Rahmen wird zwar Gebrauch gemacht, doch wird zugleich dazu aufgerufen, ihn derart neu zu entwickeln, dass Geschichten der Mobilität und der Immobilität, des Männlichen und des Weiblichen, der Dörfer und der Städte im selben analytischen Feld sichtbar gemacht werden können. Die Migration ist zwar vergleichsweise gründlich erforscht worden, doch die Frage der Ehe wird in Untersuchungen zur südasiatischen Migration bislang nicht hinreichend berücksichtigt. Der »getrennte Ehestand« ist ein Aspekt davon, der Umzug junger Mädchen von ihrem Geburtsort in die Heimat ihrer angeheirateten Verwandten ein anderer. Anhand von Bhojpuri-Volksliedern setzt der Artikel Migration und Ehe als zwei bedeutende gesellschaftliche Ereignisse zueinander in Beziehung, um so die unterschiedlichen aber ineinander verzahnten Lebenszyklen genderspezifischer (Im-)Mobilitäten zu begreifen.

Übersetzung: Max Henninger

Nitin Sinha. La idea de hogar en un mundo de circulación: Vapor, mujeres y migración a través de las canciones populares de Bhojpuri.

La coyuntura histórica de las décadas de 1840 a 1860 fue testigo de tres desarrollos: en primer lugar, la introducción de los nuevos medios de comunicación (barcos de vapor y ferrocarriles); segundo, las nuevas inversiones industriales y en las plantaciones dentro y fuera de la India que generaron una demanda de mano de obra; y en tercer lugar, la expansión de una cultura impresa que se expandió más allá del dominio de la élite urbana para reflejar el mundo de las pequeñas ciudades y pueblos. En esta constelación de cambios sociales, económicos y tecnológicos este artículo se enfoca en la idea de hogar, en la construcción de la feminidad y en los ciclos vitales entrelazados de hombre migrantes y mujeres no migrantes en un periodo específico de la historia de la India caracterizado por la “circulación”. Alejándonos del enfoque predominante centrado en los hombres migrantes, en el texto tratamos de recrear el mundo social de las mujeres no migrantes que permanecen en los pueblos del norte y este de la India. Al tiempo que se encuentra relacionado con el marco de la circulación, el artículo reclama que se redefina para permitir que puedan incorporarse en ese campo analítico las historias de movilidad e permanencia de hombres y mujeres, de pueblos y ciudades. Aunque los procesos migratorios han sido explorados de forma razonable, la cuestión del matrimonio no se ha abordado de forma adecuada en el contexto de las migraciones en el Asia meridional. La “conyugalidad separada” es uno de estos aspectos y el desplazamiento de las jóvenes desde su hogar natal al de los suegros es otro. Mediante el uso de las canciones populares de Bhojpuri el artículo reúne la cuestión de la migración con la del matrimonio planteándolas como dos acontecimientos sociales importantes para comprender los ciclos de vida diferentes pero entrelazados de (In)movilidades de género.

Traducción: Vicent Sanz Rozalén

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1 One ser equalled a little more than a kilogram.

2 Saag is the generic word for all leafy vegetables, primarily spinach.

3 For a slightly different version sung by a popular artist, who also introduces the song in its contemporary social context, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pLU9waZnTbU; last accessed 16 September 2017.

4 Not only the railways, but new things such as bijli (electricity), nal (hand pump), motorcycle, refrigerator, and punkah (fan) began to be mentioned in the repertoire of folksongs.

5 Jassal, Smita Tewari, Unearthing Gender: Folksongs of North India (Durham, NC [etc.], 2012), p. 10 .

6 Williams, Raymond, Marxism and Literature (Oxford, 1977), pp. 128135 . Amongst other characteristics, the most useful aspect of this concept for the current essay is in its emphasis on the interlocking of the personal and the social, ridden with tensions and hierarchies. These songs pry open the intimate spaces of home and marriage but are equally observant of the compulsions of changing modern technologies and economy. In this way, they offer a unique opportunity to combine both. In the case of migration, this structuration is inherently processual as departure, stay, and return happens in a cyclical manner, thus constantly demanding migrants and non-migrants to “recalibrate” their feeling or memory of it.

7 Kolff, David, Naukar, Rajput and Sepoy: The Ethnohistory of the Military Labour Market in Hindustan, 1450–1850 (Cambridge, 1990).

8 There is now a greater unanimity on the dynamic forms of mobility existing both in pre-modern Europe and on the Indian subcontinent. There is no denying, nonetheless, that capitalist economies of the mid-nineteenth century did lead to the intensification of connectivity, at least of those segments that brought profit to both state and capital. See, Lucassen, Jan and Lucassen, Leo, “Theorizing Cross-Cultural Migrations: The Case of Eurasia Since 1500”, Social Science History, 41, 3, (2017), pp. 445475 ; idem , “The Mobility Transition Revisited, 1500–1900: What the Case of Europe can offer to Global History”, Journal of Global History, 4, 3, (2009), pp. 347377 .

9 The Bhojpuri coolies were recruited at half the price of Chota Nagpur tribals, who were rated “first class”. Between 1880 and 1900, out of 710,000 adult coolies recruited for tea gardens, no less than 46 per cent were from Chota Nagpur; only 21 per cent were from the congested plains of UP. Quoted in Behal, Rana P. & Mohapatra, Prabhu P., ‘“Tea and Money versus Human Life’: The Rise and Fall of the Indenture System in the Assam Tea Plantations 1840–1908”, in E. Valentine, Daniel H. Bernstein, and Tom Brass, (eds), Plantations, Peasants and Proletarians in Colonial Asia (London, 1992), pp. 142172, 153 . In 1921, of the approximately 280,000 workers in the jute industry only 24 per cent were Bengalis. The largest proportion came from Bihar (33 per cent) followed by UP (23), Orissa (10), Madras (4) and the rest of the country and outside (3). Dipesh Chakrabarty, Rethinking Working-Class History: Bengal 1890–1940 [ppbk] (Delhi, 1996), p. 9. The destinations changed over a period. In the 1840s and 1850s, Chota Nagpur supplied 40–50 per cent of the indenture emigrants, but subsequently became the main region of supply for tea coolies. Similarly, in the last two decades of the nineteenth century, indenture emigration from UP shifted considerably in favour of the internal migration to Bengal and Assam. See Chaudhury, Pradipta, “Labour Migration from the United Provinces, 1881–1911”, Studies in History, 8:1 (1992), pp. 1341, 14 .

10 Tiwari, Badri Narayan, “Separation, Emotion and History: A Study of Bidesia Bhav in Indentured Migration”, Man in India, 92, 2, (2012), pp. 281297 . In recent times, a new revisionism, proposing the simultaneity of connections and dislocations is on the rise. For instance, see Huber, Valeska, Channeling Mobilities: Migration and Globalisation in the Suez Canal Region and Beyond, 1869–1914 (Cambridge, 2013).

11 Mohapatra, Prabhu P., ‘“Restoring the Family’: Wife Murders and the Making of a Sexual Contract for Indian Immigrant Labour in the British Caribbean Colonies, 1860–1920”, Studies in History, 11:2 (1995), pp. 227260, 231 . Evidently, Smita Tewari Jassal has misquoted the figure as twenty-three per cent, though her reference to Mohapatra’s article is correct. Jassal, , “Taking Liberties in Festive Song: Gender, New Technologies and a ‘Joking Relationship”’, Contributions to Indian Sociology, 41:1 (2007), pp. 540, 28 .

12 Chakrabarty, Rethinking, p. 9. For the overall period, it rarely exceeded 14–16 per cent. Sen, Samita, “Unsettling the Household: Act VI (of 1901) and the Regulation for Women Migrants in Colonial Bengal”, International Review in Social History, 41:S4, (1996), pp. 135156, 137 (henceforth, IRSH).

13 A notable exception is Samita Sen. She has not only explored the gendered nature of the factory workforce, but has also suggested a link “between male migration and intensification of women’s work in the rural economy”. Quote from Joshi, Chitra, “Histories of Indian Labour: Predicaments and Possibilitie”, History Compass, 6:2 (2008), pp. 439454, 445–446 . Also see Sen, Samita, Women and Labour in Colonial India (Cambridge, 1999) and “Gendered Exclusion: Domesticity and Dependence in Bengal”, IRSH, 42:S5 (1997), pp. 65–86. Also, Mohapatra, Prabhu, “A Short Note on a Long View on Labour Mobility in India”, Labour and Development, 9:2 (2003), pp. 2130 .

