Up to the age of six, I was living in a strange world of my childhood, a sort of dream world where I was playing with a feel of wonder, looking into world with curiosity and awe. There was nothing that did not invite my attention, Creatures, colours, contours of nature, creatures big and small. Howl of foxes from distance. Long shrill cry of wolfs trumpeting elephants snarl of monkeys, braying of donkeys I think I started to remember some more incidents of my baby days from the age of three. My school education was put off until I reach the age of seven. I had to toil hard at home for my basic preparation for an entry into third standard. Cool climate of Mananthavadi wynad, did not allow me to get up early in the morning. However, still I used to get up in the biting cold in order to read my lessons. My father had to start to his school very early, as he had to walk a long distance in the biting cold. He used to wear woolen pants and cotton shirt with a sweater.
I had never seen him wearing pants. I looked at him with wonder and appreciation, because in those days people never wore western dress. I have seen my father wearing only hand spun Khadi clothes, which Mahatma Gandhiji had popularized.
My mother prepares his breakfast and lunch to carry along with him, as he cannot come for lunch during breaks. This was a blessing in disguise for me as I would be free from his watchful eyes until he comes back in the evening. As soon as he leaves for school, I used to get out of house in order to explore surroundings.
Mornings begin from the mystery of yesterday’s leftover of night.
Spill of fallen flowers and leaves made me somehow sorrowful, especially listless innumerable flowers that was in full bloom yesterday have fallen, faded and lusterless,now crushed under my feet as I walk. Murmur of dry leaves made me uneasy. Why these flowers and leaves fall? Why they are not attached to where it was? All these were mysteries to my little mind. However, no one attended to my curiosity. Before trapping my self in the fruitless thoughts there were many things that caught my attention. Lively lovebirds, woodpeckers, crows, parrots, pigeons, kingfishers and many more whom I do not have a name; they were so colourful and lively draw my attention. When sun comes out from forest of darkness, golden beams of shower fall in the forest and surroundings. Wild creepers of pepper and beetle leave drip golden dewdrops all around, pouring happy tears, announcing arrival of sun. Many dragonflies and butterflies flew away from me into the wilderness of forest. Its exotic colourful wings still flutter in my mind. They all vanished in to a lane of creativity in my mind disturbing me often, by flying in my thoughts. Today I am releasing some of them for some time so that readers can have a vision of their beauty, and learn how they influenced my childhood dreams.
One day I woke up early in the morning by hearing a lot of shouts and singing of women In a language that I never heard. I ran to the courtyard to find out What was going on? There were men and women working brusquely. I found men lifting And smashing bundles of hay tied together. Fallen and lie scattered in heaps of paddy.Oh! It was harvesting I found out from my mother. Our landlord has harvested his paddy crops. He must be a rich landlord having such a big hill of paddy stacked in sacks to put in his granary. Men and women workers were very humble and seemed wearing some colourful cloths and peculiar bangles in their hands made of elephant tusk. Every time the hay bundle was raised and hit, women workers produced a hissing sound in a tune. At the end of the day, they formed a queue and had their clothes spread on the floor. Property owner’s servant put a measure of paddy on each cloth. I understood it was their wages. When night seeped in slowly oil, lamps were lit. They had put a campfire and started singing a different song, which was a sweet malady. As darkness, advanced women started cooking their supper near campfire and men were drinking something in a makeshift bamboo piece turned into a mug. Same thing followed next day and following days until harvesting is over. During that harvesting season, I made friend with a boy, whose skin was dark and dirty. He was not wearing clothes on his body like me! Remember I was banned from wearing trousers because of my father’s anger. I could not talk to the boy as he was speaking his native language. Peculiarly I saw his nose dripping with mucus and he was trying to pull it up by breathing in. After some curious exchange of glance, we became friends and started playing together. He plucked wild berries for me. I tasted ripe coffee beans gooseberry and sweet berries too. That day I went to bed thinking of my new friend. I could not wait until my father left for school next day. After pretending about my studies, I waited for my freedom to meet my friend. Whole day we played together exploring every nook and corner of forest around my home. Slowly he took over my protection and guided me to various places he was familiar.
After second harvesting season during August, the climate slowly changes to more pleasant weather. Slowly country wild flowers started to bloom. Granaries are full.peasants start to sell their products in the market. As a child, it is not my concern. It is time for harvesting festival celebrations. Time for farmers to procure necessary things for the year ahead. schools are closed for a short vacation. My father will be at home full time supervising my studies. I am afraid of those days as my studies were a little bit behind, and I was losing concentration, because of my involvement in children’s games and exploration of surrounding. One day my father caught me playing on the courtyard with my new friends, whom he did not like, he called me asked to do more sums in mathematics. He had introduced me to division with three digits and four digit numbers, which was bit difficult for me and my concentration was diverted to playing with my newfound friends. This carelessness of mine put me in trouble with my father. He caught me napping one day and forcefully made me do some sums, which, I did wrongly. He got very angry and went to bring his favorite cane reserved for me. Seeing his anger and brusque walk to fetch it made me trembling, by the time he came back I had urinated because of fear. I got a sweet bunch of lashes, marking my thigh with red marks. I am writing stories of mine not because of anger. However, I do not know why I write
Onam is a harvesting festival in Kerala. It is a season for all the people to enjoy in manner fit to their age and maturity. I shall continue my story in the next blog.
By Satheesan Rangorath