Sunday, 21 March 2021

Holle Crossing.........At Midnight!

 Holle - is the stream that gushes past our farm during the monsoon and cuts off our access to the road.



The holle on an ordinary day.  Young kids gather here to play.





Our buffaloes Madhubala and Madhuwanti love to have a dip too


This is an episode that happened quite some years back, but I penned it down only now. 

It was just over a  year since we had moved to the farm and survived our first monsoon here.  The rains always brought on new challenges and we had been learning to deal with it.  And we always heave a sigh of relief when the rains end and we start seeing sunny days again.  But the  rain Gods do want to have the last laugh…….and what a laugh that is.  A final storm with the fireworks and that too in the last week of October after more than a month of dry weather. And that one storm is enough to get the holle flowing again.





After a slightly heavy downpour, this is how it looks - still mild and sober.


And so it was, that year - almost 4 weeks of dry hot weather and we thought we were really done with the rains.  It was Navaratri, we had a visitor whom we had to drop off at the station for the evening train and we also had to attend a night Pooja in a nearby temple.   The day had been overcast and gloomy, and as we left home for the station, the rains started.  Slow drizzle at first and then a proper downpour.  By the time we reached the station, the storm was picking up momentum. And the train was delayed by more than an hour.  We saw off our guest and then went to the temple.  By the time the Pooja and dinner ended, it was 10 pm.  We left for home.  The storm had not abated.  The roads were flooded all through, visibility was so bad that we were forced to go at a very slow pace.  In those days the double carriage roads did not exist and the single road had suddenly seemed to have gotten even more potholed than before.  Add to that the glare of the oncoming truck headlights,  the half an hour journey stretched to more than an hour and half.  By the time we turned off the highway to enter Chitrapur it was 11.45 pm. ‘ We are going to be crossing the Holle at the stroke of midnight’  I quipped.  The last stretch of the mud road that leads to our farm was like a rivulet. The holle is going to be mightily flooded I thought. I expressed my concern to Vivek.  ‘Oh it can't be that bad’ he said. 

As our car drew up to the last stretch where we park it; the downpour seemed to grow stronger. When we switched off the headlights and the engine, the darkness suddenly seemed overpowering.  Our mobiles did not have the flashlight in those days, we had one torch and one umbrella between the two of us.   The sight of the holle in the faint torchlight and the roaring sound as the waters gushed past made me feel a wee bit uneasy I must say.

‘Do you think we should spend the night elsewhere………’ I asked. 

‘Oh come on…this is no time to wake any one up, and home is just there’ he pointed into the pitch darkness. 

‘That is indeed very reassuring’ I said. 

‘Are you scared’ he asked. 

‘Scared, and me?  Oh no!’ I retorted.  ‘Lets go’ 

And we did.

We walked into the swirling waters in pitch darkness.  Strange objects brushed past my legs sometimes clinging and encircling before letting go.  I convinced myself that they must just be branches and leaves of trees  and creepers that I have often seen being washed down into the holle during day time.    The faint beam of the torch barely lit up the waters.  We had been through this path so many times we knew it perfectly well, The side of the embankment where we start walking is a slope with hard rock and no slush at all.  And if we keep to the routine path, all along, the ground is hard and gravelly, so in a  way it is safe to walk.  We trudged on, the waters rising all the way to my waist, the rain battering down on my head, I had given up trying to get under the umberella that Vivek was holding out for me.  The normally 4 to 6 meter wide holle was now more than 25 meters wide – not much really but the darkness, the swirling gushing waters and the rain made it seem like much more.

And then………….

There was a blinding flash of lightening!

 The entire earth seemed to be illuminated in the most stunningly beautiful light.

 The moment froze in our minds eye and the next instant the darkness was even more intense.

 The whole universe seemed to stop in time and the reverie was broken by the deafening sound of thunder.  

We didn’t realise that both of us had stopped in our tracks when the earth lit up for that brief second. We shook ourselves and trudged on.  The opposite bank was now just a few steps away.  There was a tricky patch of slush which we always avoided during the daytime to step directly onto some raised stones.  But tonight in the darkness we both missed the right path and stepped right into the slush.  I suddenly felt a stillness around my right ankle as the swirling waters were now only above that – my right foot had sunk into the slush.  Where do I place my left foot – I didn’t want both feet sinking in!  In the dim light of the torch I realised that Vivek was also struggling the same way.  I could see the rock on which we normally step just an arms distance away.  I bent over and reached it for support. Then I felt around with my left foot until I got a firm foothold.  Then I twisted my foot a bit to either side until I could loosen the grip of the sludge.  I had worn floaters which are strapped quite firmly and I could extricate my foot along with my footwear.  Vivek wasn’t so lucky, he had worn slip-ons and he managed to extricate his foot but not his footwear.  And there was no way that we were going to search for it… We pulled ourselves up on the firm rock, we had finally crossed the Holle.  We turned around and looked at it from this side – the foaming white water fall, the sparkling  swirls all looked magical now that we were safely on this side. And home was just a stones throw away.  We walked the last 50  meters dripping  and Vivek limping along -  the soft mud on the path had got washed away and the exposed stones really hurt your feet when you are not used to it.

It was indeed a relief to reach home.  The Copper Bhaan (the ancient wood fired copper vessel for heating our bath water)  was full of hot water and it never felt so good.  Followed by a glass of hot creamy milk. The perfect ending to an exciting day.

 Farm life does have its benefits and luxuries!!!


A picture of the copper Bhaan clicked on the eve of Diwali when we worship our water source and water storage vessels - reminding us to be thankful for this precious gift of water.



2 comments:

  1. This was so goose bumpingly exciting to read!! Loved it Tanu!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. As always beautiful narrative, dear Tanuja! You both are so brave! Hats off to you.

    ReplyDelete

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