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Adi & Praja 062

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Adi and Praja

Chapter 7

Issue 61: Life was good

The next day the black spot had become much smaller, and after three days it had completely vanished, and forever.

(62)

(Life was good at the village)

The region in which the village was situated was quite dry most of the year. Good rains came only after a very hot summer with hot dust and sand storms, but when it came the rainy season lasted for two or three months. There were special songs for calling the rain, and special songs of gratitude for when the rains had come. The greatest day in the year was when it rained for the first time after a long period of far over more 40 C or 107 F, sometimes 120: almost suddenly a tremendous thunderstorm would break loose. All the children and many of the grown-ups came out of their houses; the children climbed on the flat roofs – Shano among the first because nobody loved it more than he, and dozens of his friends would climb on his fathers roof (one of the biggest and strongest in the village) and danced in the rain, getting very, very wet, drenched from top to toe, some opening their mouths to drink the rain, and splashing in the cool sky water which was no warmer than 30 degrees. Soon a few inches of water would stand on the roof and it became a kind of shallow swimming pool. They would dance and splash and lay and roll around with their whole body in the delightful water they all became very muddy.

The most awesome time was perhaps just minutes before the rain splashed down. In some distance the rain poured down already, and the first big drops were falling on the parched grounds of the village. Then a smell would arise from the hot soil, carried but the evaporating rainwater, which was formed by a mixture of soil, cow dung, goat dung and other things accumulated over almost a year. Though the smell was somewhat pungent, not at all like the smell of any flower, there seemed to be no better smell in the world than just this one. It is what stuck deep in the subconscious memory of Shano and the others. It was this very smell which would always, throughout their life, be the smell of the village, and that alone was enough to love it always in their heart, wherever they went in the world. When returning from afar after years it was always the smell of homeliness, of happiness and relaxation.

Another consequence of the dry conditions was that father, once in a while, had to go away for more than a week to buy wood in the villages in a wetter area where were the forests. For that he had to hire a camel and a big cart – one of his main financial burdens – and to prepare equipment for camping, take enough water and food for himself, and fodder for the camel. When they were no longer toddlers, at least one of the boys would go with him to keep him company and have some adventure. Though the area of the village was flat, within walking distance there were hills, first low hills, and then some you could almost call mountains. There would be somewhat more rain there and a forest of small spiky trees was growing there. Behind the hills more forest was to be found. After some three or four days they would reach the places where they could buy wood, different species of fine wood for carving and also big logs for building purposes. They had to go to several villages for different types and qualities of wood and to negotiate a good prize. Not every year the wood was equally abundant, but one thing was sure: it was always more expensive than the year before. The smell was different from that at home, because of the young cut tree stems and branches and the more moist conditions; and the children and father felt really abroad, which of course felt like adventure. People were dressed differently, and spoke a language which was often difficult to understand for them. Father would also buy some types of foods not available at home, and after their return mother would turn all this in a big eating party.

When Shano and Marico and their friends became a little older, may be around nine to thirteen, they walked to the hills (or sat on a donkey when one was available) and climbed the hillsides and the stones and the trees. In and after the rain season the trees were green with rather small leaflets (the sun was always strong, and hot winds would sometimes sweep the forest), and herbs and grasses were growing and flowering all around under the trees, covering the whole soil. But soon after the rains had stopped the herbs dried out. A few months later most of the trees would drop their leaves, and the forest would look like a forest in winter in the colder regions of our planet – but it was some dozens of degrees warmer. Marico w as very much interested in wood, and he would carry a knife and practice some wood carving in the forest. Shano did that also. But to be honest the best moments for Shano were when he could be alone for some time, his brother and friends playing somewhere, and he could sit on a stone and listen and feel the special silence of this forest. There were thousands of smaller and bigger stones on the hillside, which were once part of the massive rock which still formed the core of the hills. The rock and the stones were crystalline, but that you could see only when you looked very well. At first site they were merely grey. In between grew the silvery grey thin stems of the spiny trees. There were hardly any birds or squirrels among all that dryness, only stones and stems. Shano felt however that the forest was full of life. Though it was completely invisible for his eyes, he imagined – and he imagined it so strongly that it could have been real – that thousands of creatures were darting around, who were also silver-grey like the stones and the stems, and had more or less their forms also. Even long before the actual rains came they seemed to be preparing the forest for the advent of it. They jumped and darted up and down the stones and especially around the thin stems, and seemed to have much fun.

