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Sagvolhi (Agriculture)

There has been talk that the cost to benefit ratio in rice farming, these days, in the konkan karavalhi region is 1:0.5, or in other words a 50% loss.  I have no idea how this figure was drawn.  I have no intention to dispute nor justify this notion.  However, just half a century ago, when I worked as a farmer in Barkur region, with my parents, a sister and a brother, (there were no child labor movements then, nor I was aware of any), I believe, we never encountered any loss at all. I will explain why: In addition to bountiful regular rainy season rice crops, we had second/third  (beans/grains) crops always, and where there was gravity water flow, we had a second rice (suggi) crop.  We had sufficient chicken about 10-15 adult ones, to yield enough eggs to eat, and to sell too.  [We had chicken meat and panpalle whenever any lunch time guest came along, and I used beg the guests to stay overnight, thus, we could have rosa-mas and sunnas!  No doubt, farming is non-profitable!]  We rarely bought fish, we fished in the ponds and rivers, and we enjoyed fishing, still do.  We had fish in the plate and rice in the saucer most of the time.  I used those chicken intestines to catch rock-crabs.  We had 2 or 3 cows, at least one cow yielding sufficient milk throughout the year for home use, and to sell as well, without diluting.  (This reminds me of the American milk powder distributed through the Barkur and other parishes. We were free, but not from hunger.) We had a pair of water buffaloes, which, not only ploughed the fields, but also yielded sufficient fertilizer for about 2 acres of our rented paddy fields.  We never bought commercial chemicals as fertilizers. We gathered the settled down silt from the rivers, and used it as fertilizer, balancing on our own heads from the river to fields. We had a few coconut trees, and we could sell a few coconuts, which helped buy kerosene, jaggery, and spices. (We did not have to pay electricity bills, phone bills, car loans, or servants!) We had vegetables growing throughout the year (some perennial roots even without being attended), and we used to plant melons (mogin) and watermelons, in the summer. We used to store at least 200 mogin/melons for the rainy season.  [I used to compare my melons with those of an aunt’s, and my mother never agreed that mine were larger!]  The only hired labor was at the time of trans-planting, weeding, and harvesting, which was paid for in kind, usually rice/meals/coconuts, whereas all the rest of the labor was domestically provided. We boiled our paddy, sun dried, and de-husked by pounding by hands. My sister’s  hands bled most of the time. To sum up, every related work was domestic, therefore, we could break even as farmers, using these supplemental incomes, and each child working before and after school hours.  We were so tired, I remember, dosing/falling asleep, while reciting rosary, practically every night, so much so, I used to announce  ‘time for rosary”!  I slept/snored once at the altar as an altar boy, during the hour long sermon! Well, now, tired or not, rosary and  TV are my best sleeping pills! Yes, we paid the landlord’s dues (genh in the form of paddy/rice.) faithfully.  (Well, I should admit, that there was help in the form of money-orders from elder brothers, used for school/Sunday clothes/books etc.).  We paid taxes too, just as Christ told the Jews “Give to Caesar, what is Caesar’s”, but I don’t think we could afford to give anything to (God) or church, except, some vegetables/coconuts, occasionally.  Had we got into sugar cane, cashew, or chillies, or potatoes, perhaps, I could have ploughed and worked in the fields wearing short pants, instead of …..;  and St. Peter would have got his tithe, twice.

Yes, rice farming requires long hours of strenuous physical labor, and the present day farmers should be commended for their non-profit never ending hard work.  Do you know that a pair of buffaloes and a farmer have to walk hundreds of miles to plough an acre of rice field in a season? (I wish I could brain-wash the buffaloes to plough on their own!) Do you know how many bales of grass and how many maunds of grain are required to keep the animals alive and healthy? Even milking a cow is an art!  Even the cow controls her milk flow based on who milks her! Unfortunately, the Barkur area paddy farms are either low lying, (invaded by salt water tides), or inundated by monsoon floods mostly, and/or suffer from lack of sufficient fresh/sweet water, thus, I believe, profit is out of question, and yet, our farmers have not given up. (I wonder why!) Apparently, there is not enough man power, either. [May be Chooda Master could share his farming experiences.] Without supplemental incomes, yes, farming is a loss indeed.  To appreciate their hard work, and for keeping the culture alive may be we should initiate  annual or seasonal competitions and award certificates or trophies (with some cash attached ) for the biggest/heaviest fruit/vegetable of common kind, to encourage farming, and to enjoy fellowship and share information.  Is there a holiday called ‘Farmer’s day?”   Long live rice farming or any kind of farming, such cash crops as coconuts, arak nuts, cashew nuts, mogrin, banana, or sugar cane, even fishing.  If He was from Barkur, he would have used  perhaps toddy, and ‘panpale’, instead of ‘bread and wine’!  Folks, whenever asked ‘what is your culture?” my answer has been ‘agriculture!’  There is a divine joy in nurturing a mogri val, thendli, a banana, or a coconut tree, or a rose plant.  I do raise tomatoes, chillies or roses every summer. I asked a relative of mine, ‘How many ‘valchi-bhajji’ beds do you have?” His answer was, “Which century are you from? It’s cheaper to buy these days!”  I asked a little girl “Where do the bananas grow?” “In the Fruit Market, you silly…don’t you know that much, and don’t disturb me while I am watching TV.”  What a difference, in just 50 years!    Thank you ‘AmchenBarkur’ for letting me pour out my pleasant and proud memories.  “A seed is just a seed, without the help of nature and the farmer.”

(Name witheld upon request)


Barkur, located in Udupi Taluk, Karnataka, India. 576 210

Copyright Kishoo, Barkur 2002.