Red and black ants swarming the chipped bark of the mango tree that rests on the ground. It rained all last night. I pick up this piece of disowned wood and see that it is in shreds and has been rotting while lying untouched on the way. Thanks to all the rain and absence of any sun. Fanning the ants running on my hands off I walk ahead. One of my legs sinks in the mud. The slipper refuses to leave the swamp and I try to lift my foot out of it. I try doing so forcibly. The slipper parts unwillingly and emerges accompanied with a spurt of smooth soil- water paste all over the back of my shirt and trousers. All potential energy of the earth gets converted into kinetic. This splash over the uncovered portions of my skin irritates. Walking further ahead I bend to scratch and itch the feeling away. The little muddy droplets mingle with the hair on my leg and clog the free flow of my fingers over them.
A plot of thoroughly tilled land comes my way. Men, women and children would possibly bend all day and sow the paddy seedlings today. The tractor on a previous day has already dismantled the plain earth of this field as it must have existed and its ploughing blades have left a uniform pattern of undulating crests and troughs in the furrows. On the face of it, this zig zag of the soil appears solid and undaunted by the excessive pour. Believing it to be taut I put my right foot on one of those little mounds only to check if it is actually as dry as they all appear to be. The foot sinks and sinks. Oh! It sinks and sinks further.
By now, the lower end of my trousers must have a thick coat of useless clay uniformly painted over it. The folds that I made in the trousers a while ago must be heavy with a lot of slush settled down in there. The mess I am in!
The mere thought of walking on a concrete road laden with baked bricks feels like bliss. A monkey on the nearby guava tree jumps around from one of its branches to another. So many fruitlets it spoils that otherwise would have matured into full awesome tasting fruits.
From the grotesque muddy path through the field that I am in, I see the road that I did not take because of the distance it could have added to my walk back home. People walking, riding on cycles, scooters and motorcycles seem to move so freely as if the air around them were lubricant of a kind. The one encircling me is static and has edges so sharp that I can’t move. It is one of those moments when the world appears indifferent to one’s plight. I will never be out of this mess, I am convinced. Frowning at myself, I curse the moment when the decision to take this ‘shortcut’ was made. Should I go back to where I started from and then choose that royal road? No- That would be a lot of walking back. The destination is still very far off and I choose to somehow proceed once again. I think of all the lovely things imagined about these villainous fields- “Ten thousand I saw at a glance, tossing their heads in sprightly dance” must have been one such field teeming with smiling daffodils. And also of all the songs that are shot in such lands- the ones where the heroes sing and dance and romance. Who would know of the marshy nuisance these fields are once a year at least. It is only mud here and nothing else. Earth that sticks, stains and perturbs. Throwing away the slipper should help I think. Even to throw it away I would need to take it out of the mucky gorge in the first place. The braces of my chappal stretch to their limit as I pull my leg out once again with all the effort possible. The braces are about to snap. The earth releases the leg and retains my slippers. In the process I lose balance, my hands search for support. There is nobody around and no tree trunk to hold on to. Just the expanse of the fields with a few trees here and there. A fresh contingent of super dark clouds approaching me from the distant horizon. I fall on my hands and the moist green grass on the strip that divides the fields between brothers wets my palms. Broken and crushed blades of fresh green grass, numerous tiny dark shreds of rotting wood and a little insect land on my palm when I regain posture. I rub the palms against each other so as to drive off the rot and the insect and the greens. The palms don’t rub as smoothly as they would when I get up early morning everyday. To dry these palms I once again rub them against my butt and the soft cloth of my trousers takes care of the rest. My hands smell awfully bad. As if testifying to the act of murdering nature- the one I just carried out twice- first in my head and then in the depths of my heart.