Shano realized that for every stone their was some being to like it, some heart that was happy – so that no single stone or tree in the forest was useless and lonely: always there was some being enjoying it, and there was no loneliness. Shano could spent a long time in his world of fantasy (or, was it fantasy, or true?) before joining his friends. In this way he developed a very fine feeling for nature, and a fine and rich character.

Back in the village life went on as normal, more or less the same every day. One diversion, especially for the grown-ups and elderly, was that traveling quack doctors, would sometimes come and visit the village. People weren’t ill very often, because they lived quietly and in general harmoniously. But of course diseases were occurring as everywhere. Most problems could be healed by the crazy witch. She always had some herbal decoction for an upset stomach, or could put a plaster with some stinking ointment on the spot where somebody had bumped his head or hit with his little toe painfully against a stone. And there were many minor wounds she could disinfect and heal. She had a whole collections of decoctions for sore throats and coughing. Her knowledge about these things came from very ancient times, and had proved very valuable and helpful. Some whispered that she was making poisonous drinks also, and that some shady figures from another village would meet her at night outside the village in an empty hut to buy such things for their evil pursuits. But it was just a gossip – it was never confirmed. She earned her name of crazy witch to her long nose, loose uncombed hairs and most of all her peculiar, hoarse, raspy voice, what made her especially weird when she tried to shout. (All that because she had suffered a lot long ago when she was still a girl) And she had some magic power also. Sometimes when somebody entered her house while she was preparing medicine one could find her sitting at a big cauldron containing a boiling fluid, with her hairs loose, staring in the fluid for half an hour murmuring some unintelligible sentences in an unknown language. Some people whispered that she was actually speaking with the dead and asked the ghosts to advice her about medicine. It was also said that spooks were roaming around her house – some people said they could feel an eerie atmosphere – but in reality they were not spooks or ghosts, but elementals, beings of the invisible realms who she could call upon to give extra power to her medicine. Anyway, though for the rest she lived in loneliness (nobody dared to be her friend), most villagers came to her for help sometimes – and she could help. When somebody had a problem which could not be solved immediately, she would pay attention to the patient for days, and give herself enormous trouble to find some special herb or other means to help that person. She had a good heart.

But if the crazy witch could not help, there were the traveling quacks to make some cure and some profit – usually the last more than the first. As soon as you mentioned what your problem was he would immediately say in a reassuring voice: Oh, that’s no real problem at all. I have something for that. And he would take some pills (which looked like rabbit shit) out of his bag, or some pot with ointment. When he saw that you believed him he would ask a good price, and say that the medicine would start working after a few days (when nobody would know where he had gone). And sometimes the quacks’ medicines would help. Some among these quacks had some real knowledge about herbs that can be generally applied. Some of them had really good intentions. But they never had time to stay to see the results of their medication. Just by the fact that people had paid quite a lot they believed it would help, and certainly they did not want to admit when it did not help. And therefore alone, the mind automatically gave the body the force to heal itself, and the patient would be grateful to the quack, and when he returned or another one came, he would find even more clients.

Good, official, doctors were to be found in the city, and they had a great knowledge of the balance in the people’s bodies, could feel their wrist with three fingers and immediately conclude what was the matter, and they had a great knowledge of herbs and how to prepare medicine. But they were often too haughty and expensive to be of any use for the villagers. They preferred to advise rich businessmen and women. Rich business men and women tended to eat to much, get too fat, and ate what was tasty rather than what was healthy. So they were more unbalanced, more stupid and therefore needed more doctors.

(63)

(Nothing much happened … yet)

Making wooden things was not the only thing made in our village. One family was specialized in pots of baked clay. These were used by everyone to catch water from a stream at the bottom of a hill in the rainy season, or from a deep well in the dry season, and for cooking, storage and carrying sand or clay.

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