Monday, 6 November 2017

Rural Modinagar

03 November 2017

Modinagar has grown up spreading along the length of the Meerut highway. A short walk North away from the road leads into quieter, domestic streets, mothers and sisters in doorways, children on bikes, cakes of cow dung drying on thresholds ready to fuel the cooking fire. A little further on, the houses stop as abruptly as they began along the crush of the highway and are replaced by fields. The road begins to meander, bullet carts slow their pace right down, creaking in time to the sway of the buffalo's hips.

The fields of double overhead high sugar cane are ready to be harvested, other fields already bare are ploughed ready for planting wheat. Some are furrowed dusty brown, others recently irrigated are rich with clots of purple black earth. This patchwork of colour is neatly stitched together by a web of leats designed for running water from a well prominent in the distant flat landscape. The narrow raised banks of the leats also carry people through the countryside from field to field, balancing on the crumbly soil like tightrope walkers.

Off the road I come across a field of sugar cane being harvested by six or seven women (they come and go). They are stripping the leaves and bundling them up, these are carried away where I think they are used as fodder for livestock. I sit on the verge drawing until one comes over and we communicate through mime, she is warning me of snakes so I move to the ploughed field where she says I'll be safe. Turning to move I see a 2 metre snakeskin shed in the ditch amongst the scratchy dry foliage. After I finish my drawing, I meet Ashok whose family owns the farmland I am on and we eat the sugar cane given to me by one of the workers. This cane field is 100 hectares he tells me and that it is normal for farms to be 1000 ha or more in India. They will of harvested this field in ten days.

I walk along the leats where I find a spot that seems to overlook the decide between industrial town and country. A family gathers brush wood, expertly transporting it along the narrow leat paths. The father squats and watches me paint form start to finish in complete silence. Later I head back to the road where a man is flooding his field from the leats. Metallic grey water calmly fills the ploughed furrows advancing towards where I stand pushing ahead of it a tide of white cattle egret, greedily feeding on fleeing insects. A drongo perches on the wires above with kingfisher and the egret are around my feet. I am joined by a large group of children, the only drawback to this peaceful location being the constant entertainment and fascination I provide to the residents. Meet S and finish the day drinking chai with his family in a beautiful farmhouse.

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