CHENNAI: Somewhere in the midst of haggling over sedai uzhavu tractor points and gawking over tap-less gloomy dungeons, we actually found ourselves a home. Scouring every neighbourhood in Hill’s company, we kept stumbling back to a slightly bigger village within 5 km of our farm — and by slightly bigger, I mean that this one possessed a main road and presented a tableau that resembled RK Narayan’s famed golu in The Dark Room: merchants, dogs, cows, gods and goatherds all mingled together in a magnificent display of egalitarian society.
The village also seemed to enjoy some prestige in the surrounding area due to one aspect: its Bhai Provisions Store had set aside an entire corner for selling popcorn and pups. (Before I could glory in the joy of owning a pet, my hopes were dashed to the ground: apparently, they were ‘puffs.’).
Indra’s Gift was a quaint, adolescent village clearly struggling to get to adulthood. Here, on top of a gloriously greenish-blue chemical fertiliser store — I discovered that the entire region, in keeping with the tenets of a strictly agrarian society, was choked with fertilizer shops, stocked with sacks often numbered curiously with 17:17:17, or 12:20:20 — was a corridor with two small flats. Accompanied by the fertiliser shop-owner (who owned the flats as well), we entered the one on the left, and realised the fulfillment of a dream: a marvelously tile-paved floor, an open kitchen, a WC, and the smell of fresh paint. It was like buying a single lottery ticket and hitting the jackpot; we signed up at once. Later, we harangued Hill over keeping a house like this under wraps and throwing open snake-infested dungeons.
“But if I hadn’t shown you all those uncomfortable houses, would you have been so happy to see this one?” he cackled. “That is Hill’s strategy.” He still disapproved mightily of the presence of taps, That weekend, I immersed myself in packing clothes and necessities for a night’s stay in our brand-new flat, resolutely thrusting away all fears of how I was going to uproot myself from the city — fears that I hadn’t visited since the Mahendra’s Ring. We were ferried to Indra’s Gift by a brand-new driver, PrettyMan, who negotiated the State highway’s dangerous curves expertly, through ancient sites like Maamandur and Koozhamandhal.
The next day, we celebrated the paal kaaichum ceremony in a simple fashion, in our appropriately green-themed kitchen. The day after was another session of sedai uzhavu. Early mist wreathed the trees and bushes at 6.11 that morning; the world was waking up as farmers and their wives began the day’s labour. Birds I’d never heard twittered and cheeped from unfamiliar trees, while a mongoose scampered across an empty path. The tractor rumbled through slushy land. Suddenly, I felt at peace. Mid-morning, we trundled to LittleVesselVillage to check on the saplings. “You ordered ADT 45 saplings?” demanded Silver Tongue. “But we never had that variety.” We could only gape.
(The writer is a journalist, artist, translator, historian and editor but not necessarily in that order)