14 On themes of slavery and migration in the Indian Ocean, Gwyn Campbell’s edited volumes are noteworthy. See for instance, Campbell, G. and Stanziani, A., (eds), Bonded Labour and Debt in the Indian Ocean World (London, 2013).

15 Mohapatra, Prabhu P., “Eurocentrism, Forced Labour, and Global Migration: A Critical Assessment”, IRSH, 52:1 (2007), pp. 110115 .

16 On maritime lascars, see Ahuja, Ravi, “Mobility and Containment: The Voyages of South Asian Seamen, c. 1900–1960”, IRSH, 51:S14 (2006), pp. 111141 .

17 Sen, “Unsettling the Household”, p. 138. Arjan de Haan questions the intentionality of the jute mill managers or the state in keeping the labour force floating although he does agree that they profited from it. de Haan, Arjan, “The Badli System in Industrial Labour Recruitment: Managers’ and Workers’ Strategies in Calcutta’s Jute Industry”, Contributions to Indian Sociology, 33:1–2 (1999), pp. 271301 .

18 A good summary of this debate is in Jan Lucassen, Lucassen, Leo, and Manning, Patrick (eds), “Introduction”, Migration History in World History: Multidisciplinary Approaches, (Leiden [etc.], 2010).

19 For an exception, see Brettell, Caroline B., Men Who Migrate, Women Who Wait: Population and History in a Portuguese Parish (Princeton, NJ, 1986) and Sen, Women and Labour, ch. 2. Brettell makes use of a variety of historical sources as well as ethnographic modes of inquiry to create a thick description of social and economic contexts, particularly related to land and property ownership, in which men migrated. Such wide-ranging use of sources from wills and testaments to those of church records and songs is beyond the methodological scope of this article, precisely because we simply don’t have such kinds of sources for social marginals and subalterns who migrated from the rural to the city. Also, the question of why the men migrated from the Gangetic region of India, is fairly well researched in the existing literature. For instance, see Chaudhury, “Labour Migration”; Sen, Women and Labour, pp. 65–69.

20 Mohapatra, “Eurocentrism”, pp. 114–115. For different places and networks, the figures would vary. For instance, only twenty-five per cent of the workforce that migrated to the West Indies ever returned to India. This does not, however, foreclose the option of in-between circularity and migration before “finally” settling down in one place. Figure from Mohapatra, “Restoring the Family”, p. 230.

21 Markovits, Claude et al., Society and Circulation: Mobile People and Itinerant Cultures in South Asia 17501950 (Delhi, 2003), p. 3 .

22 With layers of categories existing in between, such as commuter, migrant and itinerant. Kerr, Ian J., “On the Move: Circulating Labor in Pre-Colonial, Colonial, and Post-Colonial India”, IRSH, 51:S14 (2006), pp. 85109 .

23 One can have reservations about the word “random”, as mostly these movements were regulated, even if they appeared otherwise; the important observation is that for writing the “globalizing” histories of labour, the category of mobile coolie-lascar is inescapable. Balachandran, G., “Making Coolies, (Un)making Workers: “Globalizing” Labour in the Late-19th and Early-20th Centuries”, Journal of Historical Sociology, 24:3 (2011), pp. 266296, 268 .

24 Chaudhury, “Labour Migration”, p. 21.

25 So, while attempting to break new grounds, to this author, the text of Jan Lucassen, Leo Lucassen, and Patrick Manning, still inadequately theorizes the writing of the migration history from the non-migrant perspective. Lucassen, et al., “Migration History: Multidisciplinary Approaches”, in idem, Migration History in World History: Multidisciplinary Approaches (Leiden [etc.], 2010), pp. 338 . See also, Lucassen and Lucassen, “Theorizing”, esp. p. 460. This is also the case with Sunil Amrith, “South Indian Migration, c.1800–1950”, in Lucassen, Jan and Lucassen, Leo (eds), Globalising Migration History: The Eurasian Experience (16th–21st Centuries) (Leiden [etc.], 2014), pp. 122148 .

