I woke up with fever on the harvest day. It had been such a hectic month and I think the body was rebelling. But it was also the D -Day and thank god for the enthu - punter Poorna team for organising , coordinating, and keeping spirits high. It was the day when we had a reporter coming in from Bangalore Mirror. She had been interested in doing a story on the community kitchen cooking day of Poorna and it was a perfect day to invite her. For, it was the turn of class 7 kids to cook- the same group which had rebelled many times against including a Ragi dish in their cooking . But after Sreeja took them on a farm visit to see the crop two weeks back, they unanimously decided to cook nothing less than Ragi Mudde!!!! It was also the day when the freshly harvested 'Tuwar' ( we harvested some 4.5 kgs!) was being used in the cooking. It was also the day when two bloggers, who had been following our journey online for some time decided to make a trip to school from the other end of Bangalore. Indira was bringing her family including her 2 year old granddaughter who had been humming Ragi Tandira ever since she watched the Vasu Dixit video from the Children's day programme.
We had organised a few big scissors for the smaller students and some sickles. I went to my malyalee neighbour's house to enquire if they had one and I could borrow? "What? My house won't have a sickle? Impossible! Also, do you want a star to go with it to complete the CPI-M logo", asked Raji, my neighbour! HAHA . I tried my hand at cutting some stalks from my pot - not bad. Kids can also do it. The teachers seem confident about handling kids and the tools. So we were all set.
Madhavan in the morning bus ride had protested- "it is not fair, our class isn't going to harvest, why are the younger ones having all the fun?" Fun?
I got down from the bus and got unusually many cheerful, "Hi Pallavi! greetings from kids. Wait, kids are excited to do the hard work? Class 5 lined up at the gate without telling them to do so . Was it my delirious feverish state? or was there some real difference in enthu levels of these kids?
We quickly spread a bedsheet on the terrace and dried the already harvested Ragi that Vasantha brought form her house . A lovely Bangalore morning- nip in the air and sunlight. and dried Ragi stalks. Wonderful!
Banu and Viji had organised extra buses and we all landed up by 9:15 at the farm. We saw Santosh and Nataraj getting off their motorcycle. Nataraj had come in from Mysore. Laksh and his colleague, Uday joined us . We all went to the farm. Everyone took off their shoes except me- I hadn't heard the instruction and one student took me to task. Santosh and Nataraj quickly changed their attire - veshti and a shirt, talas(cymbals), Khanjira( hand held drum) and ghunghroos tied to wrists- what a festive sight! Shyamanna , the farmer next door, came in to join us. He instructed us to do a Puja first. Four stones , with incense( agarbattis) and kumkum were procured- thanks to Gauri shankar and Elijah's sprints . And when the Puja was done , gorgeous folk song notes hit the air. Shymanna cut the first few stalks. (and would have continued had we not requested him to stop and give the kids a chance). Then plot by plot, class 4,5,6 students worked in batches and used sickles, scissors , bare hands , and cut stalks of Ragi. We spread bedsheets on land and gathered and tied the produce. We did this with the folk music in the background which extolled the cycle of nature, the art of giving, the life of a farmer and the art of tilling the land -with close ties to nature. You didn't need any more lessons on sustainability if you paused and learnt from the cultural , traditional, simpler agrarian ways. I was very chuffed. First, because Shriprya told us all that our harvest is from the seeds that have been passed down 15 generations. And second when she narrated folklores that she had learnt from farmers she is friends with in Thalli- all about humility in front of nature's ways. When we lose this connection to land, we lose more than livelihood or food...We lose a language too. And these cultural losses will never be accounted for when we do the maths of rural-urban migration.
Apart from the pictures here, Sharmila, who blogs at www.theyellowturmeric.com posted a few if you can see it on facebook :https://www.facebook.com/TheYellowTurmeric/?timeline_context_item_type=intro_card_work&timeline_context_item_source=734115313&pnref=lhc
and so did Maya , from Eartha : https://www.earthamag.org/stories/stories/2017/12/11/the-ragi-project-how-one-school-is-feeding-itself-from-within
And then there is our FB page as well: https://www.facebook.com/ragiproject/
We then sat on the road listening to more songs and stories and then time to wrap up and get to school for a lunch of???? Muddes!!!
The teachers had to continue their classes post lunch and the students in two classes asked for nap time to help them recover from their hard work! well deserved nap time, for sure!
The day ended with bringing back all the harvested Ragi that had been kept on the terrace back into the classroom.
The many hands that came forward today when we worked together.. I lost count- the bus incharge to the teachers, to visitors, to children. What a lovely feeling! I hope the school will cherish this