A day in the life of a young farmer
There’s an air of celebration when the agricultural season begins in my village. It is time to end the dormancy of long winter days and come out and start preparing the fields. I remember enjoying working in the fields and on the days when the fields had to be ploughed, I used to try to take leave from school on the pretext of doing some necessary work. We used to take out all the farming tools, clean it and check for any repairs. A day earlier, our bulls were also brought from another village and were prepared for ploughing. The excitement would not let me sleep and I would think of all possible excuses to take leave form school so I could and help my family in the field.
Photo Courtesy: Vicky
Photo Courtesy: Vicky
The next day, my grandfather would make a barley offering to the local deity Jogani. After the prayers everyone would take the offerings as blessings and proceed to prepare for the day. Before going to the fields, we would place flowers in the horns of the bulls. All the equipment and the bulls were then taken to the agriculture fields. I would also help out in guiding the bulls to the field which would give me immense pleasure. For traditional rituals, my mother would bring roasted barley (kha) & local alcohol (chhang) to the fields. We would then gather the bulls in teams of 2 and attach the plougher to them. After that we would offer chaang, kha and our prayers to our fields facing east (to garner the sun's positive energy into our lives).
My family would then begin the hardwork of ploughing the fields which would last a few days. The fields which were harder to plough, were then ploughed with the help of Shaalu - my favourite mare. Unfortunately, I would never get permission from school to take off for a full day, so after the rituals, I had to rush to the school! Lunch for the farmers was prepared in the community hall and was served every day at 12:30 pm. For the bulls, the farmer would prepare Pinniyan balls of barley dough Sattu kneaded with local alcohol Chaang. This would give them strength for the remaining day’s work. After resting for an hour after lunch the farmers would get back to work. In the evening, the farmers would have tea and local bread puri at 6, around the same time we would return from school. We would help out our parents till the sunset and then head back home. If there was any time left before it got dark, we would level out the uneven fields. The blades of the plough would be replaced by a plank of wood and the bulls would then walk the fields levelling it. To add extra weight, my sibling and I would fight to climb onto the plank. By the end we would be covered in mud. We had an amazing childhood.
Farming life has changed drastically. The new age equipment gets the job done quickly but it's not a celebration like the old times. Earlier whole family would partake in the ploughing, sowing and harvest process, now it's a one person job. These equipment have in some way facilitated migration as now women single-handedly manage the fields. Bulls are replaced by power tillers and are rarely seen in any village. Agriculture was not just about growing produce for sustenance, but it was a way to form connections with our land, our animals and nature. And now, I see those connections fade.
About the Author
Vicky is from Mooling village in Lahaul. He studied geography from Govt. college Sanjauli (Shimla, HP). He likes exploring mountainous valleys and trekking. He believes every mountain is unique and has its own stories.