Monday, June 1, 2015

Farm Memories...

The days were long, yet fleeting, hot but refreshing, they were lonely, yet unpredictable.  Mansi sat under the old peepal, on the lone swing.  She tried to make the air around her move as heat hung over like a pall.  A hot breeze brushed her face and moved on. She sat in a lull, feeling her sweat trickling down her temples, into rivulets down her spine, or choosing to remain speckled on her upper lips.  She listened to the dull silence of the afternoon. Her grandfather’s snores bellowed from his room into the garden, competing with the tired roar of the cooler from the side of the house. An occasional bird flittered in the branches above her before landing lazily in its nest.

Mansi waited for the household to stir from their siestas as she incessantly eyed the needles on her tiny wristwatch tick away, a dot at a time. Her uncle’s dog, Sheba, a lean German shepherd, lay curled up by the tree trunk on the hard concrete of the circular patio. Mansi jumped off the swing out from the shade into the sun and sauntered toward the cowshed. Her rubber slippers crunched on the gravely path until they met the soft ground littered with hay and mud.

She swung open the small gate and made her way into the newborns’ pen. Big brown eyes looked up at her with interest, as the two calves sat in their nooks. Mansi kneeled next to one of them, and ran a hand over its soft hide, letting the calf nuzzle her arm. The second stared at them and let out a loud moo. Mansi laughed and offered an arm to be nuzzled by it as well. She talked to the calves, telling them stories of the other animals at the farm, asking them if they missed the cool shades of their mother. She watched them swat away flies with their small tails, as if waving brush strokes in the air for a magnificent, unseen art. They batted their gorgeous, long lashes to blink away bugs and Mansi mocked them.
The gate behind her creaked and as she turned, she saw the farm hands coming in from their break. They picked up buckets from the shelves and walked into the sheds where the cows and buffalos stood, lined up. Mansi got up and followed one of the workers. He helped her get set up beside one cow, took her fingers to place around the udders and guided her to gently milk, each squirt at a time.
Quarter a bucket-full later, Mansi abandoned the task and returned to the Peepal. She found her grandparents comfortably seated on lounge chairs, refreshed from their naps. On a small table next to them lay a tray decorated with teacups filled to the rim with hot, creamy tea, a tall glass of cold milk pinked with rose syrup, and a plate full of glucose and crackerjack biscuits. Mansi ran up to the empty chair, picked up her glass and gulped down the thick, creamy milk. Resting the empty glass back on the tray, triumphantly, she smiled, pink moustache and all. Her grandmother handed her a handkerchief and Mansi wiped the cream off her lips. Pearly whites sparkled as she displayed a big smile of satisfaction. A breeze began its hesitant journey, offering refreshment, fluttering the leaves above them. Birds chirped their way into the sky to celebrate the breeze.
Mansi walked over to the chicken coop behind the house and watched them strut about as they pecked on seeds on the ground. She walked over to the gardener who handed her a bouquet of roses he had designed, its perfumes leaving a path from the garden to the house. As the sun’s rays weakened their intensity, she changed and dashed to the swimming pool. With a rush of energy and thrill marching in her veins, she climbed the step ladder to the top of the water tank next to the deep end. From its precipice she leapt straight down into the sparkling clarity below, sinking to the blue bottom where her feet found ground. In a single motion she launched herself up, effervescent gurgles sounding in her ears, vision of serenity in front of her goggled eyes, softness of the fluid on her skin, until her head popped back above the surface into the heat and mechanical sounds.
As an adult now, surrounded by mechanical sounds night and day, Mansi travels back to the farm days in her memories to find her quietude. Her ears search for the chirps and twitters amidst the rumble of airplanes overhead, her eyes admire the redness of the roses blooming in the planter outside her house, its fragrance faint but in attendance.