Monday, 10 October 2016

Machan Musings

It is that time of the year again! The time when the lush green rice fields start flowering.....

........ and the wild boars start their nocturnal visits.  

So it is time for our ‘Watch-duty’ to guard the fields from the boars.  This time we are better prepared. Unlike last year when we pitched a tent under the arecanut  trees, this year we have constructed a proper ‘Machan’ in the centre of the fields. Our paddy area is divided into 4 sections with a narrow ridge and the machan is built right in the centre. So you can walk on the ridge and climb onto the machan.

The machan is constructed in a very simple manner. Four pillars holding up  a cement sheet, a set of slightly flexible bamboos on the top making a curved ‘tunnel-roof’.  A tarpaulin sheet tied securely over it to prevent the rain – but the sides are open and am really not sure how it will hold up if the rain gets really heavy. So far we have got good weather and clear skies.  

It is a precarious climb on the ladder and don’t you dare to drop your torch or anything else, for it will fall directly into 6 inches of slush. 

We carried a heap of blankets one on the cement sheet and the rest to layer on top as the weather gets really chill at night.  The tent used to be much warmer, but here we are more open to the elements.  And is it noisy here!  Whether it is the standing water in the fields that attract different kind of crickets or cicadas, or whether the dense canopy of trees subdued the noise last time, this time I can no longer call this noise ‘musical sounds of the night’  This is more like being surrounded by 4 television sets each one playing ‘News Hour’ in 4 different languages.  I’m convinced that in the field on my right there is a whole lot of political bickering happening.  There is a conspicuously different, loud, solo chatter, and before it stops, it gets drowned by a wave of dissenting voices that pass over the entire field. Before the wave ends, Mr. Loud-solo yells again and then the wave begins!  What a cicadian cacophony!

And as usual Johnny accompanies us. The very first night itself, we had just walked through the farm and climbed onto the machan, when we had a boar-sighting. Johnny started what we now call his ‘Be warned, there is a boar approaching’ bark. We shone the torch in the direction of Johnny’s gaze and there it was! The minute the circle of light fell on him, he started running. It was a thrill to see the boar run in full view from the safety of the machan. He seemed to have vaulted over the compound wall on our right and when we shone the torch on him, he ran straight ahead, so it was quite a run before he reached the impenetrable darkness of the forest which was on our left. Our cosy perch gave us a vantage view as he raced through the arecanut trees in a distinctly straight line.  Local wisdom says that a boar cannot change his direction easily, so, if ever chased by a boar, dodge him - left and right, side step him neatly and duck behind a tree......that is if you are nimble of foot and quick of thought.  Fortunately we did not have to do anything like that, we were lucky to have climbed onto the machan before the boar vaulted over the wall.

A day-time vantage view of the areca palms through which the boar ran!

But although we are at a height now, I had felt much more secure in our old all-weather tent. Here the wind whipped up a frenzy, the tarpaulin sheets flapped with all their might, the chill really got to me and the cicadas decided to sing with the wind.

Should we opt for the tent again? Oh no, I wouldn’t trade the thrill of sleeping on the machan. The constant fresh breeze, the sight of the swaying arecanut tree tops with the twinkling stars overhead on one side and the moon lit view of all the neighbouring fields guarded by the shadows of the distant hills on the other, continues to lure us right until harvest time!
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