For half a century, my life has revolved around this land just like these creepers. When I was a child this land appeared so vast to me that I got lost here frequently. My dad would call out – “Sivaa!” and he would find me playing around these creepers. He’d lift me up and carry me on his shoulders. With his other hand he would ward off any creeper that dared to touch me and he would lead me outside. Now, the land has dwindled down to just 12 cents.
My name is Sivasamy, I am an agriculturist.
My son never comes here. He thinks this is a waste of time. Maybe he realized that the only reason I’m growing betel here is because this land has been sowed by my great grandfather and every generation after that. I have the fondest memories over here and even though a major part has been sold, this piece of land is my favourite portion. The 10 acres came down to 12 cents because of the degrading quality of the soil and the declining demand in the market.
“ Our yield, when there was no urea in the soil, was about 10 sacks filled with fresh and good quality betel leaves. Now due to the infections in the betel leaves wastage alone cumulates to 8 sacks.”
The pesticide and the fertilizer we used for a certain amount of time to get a better yield worked out very bad for us. The soil is filled with urea and our yield has been bad for the few years. Even though we are trying to bring the soil back to its condition it has been futile until now. I irrigate these creepers once a week. The water is taken from the bore well which I share with the neighbouring betel farm. There is also a little scarcity for water but as the ground water quantity is very high we needn’t worry. The other reason, why it diminished to 12 cents is because we face a lot of competition from farmers who grow hybrid leaves. As our beetle leaves are country grown without any artificial means, its likely to get infected.
“If more people look out for country grown leaves, then we would have more demand and we could grow more.”
I come to the field early in the morning, just when the sun rises after my cup of tea. I have my breakfast and lunch packed from home, sitting between the creepers. I only leave in the evening after it gets dark.Work here in these fields is limited on most days as the creepers are very less, I go to work for wages in other fields to pluck tamarind during the season. I need to tie the creepers to the “koodaram”(it’s two wooden sticks placed in the shape of a triangle for the creepers to grow), so that the creepers can grow around them and the leaves are easy to pluck.I use clippers to pluck these leaves from the creepers, because they are easy to use and the leaves are plucked without any harm. If we use our hands, the creepers will have to endure pain.
After all the hardwork and toil, if there is any demand for the leaves, we get around Rs. 1000/- income a day of which around Rs. 400 /- is profit for us after all the expenses. Frequently our income is only Rs. 600/- and we are left out with nothing most of the days. That’s why we go work outside.
It’s a dull life at home. My wife and son keep lamenting about the money I take home. But,the second I come here and I breathe the air around, a sense of refreshment goes inside of me as I sit in here, listening to the leaves brushing the air, the birds chirping and the insects stridulating. I forget all my worries thinking only about the past as the future is a nightmare to me and these creepers.
I would never leave this place because every morsel of food that made me a man, every piece of cloth that I continue to wear, every twig in my roof and every peaceful night that I slept through came from these small leaves. They would remain a leaf to everyone else, but to me it is of great significance. I was born on this land and if anyone would ask me about my last wish, then it would be to be buried here.
About the Series: #PeopleofPollachi
With a rich tradition and a prosperous cultural history, Pollachi is at the cusp of socio-cultural transformation fueled by economic growth and development. Getting to know the local people here, their culture, traditions and livelihood are an integral part of the travel experience. For Cultural Purists seeking local immersion, Pollachi and its people have extraordinary, powerful, heart-warming stories to share. “People of Pollachi” is an attempt by “The Pollachi Papyrus” to showcase the cultural heritage of Pollachi through its extraordinary people, and their incredible life stories.