In search of the Amaranth

Summer in Kerala is the season of the amaranth. The fields are full of them, the red amaranth in particular. The red amaranth is my favourite vegetable. When we were children, we didn’t have to buy it. We grew it in our backyards and my aunts had to only pluck them and cook them. I would insist on a meal of just rice and amaranth, refusing the curry because I believed it diluted the taste of the amaranth.

As fields, groves and backyards disappeared off the face of this land, we started buying all the vegetables from the market. Markets that sold amaranths that had been rendered tasteless by the pesticides and other chemicals sprayed on them to keep them fresh and perhaps, everlasting! Those years of home grown vegetables fresh from the garden, became a nostalgic memory, especially for my mother, who in her times, had even witnessed rice being cultivated at home. Our ancestors would perhaps be horrified by what we call development…

In their wildest imagination, they would not have conceived the idea of buying packaged water, pesticide treated vegetables or fruits, and processed, ready-to-eat food.

And so, it was with great excitement that I received this news of home-grown vegetables being sold in the neighbourhood.

Kerala has always demonstrated immense potential at creative and innovative solutions to an existing problem. The Kudumbashree organization that empowers women, particularly housewives,  by productively and meaningfully engaging them in the various sectors that can utilize their potential, is a brilliant illustration of such creative thinking.

Kudumbashree is a female-oriented, community-based, poverty reduction project of the Government of Kerala. 

The mission aims at the empowerment of women, through forming self-help groups and encouraging their entrepreneurial or other wide range of activities. The purpose of the mission is to ensure that the women should no longer remain as passive recipients of public assistance, but active leaders in women-involved development initiatives. Kudumbashree movement was launched on May 17, 1998. 

http:// https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kudumbashree

In 2014, the Agriculture department, in association with the Gram Panchayats and organizations such as the Kudumbashree, set up a project to address the problem of scarcity of vegetables and toxic vegetables unfit for consumption. Thus was born Kudumbashree’sOrganic farming project‘.

 Joint liability groups of women farmers are formed under the collective farming initiative to help women cultivators access agricultural credit from the banking system.
The Grama Panchayat supports by giving seeds and manure. Agriculture department officials also provide periodic technical support and advise. 
Through the Collective Farming programme the twin benefits of poverty eradication food security and financial returns through agriculture and increased agricultural production are sought to be accomplished.
The leadership of women and the effectiveness of collective action are shining examples in Perambra’s sustainable employment initiative. Breaking stereotypes, women also do the harvesting and other male dominated activities. Addressing women’s empowerment, poverty alleviation, assured employment, environment and food security has contributed to the success of Kaipram.

http:// http://www.kudumbashree.org/?q=cf2

It was thus that I dropped in at Shobha’s house, asking for some red amaranth.
I’ll just be back‘, she replied and went out of the backdoor.
I waited, and her two children kept me company.
Mom will be back shortly. She is plucking the amaranth‘, the boy said to me, as I paced across the verandah.
I couldn’t help thinking how sensitive he was. He was just four years of age.
Shobha got back shortly, with a bunch of fresh red amaranth.
Would you have any other vegetables now?‘, I asked her.
You can take a look‘, she said.
I followed her to the backyard. I let out an exclamation as I caught sight of her vegetable garden. It was a big square piece of land, and she had transformed it into a green paradise. I was speechless as I took in the snake gourds and bitter gourds hanging off the trellis erected from wooden poles and dried coconut palms. It reminded me of the vineyards from ‘Namukku parkkan munthiri thoppukal‘…

King Solomon’s green paradise.

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Snake gourds and bitter gourds hung from the trellis...

I walked into the cool shade of the trellis, the gourds hanging about me. That they were so within reach and I could just pluck them was still hard to believe! The climbers had formed a natural roof and I had to pinch myself to believe this was real. The children followed me for they were amused by my obvious excitement. Little did they know the value of what they had. By modern world standards, this was pure luxury that was beyond the reach of most children…

What money could just not buy.

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I walked past the climbers and the children showed me the amaranth, rosy and basking in the sun. There were also the little saplings planted in a row, throbbing with new life. The brinjal plants stood in the distance and tender green brinjals nodded gently in the wind.

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The red amaranth basked in the sun...
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The amaranth saplings had been planted in a trench
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Brinjals stood in proud display

Beyond that were pumpkins. All I could see was the leaves. We walked up to the plants and moved a few leaves aside. I let out a squeal as I saw two pretty pumpkins nestled inconspicuously beneath the leaves. ‘We will give you the pumpkins for Vishu‘, the girl said to me.
The children were adorable. They were eager to give. They found happiness in the happiness of the people around them.

