Bamboo Palya on a rainy Day

 

Vaidehi’s short story in Kannada

Bamboo Palya on a rainy Day

Reproduced here by

Partha Desikan

I am happy to give below this lovely piece on the monsoon trail , a short story published in the magazine section of the English Language newspaper, The Hindu, of Tamilnadu, entitled

Song of the peacock, originally

written in Kannada,

 

 By VAIDEHI, whose culture and mother-tongue appear to be Tulu.

Bageshree offered this English translation, which was published by The Hindu

on August 5, 2007.

I am merely reproducing it here, because I enjoyed it earlier.

 

‘It was on a rainy day that I wrote my first poem’. A short story.

 

Listen, the chorus of frogs! In the highest octave, as if bent on waking every sleeping soul. A friendly bird of the farmers sits on the bund of the paddy field. The call of the winged harbinger of rain seems to say in chaste Tulu: “Jokule papa!” (“Poor children!”), as if worried for their safety in the coming months of incessant rain. Yes, the rain will be here any moment.

The old Muslim chap from Hangalur who makes umbrellas from palm fronds is out selling his ware. The man has spent all summer making a wonderful variety. Big ones with short handles, medium sized ones with long handles, miniature sizes for children… This yearly visitor with a bunch of umbrellas hung across his shoulders isn’t a just seller. He is a friend, a well-wisher for the whole village.

How many “Megha dutas” just before it begins to pour! First the wild winds that hiss like serpents that have risen from the belly of the earth, forcing every tree and plant to bend their heads in reverence. Then the dark clouds. Aha…the rain! It’s coming down without a stop, it’s lashing week after week, it’s raining sheer joy. The sky has turned inside out to bathe earth from head to toe.

Mage, Aardre, Punarvasu… Every star in the constellation has waged a war with arrows of water. Indra is out on a journey, his wheels going “gudu, gudu, gudu…” and his shimmering sword slashing the sky at random. Where is he off to? No one knows. When lightning strikes, just utter the five names of his son “Arjuna, Phalguna, Partha…”

The howling wind and the pouring rain are a wild couple all night. Will the roof blow off? Has the lightning hit the coconut tree near the well?

Parthajji wakes up in the dead of the night, opens the door a crack and throws an iron sickle out. She quickly closes the door shut, bravely fighting the wind that is pushing its way in. What an adventure!

The beds migrate away from places where the palm rooftop leaks and go seeking the few dry patches in the house.

Minka, the farmhand, is also here with her kids. They have curled up in a dry corner. Her feet and palms are wrinkled and white from working day and night in the rain. Ask her why and quick is the reply: “How else are the hands and feet of working people during the rains?” Parthajji gives her a bit of medicinal oil in a bronze container. Stories unfold as she rubs oil on the white patches.

It is that time of the year when papads made in the sweltering heat of summer, carefully guarded against thieving crows, emerge from the dark depths of boxes. So many special eats just for the rainy season. Tender bamboo palya, patrode made from the wide kesavu leaves, fragrant kadubu wrapped in turmeric leaves, horse gram curry… Why is patrode forbidden for Nagara Panchami? Because the snake god Naga does not like the coiled delicacy that looks like him! And why does it rain without fail on Nagara Panchami? Because the milk offered to Naga should trickle all the way down into the belly of the earth!

Walking to Nagabana to offer prayers with a platter of milk, tender coconut, incense sticks and camphor in one hand and umbrella in the other is no easy task. All the time balancing and making sure the umbrella doesn’t turn inside out and become a parachute. And how is it that it never fails to rain just on the day when the school begins? Can’t it stop at least for a while when school gives over so that the kids get home dry, elders grumble. But what do they know of the eternal bond between children and the rains?

In their textbook is a poem, written by a comrade of the rain: “Jhirrr… jhirrr… it’s raining, rivers are swelling and overflowing…”

The palm frond umbrellas are lined up in a row outside the classroom. But whatever happens to them when the wind beckons? All order is thrown to the winds and its sheer chaos. Children chase after them. Which is mine and which is his?

It was on a rainy day that I wrote my first poem. A day when rain poured without warning. When mother was worried because her papads and fuel dung-cakes had not dried yet. The servant was still chipping fuel wood. All would be a horrid mess! Bring it all in, she shouted out to everyone in the house. But how?

Streams, tanks, dry wells… all are full. Bend and you touch the water in the well! But don’t do that, you will be swallowed and never come up. Do you hear the howling sea? You hear it here, there and faraway. Careful, don’t slip, the front yard is covered in moss. Walk carefully on the small stones lined up in a row. What fun to jump from one to another, without an umbrella over the head!

And then, slowly, slowly, the rain stops. It’s the month of Shravana. The earth wants to sleep under a warm blanket of green, like a tired new mother who has just had a bath. A little jari plant has even sprouted on the compound wall.

The rain is a messenger of memories. A soulmate who makes old memories green every year. The envoy between earth and sky, the life of every living thing. An ill-mannered guest who never cares to ask how much is too much…or too little.

He’s come again. But where is the enthusiasm? Where is the force, the strength? He comes when he feels like. Or just peeps through the window and disappears. Or lashes out in cold anger at other times. Where are the frogs that sang him a welcome? That friendly bird, where did it go? And those palm-frond umbrellas? Why bother with things that can’t be folded? The old Muslim man has disappeared into the house of memories. A few teary-eyed jari plants peep here and there.

The sea continues to howl every rainy season. But it’s not the same howl, the same sea, the same rain. The howl is tempered, fractured as it passes over blocks of buildings. But wait, that song of a peacock…I have never heard it before. Like a lament that has lost its way. Or the sudden wave of pain that engulfs an orphan.

 

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