26 Shrivastava, Madhusri, “The ‘Bhojpuriya’ Mumbaikar: Straddling Two Worlds”, Contributions to Indian Sociology, 49, 1, (2015), p. 87 , pp. 77–101. For the interview of a filmmaker on the subject of migration from this region, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7rPJ5EoVYic; last accessed 27 February 2018. See also https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FYK9tgBsxrQ>; last accessed 27 February 2018.

27 Thus, adding a different perspective to place and home than that offered by Balachandran, for instance. Boehmer, Elleke and Mondal, Anshuman, “Network and Traces: An Interview with Amitav Ghosh”, Wasafiri, 22:2 (2012), pp. 3035 .

28 Prabhu P. Mohapatra, “A Short Note”; Sen, “Commercial Recruiting”, p. 1.

29 Apart from the articles of Mohapatra and Sen already cited, see Sen, Samita, “Questions of Consent: Women’s Recruitment for Assam Tea gardens, 1859–1900”, Studies in History, 18:2 (2002), pp. 231260 . Very recently, the use of Hindi printed materials to analyse the female issue has been attempted, but here, again, the woman dealt with is a migrant-subject. Gupta, Charu, “‘Innocent’ Victims/‘Guilty’ Migrants: Hindi Public Sphere, Caste and Indentured Women in Colonial North India”, Modern Asian Studies, 49:5 (2015), pp. 13451377 . The prominent scholar of Bhojpuri migration therefore marks this theme out as one possible area for future research that “we need to know more about”. de Haan, Arjan, “Migration and Livelihoods in Historical Perspective: A Case Study of Bihar, India”, The Journal of Development Studies, 32:5 (2002), pp. 115142 .

30 Ghosh, A., Sea of Poppies (New Delhi, 2008).

31 Tiwari, “Separation, Emotion and History”, p. 286.

32 Compare Prabhu Mohapatra, “Longing and Belonging: The Dilemma of Return Among Indian Immigrants in the Carribean”, IIAS Yearbook (Leiden, 1996). One of the most popular Bhojpuri folksongs representing the idealized “home country” for indentures is by Raghuvir Narayan, Batohiya, composed in 1911. For the original text, see http://kavitakosh.org/kk/बटोहिया_/_रघुवीर_नारायण; last accessed 1 October 2017.

33 Brettell, Men Who Migrate, p. 140.

34 Sen, Samita, “Impossible Immobility: Marriage, Migration and Trafficking in Bengal”, Economic and Political Weekly, LI, 44–45 (2016), pp. 4654 .

35 Chatterjee, Joya, “On Being Stuck in Bengal: Immobility in the ‘Age of Migration’”, Modern Asian Studies, 51:2 (2017), pp. 511541 .

36 Brettell, Men Who Migrate, esp. pp. 136–138.

37 In periods of acute shortages, such as famines, family migration took place. Sen, Women and Labour, p. 70.

38 Even De Haan, who questions the centrality of managers’ strategy in devising the badli system, accepts that during the interviews workers admitted to the harshness of the city life and mill working conditions that forced them to return to the villages “to recuperate”. De Haan, “The Badli System”, p. 282.

39 Mohapatra, “A Short”.

40 Kerr, “On the Move”, pp. 87–88. A point also made by the Lucassens in “Theorizing”.

41 Orsini, Francesca, Print and Pleasure: Popular Literature and Entertaining Fictions in Colonial North India (Ranikhet, 2009).

42 Summarized from Orsini, “Introduction”, Print and Pleasure.

43 Ibid., p. 32.

44 On the relationship of one particular genre, bidesiya with that of the earlier tradition of bhakti metaphors, see Prakash, Brahma, “Performing Bidesiya in Bihar: Strategy for Survival, Strategies for Performance, Asian Theatre Journal, 33:1 (2016), pp. 5781, 62 .

45 A deeper investigation along this line can be a very interesting theme on its own, but is beyond the scope of this article.