Perhaps agriculture rears the most beautiful children. For it nurtures the human spirit. It is in the forests and fields that children learn the lessons of sensitivity, empathy, love, selflessness and simplicity. It is here that their eyes open to the true aesthetics of human life. It is here they learn their earliest lessons of happiness and contentment.

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The pumpkins that we unraveled

I shall come back with my camera. I must take pictures’, I said.
Shobha smiled. I waved to the children.

When I went back to take pictures, Shobha shared with me snippets of her life. The events surrounding her mother’s cancer- those impossible moments that chronic care encompasses.
I took pictures. As Shobha walked across this garden she had created on her own, she seemed to belong there. I could see that she derived meaning from this beautiful creation of hers.

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She derived deep meaning from her creation

I clicked pictures of the children.
Please click my mother’s pictures‘, the boy said to me.
I have‘, I replied, and showed him the pictures.
He smiled.
How did you learn to click?‘, he asked me.
I loved the innocence and admiration in that question. This is how children were in the past.

When I said goodbye to them, there was a deep contentment within me. I deeply admire such women who lead very ordinary lives, and yet carve their own stories of independence and resilience within the framework of the system that confines them.

They create happy families, happy children and a happy world.

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Of contentment and happiness!

The masks we wear

The 22nd of March. My birthday.

I was driving down to the snake park at Parassinikadavu. My mother accompanied me. I was aware that a couple of friends must have called to wish me, but I refused to check my phone for missed calls. I smiled to myself…

For I couldn’t help thinking of the masks we wear.

Birthdays have generally been quiet affairs for me, right from childhood. The atmosphere at my home generally had a serious note to it; there was never too much of emotional display at home. My parents believed in the truth in emotions, and not in their display. So there was never a birthday party at home, nor would there be surprises. Though this had nothing to do with my parents’ love and affection for me, I would always long for my birthday to be special in some way. The truth was that I liked feeling special, and my birthdays would be so ordinary that they would leave me with the feeling that there was perhaps nothing special about my being…nothing that would make people want to celebrate my presence in their lives. I suppose I was always in denial of this equation.

My birthdays were in sharp contrast to my friends’ birthdays. My friends’ parents would hold parties and the siblings and friends would throw surprises at them, and it would be such a fanfare that they would be excited weeks before their birthday.

I, on the contrary, would dread my birthdays that were predictable and ordinary.

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It was in the final year of college that I had a birthday that was everything I had dreamt of. In fact, that year was special altogether. It was an year when I had the maximum love and affection of the people around me- an year when every day was a special day. Full of love, full of surprises, excitement and exhilaration. That year, I was the life of the big group I was a part of.

I don’t remember much about the subsequent birthdays. I suppose I was so caught up with the progressive complications of life and the struggle to survive that I was oblivious to my birthdays. However, once my life attained a certain equilibrium, the sadness surrounding my birthdays returned. They would abruptly remind me of how uncelebrated I was. I would miss the presence of a father figure in my life. I would feel sad that my brother would never bother with my birthdays. I would feel sad that all the friends and other souls whose lives I touched in significant ways, would overlook my existence. A few would wish me, but that sounded so stereotyped that it only ended up wounding me a little more. I would tell myself that people are too busy with their lives in the modern world and do not have the space, time, sensitivity or thoughtfulness that is required for such gestures. I would tell myself that people are so full of their own problems in these times that they are in perpetual need of empathy and understanding, and lack the ability to empathise with others and understand their emotional needs.

And yet, despite all that I would tell myself, that tiny sorrow would always be there… of being uncelebrated.

To the point that i refused to put up my birthday on facebook for fear that people may choose to overlook it. In truth, it only reflected my deep vulnerability and fragile self-esteem, which I probably owe to my genes as well as to my formation. And it was of utmost importance to me that none of my friends or family see through this mask I wear, and spot this deep vulnerability within. I was more comfortable with their ignorance of this fact.

This sorrow and the need to overcome it, drove me to acceptance of this equation. By acceptance, I do not mean I outgrew the sadness. I mean I learnt to be comfortable with that sorrow. And so, I started anticipating the fact that my birthdays would be uncelebrated. This made me look at my birthdays from a different perspective:

Left to myself, what is it that I feel about my birthday, and how would I like to celebrate it?

