Hunkered down on his painfully thin haunches, Yusuf Subhan spoke with the quiet confidence of the revolutionary he had only recently learned he was.
"Right now," he said, "with the new government in Delhi, we have no real worries. We expect them to improve our lives. But if they think they can stay in power for 30 years without giving us what we want, they're mistaken. We'll vote them out. That's all."
Subhan became a revolutionary in March when he and millions like him ended 30 years of rule by the Congress Party and humbled the imperious Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
The revolution began at the ballot boxes, but it has not ended there. In New Delhi, 65 miles north of Uttawar, politicians and editors, lawyers, professors and industrialists believe the greatest changes lie ahead.
Some welcome this uncertain future; others anticipate it with dread. "I'm afraid we're in for a long period of trouble," an unhappy textile factory owner said recently at a dinner party in the capital.
"You may call it trouble if you wish," countered a normally quiet university professor, one of the few active followers of the former prime minister's arch foe, Jayapra- kash Narayan, to escape imprisonment during the 20-month period of emergency. "But I prefer to see it as a time of turbulence, an end to stability and stagnation, a time in which India will be shaken to its roots. And God knows that's what we desperately need."
Trouble or turbulence: whether either, or neither, lies ahead would seem to depend on people like Subhan. The tradition post-independence revolutionaries of India, the variegated Communist parties, have spent their fervor.
The original Communist Party of India has become too closely identified with the Soviet Union and, more damaging, with its long-standing domestic ally, the Congress Party, to be taken seriously any longer as an independent force striving for genuine change.
Its breakaway faction, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has in recent times given in to the urge for respectability. Marxist leader Jyoti Basu, 62, won an absolute majority in elections to the West Bengal state last month. While Basu said that his party "would like to" form a state coalition government with Prime Minister Morarji Desai's People's Party, he took over last month at the head of a five-party Marxist coalition.
Speaking at his party's headquarters in central Calcutta, the urbane and polished Basu, who learned his communism as a young law student in Britain, quietly conceded that "practically, at some times, we might have to become revisionists." But, he maintained, "we're aware of the danger."
The most radical of India's Communists, the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), called Naxalities, claim that Basu and his Marxist party lost their revolutionary credentials during the emergency. "They lay in the dust along with the rest of the reactionaries," said a young Calcutta Naxalite who spent nearly two years in jail under the Gandhi regime.
In practical terms, what separates the Marxists from the Naxalites is that Basu and his party have turned to the urban workers and their powerful unions for support.This, according to an influential Calcutta newspaper publisher, "has plunged them headlong down the middle of the road, dealing with the big business houses and capitalists. So much for radical politics."
Yet, even the Naxalites, who built a reputation for radicalism on assasinations and terror, have fragmented into a half dozen squabbling groups and have toned down their approach.
In the early 1970s they concentrated on liquidating big landlords in the poorest parts of West Bengal and Bihar. The result, one Naxalite said, was that when a landlord was killed, his sons came forward and held onto the land. Or if landless peasants took over they quickly found they lacked the resources to make the land productive.
"We haven't given up the struggle," he continued. "Not at all. But we've learned we've got to work within the system if we're going to change it."
The real power to change the system, then, seems to be the ballot. Having seen the power of their vote to change a government for the first time in the history of independent India, the Subhans of this land have already put Desai and his new government on notice that they must deliver or else.
Deliver what? "Well," Subhan replied without hesitation, "electricity. We get power here just one hour a day. And on most days it's even less. So we can't run our pumps. We want two hours a day, every day."
A modest enough demand, anyone outside India might think, but that is because the outsider does not realize how quickly the oven-like beat of the northern Indian plains burns up the annual rainfall, so vitally needed for hydroelectric power.
Nor does the outsider understand how poorly maintained the electrical generating equipment is, or how indifferent the power plant workers are about performing their tasks because they consider themselves inadequately paid.
Nor does the outsider generally consider how much total energy is required to provide a mere two hours of pumping time each day for all the parched villages, where more than 500 million people live. Then there are also the cities, where another 100 million live and where a baking summer's day without a blackout is rare.
In Uttawar and in Alibrahmin, 10 miles away, in Delhi and Calcutta, in Madras and Bombay, the litany of complaints is much the same: prices too high, wages too low, strikes in the factories, crime in the streets, corruption everywhere.
"I hate to admit it," the wife of the textile manufacturer said the other evening, turning with some embarrassment from the university professor, "but I think things are nearly as bad as they were before the emergency."
