This post is about Rajendra and Raju, who look after the place when we aren’t there, and a little bit after us when we are. Like the time when I thought there was a bear in the bushes. There were bloodcurdling growls coming out of there, and nothing could be seen. (This was just after the newspapers reported a bear had escaped from Bannerghatta Zoo, so it wasn’t entirely fanciful of me.) Anyway, what do you do when you don’t know what to do? You call Rajendra and Raju! I did, and they came on a moped like modern Galahads, beat about the hill, with me bleating in the rear, and found… a heart-stricken cow who had been put out to graze while its calf had been left at home!
Left to right: My finger (oops!), Carrots, Raju, Rajendra.
Anyway, these two are neighbouring farmers, born and brought up in the village. (It heartens me that they are so literate and well informed. Our education system isn’t as bad as it’s painted, at least not in Tamil Nadu.) We pay them a retainer to keep an eye on things, water the trees and maintain a small vegetable patch.
Raju is a cute, perky chap with genuine green fingers. He’s a terrific digger, and can plant five trees before I can dig one hole. Unlike the proverbial kettle, he’ll only work if you’re watching him. His conversation largely revolves around his hero – a maternal uncle, who farms in a neighbouring village – and the wild boar that roams the land by night with its piglets in tow. Being a coward, I never go out at night and so the boar, its piglets, and all the other nocturnal animals remain myths that occupy a huge chunk of my imagination. Here’s Raju, watering a bunch of cows:
And this is Rajendra:
Those are (or were, he’s sold them since) his Hallikar cows. Admirable creatures that give milk and plough! Not that I, as an almost vegan, approve of this exploitation. Despite having grown up a farmer’s son, Rajendra isn’t very interested in agriculture. But he’s really handy with almost everything else. As a young man he spent a few years in the city, doing odd jobs and learning carpentry and masonry. Then he decided to move back to his village. I think there’s hope for the earth when people feel that way. And all the people I know in the village are there from choice, so that’s a lot of hope. I only wish they weren’t so sold on modern agricultural methods. These guys grew up as urea and pesticides were coming into their own, and they think I’m regressive to try and do without them. But someday I hope to convince them. Rajendra is an adventurous sort, which means he’s also too impatient to finish a job cleanly. And he’s generous to a fault – another thing to love about village life. The villagers are poor by city standards, but because they don’t ascribe a monetary value to everything, they feel they have everything they need and are always happy to share. Rajendra is happiest whizzing around on his bike at all hours of the day and night, elephants notwithstanding. He’s very easy to talk to, calm and unflusterable, a man you can rely on when you’re in any kind of trouble. Not to mention good looking. What wouldn’t I give for skin and teeth like his!