The answer that came to my mind was that I love myself. I love my perspective to life. I love my sensitivity and empathy to fellow human beings and to all creatures, and I love my attitude to their pain and suffering. I love the way I cleverly conceal my vulnerability and surpass my pain and suffering by connecting to other people’s pain and suffering. I love the manner in which I have transformed all my stories of pain and suffering to stories of strength and inspiration. I love my resilience, for it contrasts sharply with the fragility of my mind.  Of course, I owe all of this to Malayalam cinema. I love the fact that I live the life I have always dreamt of. I love this gift of perception, for that in itself, is my greatest inspiration.

With this answer, I felt content. And then I realized that what I wanted to do the most on my birthday was to be at the heart of nature. Nature that has always gifted me the most beautiful perceptions. Nature that has always celebrated my life, making me feel very special and unique.

Where else could I feel so special?

It was thus that I decided to spend this birthday amidst snakes. And truly, while I stood there with the snakes in my vicinity, I could only feel what I have always felt in my silent communication with nature- that familiar feeling of being at peace.

That feeling that everything is just as it should be.

While the others in the crowd sneered at these reptiles, I felt at home with them. They felt no different from the birds and animals that visit my garden. I sincerely wished I could bring them home. And so, I was utterly delighted when the demonstrator gave me a chance to hold the snake. Logically, I should have been scared, for it was a viper I held, and I had never held one before. But like the demonstrator said, one’s instincts are one’s only guide to interactions with nature and animals. And I relied on my instinct to hold it, and that was my happiest moment in life. People screamed and exclaimed, but this came naturally to me. It was no different from holding one’s baby.

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The cobras pay attention to Riyaz's demonstration!

I was in deep admiration of the demonstrator, Riyaz. He works for the forest department and is a wildlife enthusiast. Riyaz and his team were infectious in their passion and zeal. They sensed my love for animals and gave us special permission to see the king cobra that has been segregated as this is the breeding season. I went in with another wildlife enthusiast, who was a newspaper reporter.
I hope you don’t mind if I put in your picture holding the snake, in the Sunday supplement?“, he asked me.
I do not know if he said this in jest, but I was on top of the world.

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Riyaz educates the public on venomous snakes
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This python thinks Riyaz is pretty cool!

The king cobras were a treat to watch. There were three in all, two males and a female. The males put up a strong fight, which can sometimes last for days, in order to claim the female. One of the males eventually surrenders and is killed, and thus, the survivor male claims the female. King cobras feed on other snakes, and during the mating season, they may ignore food for days. The weather has been so hot that these snakes have been literally residing in water most of the time. They are excellent swimmers. We were fortunate to get to see a few displays of aggression as one of the males blocked the other as it attempted to approach the female.

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The king of snakes, the king cobra
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The king cobra regards Riyaz with suspicion...
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The tug of war between the male king cobras...

Subsequent to that visual feast, we walked across the park, observing the behaviour of the numerous animals the park housed. Riyaz has promised to arrange a tour across Aralam farm and the neighbouring forest area, where one gets to see numerous species of birds in this season. Forests have always been my first home. And these forests that drape the Western Ghats in these parts are mystique and enchanting.

We returned in the afternoon, feeling content and excited. I put up that picture of me holding the snake on Facebook. It made me a celebrity. That act of holding a snake was celebrated. One of my students put it up on their college group on whats app. The reactions and responses kept flowing in. One of my old students messaged me. He was someone I was particularly fond of at one point in time- someone who had gifted me very special memories to cherish, but someone who had withdrawn from my life abruptly. We were talking to each other after an year. That conversation made me feel special all over again. I realized that if we have touched people at their core, they will always retain the memories we have gifted them in a special place in their minds. And then, it only takes a moment to connect, irrespective of the time that has passed.

One of my students messaged me, “Ma’m, why didn’t you give us a hint that it is your birthday?
I smiled to myself.
Because every day is like a birthday to me. I celebrate every single day of my life. The value of our lives cannot be reduced to the confines of a birthday.
I will preserve that answer in my mind“, she replied.

I could only smile for only I knew what lay beneath all the masks I wore!

Defining freedom

One of my friends is a high school teacher. She is innovative, has a deep insight into child psychology, and is dedicated to her profession. Her students love her. She maintains a library that caught the attention of an educational survey team and she received the ‘Innovative teacher award’ that year. Her students are her success stories.
She is married, but has no children. The commonest remark she gets to hear from her neighbours and peers is this:
She has no children. No responsibilities therefore. So she can easily live life on her terms.

