As the interstate water dispute headed to a boiling point, I remembered my boyhood association with a river which is a tributary of Cauvery. My father was a transferable government servant. Consequently, I studied in various small towns during my school days. One such place was Dharapuram on the banks of the river Amaravati.Amaravati was a moody river. When rocks blocked it’s way, it murmured in protest. During the monsoon, it raged and swept away anything that came in it’s path. For most part of the year, it had only knee-deep water. “Curse that dam upstream,” locals said.
I had to cross the river to reach my school. There was a bridge across the river. Boys seldom used it, because it was a detour. On the other side, there was a Hanuman temple. We prayed there for success in our studies. The priest was friendly and he gave us prasadam. The temple had a big jamun tree. When ripe, its fruits fell on the sand. We washed them in the river and ate. After that routine, we rushed to the school because the gates were closed when the morning prayer started. Our wet feet and footwear never cooperated with each other. Consequently, we ran to school carrying footwear in our hands, to the amusement of passers-by. Dhobies washed clothes and dried them on the banks of the river. Occasionally, water snakes were detected in stone crevices. We made paper boats and watched them float away with the current. Downstream there was a cremation ground. Burning bodies and billowing smoke sent shivers down our spines.
There were paddy and sugarcane fields on both banks, thanks to the river. The river made many designs on the sands. In some spots, sandy islands were formed. On one of the sand islands, we laid a cricket pitch. We planted grass and made the pitch hard to play cricket with tennis balls. Then the rains came. The river was flooded. Trees and bushes were seen floating away in the swirling waters. It was rumoured that one or two human bodies and a few cattle heads were found in the raging river. The coconut groves on the banks were flooded. A few huts were washed away. We had to take a longer walk through the road bridge to reach our school. Our cricket pitch was also swept away by the furious river. After a few weeks, the water receded and the river returned to its normal flow. We relaid a pitch and played cricket again. The river was unconquerable when in spate.