tea at ajaz’s house
and the harvests begin
madhuri trying her hand at grass cutting
after nicking my finger, i have decided grass cuttings a lot harder than it looks
waseem bundling the product of our efforts
more tea in badpuraat harpoons house. from back to front: anaayat, haroon’s mum, waseem, sayma, madhuri, irfaan, me, zeeshaan, harron’s grandmum, ajaz
the beauty that is sayma in the beauty that is haroon’s garden
Ajaz, alarmingly proficient in the art of hard bargaining, promised us that if we did not make a trip up to Badpura today, he would not accompany us to see Billy, the nameless goat, tomorrow. Badpura is a painfully steep walk up and I really wished I could turn around and tell him we’d go goat viewing without him. Luckily it was one of those rare moments wherein I was reminded to think before I spoke and realised that between the weird off-road mountain part you have to eventually take and the Kashmiri screams, up to the owners, to tie up the vicious dogs that you had to make, we would not manage without him and so I grudgingly obliged.
We left for Badpura just after 4 and a shameful number of huffs and puffs later, reached the bottom Batt house only to find it absolutely deserted. Madhuri who had been banking on afternoon tea looked visibly dejected and cheered up significantly when Zeeshan appeared from one of the houses, signaling tea, even though it meant more uphill climbing. Zeeshan, Irfaan and Ajaz arranged some blankets for us and played good hosts until our tea was brought in, accompanied with plates burdened with huge servings of halwa (some sweet thing), chapattis and biscuits for each of us.
After tea, Madhuri and I accompanied the kids on a tour of the harvest progress in Badpura and attempted, rather laughably, to assist with the grass cutting. Due to coldness of winter, meter deep snow falls and frozen grounds, all the crops are cut, dried and stored away for the winter. Harvest begins mid-September and carries on through October. The edibles like corn, beans and pumpkin are all collected to be stored as food the winter. The fruits that can be dried are cut and left on rooftops to dry and the crops, including the grass, leaves off the trees, corn stalks and wood for fire are all cut, bundled and laid out to dry before being stored as animal feed for the winter. The days in October are perfectly suited to harvest as the rain has subsided and while the mornings and evenings have a distinct chill to them, the days are often filled with the perfectly stong sunshine that is needed to yellow the crops.
Each house picks a day for their harvest and on that day, the rest of the village goes to help them. They start early in the morning and the people of the house whose crops are being cut, are responsible for providing breakfast, lunch and dinner for whoever comes to help. People line up in a straight row down the mountain and work their way across the mountain, cutting as they go along. There is one person who leads them and another who stands with a drum and beats it at anyone who had fallen behind or has started to slack. The day ends with a big dinner and the hosts will attend the harvest days of everyone who has come to help them with theirs.
It all sounds truly magical and confirms my suspicions that you can be neither lazy nor selfish if you live in the village and there is something about the spirit of community, in the harvest tales I have heard, that warms my heart. Our harvest day is on Tuesday apparently and while Madhuri is very keen on joining in the vertical production chain, after my failed attempts at grass cutting today, I fear the constant beating of the drum at my ear and so I have opted to join the moral support and photography crew. So much anticipation!