Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair. – Khalil Gibran
I have felt fascinated looking at the farmers work up-close. My ancestors had connections to farming and agriculture in rural Gujarat and on numerous occasions my dad used to mention about them. The physiology of farming, the anatomy of the field, the microbiology of the water and air, the ability of the farmer to keep pathology at bay, the surgical precision with which their minds, hands and machines move and the overall science behind it is so fascinating and we know so little about it.
This weekend we had the good fortune of staying in a quaint little homestay (Nivaant) in Igatpuri (Maharashtra). Just about 3 hours drive from the madness of Mumbai. Every nook and corner of the homestay has been thoughtfully designed with so much love. There are numerous rustic elements within the stay to make you feel close to nature. Strategically placed books to browse and read while you rest and relax and enjoy the mountain view is a welcome change from our busy urban lives. The fascinating architectural design of the homestay allows you to view the rolling lush green monsoon inflicted hills and the paddy fields from all the 3 bedrooms and the living room.
Couches are placed near large windows that allow you to relish the changing hues of the hills with a cup of coffee. The front gate of the house opens in a large viewing deck that divides the property into two parts. Partly covered with a translucent glass roof, this became our favorite place to chill out for hours; just watching the sun and the clouds play with the landscape and changing the scene dynamics in front of our eyes. In one part of the verandah were these beautiful bougainvilleas that adorned the open rustic stairway to the terrace (Heaven). This stairway to the terrace became our photo shoot point throughout the trip.
The most endearing part of our weekend is the bucolic setting of the homestay. Surrounding the house as far as your eyes can see are the rice paddy fields with busy farmers (women and men) working tirelessly for long hours. At the horizon where the rice fields end, begin the rolling hills. Lush green with not an inch to spare for new grass, these mountains created a beautiful contrast with the pregnant dark grey skies. When the sun succeeded in beating the cloud cover for a few moments in the day it changed the colour on the grass and made the scene bright and more exciting. We saw the mountain top covered with mist, fog, dense clouds and eventually the sunshine over the two days we stayed there. Last month we were in Ladakh on a road trip and the scenes there were of barren mountains and landscapes with very few specks of greenery from the poplar trees. The water sources in Ladakh were the tiny rivulets in most places and some larger rivers traversing other areas; but here in the heart of monsoon inflicted Maharashtra, water and greenery was ubiquitous. I loved the barren landscapes of Ladakh but rated the fecundity of these landscapes a notch higher. There was immense joy in these fertile scenes.
After the euphoria of first few hours settled down, I came up with the question that I always have when I am forced to just sit and do nothing; and that is; What activity can I indulge in here? The answer came from the house help who got us in touch with a local villager who consented to take me along with him on the top of the mountain to show me a spectacular view of the Bhavali dam and lake. His energy at his age was infectious and I was happy I could keep pace with him and climb the mountain to the top with equal alacrity. As we went higher up the panoramic views of the paddy field and the small settlements in between them were breathtaking.
On the way down, we came across gurgling streams with ferocious velocity that helped me wash away the fatigue from my feet. We found some men at work in the farm, ploughing the field with traditional equipment that was operated with the help of their cows. They saw us and managed to spare a smile. When I spoke to these farmers, I realized how labor intense the whole process of rice farming is. The womenfolk are hardworking in these fields and then at the end of the day they carry few vessels full of water from the well to use for cooking and washing at home. In heavy rain or heat they get on with their job with a song on their lips, as if cajoling the paddy to grow a bit healthier. They managed to find a moment to stand up and pose for my camera.
Back in the homestay after a few hours, I realized I cannot stay within the confines of the four walls of the living room. I sat out under the glass roof and allowed the soothing short-lasting sunshine to bake my skin every once in a while, but most of the time I saw the rain pour down with fervor. Watching the rain in the foreground and the paddy fields and misty hills in the background I feel asleep in the lap of nature, only to wake up with the smell of coffee. Spent the post lunch session reading a beautiful book about the courage and persistence of Polish mountain climbers. In between when my eyes and mind got tired with their effort to summit the Everest, I looked up to the misty views and let the fifty shades of green, the chirping birds and the incessant melody of the rain heal me.