Her disenchantment may be exaggerated. Yet it is a common enough experience, not just in India but throughout the impoverished subcontinent. When there is no change over a long period, expectations are ground into the dusty earth. Fatalism reigns.
Then the unexpected suddenly happens: an Indira Gandhi is toppled from power. A Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto is driven into a corner not long after being hailed as the governing genius of Pakistan. A Sheikh Muqibur Rahman is slain three years after he is enthroned as the father of Bangladesh - and he goes unmourned.
Opponents and successors of the fallen leaders make promises, some of them well-intended, others clearly impossible. Popular expectations, so long dormant, spring to life and they cannot be met, certainly not in the short term. People so long restricted, swiftly grow impatient.
This seems to be what has happened in India in the three months since the downfall of Indira Gandhi's government. Futhermore, the new government, hastily thrown together from an odd mixture of long-time antagonists, has plunged from one political battle to another. No time has been found yet to deal with commitments made and s far not kept.
Now the future is in the hands of people like Subhan. There are also others, not illiterate peasants but highly educated and sophisticated people, who are seeing to it that the spark struck at the ballot boxes is kept alive.
The most significant of these people is Jayaprakah Narayan. At 74 and desperately sick with failing kidneys, Narayan still symbolizes his mentor, Mahatma Gandhi, to millions of Indians.
His call for a "total revolution" was used by Indira Gandhi, who is not related to the Mahatma, as an excuse for imposing a nationwide state of emergency in June 1975. The emergency, it turned, out produced more active followers for Narayan than he could ever have hoped to win on his own.
Now, as he is shuttled between a borrowed apartment above a Bombay newspaper office and a hospital dialysis machine, Narayan manages to keep alive the Mahatma's basic ideal: an India whose economy is based on the strength of its villages.
Desai 81, himself a self-professed follower of Mahatma Gandhi, does not enjoy sharing popularity with Narayan. He has stated publicly that while Narayan was entitled to his own views, "he is not the government."
Differences between the two old men.Narayan the idealist and Desai the pragmatist have caused small but influential groups of intellectuals to work at establishing watchdog groups of citizens.
Some of Desai's critics describe him as "Gandhian, to a point," meaning that they do not believe he would willingly oversee a revolution. "This is natural for anyone who wants to remain in power in the Indian context," one of them said.
For this reason, the watchdog committees are looking more toward the ruling People's Party than to the government as the key instrument in revolutionizing and revitalizing Indian society.
In party president Chandra Shekar, they believe, they have a person who combines Desai's political cunning with earthy appeal and relatively youthful idealism. Born in a tiny village in the poorest part of Uttar Pradesh state, Sheakar, 50, represents a significant break with the post independence Congress Party leadership that ruled India until this spring.
Unlike those defeated politicians, he is far more comfortable speaking Hindi than English, although his command of English is excellent. He does not seem particularly at home with foreign visitors although he is hospitable to them.
Powerfully built with a shaggy, gray-flecked beard, Shekan abounds with disciplined enthusiasm. He began his political career in 1951 by joining the socialist Party after graduating from Allahabad University.
In 1965, the Socialists split and he joined the ruling Congress party. Indira Gundhi proclaimed the emergency, Shekar had joined a small group of rebel Congress members, who demanded that she resign from office. The rebels were jailed.
Now that he heads the People's Party, Shekar said, he realizes that solutions to India's devastating problems require "bold decisions" based on Mahatma Gandhi's ascetic teachings.
As an example, he said the government would begin soon to "spread out the industrial base to the villages" and institute an "atmosphere of austerity in the halls of government." He roted that the vast Indian textile industry, which produces thousands of varieties of "superfine" cloth consumed by "a mere 5 percent of the population" would have to be changed.
"It makes no sense at all for this huge industry to be catering to so small a minority." Shekar said. Flicking the hem of his coarse, homespun cotton sarong he said, "This is the stuff most Indians wear and this is what the industry will have to produce."
None of this has happened yet. The new party and the new government have been completely enmeshed in politics since coming to power. Yet, there is an aura of hope, almost of excitement, in this ancient and tired land.
A white-haired police official in the sacred Ganges River city of Benares summed up the mood this way: "There's been nothing like it since the British left 30 years ago. I'm no longer a boy, God knows, but I'm young all over again. I feel as though we've been given a fresh chance to succeed. The world should pray for us."