Friday, August 27, 2010

The Smile of Gratitude

The other day, while there to pick up my one litre of milk from the Mother Dairy booth, normally manned by a husband and wife team, I noticed the lady, alone and unsuccessfully trying to transfer a large number of Curds crates placed on the ground to the ice box.

The door of the ice box would swing back every time she would lift a crate, leaving her helpless and frustrated. Noticing her dilemma, I walked the couple of steps to the box and held its door open.

The crates safely in, the door closed, she moved back to man the booth and I too, ignoring the confused, amused looks of others, to my position in the line.

As she proffed the milk pouch to me, I placed the notes of the requisite amount on the counter and an addition one rupee coin for the plastic carry bag.

She, with half a smile on her lips, returned the coin and handed me the carry bag, gratis.

The smile of gratitude was a more than a small gesture, in return for my very small gesture.

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Wednesday, August 4, 2010


It in the thirties, then being five to six years of age and youngest child, my mother always took me with her whenever she visited her parents in her village
The modern age was still in future, the village pond was the favorite playground of my cousins and I was always a fascinated invitee.
When they threw a pebble in the pond, the green moss covering its placid surface would part and the water of the pond would break into ripples, The long reeds, bulrushes, growing around the pond, swaying in the breeze, Dragoon flies buzzing around, the butterflies fluttering aimlessly to my young eyes, the humming of the bees and the chirp of the koel, it was here among other wonders of village life that I was initiated in the art of smoking a clay pipe, crafted from the wet earth of the pond and a small section from the reeds, for a city bread, it was all pure thrill and fun.
There was always a herd of buffaloes in the pond, with just the nostrils and eyes showing, enjoying the cool water. Some times the children would also jump, stark naked, in gleefully and join the buffaloes to beat the heat.
The houses ware all constructed from the mud taken from the pond that is how the pond had come in to being in the first place.
This was engineering,
Before the advent of monsoons and summers the houses were given a coating of mica powder mixed in mud paste ,to prevent damage from rain and reflect the summer heat away.
This was preventive maintenance and thermal engineering.
The rainwater would collect and fill the pond.
This was water harvesting.
This also prevented the flooding of the village lanes and houses during heavy rains.
This was flood control and disaster management.
Simple solutions for simple problems devised by the simple villagers.
The lanes and allies were dry and clean, water for drinking and other household requirements was drawn from the village well and strictly conserved.
This task was assigned the young unmarried girls of the house and new brides.
The village well was a popular venue for many budding romances and love affairs as also a meeting place and exchange of gossip for the village bellies.
I was too young at that time to notice such going ons.
Slowly progress caught up, brick houses came into vogue and became a matter of prestige it did not matter if they became ovens in summer and iceboxes during winter
Mud from the pond was required no more and it started shrinking.
With hand pumps installed in the house the animals were also now given a bath in the quadrangle it self, with the water flowing out of the house in the narrow lanes creating mud, slush and stink, mosquito menace disease and sickness. The males of the household had also greater control on the women folk, who were now confined to the four wall of the house, loosing their small diversion from the monotonous and backbreaking daily chores.
The village well came in to disuse and was capped.
If it rained heavily any time now the lanes and the houses got flooded as the water had no where to flow to on the flat ground.
The greedy village Dadas encroached on the now dry and dying pond, grabbing and selling the reclaimed portion of land to friends and relations,
I noticed all this, as I grew up, during my now infrequent visits to the village, sad but helpless to influence the events.
Some lucky and progressive villagers, thirsty urban areas and even some government agencies are rediscovering the wonders of water harvesting once again, but will the magic of the village pond ever be recreated , if at all?

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