On reverting to rural roots!
It was in 1965 that father thought of seeking a transfer posting near our native village in Tehsil Hamirpur of Kangra district. Besides, a change of station had become imperative on account of his selection into a Gazetted cadre among school heads.
Instead of leading an itinerant life, he chose to settle down. His new school was three miles from our village and now there were supposed to be two households, one in the village and the other on the school campus where there was a paltry, serving residential set of rooms.
Hitherto, we had been living in places which were neither villages nor towns, but something like their hybrids. Now our village, the mainstay of the family, was a typical rural setting, keeping its lingual, cultural and social identity intact from being adulterated by outside impacts. It was a cocooned social island because it was only three miles from the border which it shared with two more districts namely Mandi and Bilaspur -which belonged to Himachal Pradesh at that point of time.
Our village was located in a valley with a largely clayey soil and hence, in addition to wheat during Rabi season, paddy was the main crop along with maize during Kharif season. Plenty of rain made it an area of noisy streams during the monsoons. About a dozen of Cranes from Siberia could be invariably seen looking for a catch in water filled paddy fields from July to October. When the season for paddy plantation came, it was sight to watch!
Right during hours of slow rainfall, people could be seen pushing the paddy saplings into the marshy table of the field. Each time their heads rose and then bent to plant the saplings, from a distance it appeared as if large birds were pecking at a tray of food-grain.
The birdlike appearance to these planter men and women was imparted by the leaf-covered umbrella of bamboo-splits which had a conical head cover and outward expanding rear to cover the body during rain. They always worked in large numbers in the same set of fields, because it was a practice those days to invite neighbors for help. The bamboo umbrella was called Obran and each farming family had to own a couple of them.
Another new thing in the houses of the area was a darkroom in each house with only a slight slit to let in the oblique sunrays. In fact, it was the strong room of each house and was called Obary. You couldn’t enter it and find a thing without carrying a lantern. Each obary had a heavy wooden box which was guarded by heavy locks and supposedly contained the jewellery of the house as also the cash, whatsoever. Besides, it was also the seat of the food-grain storage drum made of bamboo cane. For us, the children, it was a domain of dread due to darkness. We wondered how the elders dared to go inside and look for things. But that was long long ago! Things are different now!
The way to our school (my younger brother and I) was a thrill-walk up and down the terrain marked by rich foliage, a check-dam, an open well, a large banyan –tree and a stretch of road lined by ages- old mango trees.
On the first day to our new school in June 1965, we found two big nails with large square heads and hammered them with a stone into the trunk of a mango tree where the path diverted from the road to a field trek. We thought, it would be a nice Memory of the first day to the new school. That memory stayed on the bark for about twenty years but has now sunken underneath the bark. Yet, we always stop and try to look for the nails so very fondly.
(The author is a Retired Principal, Govt. College, Hoshiarpur (Punjab)