Monday, November 23, 2009

The mud between my toes

10 minutes isn’t a big time to lose when you are traveling from Dusseldorf to Muelheim, especially if it is a Sunday and the previous night was some amazing Christmas market visit filled with hot Met (honey wine) and an extended night with Cacasa cocktails. Cacasa is a Brazilian spirit made from sugarcane and tasted lovely with sweet lime juice and sugar. So I decided to take the S bahn from Dusseldorf to home not minding the extra 10 minutes. New york nagaram was playing in my i-pod and I was leaned against the window in the not so crowded train.

It was a beautiful sight. A few farmers were harvesting huge pumpkins and red cabbages. Though this picture was in frame only for a few seconds, I was able to take in the entire scenario and nostalgia began to bring smiles to my face. To feel the mud in your toes in the garden is such a wonderful feeling. May be the Germans were wearing leather boots to avoid this and also to protect themselves from the chillness of the winter. But not me and not my sister. We always used to be bare footed when we were gardening in our grandmother’s place in Trichy.

It was a compact garden but still huge enough for two crazy siblings who came to spend the summer and winter holidays there. Since there wasn’t much age appropriate company around, me and my sister spent most of the sunny afternoons in the garden. Watering the plants in the afternoon was such a favorite job and the smell of Geosmin (the smell when rain hits the dry muddy lands) used to elevate the atmosphere. There was a huge mango tree which was responsible for the shade over the entire garden. A huge hibiscus bush and a Guava tree nearby. Further near the compound was a Neem tree, a bush with flowers what we used to refer in the local language as Idly Poo and a Pavzhamalli tree (or was it not there?!). There was also lime and once also were snake gourd creepers that hung supported by a structure. Near the clean water sump, there were white pumpkin creepers and our favorite touch-me-not plant. We used to always touch the leaves and watch them shrink. There was Jasmine, Rose, flowers that were beautifully colored but no fragrance and even pillayar poo (well, I am not a botanical gardener, so I just know some of them in the local lingo!). Also not to forget a few tomato shrubs, egg plants and green chili. Aloe vera and spinach stood in space opposite to the main garden. Oh! And the coconut tree in the corner near the dangerously deep well.

As a young kid and also without anything to do in the hot afternoons, the garden was the only fun provider. We had tools for digging and scooping the earth off and a huge hose pipe that could be dragged to any corner of the huge garden. Our regular job was to dig nice water channels that would store water around the tree and also to interconnect them with ducts so that if you water from the start of the duct, it would flow and distribute amongst all the plants. Usually these constructions were done every afternoon and destroyed in the evening and planned in a new design every afternoon!

We also planted seeds and loved to wait to see the tiny little plant peeping out and watch it shed its cotyledons and if we were lucky enough, also see the first flower. There is a thrill involved in this and if I compare this feeling to my present day scenario, I can say that it is similar to protein crystallization. Carefully planning your protein drops and checking every other day and the anticipation for crystals. Well, I got more lucky with plants!

Once, me and my sister were really involved in gardening. I used to remember all my science class lesson and try to utilize them. Earthworms are farmers best friend was the lesson I remembered on that particular day and want to implement it. So I asked my scout (my sister) to search for earthworms so that we can put them near the plant. We found several ones by digging the earth and transported those wriggly squishy little friends in the stem of a plant or on a leaf and put them near the plants. Suddenly my sister let out a cry of triumph and called for my backup. She had spotted a real long worm and it was escaping her by digging itself deeper into the earth and she was pulling it out with her fingers! By the time I rushed to share the moment, she has pulled out half the worm and I saw it snap into two. One part was wriggling in her fingers and the other part was digging into the earth. She was determined not to let the other part escape. So with one half clutched in her hands, she scooped out the other one! Since this was a long worm and still alive in two parts she wanted to put them for the egg plants. She is crazy about egg plants!

When we stepped out of the garden to wash ourselves, we were always covered in slushy mud. It was all over our hands and even faces. It will dry over your skin and change its color. Our toes would be in layers of such mud and also inside our finger nails. It has a real special smell and taste. Of course, how many times it has gone into our mouths! To get cleaned up would take an hours scrubbing and the water that washed our bodies would run totally mucky!

I don’t know if the trees and the plants still stand there, for the house along with the garden has been sold to someone. But they still do in our memories and I have the best harvest of mangoes, lime, egg plants, tomatoes and fabulous blooms.