Rice Transplant! November 24 2014
Some folks transplant rice for wages,
but I have other reasons.
I watch the sky, the earth, the clouds,
Observe the rain, the nights, the days,
keep track, stand guard till my legs
are stone, till the stone melts,
till the sky is clear and the sea calm.
Then I feel at peace.
A Vietnamese poem after my own heart!
Our rice nursery, after its tryst with a bunch of bovine grazers, still survived and after 4 weeks is now ready to be transplanted into the main field. These little, baby rice plants, lovingly protected so far are now ready to venture out into the big world!
So D-day dawns with a clear bright sky. It has been raining quite consistently but the field is only wet and not yet waterlogged. So our irrigation channel has been opened up and the water is flowing into the fields. Ganapati is ready with his bullocks and plough at 7 am.
Ganapati, with the pair of beautiful beasts!
This is something new that we learnt – just tilling the land is not enough, you have to ‘muddle up’ the land to a fine squelch now! As the bullocks walk through the field, the plough churns up the soil with the water . Up and down, over and over again, till the mud looks like brown porridge.
Muddling up the mud to a fine squelch!
By 9 a.m. one section of the field is done and the 6 women have arrived for the actual transplantation.
They walk over to the nursery, their sarees tucked up to avoid trailing in the mud. When they near the nursery I hear an audible cluck-cluck of sympathy. “What is it?” I ask them. “Oh these saplings are so small – You don’t put fertilizer is it? You should have, the saplings would then have been this high” one of them explains holding her hand a good 6 inches above our saplings. It is alright I explain – Fertilizer is not good – it will ruin the soil I say, but their blank look seems to say “Oh these mad city folks”.
Anyway, they start pulling up the saplings. Their movements are smooth and swift, they work with both hands – a fluid movement akin to churning buttermilk with a rope wound around the churner. When the bunches in their hands reach a particular size, they bind them with a couple of saplings and toss them aside. They find it very amusing when I do the same, gingerly, not wanting to hurt the roots of the delicate looking plants. But a swift brisk movement is what you need to uproot the saplings and with a little practice I get it right.
Geeta (leftmost) is amused at my slow, gentle tugging of the saplings.
Bundles of Saplings lined up swiftly.
By mid morning, all the saplings have been uprooted and tied into neat little bundles.
A short break with a meal of idlis, chutney, a sweet potato patty, some tea and it is time to do the transplantation. Squelch, squelch , the mud is unbelievable soft and squidgy – all you do is pull out 3-4 saplings from the bunch and push them deep into the squidge. The trick is that when you pull your hand out, the saplings should stay in and stand erect. Mine looked pathetic at first but soon I learnt the trick and could do it almost as well as the others, though not at that speed. And definitely not for that long. My back was already beginning to sing a different tune. The others continued until the entire field was covered with neat rows of saplings.
Ohhhhh, this sad looking lot is mine.
Experienced hands - see the difference?
The evening sun reflected on the still waters in the field and the little saplings revelled in their new found space. Have we really made a mistake by stubbornly refusing to use chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Will our home-made mixes of Jeevamruth and Panchagavya work? Well, all I can say is Wait, and we will soon find out.