Real India: "I’m the Village Guy"

Click to listen in on Chris’s conversation with Barathi Raja Reddy in Tamil Nadu. (17 minutes, 8 mb mp3)

Barathi Raja Reddy is the Indian entrepreneur we didn’t expect to meet.

He’s a young man of the Old India happy to be dropping out of the New.  He is a soft-spoken Hindu nationalist who enjoys the social comfort of his land-owning upper caste, denoted by the name Reddy.  

As he guides us around a mid-summer river festival in honor of a local god who brings rain and safety to Barathi’s village, he is acting out his devotion to the colorful rituals of a uniformly Hindu culture. He says he’s fond of the many Muslims he knows face to face, not so fond of the Muslim masses he’s never met in Pakistan and Iran.  

He’s impatient at age 24 for his parents to arrange an appropriate same-caste marriage that family and village will all approve.  And he’s ready to assume the burden and glory of farming the beautiful acreage that his grandfather bought, irrigated and cultivated more than 50 years ago.  

So Barathi is moving this summer from the bustle and pollution of Bangalore, where he’s been driving cars, taxis and auto-rickshaws (Vespas with a covered seat for 3 passengers) for 70 hours a week the last three years. And he’s reimagining his life a couple of hundred kilometers to the south, in the state of Tamil Nadu. He will be growing rice and sugar cane and building his own plastic recycling plant in the cause of greening India and enriching himself, if he can, by hard work in an emerging industry.  

“Why not?” he said, flashing that handsome smile.   Indian cities are over-rated, Barathi remarked. Indian city-planning is a failure, he’s concluded. Bangalore is over-populated and over busy. It’s polluted and stressed, no place to be bringing up children. So he is happy to be moving against the tide, back toward home.

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  • jim

    In the last third of the interview, i couldn’t help but reflect on Chris’ interview with Robert Richardson about how, as a result of Emerson, such a large percentage of Americans believe they are in the top few percent of earners, or have an expectation of being there.

    The different beliefs and viewpoints regarding the value of individuals, and belief in their power or potential was quite a shock to me as there seemed to be no middle ground here in the mind of Mr. Reddy. I wonder if the lower castes (sp) would share his sentiment.

    My point is not to say that my beliefs are superior but just to reflect the difference in thinking, where it comes from, and how change can occur. This is one of many times that i wish Chris would take off the journalist hat and give personal thoughts.

    Jim in Oklahoma

  • Thank for such an honest conversation. I must say, this was possibly the first time I have heard someone conduct an interview with someone from a vastly less privileged background without any condescension whatsoever.

    Jim, I agree some of the opinions and positions of Mr Reddy were, what the modern world would label, medieval. But I just thought by letting them stand by themselves, the podcast stood out in its empathy. I just wish I can have half as good a conversation with anyone in this world — let alone a small farmer in my own State of Tamil Nadu.

  • Potter

    I did not know what to make of this one. Grateful for Chris’s translations since the English, though admirable, was difficult for me. But the intro here plus these comments help. My own perhaps not so brilliant thought is that this young man is quite comfortable with the way things are because he is quite comfortable. And I relate this Old India to what is happening here in the US now regarding upper and lower “castes” especially after reading Bob Herbert’s column in the NYTmes today Of Janitors and Kings

    BR Reddy is wise I think about going back to the land, his village for a better quality life.

    And I agree with the comment above about our dear interviewer’s ability to have a meaningful conversation with just about anyone.

  • br reddy

    thanks for your comment ,what i am said is happening in india .I like to see change theire life ,it will take time MR.POTTER possitive things are not possible in oneday night right?