Monsoon countdown at Malnad

Society

Monsoon countdown at Malnad

For a rainy day: Firewood is stored ahead of the rainy season in the Malnad  region.

Worker Halappa is confused. He doesn’t know what to focus on, whether he should be fetching firewood, or jackfruit and mangoes. Then, he also has to chop wood and line up the logs to be used for fuel. This is much the same predicament that most agricultural workers across Malnad face ahead of the monsoon.

Come April, Malnad gears up for a flurry of activity, from ensuring that kitchens are well-stocked to making sure the food is safe to withstand the onslaught of the monsoon. All this work needs to be done in two months.

While women busy themselves with making pickles and jackfruit papads, there is also the task of repairing homes, and making them monsoon-ready. Also, the harvest of paddy needs to be pounded and rice stored away safely.

Farmers are the busiest lot, as they prepare their land for rain. They need to use the right manure on their fields and stack hay while the sun shines, because soon it will be time for  months of constant rain, when the rivers, ponds and lakes are full, and the crickets chorus at night. Gearing up for the monsoon is a big socio-economic activity for people in the region, especially for those belonging to the agrarian community. People stock up on firewood, though this has come down drastically because people have begun to use alternatives for fuel.

Stocking up on firewood

A couple of decades ago, stocking up on firewood was a matter of pride. There were families that stocked up on 20 to 30 bullock cart loads of wood. Today, with growing awareness, people have stopped chopping trees in the forests. Also, people have stopped using firewood for purposes such as cooking because they now have LPG stoves.

With the onset of summer, the households in Malnad stock up on food grains and other cereals. They empty out storage jars carrying old grains, fill them up with fresh produce, dry fresh spices in the blazing summer heat and store them away for the monsoon.

Households store everything from kerosene to groundnut oil to traditional medicines that might be of use during the monsoon, when people can barely step out of homes.

A shift in the scenario

But, even here, there seems to be a slight shift. Today’s markets make all food products and grains available at all times of the year, so fewer people stock up on these things.

Also, the region doesn’t get cut off from the rest of the State like before. So, people stock up only on things used on a daily basis, points out Susheelajji, who has seen several decades of Malnad monsoons. “Those were the days when there were no transport facilities. The bullock cart was the only means of transport back then. It was the bullock cart that was used to cart groceries from the nearest town to the villages,” she explains.

According to Susheelajji, when firewood stoves were used, there was no problem when it came to keeping the kitchen warm. Today, owing to modern stoves, keeping the kitchen warm in the monsoon months is a challenge, she points out, as she readies a broom made of dry grass, for the monsoon.

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