Adventures of Cornfield

It’s spring! Everything in the mountain starts to get new life after a long dry winter. Flowers red, yellow, blue, purple and pink -bloom everywhere. Trees turn parrot green with new leaves and buds. Birds build nest and sing songs in the fields. Butterflies come out and fly over the flowers. People get married and start new life. Everything turns beautiful and sensual in the natural world of the mountain.
Farmers start to sow maize from the month of March. As it is the time for final exams in the schools all the children can not involve that much in the work. From the mid of the month the children get rid of schools and have short holiday before new academic year starts. At this time  the maize seedlings start to pop out from the soil at. It doesn’t come alone, the enemy also arrives with it –monkeys. They love maize from seedling to ear. And so farmers should be careful if their cornfield falls in boarder with the bush or jungle. So villagers have to watch the monkeys to save the cornfield at very start and when it bears maize ears. And children get this duty of watching monkey during this holiday.
Prakash, Bhaikaka, Tiley and me; this band of boys were completely assimilated with nature and filled with adventure. We were tough children. We mostly played in the corn fields, pasture or jungle. So we loved this job of watching monkeys.

We used to make a temporary hut by ourselves with the fodder and small branches in the high part of cornfield so that we can see if the monkeys come. Some people used to have better permanent hut and they even kept cattle and slept at night there. Our temporary hut consisted of bed space and shelves; all from leaves and branches and also an oven made of stone. We used to keep water in a clay vessel in the hut. Everyone working in the field or passerby could come in and quench their thirst. We used such hut as shelter in case of rain or hailstone. The shelter was also nice for resting if the sun was hot.
After the seedlings were bigger monkeys no longer visited the cornfield and but we used the shelter. The place was good for hiding our treasures such as cards, boxes, books, sickle, khukuri, matches, etc. We also used to steal mangoes and plums and kept them in the hut. We also used to go to nearby jungle and bring berries and other fruits. Sometimes some older boys used to come there and tell us the things of their world and make us ashamed. We had heard and learnt such things from them in the hut. And sometimes we read and did homework there to show our parents that we are so good.

When the maize was ready the monkeys came again to steal, and if they enter the field it would take some minutes to destroy all. So it was very important task to chase them before they attack cornfield. So we always stayed in the hut and carefully looked for monkeys. These times we sometimes used to have dogs with us. As I didn’t have my dog, I used to take any stray dog that would appear on the way and take with me. In the village most of the dogs are public, knew their name and everyone feed them if they appear at door while eating. But they may have a particular house or place for night. I used to crease on its head and call its name that was what it needed to follow me. Unlike humans dogs don’t expect much from us for their help. They are really helpful to chase monkeys; they are fast and bark louder than our shouting. These dogs were good friends too. They used to play with us and sleep in the hut. We would share some of our food with these dogs. When the monkeys came and if the dog was there it was great fun. We used to chase the monkeys far away in the jungle shouting loud. The dog used to bark louder if we shouted more and run closer to the monkeys if we ran. Sometimes dogs used to get attacked and chased by monkeys instead and we used to help them and vice versa. But it was such a thrill and fun. The monkeys used to disappear for couple of days or some hours but we always wished that the monkeys come every day and dogs were with us.
It was easier to chase a troop of monkeys but very dangerous to chase a single monkey. Sometimes a single monkey used to appear in the cornfield, they were usually fat, big and aggressive.  It is just like selfish human who is obsessed by individual interest and is ready to do anything for the shake of his own desires. It could attack children or even grownups and fight with dogs. Very unpredictable ! So we used to use slingshot and shout from far to chase such single monkeys.

Not only single monkey, but there were many stories that scared us in the cornfield. As the maize grew higher, the field used to become a thick jungle and you could hardly see something ten meters away. Older boys used to tell us about the jungle man- This creature was said to have long beard and a long hair with mighty body and knew the mantra (witchcraft). This creature lived in strange caves of the mountain and kidnapped children. The children would be then given earthworm to eat and taught all the mantra and returned back after years when they were very wise and could heal all the disease. This was popular story and even some old people believed it so we were so scared by heart. There were other stories of thieves and aliens that dwelled in cornfield.  So we always kept sickle or khukuri (knife) with us and made fire in the hut. All these stories and adventures make children a naturally self defending , imaginative and strong.
In the hut we used to bring sweet corn and smoked/roasted it in the fire to eat. It was not always from our fields! Some neighbour told us to watch for their cornfield too and promised something like sweets or fruits and at the end of the day didn’t fulfil their promise. And so we used to take revenge by stealing their sweet corn. Sometimes we even chased the monkeys towards their cornfield and enjoyed the scene as the monkeys destroyed the plant.