Recently, I put up a post on FB that read thus:

It is interesting how work is synonymous with job in India. In my months of being away from a regular job, I am amused when people ask me what I have been up to in terms of work. When I tell them all the things I have been up to, they appear perplexed and ask me, “But what about work?” And then I realize that writing a book or working for a social cause or anything that one derives meaning from, does not amount to work in the Indian context. And the irony is that it is at these times that I have done more significant work, than when I am into my regular job, slaving for an institution.

I was surprised to see how this statement created a huge impact on my students. Some of them messaged me to say that this was the most inspiring statement they had read in the recent past.

But one of the comments on my post read:
‘One of the factors that accounts for this perspective is responsibility. One must be free from all or most responsibilities in order to live life on your terms completely.’
This comment from one of my friends, who is a successful ophthalmologist and the mother of two children.
For one brief moment, those words cut through me and made me uncomfortably aware of the label that society often confers on a single woman in India. My friend had said it without saying:
‘You are single. And therefore free to live life on your terms, for you have no responsibilities.’

Labels, and what they stand for, often hurt more than the circumstances that one endures for real.

My friend, and many like her, speak from within the confines of a system that has successfully conditioned its followers to look at the world and form opinions based on the yardstick that is devised by that system. A yardstick that reduces the infinite possibilities of the human mind to the confines of a label. In that system, there is no regard for emotions. There is no place for dreams, imagination, curiosity and creativity. There is no significance attributed to the larger purpose of life, which is key to every human being’s internal happiness. There is not even value for the very planet that the system feeds off.
‘Safety’ and ‘security’ are the key words in that system. As long as you allow yourself to be enchained by it, your safety and security is guaranteed. It doesn’t matter if your life is reduced to existence…if you become a victim of mental illness…if you are half-dead. Your safety and security is ensured. In exchange for your freedom and happiness.

Now, I am not belittling those giants- safety and security. All I am saying is it takes immense courage to burn those boats to safety and security, and choose freedom and happiness. And somehow, my friend fails to see this courage that is involved.

I suppose many people think freedom comes easy. That is not so. Especially in a conservative society where adherence to the system is of primary importance.

To quote one of my students:
In India, one studies to get a job. One gets into a job to earn money. One marries to have kids. And then one raises kids in order to repeat this cycle of existence.
In India, one doesn’t make choices, for the paths are all clearly laid out. And if you make a choice and step out of the path, you are a social outcaste.

I grew up in a world where I had always been treated as a human being. Gender was secondary. Somehow, it never slipped into my interactions with people or into my perception of myself. Even when I fell in love, my relationship was constructed on the foundation of my love for another human being. Labelling myself or the people around me, was always alien to me.

Being single was a choice I made when I realized at one point that I felt a greater sense of responsibility to the world than to one person. I was aware that such a decision involved taking responsibility for my life. ‘Single’, to me, was just a state I was exploring on my own terms. Just as people explore marriage on their own terms. It came with its own set of challenges, and with its own equation of freedom and happiness. Somehow, marriage never came in as the answer to any of those challenges. The challenges never hurt as much as society’s attitude to single women.

When my father was ill and we went through the complicated state of affairs that characterize chronic illness, I had no help for the simple reason that I was single, and therefore ‘free of responsibilities’. It is with a shudder that I recollect that phase of my life when I walked unfamiliar paths all alone. When I was subsequently doing my PG, I would struggle to attend to my responsibilities at home and at college, for I had nobody who could take up my responsibility even for a day. When I was unwell for a long period, waking up with bouts of angioedema in the middle of the night, I could never call my neighbours for help because I was aware that they never approved of this life I had chosen. I eventually developed a deep fear of illness for I realized that illness and loneliness were the worst combination.

I suppose those paths led me to where I am today. After all, man’s journey of self discovery primarily involves his rising out of pain and suffering. And in the course of my life, I have realized that this drive is the strongest.

I have spent the last several years redefining my equation of life…removing all residues of the system from within me…unconditioning myself and rediscovering things for myself. A student recently asked me:
So what do you see as the purpose of your life?
To which my answer was:

I have always dreamt of a world free of pain, suffering and violence. And I have always been fascinated by the human mind. So I believe that the purpose of my life is to help people overcome their pain and suffering and realize their potential to the fullest. To help them discover themselves. Teaching is one of the means by which I implement this. But that is only one of the means.

