Spice of Life: Sip of sweet nostalgia in scorching summer - Hindustan Times
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Spice of Life: Sip of sweet nostalgia in scorching summer

ByAjay Kumar Sharma
Jun 23, 2024 09:38 PM IST

After waiting for an hour to allow the sand to settle down, we lowered our small earthen pot to pull out the clean water from the temporary well we had dug.

The harsh summer brings back nostalgic memories of childhood when schools used to remain closed for six weeks on account of the vacation. It used to be a welcome break from the punishing schedule of waking up early and rushing to school in the nearby village and then walking back in the afternoon in the scorching heat. However, for youngsters in the rural areas, the initial euphoria of the holidays used to melt away like dollops of ice-cream in a frying pan.

Savouring water from a clay pot while sitting under the canopy of a mango tree was a heavenly feeling. (HT File)
Savouring water from a clay pot while sitting under the canopy of a mango tree was a heavenly feeling. (HT File)

No, it wasn’t merely about the fear of not completing the home work given by our teachers. In rural households, besides the meagre amount earned from agriculture or non-farm labour, cattle-rearing is an important source of additional income. Taking the cattle out to graze in the afternoon was a year-round affair but during the summer vacation, it used to become a day-long drudgery. There was hardly any green fodder available in the hot, dry season and cattle were wary of eating only the dried-up wheat or paddy stubble.

Usually, I along with a few friends would take our cattle to graze in the fields in the old basin of the Markanda river in Ambala district, 4km from our village. The old basin was some distance away from the main river channel. The Markanda is a rain-fed seasonal river and almost dries up in the summer months. There were no plastic bottles or thermoses to carry the drinking water for the day. The area around the river basin didn’t have any hand pump or a working tube well. One of us used to go back to the village to get drinking water for all of us in an earthen pot but in the searing heat of the blazing sun, it used to be a gruelling task.

Recalling the summer of 1980, one riveting experience remains etched in my memory. I had recently read somewhere in the geography book that the water table in areas adjoining the rivers is high. To avoid long walks back to the village to quench our thirst, I suggested the drilling of a small well in the old river basin. One of my friends brought a shovel with him the next day and it was deftly used turn by turn by all four of us for digging. Within an hour, a four-foot-deep ditch with a diameter of approximately two feet was dug. The loamy soil had given way to fine sand and the water table didn’t appear to be too far. We had hardly dug another feet and the elixir of life in the form of groundwater started oozing out with a susurrus sound to the base of the little well. In some time, a foot-deep water body was formed.

After waiting for an hour to allow the sand to settle down, we lowered our small earthen pot to pull out the clean water from the temporary well we had dug. To our surprise, this water tasted way better than the saline and brackish water being pumped out from the hand pumps in our village. Savouring the same while sitting under the canopy of a mango tree was a heavenly feeling.

This experience was a far cry from the tantrums we throw these days when we go out for meals and find that the drinking water being served to us is not filtered. In fact, a few of us invariably order bottled mineral water due to health concerns and the lure of pristine quality.

Such was life then, finding comfort in the spring of nature, and such is life now, when the choice of water personifies both luxury and an indispensable requirement of life.

sharmaajay25@yahoo.co.in

(The writer is principal commissioner of income tax in Mumbai.)

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