Wednesday, May 16, 2012

By-lanes 05: Chalihas farmhouse at Khetri

In By-lanes, I narrate experiences of the Serpentine journey, full of detours, diversions, tangents, and by-lanes. Name inspired by the song By-lanes by friend Lueit Parasar. Check:


On 6th May, I went to my family friends, the Chalihas farmhouse at Tuloni, Khetri, outskirts of Guwahahti. For the past months, Mon (Angshumon Chaliha), had been giving me descriptions about farm life over the phone. From the urban frying pan of Delhi, his stories seemed a planet away. So finally I landed up on Sunday evening. Budh Purnima.

The farmhouse was on top of a hill. Below, around it were many ponds. Many of them seeding with prawns. Each prawn the size of a grain of rice. Millions of them. Evening, the moon rose behind the forest hills. An orange moon. Gradually become yellower with ascent. The ponds gleaming under lunar light. Mon's father Biswa Bijay Chaliha, had given up urban congestion of Guwahati in 2006. To begin his life in paradise. Like the character Strickland in The Moon and Sixpence. (Somerset Maugham's novel on the life of artist Paul Gauguin). Far From The Madd(en)ing Crowd. 
I went into the kitchen. Above the earthen stove, on a bamboo tray, a heap of dried fish. Salivating  I began munching.  Salty, raw, primitive. Suddenly I was transported. To the age of prehistoric reptiles. My niece Angel stared. I gave her a piece and she began munching. After all… my niece. Evening, my family left. Mesmerized by the sound of billion crickets, I stayed behind. Later, Mon and I went down to the staff quarters . In a corner of the hilly slopes. We drowned in Rohi, fermented rice beer. Later sloshed, we went down to the ponds. To feed the million starving baby prawns. The dried mud was glowing like phosphorous. We lay flat on a patch of grass. A billion stars above us. 
Far from the bustle,  the maddening crowds, the shady haven, a heavenly haunt, a Serpentine by-lane into a havenly gratitude!

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