On the Countryside in Punjab.
Through the thin white barks of Eucalyptus trees, the first rays of sunrise promise to brighten a chilly morning. I walk through a small clearing in the field, amid dark green shrubs dotted with white, and extend my hand towards what look like snow-flakes, only they don’t melt at my touch. If you haven’t yet guessed, I’m strolling amid cotton fields. The seeds have burst, and the cotton is blooming.
The smell of fresh earth, mixed with oxygen-laden air makes me feel a little high. This must be the aroma of our soil that A.R.Rehman refers to in his music. It’s hard to imagine that just 8 hours ago, I was soiling my lungs with city air. Closer to the farmhouse I’m staying at, the whiff of freshly cooked aloo parathas and homemade butter floats in the air. Everyone who’s ever lived in India has heard of Punjabi hospitality, but to experience it in a pind is not something you can anticipate.
A hearty meal later, our friend and host at the farmhouse, invites us to walk with him through the fruit farms surrounding the area. These farms date back to the 50s, and land possession has been handed down to each generation since then. The income disparity between farm owners and the women that work in the farms is obvious, but unlike many parts of India, there is a sense of fairness, ownership and loyalty among both. I watch the women from the pind in fascination, as they expertly pluck the cotton from the shrubs and deposit it on a large cloth. This part of Ferozepur is one of the most fertile cotton belts in the country, and thanks to Google, I’m right in the middle of it.
We walk along the path between tall Eucalyptus trees on either side. Keenus are ripening from green to orange. A man is plucking ripe Guavas and collecting them on the ground. The Brown stems of Basmati Rice are ready to be cut from the fields. Men are sorting small and big Brinjals in baskets. Bitter Gourds are hiding away in their roped enclosures. Singhadas are growing out of mucky green water.
The closest I’ve been to a fruit farm before this are the mango & leechee trees in the backyard of my house. I wonder if this is the India my grandparents once lived in, and immediately, I long for their slow and rich lives.