A sample of the cross cultural relations that existed between the missionary and the original dwellers (Adivasi).
Ferdinand Hahn moved his family from Ranchi to Lohardaga to replace Missionary Lorbeer who already had moved to Ghazipur to the north. The departing missionary had grown weary of the isolation and challenges of the Lohardaga mission station and moved north to revive the Ganges Mission. Ferdinand came with every intention of leaving his preconceptions behind to start afresh in his new endeavor.
An entourage of porters carrying all the Hahn’s worldly belongings journeyed along primitive paths through the forest for two and a half days. Doris and the three small children were carried in a pulki. Ferdinand walked about a third of the way, when the terrain was too difficult for his horse. The Adivasi porters sang the whole distance or shouted to each other. Ferdinand thought they must be telling each other crass jokes the way they laughed as they walked freely along the way.
Periodically they came upon an opening in the woods and a village surrounded by terraced fields. At each village a new group of men carried their belongings and traveled with them to the next village. This was an age-old tradition among the Adivasi; a reciprocal system using labor in exchange for goods and services. The generosity shown to help a traveler or person in need was never a matter of obligation, it was a matter of reciprocity. Co-reliance sustained the Adivasi peoples for centuries and their most precious jal, jungal, jamin (water, forest and land).
This age old practice was easily exploited by the outsiders such as landlords and the English, who were masterful in turning reciprocity into obligation. People who were outside of the money economy were forced to pay tariffs through all kinds of work. Ferdinand of course paid his porters what he could. However, because he did not have much money, he soon came to rely on this system of reciprocity and mutual exchange.
Lohardaga was full of promise. Life was quieter and simpler. Doris Hahn was glad to be free of the petty squabbles among missionary wives. Their home had earlier been a converted stables that belonged to a British officer twenty years ago. The Lorbeers had turned the stables into a comfortable home. Ferdinand dreamed that one day he would build a new bungalow with more rooms for his growing family.
Local Oraons worked alongside them to assist most generously in helping the new missionary family settle. To secure beams when fixing the roof, they produced a strong rope made from grasses. They suggested where supplies could be obtained and how to prepare for the rains. In exchange the workers were given a modest meal for their services.
The Oraon women showed Doris how to utilize the outdoor kitchen, covered by a thatched roof and two mud walls. Most of the room was taken up by the dheki, rice pounder. They taught her how to pump the long wooden beam, balanced on a fulcrum, with her foot, so that the “hammer” on the other end would pound the husk off the few handfuls of rice lying in a hole in the ground.
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