I wonder if my friend would acknowledge this as a responsibility. I wonder if she would ever realize that the world that meets the needs of women like her, and their families, is the outcome of the passion and persistence of those few dreamers who were regarded as social outcastes? In all the moments that she has thought of the future of her children, I have thought of the future of the world. In all the moments that she has thought of the education her children should receive, I have thought of the education the children of this world should receive. In all the moments that she has aspired for awards and achievements, I have aspired for the smiles of the people around me. I wonder if given a chance, would she ever find the courage to trade the safety and security of her protected world with the freedom and happiness that I choose?

Money

Ammalu amma stirred in bed at the sound of the bang from the mosque. She was always the first to wake up in the house. She got out of bed and went about her chores slowly, mumbling to herself. At 70, she still attended to the household chores. She grumbled when her daughter-in-law, Sarojini, stepped into the kitchen.

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At 70, she still attended to the household chores...

When I was your age, I would be done with the morning chores by this time! Oh, whom am I to ask for a glass of water at this age?“, she remarked.
But Sarojini had learnt by now that it was best to not respond to any provocation from her mother-in-law. She heated the water and started to make tea. Ammalu amma muttered something under her breath and made her way to the verandah. Here, she picked up the newspaper, reclined on her chair and adjusted her spectacles. For the next several minutes, she read the newspaper, looking up only when her cup of tea arrived.

Anita and Ranjith came running to the verandah. They had picked up a squabble and were now creating a huge chaos.
Don’t you want to know what happened to the squirrel that had entered the little boy’s house by mistake? Let me read to you! Come here, children!“, Ammalu amma called out to them. The children came over to take a look at the comic strip. Ammalu amma started reading out to them and that kept them preoccupied until their mother called out for them.

Ammalu amma stared at the trees in the distance. She thought back to those years when both her sons had been around. She had always taken pride in her sons; she bragged to the neighbours that they would never leave her. But the elder son had got married and moved out with his wife. The younger son had then married, and Ammalu amma always feared that he would move out too. She was prejudiced against his wife and though Sarojini took good care of her, Ammalu amma was never happy. However, she loved her grandchildren. She weaved her life around them. She told them stories, shielded them from spankings, and gave them little presents from time to time. Sometimes a sweetmeat. Sometimes clothes. Sometimes color pencils.

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Ammalu amma loved her grandchildren...

Ammalu Amma’s most precious posession was her betelnut box. She carried it all the time and refused to part with it. She guarded in it a stack of betel leaves, some arecanut and some lime. And beneath the stack of betel leaves, she guarded a stack of notes- money that she had collected over years. Some of it was money she had managed to save for herself. Some of it was money that family members deposited in her hands when they came to visit. She counted it many times in a day.

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Ammalu amma's most precious posession was her betel nut box...

Occasionally, Anita would trick her. She would pretend to play with her betelnut box and stealthily take out a couple of notes. Ammalu amma was aware of this. But she would pretend not to notice. Anita bought herself sweets or clothes with the money.

However, Ammalu amma was wary of Sarojini. She would never count the notes when Sarojini was around.

That wicked girl cannot be trusted. She will steal this money and buy sarees for herself. She will not give it to my son when he is in need of it. Nor will she spend it on my grandchildren. I must be careful!“, she would say to herself.

But in truth, Sarojini never bothered about the financial affairs of the family. She was a happy soul. She worked as a farmhand and was content with the money it fetched her. She was aware of Ammalu amma’s stack of notes, but she had no interest in it. Sarojini and her husband worked hard towards fulfilling the one dream they nurtured- of building a house for themselves. With a little more money, they could buy the land that they had in mind. Ammalu Amma could have made it easier for them by giving them her savings, but she had no such plans.
‘In any case, it will go to them after my death. So why now?’, she convinced herself.

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Sarojini worked as a farmhand...

Time went by and Ammalu amma grew older. The stack of notes in her box increased. But Ammalu amma’s health had begun to give her trouble. She fell ill from time to time. Sarojini took good care of her. However, Ammalu amma’s health declined steadily. She could feel that she wouldn’t live much longer.

One evening, Sharada, the neighbour, came to visit her.

I have something important to tell you“, Ammalu amma said.
Go on“, Sharada said.
I have some savings. 10,000 rupees in total. I haven’t told anybody about it. I want it to be given to my son. But I don’t want Sarojini to know about it. She will use it all for her selfish needs. In the event of my death, inform my son about this money and ask him to buy the land he wishes to buy. Let me show you where I have hidden the money“, she said.

