‘Balik kampung’ documentary tells sad tale of dying village culture

‘Lost Village’ is a beautifully shot documentary capturing the story of the vanishing Indian village of Arawade. (Veda Vision pic)

PETALING JAYA: “Balik kampung” is an endeared term that most if not all Malaysians are familiar with.

After all, it is a term heard most frequently during festive seasons such as this, and it’s the title and chorus of a particularly catchy earworm of Sudirman’s.

While the Covid-19 crisis has put a temporary halt on Malaysians’ travel plans, it is likely that this culture is not going anywhere any time soon.

Or is it? As urbanisation continues to take hold all around the world, villages and rural areas in general are increasingly overshadowed by the towering skyscrapers of cities.

Increasingly, more of the world’s population lives in urban rather than rural areas.

This is indeed the case for India, where 500,000 villages are currently endangered as people flock to cities in search of career opportunities.

Arawade, located 450 km southeast of Mumbai, is one of many farming villages in India. (Veda Vision pic)

For people born surrounded by the comforts of modern life, it might seem absurd to suggest that village life has its benefits.

But according to YouTube documentary, “Lost Village”, there is merit to leading an idyllic and peaceful life away from the city.

Filmed primarily in the Indian village of Aravade, the documentary focuses on how village life is slowly being eroded in favour of modern values.

Located 450 km southeast of Mumbai, the village is the hometown of Lokanath Swami, a Hare Krishna guru.

Despite being widely travelled, he always returns to peaceful Aravade to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.

While villages may lack modern amenities, people living there are said to be healthier and more content with their lot, being self-sufficient farmers.

Villagers often do not have much in terms of earthly possessions, but they can live happily without modern electricity or gas.

Arawade is also the hometown of Hare Krishna guru, Lokanath Swami (centre, in orange robe). (Veda Vision pic)

Spirituality is also a facet of everyday life in villages, as villagers partake in religious ceremonies in hopes of a better tomorrow.

It also helps that the entire village is akin to a single-family unit, and unlike in cities where one can live an entire life not knowing their neighbours, everyone in a village looks out for each other.

Cultural traditions that have been passed on for generations are also preserved, though the introduction of modern values has started to change things.

In a part of the documentary, it reveals that traditional farmers are now turning to tractors instead of traditional bullock carts to toil their fields.

For many, this turns out to be a tragic mistake as they are unable to afford these modern machineries and end up taking their own lives to escape debt.

Simple village life may be better than life in the squalid slums of Mumbai, where millions of people live. (Veda Vision pic)

The latter half of the documentary turns toward Mumbai, the City of Dreams, as it is known in India.

But despite its promises of jobs and better lives, many families arriving in the densely populated city find themselves living in slums.

The wealth disparity within the city is stark as million-dollar apartments loom over million-people slums.

In spite of the modernity of cities, life is even harsher and sometimes joyless, as people look out for themselves rather than each other.

Ultimately, the documentary asks viewers to consider the fact that while cities offer a comfortable modern life, life in rural villages can be far simpler but more meaningful.