Wednesday, 15 December 2010


Who lives in Charlbury one wonders. The train is stalled somewhere between Oxford and some-place-in-Cotswold. The train manager makes the solemn announcement. The one that ends with apologies. Outside the carriage window stretches the polite landscape– the rolling hills, fields ripening green and gold, honey coloured houses with grey roofs, blue sky with puffed up white clouds, some horses, more than some sheep and that tree maybe single or sometimes maybe in pairs but always large and magnificent.

So, where are we? Glancing at the name of the station as the train came to an unceremonious halt the eye had caught the words Charlbury. This is Charlbury one says. Who lives in Charlbury? What kind of people? What are their lives like? And the mind wades across Tess of the d'Urbervilles, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and Far from the Madding Crowd. It takes in Emma’s Highbury and even the gentle ladies of Cranford. But a small voice says that was then, this is 2010. And then another voice says but back home when a name like Devli or Peepli comes up (when one is inside a train or zipping by in a car towards Delhi or Bombay) one says, “My Godness! Look at it. It’s like some place out of a novel by Premchand!” And everyone nods sagely for that is that. These few words clearly bring forth not just the life and struggles of the people but even the worry lines on their foreheads. And the crinkle in the eyes that one gets by looking often towards the sky– in hope and in despair. One can even call them by their names– Anandi, Budhia, Ramprasad, Hori, Dhanpat, Bholi. Nothing has changed. Neither the physical setting, nor the people, neither the struggle of their day to day life. One almost blurts out what year is it?

But here in Charlbury- who lives?

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