46 Orsini, Print and Pleasure, p. 51.

47 The Hindi word patiyaan would literally translate as “letters”, but communication between the city migrant and his rural wife was not only maintained through formal exchange of such. Individuals from within the larger network of kin, village, caste, and region moved back and forth, bringing news from both ends. Therefore, I have chosen to translate patiyaan as “word”. Letters, nonetheless, remained the most important method of communication in overseas indenture. See Tiwari, “Separation”, pp. 291–292.

48 Prasad, Munshi Lala Bhagwati, Bahaar Varsha (Kanpur, 1902). With certain changes, another text was published by two authors with the encouragement of Munshi Lala Bhagwati Prasad, Munshidas and Lalaram, Baramasa (Bithur (printed in Kanpur), 1904). I do not comment on the internal organization of the texts in which doha and shayari existed side by side, or on the discursive formations such as the centrality of the figure of Krishna in another birahmasa. See, Das, Brijballabh, Birahmasa (Patna, 1881). My concern here is to remain focused on the issue of depictions around the theme of migration and portrayal/construction of womanhood.

49 Sohar songs are sung at the birth of a child (usually that of a son) and tend to be gleeful. Bidesiya (from the word bides, meaning foreign land) songs signified a more or less permanent migration to places such as Suriname, Fiji, Mauritius, or British Guyana. The chance of return was slim. In contrast, the poorbi or purabiya songs and performances had the cyclical/circulatory nature of migration at their core. These were often characterized by male migration to places such as Bengal and Rangoon, but with the possibility of returning to home, either seasonally or permanently. Badri Narayan Tiwari, “Bidesia: Migration, Change and Folk Culture”, IIAS Newsletter, 30 March 2003, available at: http://iias.asia/sites/default/files/IIAS_NL30_12.pdf; last accessed 3 September 2017.

50 Dev Upadhyaya, Krishna, Bhojpuri Lokgeet Bhaag 3 [Bhojpuri Folksongs Part 3] (Patna, 1984), p. 26 .

51 Idem, Bhojpuri Lok Sanskriti [Bhojpuri Folk Culture] (Prayag, 1976, reprint 1991), p. 25. Translation by author.

52 Ibid., p. 36.

53 The essence here is to extract a promise from the husband that he will not cohabit with another woman and that he will care for his wife’s well-being. Upadhyaya, Bhojpuri Lokgeet, p. 160.

54 There are songs, though, in which they explain why they migrated. See Tiwari, “Separation”, pp. 288–290.

55 Upadhyaya, Bhojpuri Lokgeet, p. 169. In a barahmasa with the sawal-jawab structure, which is of the same conversational type, the husband accepts that he, too, would suffer from being away from his wife and that he would become a jogi (ascetic) in Bengal, but keeps pleading for his beautiful wife to let him go. Husenilal, Barahmasa: Naagar Sundar ka Jawab Sawal (Kanpur, n.d.), pp. 5–8.

56 Upadhayaya, Bhojpuri Lok Sanskriti, p. 29.

57 A practice also popular in northern Portuguese societies where wives-in-waiting dressed in black and earned the epithet of “widows in the waiting”. Brettell, Men Who Migrate, p. 95.

58 In fact, dependency is embedded in the manner of pleading itself: “My beloved, listen to me, this pain is unbearable, I request you with my bowing head, [if you leave] who will take my responsibility”. Husenilal, Barahmasa, p. 4.

59 Upadhyaya, Bhojpuri Lokgeet, p. 237.

60 Idem, Bhojpuri Lok Sanskriti, p. 73.

61 So, although envious of each other, a striking and fatal similarity exists between the wife and the Bengalin co-wife in two different folksongs, which are structurally the same. In the one dealing with the wife, the mother-in-law poisons her before asking her to sleep in the father-in-law’s bed, so that she could present the wife’s moral depravation to her son, who would then punish his wife. In the co-wife song, the mother-in-law instigates her daughter-in-law to mix poison into the flour and give it to the Bengalin before the mother-in-law asks her (the Bengalin) to go to bed with the father-in-law. In both cases, the enraged husband strikes the wife or the co-wife hard with a stick before realizing that they were already drugged. Death was the shared outcome of this violence, just as the body was its inducement. Songs with English translations in Smita Tewar Jassal, Unearthing Gender, pp. 53–57.