Sharada followed her to her bedroom. Ammalu amma sat down on her bed and started to unsew the pillow cover. Sharada was astonished by the stack of notes that lay within.
Here it is. Mind you, not a word until I die!“, Ammalu amma said.
She counted the money, put it back in its place and sewed the pillow cover.
Strange woman“, Sharada muttered to herself.

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It wasn’t long before Ammalu amma fell ill yet again. This time, it was a fatal attack of pneumonia. Her condition deteriorated, but she refused to be taken to hospital. She breathed her last on the morning of a cloudy day, and the family attended religiously to her death rites.

A few days later, Sharada came to visit Sarojini.
Sarojini, I have something to show you. Can you take me to Ammalu amma’s room?“, said Sharada.
Sarojini led the way, perplexed. When they stepped into the room, Sharada gasped. The cot stood there, but there was no mattress or pillow on it.
Where is the mattress?“, asked Sharada.
Oh, I burnt it! Why do you ask?“, replied Sarojini.
And you burnt the pillow too?
Yes…the very next day, I burnt the clothes, mattress and pillow! But why do you ask?
Sharada sighed.
Your mother-in-law acted rather unwisely. She sewed in all her savings into her pillow, refusing to tell you about it. There were 10,000 rupees in all. With that money, you could have easily bought the land. Silly woman!“, said Sharada.
Sarojini smiled.

At the end of the day, money is just paper that will burn in the fire. It will leave nothing of itself “, she said.
Let me get you a glass of tea“, she added and walked towards the kitchen.
Sharada watched her walk, perplexed by her calm acceptance of such a big tragedy.

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The mortar machine

It was a hot day in February. The sky was clear. From the car park to the building was a five minutes walk. The car park was just an open space. It was empty. I stepped out of my car and looked around. There was not a soul in sight. The terrain was hilly and a strong wind blew, palpably loud against the profound silence of these desolate hills. It seemed to have travelled far through picturesque landscapes that these hills seemed to conceal, and in its unbridled journey through the boughs of solitary trees and the pastures of wild grass, it seemed to speak of mysterious lands, untouched and untamed. The leaves rustled and the grass bowed, as if in acknowledgement of what the wind had just whispered to them…

Nature’s little secret!

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A strong wind blew, caressing the wild grass that grew rampantly here...

I walked a little, only to stop and stare in awe at what I saw. In the profound solitude of these hills, it was not fear that I felt. Instead, there was a strange comfort in this palpable absence of human manipulation of nature. Here, the grass grew wild. Golden yellow grass that stretched out infinitely, draping the earth softly. In the distance, I could see cashew trees and other vegetation that was characteristic of these hills.

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This summer sky….the earth, baked brown in its heat…this soft yellow blanket of wild grass…

It reminded me of the description of the Brabant in Vincent van Gogh’s biography, ‘Lust for life’. It was impossible to believe that there was a building just five minutes away…that there were people in that building. This place was so raw that it seemed to retain something of the wild, natural world that existed once upon a time. It recreated the feel of the desolate hills of North Kerala I had witnessed as a child…the feel of the Andes mountains I had read about…the feel of rural Holland of the van Gogh era. That wild spirit that binds places distant geographically…that binds eras separated infinitely…that connects us to the soul of the earth- a soul that spills into all its parts…a soul that remains the same in its essence, despite the passage of time.

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Solitary trees spoke untold stories...

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I was amused by the sight of a mortar machine, right in the middle of this wild grassland. It stood in solitude, as if narrating a story that lay beneath its mysterious presence here. I felt connected to it by the solitude that embraced us at this point in time.

A solitary traveller, who had broken out of the conventional path of life, and this inanimate object, long abandoned, but glowing with the story of a significant life once lived.

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A mortar machine stood in solitude, as if narrating its story of a life once lived...

It endowed character to this wild terrain and the wilderness embraced its being with ease. There was a strange chemistry between them that seemed to impart to it a sense of belonging.

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Somehow, it seemed to belong here...

The wind blew hard and loud. Yes, I had heard what nature whispered to me here on this day. I could feel the story unfolding within me- of desolate hills where the sun colored the earth in copper and bronze and gold…of solitary trees that celebrated their being in silence…of a solitary old, mortar machine that stood in gay abandon…
A peculiar array of elements that didn’t seem to fit in together…
And yet, as I looked at the whole picture, they seemed to fit in perfectly with each other…

For together, they completed the story…