Kaalsuri, Taluka – Mhasala, Zilla – Raigad

The next stop was Mhasala taluka in Raigad district which is one of the four districts that makes up the Konkan region on the western coast of Maharashtra. To get to Mhasala, we had to board the state transport bus to Shrivardhan – a popular seaside haunt that is 20 kms away from Mhasala. Since this was just a day long trip to get a feel of the place, we managed to visit only one village – Kaalsuri. It is a pretty little village and abuts a creek. Further down from Kaalsuri is a Koliwada or a settlement of fisherfolks. Today would have been a very festive atmosphere in the village. Traditionally, it is on narali purnima (Coconut day coinciding with Raksha Bandhan) that fishermen offer coconuts to Varuna – the sea god for protection from dangers. Fishing operations that have been halted because of the monsoon then commence only after the sea god has been propitiated. This narali purnima will be slightly low key though, what with abandoned ships leaking oil regularly washing up on Mumbai’s shoreline. The fisherfolk here too have suspended fishing activities till such time that it is deemed safe to venture into the sea. 
Village by the creek
Kaalsuri was an interesting reiteration of earlier observations on the role that social institutions play in creating strong governance structures. Kaalsuri did not have a panchayat of its own. The village’s affairs were looked after by a person who was the representative for an organization that was founded in the village in 1946. The villagers dismantled the panchayat that they elected on grounds of mismanagement and ever since rely upon a single person’s leadership in partnership with the gram sevak for governance. Mumbai powers all life in the Konkan. Not surprisingly, the organization that Kaalsuri’s representative belongs to is headquartered in Mumbai by migrants from the village and is called the Kaalsuri Gram Seva Mandal, Kaalsuri and Mumbai. Its building is bigger and more grander than that of the gram panchayat’s office perhaps indicative of where the governance power centre lies in this place. Another village that I visited in Chandgad, had pooled in funds and was building a huge temple adjacent to their tiny dilapidated gram panchayat office. Kaalsuri too is currently monitoring the work in progress for a big temple in their village – again from funds pooled in by the villagers. The Konkan has a very sizable and visible Muslim population. Juxtaposing this dynamic against the Chandgad observations on seeking participation promises to make for an interesting experience whenever next the opportunity appears. 
Kaalsuri Gram Seva Mandal, Kalsuri and Mumbai
Kaalsuri’s Gram Panchayat office
Work in progress for a temple at Kaalsuri
Mhasala, marked the end of the exploratory field work for the summer. The value of ethnography and of spending long times in the field hit home after this trip. Unlike others this was a short jaunt. Yes, ethnography is all about getting close and long enough to get the emic perspective. The text books say this, the research methodology says this and you know it. Yet, it is one think knowing and reading about a methodology and a completely different journey when you actually practice it for long enough to experience the value of an epistemology. With Kaalsuri, there was so much to uncover. The three interviews that I conducted hinted at so many tangles waiting to be neatly made smoother – question by question, observation by observation. Maybe it is a good thing to leave the field knowing the kind of questions that need to be further asked than with answers that do not require further interrogation. 
Ending the post with images from the road trip shot from the bus over bumpy potholed roads. The monsoon love affair continues. 
 Lake Mulshi lies beyond 

Mulshi:Paddy fields and power stations

Mulshi: Solar panels of the TATA Power plant waiting for the sun

Fields on the banks of the Mulshi

The lake

Playtime before school

The wait

Our cockroach infested bus gets a flat tire on the Tamhini ghat

The driver pleased with his efforts being photographed

Crawling from down under

To college, to college in Maangaon, Raigad

The bus is here

Sneak peek of lovely pink 
Backwater boats

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