Living next to a farm provides tons of photo opportunities. I now always leave a camera on the third floor, where our laundry room and terrasse are. I wonder how long it will take for the farmers to notice me. So far, I try and stay incongruous, but I may start waiving at them soon. In the last few days, I have been observing them, and am starting to recognize them. There are at least 5 women, 2 teenagers, a tractor driver, a man on a phone (always), and another man who seems to be the owner or manager.
There are several crops, many of which I cannot identify either out of ignorance or distance. In the back, they are growing tomatoes, some are already red and look ready for harvest. It’s rice trans-planting season. The fields are tilled by a tractor, which is a step above the bullock technology seen in the villages. The man driving that tractor is a genius, I have watched him manoeuver it in a foot of mud, forward and backward.
The rice seedling must have been planted a while back, and cover one square of the field on a higher level of the farm. It is a very beautiful shade of dense green. They look like scallions. The irrigation system is pretty ingenious. Men build mud walls to retain the water, and dig trenches to direct it. All of this is done by hand of course, though I have no idea where they are pulling the water from.
The seedlings are plucked and put in bunches ready to be planted again a few inches apart in a wider area, lower than the original patch. Although the actual transplanting is done exclusively by women, there is a male teenager who helps pull the seedlings out. They have been doing that for a few days now, covering about one square per day. This morning I counted 12 squares or patches of land that are ready for sowing.
From 7 in the morning until 6 at night, women in the fields stand in ankle deep mud, bent in half. Some have a scarf tied around their head, and their saree is tied back between their legs. Many wear a long sleeve shirt to protect from the sun. It’s 90 degrees in the shade these days. The mud is full of worms, creepy crawler, including snakes. I can hear them chatter all day, and when I zoom in on the pictures, I can see that on most of them, the women are smiling.
I come from a family of farmers. I spent my summer holidays sitting on a tractor with my uncles and grand-father. Punishment at that time meant having to stay in the house and help my grand-mother with the chores instead of going out in the fields. There was machinery, but a lot was also done by hand such as moving balls of hay, which requires brute force. But never, ever, never, had I seen anything as backbreaking as growing rice. And once again it’s done mainly by women.
I am faced with a new existential dilemma. To paraphrase Shakespeare, my problem has become “To Eat Or Not To Eat”, or more precisely, “What To Eat”. Many people think it is wrong to eat animals since we have to kill them first (preferably) and it’s just cruel. I agree with that, but I also think animals taste good!
Is being vegetarian is a kinder option? No. It’s just cruel on another variety of animals: humans.