Perspectives from the Himalaya

Magic Seeds: Cultivating a Rural Flavour

Little A’s bottom has a mysterious disability to sit during most meals. Not unless he amuses himself with pencil and paper, playing cards and with Big A thrown into the equation as he slogs through his meal. There may be a valid theory that the Italians invented pizza and pasta a good while ago to keep their little Italianos seated and behaved. Tried and tested on a global scale and with incredible success, it magnetises human younglings to sit and eat until the last morsel on their plates are out of sight. It even guarantees that the tiniest last crumb of a crust, the last dot of tomato sauce or the final length of a spaghetti will be slurped up in a matter of minutes. But that crunchy crust of wheat we have not; instead Little A has the humble dahl baht to feed on.

During lunch, Little A pulled out his used math book and started drawing the familiar 4 grid lines of tic tac toe on the borders of the used pages. He handed a pencil to Big A who took it with glee. Partners in slogging through meals, every spoonful was accompanied with a triple move. This went on for 15 eternal minutes before Mama I’s lack of patience took a hand. She slid the book away from them at the precise moment when a spoonful went into their mouths. As slick as ice, as natural as it is with the antic of a 5 year old, Little A reached out for another book within his arm reach whilst his other hand was still occupied with the spoonful of food. And all this time simultaneously chatting animatedly with Big A. More grid lines instantly appeared and the next game continued as if the change of books was merely a page turn. Mama I sighed. She left them, feeling defeated but secretly humoured. At least they were joyful, a clarifying force which beats the nagging she would have to painfully employ. If they needed an hour to finish their last spoonful, so be it, as long as they wash up their dishes and after themselves.

Mama I left the scene in the kitchen and took a breather on the balcony, a space of habitual comfort and serenity. Monsoon clouds have long gone leaving a contrastingly dry spell. The sky projected a stark glare of delft blue and gave prominence to the snow-capped granite Himalayas once again, piercing the landscape of Astam. The golden paddy terraces are in full bloom, ripe for harvesting. The perfectly bent backs of women and men with their sickles at hand and an incandescent spirit of reap and gratitude dot the fields. They stride to the paddy terraces in the moonbeam before the rooster calls out and pace slowly home in exhaustion after the sun sets behind the hills. They continue tirelessly day after day, knowing that their grain stocks will be replenished over the dry cold months. The land will lay to rest after the earth’s generous offerings. For the children, it means football season is just around the bend, there will be paddy stacks to build and play to come on the barren terraces – the highlight of winter.

Meanwhile, Big A is steadfast on writing a piece of his thought after his five fold epic reading spell of the Harry Porter series. A rather unusual trait from a laid back personality who had started to read and write at almost 6 years of age. Almost as if he is catching up on lost time, he now reads in bed upon his first wink at daybreak, he reads whilst the sun and moon hovers high in their peak, he reads while its pouring outside and he reads undeterred with a torch when the power goes off. He enjoys constructing and deconstructing the puzzle pieces of the plot that JK Rowling had master-mindedly divided into 7 sizable books, and perusing every character intimately, all the while sharing his insights vehemently with the family who have at this point, needless to say, developed Harry Porter haemorrhage. These were weeks when he had abandoned his task of getting the morning milk and grunted when given a chore. He lived shamelessly in his pyjamas in this literary state, nose in the books, oblivious to the outside world and cackling to himself.

Following on this self-imposed sheltered state of being, Big A has bestowed upon himself a tall order of writing the 8th book of the series entitled, Harry Porter and Partners In Crime, with himself and Gilderoy Lockhart as the protagonist. Mama I has been warned of spilling the beans of the content before he is done. And Mama I struggles to hold her horses on pointing out his abominable spelling that she spots from the corner of her eye whilst he writes. Not till he is done for the day at least, she keeps a mental note. He is inspired and wants to write on his own account! She is filled with relief and gratitude. Looking back, something can be said about seeds that hibernate and thrive according to their rhythm and will only sprout when they are ripe and when the conditions are conducive.

