A Trip to Maasa’s Shamba

Update as of 25 Nov 2009


Shankar always looked forward to his weekend day trip to Maasa’s Shamba. This was a farm owned by Maasa, the elderly neighbour who did not mind talkative, inquisitive 9 year olds tagging along whenever he visited his farm. But unlike the normal notion of a farm, that grew cash crops and had a farmhouse, all within about 20-30 acres of land; this Shamba was 800 acres large and almost sustained a township within it, with a grocery store, farm implement store, a diesel pump and a primary school, all within the shamba. Shankar looked forward to the trip as it let him be footloose, fancy free, and appreciate nature from real close; not that he lived in a big city. He lived in a small town on the shores of the large lake on the equator. The shamba was actually a sugar cane estate that grew tons of the sweet grass to be supplied to the nearby sugar mill. The weather was tropical, yet pleasant with warm mornings, slightly humid afternoons, rainy evenings and cool nights. The weather stayed uniform all year round and so the farm grew the cane for harvest all year round, too. The beauty of this crop is its ability to regenerate more than once – so if the “first” cane is harvested, in a few days, fresh shoots will grow in place of the short sugar stumps and regenerate into the 1st ratoon and even if that is harvested, quickly springs up the 2nd ratoon. This is convenient for the farmers as they have to till the land only once in a year or so, but the short growing season ensures that farmhands are occupied enough. Shankar’s shamba trip would always be in a multi-terrain four wheel drive vehicle as the murram roads within the estate could be quite tricky – slushy in places, while dry and dusty more often. At times, little streams needed to be crossed which only a sturdy vehicle could manouevre. Lunch would always be at the farmhouse clusters – hot Gujju food served by the local Luo cook; lip-smacking wholesome goodies, most of which were grown in their backyard. On some of the afternoons, Shankar would ask to be taken to the nearby forest and the natural water springs – just to savour the cool and bubbly water that flowed freely from a banana grove and on his return to the farmhouse, he would be treated to stories of a gorilla attack last weekend or the hyena that almost caught a school going child. Wild stories that scared him, but at the same time, egged him to return to the shamba every other weekend, at times with his siblings and parents.

There was furore in Delhi last week on the sweet grass, and more in the parliament this week too. I guess some other issues demolished this little niggle, as the D Street Boyz settled to see some political action that transcended into religion as well. Of-course, as is usually noticed, they were taken by surprise as some northern state announced a pact with the cane farmers paving the way to a sweet compromise (I presume) and the happy, sweet feeling and the green grassy sweet canes ensured that even the SENSEX remained lush and green all through. And like the real cane, even when there were threats of decimation (when the SENSEX slipped down), it rebounded like the 1st ratoon and 2nd to keep the day green. Someone predicted a volatile session, which it was in the second half, but if a 60 point here and another 50 there could scare the D Boyz, then they would not be D Boyz. So taking it in their stride, they ended the day on a sweet note up 67 points at 17198.

Before returning from the shamba, the all-in-one cook would load the four wheel drive with some fresh produce from his kitchen garden – plump purple brinjals, fresh broad beans, bundles of aromatic dillweed, crisp green ladyfingers, cobs of fresh white corn, freshly uprooted groundnuts, log like cassava, and once in while, some freshly cut cane sugar, to be peeled, cubed and quartered and eaten while watching the football match on TV that night!


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