MY STORIES- Kitchen Garden and other stories.
After Onam celebrations, I became more studious and studies progressed well. This time I got thrill of vegetable framing as our property owner encouraged my father to grow vegetable for our household use. I learned that landlord’s name was Ananthan Nambiar. I also noted that he is very rich and a respectable man among farmers. It is also heard about him that he is very miserly never spent money easily. I always saw him wearing a single dhoti with out a shirt or baniyan(sweat shirt). One thing I observed funny on him was a tail behind his dhoti. A long strip of loincloth that hung on his back like a tail. ( it is an undergarment that men used to wear in those days) a long strip of cloth tied on hip with twin strings around and the long cloth coved up front, like a “g string”. I had not seen it before so it made me curious. One day I decided to ask my father about the tail of Ananthan Nambiar. We call “acha “in Malayalam for dad. I asked ‘Acha Uncle Ananthan has a tail behind’ ‘I saw it. Acha had a hilarious laugh and explained what he was wearing. I also learned that my father also wears the same thing but he hides it fashionably round his hip so the tail will not be seen. He also told me I had to wear one soon like that, I felt funny and decided never to wear it. However, I had to wear it as my father had bought me one in red colour silk. He said all children wear it in red colour cloth. Therefore, I also started to wear it. I remember an embarrassing incident relating to it, although it happened much later in my childhood days, I think it is proper to mention it here so that the link shall not be broken. As I said. I had to wear the under cloth regularly as my father insisted and it was becoming a nuisance to my comfort. Therefore, I decided to remove it in absence of my father.This incident occured when I was going to the school, and attending a class. My class teacher used to ask questions from the lessons he was teaching. Once on such an occasion I was asked to answer a question, so I got up and trying to answer. Suddenly all class mates started laughing loudly including girls. I was wondering what happened? My reply was wrong. Teacher asked me to sit and told me to remove the tail that I am having. I got so shy and could not listen to my teacher all the day and I had a tough time with my classmates and later the entire school. Oh, sorry I did not tell the name of the clothing. It is known as “Komanam”(Jokingly people call it an INDIAN TIE) and there after I got a nickname “Koman”.I still remembers that incident which makes me shy whenever I thought about it. Later I learned that all the other students were wearing under shorts or nothing at all under the trousers. I had to live with what I have but I did not wear komanam in the school as I regularly remove it and kept in my school bag.
Ananthan Nambiar had acres of land for cultivation, which he did directly with out giving it for tenancy. I always saw him with loincloth round his waist, his tail fly in the air as he walk, he used to wear a cap made of spathe of areca palm. and a spade on his shoulders.He had a workforce about fifty men and women, whom he hired for meager sum in an auction. In those days, big farmers brought the service of natives tribal for a paltry sum of wages, which was often paid in kind. These poor people were to work hard in the farm for a year until next auction comes during following year. As a child, I was not much aware of the intricacies of labor contract etc. I knew they are good people with an innocent mind and are exploited by rich farmers. The business of labour slavery takes place on particular tribal festival in the forest. On another occasion I may discuss aboutTribal villages and their customs.
As I mentioned earlier kitchen garden work for vegetable, growing started immediately.After returning from school my father started tilling the soil with a spade and buds are prepared. Although, I do not have much of a roll there, I liked to help my father in whatever way I could, by sorting grass and smashing small mud lumps. After preparing the ground my father planted some seeds in the buds and watered daily. I also joined him In bringing water in a small, can from a nearby stream. One of the most wonderful greenery in my memory is about a seed that I planted separately away from my father’s garden. I took an ash-gourd seed and planted separately away from my father’s site.After three days I found all the seeds sprouted and mine too was rising above soil like a hook in silver colour. It was a wonderful experience to see a sprout and its growth subsequently in different dimensions. I took care of my plant by watering and manauring by imitating my father’s action. Slowly one by one all the plants in kitchen garden started to flower. My father was very happy and spent many hours in the garden. One day I found my little plant also started to bloom. By this, time the creepers of the plant spread allover the ground. I was afraid, as to what will happen to it. So I mentioned it to my father, he came looked at it and was surprised. He gave me a pat on the back in approval. there after he took care of it too. Slowly almost all the plants started to bear fruits. To watch them in the morning under the beam of sunlight was a marvelous experience. I often visited the garden in my father’s absence. When the time for plucking Melons, pumpkins and other vegetable we all got up early in the morning and collected all the vegetable in a basket. There was a confusion about my grey-gourd plant as it was near our landlord’s garden he claimed that it belongs to him .because my plant is bearing the biggest and largest of fruit in the whole garden, this made him jealous and he claimed.
My father rightly agreed and allowed Ananthan Nambiar to take away the fruits of my hard work and pride of being grown one of the biggest grey-gourd in the vicinity. I cried a little hiding on the lap of my mother and became normal to my routine.