Today was Holi, the festival of colors. I noticed, driving through empty Gurgaon roads to Aman Bagh, the (surprising?) commonality between wealthy Gurgaon condominium residents and rough hewn Gujjar peasants – loads of alcohol, bhang, pot; and loud, sense deadening music. No holi music, not even a ‘Rang Barse’. Drinking, doping and music have been a part of Holi since ever – but it seems the intensity was different, alcohol was not this free, the music not as loud and not as mindless. As one gets older, the past takes on a warm glow so …..
We are at the end of फागुन (Phalgun) – approximately 22 February to 22 March – going into चैत (Chaitra), the commencement of the long hot seasons till अशविन (Ashwin) in October. Spending time so close to nature, I realise seasonal changes are specific markers for farming activities that have evolved over millennia and have been honed to perfection through practice. Each season brings its own imperatives – my peasant professors of agriculture at Aman Bagh have harvested the mustard on one acre in 2 days, laid it out to dry so the seeds can be separated later this week; we will then take the seed to the local village mill into oil for our consumption and oil cake and hay for our cattle. The stems of the crop are already lined up for use as firewood.
The ingenuity of the peasant, and the hard environment, ensures every part of the crop is consumed by man, woman or beast and nothing is wasted. Its quite amazing really, the ease and smoothness with which this complex cycle is executed. And it will be repeated next week in the जौ (barley) crop, in early April for wheat and the chana and masoor crops.
The fruit trees and saplings – mango, grapefruit, kinnow, lemon, guava – have been manured with cow dung slurry and leaf humus; and are in full flower (other than the guava). The scent of the grapefruit flower is sweet and strong, while the lemon flower is less so but yet quite arresting as you walk past.
The sun was hot, and the day already longer by an hour since February. The weather quickly cooled down by 5 PM, and dusk was ideal weather for our cattle to enjoy the first night tied out of the shed. They were a bit foxed – cows are sensitive beings, they don’t like change of any kind – but settled down within an hour to doing what they do best : eating. Boring is good, the present is all that matters. Even cows can teach you, if you want to learn.
Many things to do in the coming days – the cow shed mud and dung walls replaced with cement plaster; summer vegetables planted; flower saplings moved from the nursery to the beds; a new front wooden gate to replace the current iron one; and additional drip and sprinkler irrigation installed.
Nature ensures one lives in the present while tilling the land. Whatever – whatever – comes next is natural, expected, even if not known; there is no need to worry as we know what is to be done next. And even if it hailstorms or goes dry, that too is kind of expected and is to be handled. A peasant farmer is a master of doing, working, no matter what.