Yesterday I Saw Labour

Claus took me on his bike to Harry’s Farm

here in Kumily

and we climbed up the steep hill road

till he dropped me at the end

and continued to market

Stefan was making manure out of cowdung

and dirty and sweating

we greeted each other and he said

he has an hour’s work to go

sure I’ll watch I said

while he continued to work

he was mashing the dung together

under the hot noon sun

then someone from a house nearby

offered me tea

while Stefan spoke with another guy

and then we all chatted awhile

and they decided we should all proceed

to Harry’s Farm and they would work there

so then three of us Stefan Jomon and I

trekked along the mountainside to Harry’s Farm

how beautiful the green valleys full of vegetation were

vast and deep with tall pine trees

and soon we are at another house near Harry’s Farm

and someone offers me coffee now

while Stefan and Jomon continue to work

on a dung pile here

Stefan first mixes it up with a spade

then fills the dung into a big steel tub

then lifts the tub full of dung

and pours it into the sack Jomon holds

they work like that while I watch

and we chat from time to time

about my earlier visits

while they fill 16 sacks of dung

over an hour

and now from here they will

carry it to Harry’s Farm where we now proceed

finally I sit down on a chair

and relax

and Stefan chops up a jackfruit for me

it is so sweet and delicious

I thank him for it

while he and Jomon now continue

to bring those 16 sacks of dung

on their shoulders uphill

all this is manure for the pepper

and the coffee that grows here

I marvel at their capacity

for this backbreaking work

while they chat and laugh

about this and that

and I eat that sweet jackfruit

and enjoy the lush green landscape

they talk about deer hunters and

the gunshots they’ve heard

as they climb up the hill

they talk about predatory animals

forest officers and guns

while I listen and eat

I had first met Stefan years ago

while he was a boy in school

he loves this work

he says good health is what you get

he dropped out of school and chose

to be a farmer like his father

and now they come climbing up the hill

with sacks  of dung on their back

and when it’s finally over

we all sit and chat again

while Stefan strips to his black shorts

and jumps into his natural rock pool

for a swim and bath

soon he offers us homemade chapattis

and peanut butter and honey

all from the property

it is so tasty and again we have tea

and chat

Jomon says he’s 29

and if he doesn’t work hard and earn well

he won’t get a girl

he too is a school dropout

he’s also a wedding decorator a rickshaw driver

a dairy farmer and odd job man around

Stefan talks about his family

while I talk about my life in Bombay

and then rainclouds appear in the sky

and Jomon offers to take me

back to my homestay in his rickshaw

I thank him and Stefan then

and Jomon and I make our way

back across the mountain path

he points out a baby snake to me

and again at Jomon’s house I’m offered tea

while his nephew and niece work

both children between 12-14 years

they work on their dung heap

while I chat with an old man there

and chickens run in and out of the house

soon Jomon also joins us freshly bathed

and in new clothes and I thank everyone around

while Jomon now starts his rickshaw

and we go down the mountain road again

into town

when we reach my homestay

Jomon won’t tell me the fare

pay me what you want he says

I give him a 100 rupee note

while he thanks me and I think

how sweet life is

as a fresh breeze blows

and it slowly begins to rain.

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And From 6th Mile Road

there is that view of Tamil Nadu

its plains and farms and houses in mist

Claus and I are on his bike

we stop and I take pictures

here in Kerala high up in the hills

it is bright lush green

there is thick vegetation

jackfruit pepper and cardamom abound

leaves of various shapes and sizes

it is so beautiful

and at Shailendra ’s house up the dirt path

we sit and chat about this and that

his black dog licks me with its soft pink tongue

there is so much love I think

then we meet Adarsh from next door

who brings tea

and now we all sip tea and chat some more

then we all walk over to his place

Claus, I, Shailendra, his wife Seema, Adarsh

and now Adarsh’s black dog jumps all over me

there is so much love I think again

and the dog is so excited he is relentless

panting it climbs all over me

all the while its master orders it to get away

but the dog comes back again

and climbs all over me

travelling solo

so far away from Bombay

so high up this quiet hill

I stand still

and feel the love.

The Trees From My Friend’s House

yesterday were so beautiful

how the sky slowly opened up

through the leaves

in the morning

it was like a sea

the grey-brown branches

spread wide

and the birds chirped

while the light

came in

I stayed in bed

warm under the blanket

watching this

I was planning

to leave for home

early

to avoid

the sun

and take in

the milk

at my door

but then

it felt so good

my mind wouldn’t tell

my body to get up

I had become quiet

I just sat there

in the cool December air

and looked

out the window

for hours

lost to myself

drowned in the scene

outside

in the warmth

of the mild golden sunlight

seeping in

through the green leaves

singing so sweetly

in the breeze

and beyond that

the blue sky was peeping

through the floating white clouds

while small black

crows flew cawing

and my friend slept

peacefully next to me.