62 Sinha, Akhileshwar, Bhojpuri Lokgeeton Mein Sanskaar (Patna, 2008), p. 15 .

63 Ibid., p. 203. Reference to this quick double displacement, that is, first leaving the natal house and then being left by the husband, is widespread in these songs. Also see ibid., p. 273.

64 A reliable translation of this song in English is available at: http://qawwal.blogspot.de/2010/03/kaahe-ko-biyahe-bides-by-hazrat-amir.html; last accessed 6 September 2017.

65 Sinha, Bhojpuri Lokgeeton, p. 212. The distinction between a boy and a girl child is ingrained in these cultural texts. Dance and song accompany the birth of a boy, mourning is observed on the birth of a girl. Upadhyaya, Bhojpuri Lokgeet, p. 421; Upadhyaya, Bhojpuri Lok Sanskriti, pp. 18–21. Songs in which girls demand their “half share” in the father’s property are rare. Jassal, Unearthing Gender, pp. 123–125, 129. The relationship between inheritance and migration, as Brettell has explored, is not discernible in these folksongs. So even when “brothers” got the major share of the father’s property, no folksongs suggest that this kind of inheritance made migration meaningless. Also, in contrast to Brettell’s parish, women did not inherit in this region, which meant practices such as widows and aged women becoming attractive marriage prospects or the presence of wealthy spinsters were entirely absent. The region remains notoriously infamous for early marriage, especially of girls, which has only slowly begun to change in the last twenty to thirty years. Cf. Brettell, Men Who Migrate, ch. 3.

66 This emotional architecture is not fixed. When Ram and Lakshman have come together with Sita (Ram’s wife) then their access is upgraded. The brothers get a seat in the courtyard and Sita occupies a more intimate space in kohbar (loosely translated, bedroom or an intimate ritual room). Upadhyaya, Bhojpuri Lokgeet, p. 182.

67 Sinha, Bhojpuri Lokgeeton, p. 92. In the full song, the wife does go to search for her earring, even in the farm and the field. There is always a renewed binary of accessibility and inaccessibility present in the song, which can be understood more as a narrative construction than the reflection of a fixed social fact. So, she went to the farm and the field to search for her jewellery, but felt embarrassed about looking for it on the road and near the well.

68 Ibid., p. 92.

69 Particularly at the time of the child birth. Upadhyaya, Bhojpuri Lokgeet, p. 115.

70 Sinha, Bhojpuri Lokgeeton, p. 98. And precisely because of going to naihar, she also had to suffer from her husband’s as well as other in-laws’s indifferent attitude. The homes become the site of playful mock reprimand as well as serious discipline. The sasural is also a home where the visits by the girl’s kin, especially her brother, become restrictive and are taunted by the in-laws. The jantsar (grain-pounding) genre of songs, which are usually sung in an all-female space, capture this. Jassal, Unearthing Gender, p. 46.

71 It is only for want of any better term that “static” can capture the situation in the conjugal home, otherwise, as also explained below, marriage and then migration led to an increase in new kinds of work for women. Furthermore, if migration of the husband meant a change of balance in the social relationships existing in sasural, with time, the bonding with naihar also underwent changes. In other words, neither the women’s social world is “static”, nor either of their households.

72 Upadhyaya, Bhojpuri Lokgeet, p. 332.

73 Sinha, Bhojpuri Lokgeeton, p. 42. Other folksongs dealing with the behaviour and speech of female in-laws also have similar expressions. In contrast, the flavour of speech of the husband is sugar-coated. Upadhyaya, Bhojpuri Lokgeet, pp. 136, 153.

74 Banerjee, Nirmala, “Working Women in Colonial Bengal: Modernization and Marginalization”, in Kumkum Sangari and Suresh Vaid, (eds), Recasting Women, Kali for Women (New Delhi, 1989), pp. 269301 . Sen, Women and Labour, pp. 71–74. Some folksongs also refer to this directly; the wife asks the migrating husband who would help her in reaping and bringing the grain to the market, suggesting the increased household chores as well as agrarian work. Upadhyaya, Bhojpuri Lokgeet, p. 185.

75 Jassal cogently argues that these folksongs indicate women’s contribution to the peasant household economy, but also, and perhaps more importantly, “the uncompensated and unrecognised nature of this contribution”. Jassal, Unearthing Gender, p. 14.

