Friday, July 10, 2009

Rainmen

In the pouring rain, men and women draped in plastic are planting paddy. You see the bent figures in field after field as you drive past, snug in your car.

It looks like backbreaking work. Each figure, holding a bunch of seedlings (or should that be saplings?), puts one into the ground - and then another and another and another, never once straightening up during the process. In fields where the paddy has been planted you can see how neat the rows are, how perfectly aligned.

In the past, I have many a time gazed with pleasure at the tall straight blades waving in the fields around here. The green of the paddy is so bright and yet so extraordinarily soothing a colour that you can hardly bear to take your eyes off it.

I never once thought of it as food. Rice is something you buy in a shop, and it bears no resemblance to the paddy in the field.

Yet, to those who toil in the rain, standing in ankle-deep water, the relationship between their labour and the food they will eat is all too real. If they do not work now, if the rains are not sufficient, if the crop fails, then there will be no brown rice to eat for the entire year. Instead they will have to buy polished white rice in the market. And for a Goan who likes his fish curry and ukri (brown rice) that is a horror not to be contemplated. As a woman in the village once told me: Shop rice doesn’t agree with our digestion.

So paddy planters toiling in the rain - with their minds fixed firmly on the fish curry and rice they will eat - makes eminent sense. No work, no food.

But there is one other kind of person who must toil in pouring rain. You see him too, covered from head to foot in a raincoat, valiantly climbing ladders placed on electricity poles. It’s the poor linesman, an employee of the state-run electricity board. During the rains his workload trebles. He spends all his time fixing one broken line after another, day after day. And yet, we never see the fruits of his labour. No matter how much he works, the electricity supply still fails, again and again.

3 comments:

jayram said...

I have been catching up on your posts from Dubai- the strange thing is the nature situation is exactly the opposite here- there is nothing called nature expect for a few desert shrubs, and date palms- every blade of grass is planted and cared for spending large amounts of money- you’ll be happy to hear that there are absolutely no creepy crawlies of any kind- I saw a few sparrows but they were so droopy and lethargic it was sad- it’s so bloody hot now that going out for more than 200 meters is almost suicidal-
Dubai has solved this entire parks/public spaces problem by building gigantic air conditioned spaces that have a little bit of everything. The last mall I went to was almost endless and I could cover only 1/3 the area- another mall boasts of 21 film theatres! It’s like one of those Arthur C Clarke space cities – vast cocoons of air-conditioned space filled with every conceivable form of goodies with the sun blazing 45deg C outside-

Varuna said...

Ugh. It sounds horrible. What do you think happens to human beings when they live in such an artificial environment? And what kind of people choose to live like this on a long-term basis?

jayram said...

The trade off is very simple especially for middle class Indians- there is no problem with electricity. water, cars are cheap, petrol is cheaper than water. It’s a foodie’s paradise with every kind of cuisine- discipline on the roads is great, it’s absolutely safe, basic food is cheap and exotic choices like potatoes from Bolivia, cucumbers from Peru cheese from around the world etc- most importantly all that you earn is tax free and you can save if you live sensibly -