Visiting my father-in-law’s farm is nothing short of a festival for each of us – Pari, Avie and me. Like every year, we went to the farm last week with Avie’s family – his parents, younger sister (including her hubby and daughter) and youngest brother, who got engaged ten days back. Being with the whole family is a beautiful experience in itself. But, going with them to the farm where they spent their childhood means opening up a treasure chest of stories that each has to share from their childhood days. Avie was born on the farm and lived there for nearly 10 years. No wonder, he has the most intense and loving memories associated with the farm house.
In this 3rd part of the *’Learning Every Moment’ series, I’m sharing a bunch of pictures from the farm and with each picture, a little tid-bit about its history, my folks, their life and work, the nature and more. More than anything else, I want to reflect on how heartening real-life stories can be. Especially the stories of parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, parents’ friends, culture, native lands that we share with our children. (*read part I: Curiosity and Part II: Slow Living).
Talking about my father-in-law’s farm – I love this place and the nature that’s part of it – the hundreds of coconut trees, wild berries and local fruits, the spice and other plants (cardamom, pepper, cashew nuts, areca nuts, vanilla).
Hope you’ll love reading about this part of the world and the way people live. And, I’m saying this for my Indian readers, too – those of you who live in cities and have never been close enough to a village life, but may want to know.
Avie and I’ve shared countless stories, with Pari, from our childhood. And, no matter what story book I may read to her, the stories from our childhood that we narrate to her (without the aid of pictures) are her favorite. I believe that sharing those stories gives her a sense of where we come from, how we grew up, our relationship with our parents (her grandparents). All this, in turn, help her connect with us, with other family members and those times.
After hearing those stories over and over again, visiting the farm was a truly meaningful experience, for she could connect those stories with the setting and its many facets.
Days before we started from Delhi, Pari had this agenda to check out Ajja’s (her grandfather) gun and shoot with it. The gun is part of many stories that Avie has told her. You may wonder, what about the gun; why would we want to tell her stories that had anything to do with guns (especially after all those recent Newtown shootings) or would want her to try her hand on it.
The story is that 30 years back, living on a remote farm without a trace of civilization miles around; on the contrary – being in the middle of wilderness and wild animals (leopards, bisons, wild cats, jackals), my father-in-law relied on his lone gun to scare the wild creatures off (not hunt them). Monkeys would trespass and go berserk on fruit trees and he would shoot in the air to inhibit them. Snakes crept into the house or wild cats found their way in. Bisons blocked the narrow, dirt road that connected the farm with the Sagara town (where they currently live).
There are dozens of stories like these that Pari has heard from Avie. No wonder, this specific gun is a fascinating subject for her. After all, it’s saved her young father and his family from a number of mishaps.
So, shooting the gun was on her priority list of things to do at Ajja’s place. When we proposed this to Ajja, he was all game. Well, he thought, she wanted to see him shoot – which he did. But, he was in for a little panic attack when he figured she wanted to shoot by herself. You can see how nervous the Ajja looks (in the pic above) as he shows her how to do it.
This place is a child’s natural playground. All these sights, sounds, textures and aroma can keep a kid (as well as a nature-loving or a nature-starved adult for that matter) engrossed for hours.
This is the time when the areca nuts (supari) are being dried. Pari and I tried to learn how to cup open the areca nut pod to extract the seed. The tool folks use for this is not my cup of tea. It’s a wooden slab with a curved knife sticking out. Women folk sit on it and chop away vegetables or scrap coconut with an ease and skill that makes me watch without blinking! My mom-in-law (in the pic below) is skilled at it. In the picture below, she shows us how to cut it open. Traditionally, this activity is done by a group of women huddled together, chatting away as they extract the seeds for hours.
This home – my father-in-law constructed nearly 40 years back. They don’t live in it anymore as he and my mom-in-law felt the need to move close to civilization. With three kids in tow and no neighbors, hospitals or schools nearby – the scooter ride to town – every single day – was not sustainable. In those days, owning a car was a luxury that only the wealthy could afford. For an agriculturist like my father-in-law, it was unthinkable. Today, of-course, many homes in the Sagara town have one.
In this pic, Pari and I try to throw the areca nut pod as far away as we can within the drying area. Soon, we were joined by Ajji (grandma) and the little Asmita (sis-in-law’s daughter).
Avie has some very interesting stories to share about how he played with natural material and pets – in the absence of friends. The only human friend he had, as a 3-4 year old kiss, was his father’s helper – Somaiyya (now 50+), who he accompanied everywhere – into paddy fields, coconut groves, cow shed. Somaiyya carried him to school, too, 10 kms away, on his cycle. Avie says, the ride to and from school was always far more interesting than school itself, for Somaiyya shared dozens of stories along the way.
A resounding yes to real-life stories that connect this new-age generation to their heritage, culture and traditions. And, stories that may motivate them to take up non-mainstream jobs. Jobs that contribute to the land, the rivers, the farms, the villages, the traditional art and craft forms (which are dying a slow death), folk music and dance, regional-language literature and so much more.
I think, stories are powerful in the way they can unite us with our roots, affirm our identity, help children walk the bridge between generations – between the past, the present and the future. Their impact on young minds is immeasurable