Hunting the Hornet and Looking for Nestlings

Summer is rainy in the mountain. It’s a lot of fun.

But very hard time for farmers to plant rice in the fields because of airy climate where farming is totally dependent on rain water and springs that only sprout after long heavy rain. It’s also the time to harvest corn and plant millet.

For the kids it was amazing. Floating paper boats in the yard, eating fig fruit (khanayo) and playing in the puddle and rain are so great works we did. In this season, as parents were mostly in the field in the light and we used to have two months long holiday, we children enjoyed so many things at home; stealing sugar, making dolls of rags, making different shapes of clay, gathering in one’s home and play hide and seek and so on.

But we also had a main duty to separate   maize kernel from maize ear. It was hard and we used to get bristle on palm however there used to be competition among us and we enjoyed it. Our task was also to dry the maize in the sun which might disappear all of sudden and rain could start from nowhere. So every children of the mountain must learn this game of hide and seek with the sun and the rain. Not only the rain but the escaped chickens and goats were enemy of maize kernel. Along with this task we had to feed the cattle during the day; it is not a big deal as parents would bring fodder in the morning enough for all day; we only give it to animals on time. Though goats were stubborn sometimes that they didn’t eat everything and we might find something special for them.

Parents always wanted to take care of kernel and the cattle and do homework but they knew we may escape from home anytime. That’s why they used to provide us keys of home to lock it properly in case we went away. And they were right! Many times we escaped.

Sometimes I went for bird hunting using slingshot. I never had my own slingshot as that would be a great trouble if mummy saw. She never allowed me to have a slingshot or a pet bird. But I burrowed it from someone and went for bird hunting all day long when mummy and daddy were not home in summer. I never captured a bird but my friend Manjeet was sniper! He used to have at least one every day. Dove was famous and was a matter of pride to kill a dove which I never could do. But I could find nests, sometimes eggs or nestlings. If it was egg we would never touch it because it was said that if we touch the eggs the birds would leave the nest forever. But if there was nestling we would look whether it was good enough to take home. All the birds were not eaten by everyone. Nightingales, blackbirds and parrots nestlings were kept as pet for they would speak one day. Some birds were good watcher of eagle and other preying birds. They would inform by making sound when eagles fly over the hill looking for chickens. And some birds like dove and woodcock were famous meat. In the village there were many tamed birds which didn’t run away from home. Some were kept in the cage. I had once convinced my mummy to keep a Nightingale nestling. It was well cared in the cage till it could fly well. But one day it disappeared.

Sometimes Manjeet and I went to look for the hive of hornet/wasps. Dangerous! Quite often they sting at us and which is so poisonous; the part would swell and be so painful. But we wouldn’t give up! Why? – Babies in their hive-they are so tasty!!  We used to shallow fry or roast the babies and make a delicious snack. This needed skill and a lot of patience. We would make a smoky torch with long handle and put near the hive so that the hornet would go away because of the smoke. We would hide ourselves so carefully by the tree or grass or wall and wait till all the hornets are flown away or dead. If we are quicker or careless during this we may get poisonous sting. If the hive was small we would just hit it with stone from far away or go near with handful of wet soil and cover it. And finally collect the babies and dead hornet. If we get stung parents would know it, but I would tell lie that I was cutting grass and didn’t notice the hive etc. Some few wouldn’t like this dangerous prey but I did.

Whatever done in the day, in the evening we would be so careful. We would collect some fodder or grass and feed the goats and buffalo, tidy up the buffalo shed, fetch water and fire the oven before mummy came. If sometimes mummy or daddy was faster than us to reach home that would be a day of trouble.

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