Whenever I visit my home town, my father-in-law insists on me visiting our small rubber plantation located at the top of a hill which is a few miles from our house.
And every time I arrive at the foot of the hill, the tiny bit of pleasure I have in visiting my own land vanishes and a feeling of dread overcomes me because from there on I would have to score two miles of steep hill to the summit on foot as the road up is beyond the capacity of even a jeep to climb. It is steep, narrow and unrecognizably damaged by rain.
My father-in-law who is 61 years of age is a regular visitor and climbs with the enthusiasm of a kid climbing a staircase. But I huff and puff and every ten meters I stop to catch my breath. After almost 40 minutes of battle with my legs and lungs, I reach the plantation site tired and breathless.
But once my legs are ready to carry my weight again, my mood quickly changes and I feel pleased with myself for having made the effort to go there. I change into a worker’s dress, which is usually an old shirt put away after regular use, grab a hoe and join other workers in the field and soon transform into a mass of sweat and mud rolled into a human shape.
A day’s work on a hill ends by lunch time which I think is due to the extra exertion caused by high-altitude. I scrap the mud off, take a quick wash and settle for lunch. Lunch is a simple rice meal with tapioca and dry coconut chutney for side dish but tastes like heavenly food especially after the heavy toil.
After lunch the workers sit together and chat about the local affairs, but I quietly leave the spot and go for a walk-around with my camera. I carry a long stick and wave at the shoulder-high grass in front of me as I walk. It’s a precaution I take to avoid confronting a snake by accident – the dormant grass provides nice camouflage for snakes.
I walk to the highest point of the hill. This has become a habit, even on a very hot day I climb up to the summit because it gives a sense of completeness to the day. The blazing sun would soon send me scurrying down the hill, but in the few minutes I spend there, I cannot stop feeling “do I not love this life”? I have always liked farming and never had any qualms about getting dirty in the field, or my skin becoming darker under the blazing sun.
I say to myself, “I should quit my job in Bangalore and take up farming full-time…” but only to return to Bangalore and change my opinion and only to return to the same hill once again and re-discover my love for farming.
Life goes on…