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.