Sunday, May 2, 2010

Surprise Day Off

The labourers of Shreeji ka Kheda had International Labor Day off. Like a schoolgirl surprised with a holiday I felt relief upon hearing the good news. What to do with an extra two hours? Of all the options that lay before us, we chose lunch preparation. Okra chopping and dough kneading is not something to be taken lightly.

The afternoon passed slowly, as it usually does on our non-teaching days. We read, we napped, we took a bath at the borewell and washed some clothes. In the distance, thunder rumbled and thick gray clouds swathed the horizon. While these signs of rain made me impatient for precipitation, they also made the weather more pleasant. A nice evening was reason enough to go for a walk.

We stopped by Ratni’s place. I hadn’t seen her at the neem tree for many days now. “After NREGA, I head straight to our fields,” she explained. With Suresh driving a tractor nowadays the responsibility of farming rested solely on Ratni’s shoulders. A hectic schedule didn’t leave much room for education.

She invited us to stay for dinner. To lessen her burden we volunteered to make sabji and bring it over. An hour later we were finishing up our tomato-onion masterpiece. And then the electricity went out.

Usually, the light comes back after a few minutes – if it is to return at all that night. We waited. It didn’t come back. Using the flashlight of my cell phone we finished the sabji and took it to Ratni’s house. She was kneading a massive ball of dough in darkness. Any flames that managed to peak out from under the choola hardly provided illumination. The cell-phone flashlight was once again put to good use.

The electricity did come back before we began dinner. Ratni and her mother-in-law, Bhuri Bai, served a gruel made of corn flour, or makki. In the thick yellow daliya they poured milky-white chaanch. Using my fingers, I swirled the mixture until it reached a soup-like, watery consistency. We began eating chaanch-gati at once. Fingers scooped the gruel and slurped it into open mouths. Slurp. Slurp. The sucking noises were occasionally interrupted by silence. Slurp.

My stomach was full after slurping down a plate and a half of chaanch-gati, but we hadn’t even started on our sabji and Ratni’s chapattis. I suspect Ratni found our contribution too bland, because she mixed in spoonfuls of red pepper paste into her serving. I ate half a roti; in size and thickness it was the equivalent of two rotis.

All in all, a well spent day off. Lots of reading, webcam chatting with Ma for an hour, and a delicious, filling meal with friends. Like most days at the Kheda, this one also ended too soon. I just couldn’t manage to keep my eyes open after 10 pm.

1 comment: