A couple of days ago, when Sonati and I were walking back through the fields, from Ramsub and Rama's place, we were struck by the fact that walking, too, is part of the culture of the place that is fast disappearing.

When we moved here, 12 years ago, there was one bike in Valagapattu (which has about 60-70 houses), apart from mine. Now, Valagapattu boasts more bikes than houses! People ride their bikes from their home to their fields. They even ride their bikes to the ration shop to get their monthly 3 litres of kerosene. And good (relatively speaking) roads have inexorably divided the have-bikes from the have-nots. That many youngsters are putting on weight, is something that will have an impact on public health issues 20 years down the line.

What is lost is the slow exchange of How are you? Nalla irrukengala? No rain whatsoever... Suthamma mazhai-ey illai ... What have you planted this season? Kaatu-le ennai irukku?


A lovely old couple, whom I don't remember ever having met before, stopped when they saw us, unloaded their head-loads and presented us with freshly harvested tender cucumber. And told us that they taste lovely with salt and  chili powder.

"Where do all these cucumbers go?"

"Who knows? The company people come every evening and collect it, and pay us by the kilo: ₹5 for mature stuff and ₹20 per kilo of tender cucumber. They say it goes to some foreign country"

A little further on, we met Mukkuthian and Unnamalai, winding up at the end of the day, cows into cowshed, and heading for home. Mukkuthian's first impulse when he saw us was to, literally, leap up a jackfruit tree:

"Take one home for the boys".

He dropped a few onto a stack of sugarcane leaves; Unnamalai having refused to catch them. She then chose the best and gave it for us to carry home.

"Where are the boys?"

"Oh, they have each gone to work somewhere, leaving the two of us to look after all this..."

Thanking them for the jackfruit, we moved on.

This sort of exchange is obviously impossible on a bike, where one just about manages perfunctory hellos or nods of the head to people passing by on their bikes in the opposite direction.

And, of course, the walk stays with us for  a much longer time, through the various meals: the tiffin where we demolished the jackfruit, the boys doing much of the demolition; the cucumber salads at the various "Torte and Thayir" dinners and the delicious smell of fried jackfruit seeds which drags me from this blog to the back verandah for lunch.