Similarly, in incredible fertile monsoon conditions with the relentless rain and a forest as a boundary, nature awaits eagerly to expand her territory when the surroundings are favourable. In infinite ways she sends her seeds out with the wind far and wide, roots creep from her depths teasing and blurring the edges of the homeland, friends from the forest move in tandem with her growth, patiently and lovingly she clasp all that was once a part of her. The drenched rammed earth walls of a yet-to-be-home, sat stoically in silence providing a foothold for the growth of moss and algae, offering exposure in ideal monsoon conditions. As the rain lingered unceasingly for months, and without a roof, the walls gradually become a shade of lime, olive, teal, avocado, aquamarine and seaweed. The earth walls transfigure into a vertical projection of the most fecund horizon for moss, an aestheticism highly sought in urban environments but a horror reality in the rural landscape. Mother Nature is ever ready to absorb everything naturally around her and reclaim her loss. A sight of beauty in its own right it truly is, but that green carpet will be host to a future of other microorganisms. Subsisting on diffuse light of clouds, the moss thrives.

Papa G and Mama I observed with anxious anticipation at the transitional state. Uncle R struggled with the delivery of the roof trusses from Pokhara and when they finally made their way up through the wet treacherous mud to Astam, alas there were discrepancies to be found. The trusses had to be corrected on site whilst more weeks of rain poured. After many anxious weeks, the monsoon rain dissipated, the sun eventually dried up the walls, the green faded into a dark grey and graciously shriveled away.

Little A finally finishes his meal after an hour and proudly announces to Mama I at the balcony of his accomplishment. Mama I was absorbed in the movement of the playful tendrils from the gherola plant, also known as the sponge gourd and pondered about the miracle of plant growth and magic of seeds. Little A who has a fetish for big black ants observed one taking a stroll along the twisted vines.

Amidst the vastness as far as the eye can see, where terraces of paddy, millet and corn flourish and nourish the physical bodies, what if, there existed a magical seed. A seed that had a flavour of a library. A seed that could sprout into a thick sturdy fatherly trunk and support a network of intertwining branches with a motherly shaded embrace. What if that seed could grow into a Bodhi-like tree with a cosmic wisdom embodied in his robust roots and her widespread branches that would hold the blossoms of perfumed flowers; to bring together the dance of bees, wasps, butterflies, moths, birds, ants and beetles to pollinate in the sunbeams; and then have tendrils growing from the intersection of her shoots to patiently await and cusp a newborn book that would sprout from a pollinated flower? What if each colour of flower represented a genre or a natural hue of themes? Red for horror, orange for humour, yellow for fantasy, white for biography, blue for mystery, lavender for poetry, violet for science fiction, pink for non-fiction. What if there were long vines of swings growing from her branches for the reader and knotted vines to climb and hang upside down for a skewed perspective. What if the hatchlings which have taken flight leave their empty nests to shelf the little books. What if the spiders weave their webs to keep the books from the nibbling caterpillars. And to have Mr. Owl and his dutiful colony of bumblebees uphold the task as loyal book-keepers. Mama I and Little A played on wondering how it would be like to harvest a book. If only.

All that has been written, printed and bounded into books is a sharing of gift from the experience of countless beings who had once walked upon this earth, who are still walking on this earth and from being a part of this earth. The walk of life that has been interpreted in a myriad of anthologies over thousands of generations treasured in books to enrich the lives of those who are still walking. The same walk. The same path.

A seed that has been sown from the first breath, germinates and sprouts silently, humbled in its little presence. The seed takes on its shape mimicking and nourishing itself from the essence and elements of its environment. It awaits the gathering beam from the sun, converts the solar energy into a stream of flowing electrons and via the process of photosynthesis, turns sun into sugar.

Like the seed, spinning sunshine into sweetness is the walk we strive for.