76 Originally a Persian word, rozgaar had different meanings such as “day”, “time”, “toil”, and “labour”. In this period, the meaning had stabilized into wage-based employment.

77 Upadhyaya, Bhojpuri Lokgeet, p. 89.

78 Ibid., p. 214.

79 Jassal, “Taking Liberties”.

80 Upadhyaya, Bhojpuri Lokgeet, p. 214. A lot of folksongs are centred around the choli (blouse). More explicitly, apropos the desire of all three main male in-laws (father, elder and younger brothers), see ibid., p. 227. Also see, Sen, Women and Labour, p. 84.

81 Personally collected from the author’s family member. The musical composition can be heard at: https://www.raaga.com/carnatic/song/album/Jhumar-Vol-2-BJ000036/Railgadi-Se-Utraa-68741 last accessed 20 October 2017.

82 In other folksongs, we find references to different types of jewellery for women and to watches and bicycles as gifts for men. Upadhyaya, Bhojpuri Lokgeet, p. 95.

83 These three towns are situated along the Ganga in the migrant belt. Ibid., p. 196.

84 Ibid., p. 167. The enmity caused by the husband bringing better gifts for his wife is the theme of many folksongs, sometimes evoking suspicion on the part of female in-laws as to whether these gifts were truly brought by the husband or if the wife received them from someone else, possibly her secret lover.

85 Scholars like Upadhyaya were writing in the period of nationalism, so they categorically labelled these men as “evil”; otherwise, this type of condemnation is not readily noticed in folksongs.

86 Bhikhari Thakur’s ability to weave songs from different genres and also performances, particularly lower-castes, to make one bidesiya genre is well explained in Prakash, “Performing Bidesiya”, pp. 64–66.

87 For Jassal, the cultural worlds of women and men were separated in concrete ways. I tend to disagree with this if we look at these songs as mediums through which gendered subjecthood was constructed and represented. Jassal, Unearthing Gender, p. 23. But, as far as performative spaces are concerned, Jassal’s argument of segregation has validity. Also insightful is her suggestion that these songs had a didactic purpose as well; they can be seen as preparing womenfolk for the hardships they would encounter in their social life. Jassal, Unearthing Gender, pp. 69–70.

88 Shrivastava, “The ‘Bhojpuriya’ Mumbaikar”, p. 95.

89 As an extension of this discursive formation can be read the popular image of “childlike husband” or “feeble husband” who cannot physically satisfy his wife. The fault, if any, was again that of the woman, of her past lives’ deeds. And this “feebleness” justified the opposite image of the “shrewd” Bengali women.

90 In the existing scholarship, through ethnography, this issue has been discussed – see Jassal, Unearthing Gender. For the mix of religion and caste from the standpoint of itinerant performers and singers with an eye on the long durée, a compelling account is found in Catherine Servan-Schreiber, “Tellers of Tales, Sellers of Tales: Bhojpuri Peddlers in Northern India”, in Markovits et al., Society and Circulation, pp. 275–305. For those who migrated, the lexicon of “community” takes precedence over caste. For instance, see Prakash, “Performing Bidesiya”, esp. pp. 62–64.

91 Prakash, “Performing Bidesiya”, esp. pp. 62–64.

92 Sinha, Bhojpuri Lokgeeton is a good example of this.

* A preliminary draft of this article was presented at the Association of Asian Studies, Tokyo 2012. I am thankful to the participants for their comments. Parts of the paper were presented at ADRI International Conference, “Bihar and Jharkhand: Shared History to Shared Vision”, March 24–28 2017, Patna in which comments made by Alok Rai and Smita Tewari Jassal were particularly useful. A series of discussions with Nitin Varma, Maria Framke, and Vidhya Raveendranathan helped me when I revisited this source material of folksongs under my current project on domestic servants in India. The project is funded by European Research Council (ERC, grant agreement no. 640627). I am also thankful to the three anonymous reviewers who helped me sharpen my arguments. I also thank Elizabeth Stone and Josefine Hoffman for helping me with the text and footnotes. All songs, words, and phrases translated by the author unless otherwise stated.

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International Review of Social History
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