The picture which serves as my screen desktop – is from my village near Mulug, Warangal. It is that, of a lake, with tall palm trees, for a background. Flocks of sheep are drinking water from it while, the cattle come in line, next, to slake, their thirst. When I took the picture, I knew it would be for the last time, that, I would be visiting that village, so, I stood for a long time, drinking in the scene. I saw that a herd of Buffaloes was, slowly, making its way, from the other side of the lake.
I lifted a lamb to cuddle in my arms; the sheep were leaving the lake, after having their fill. The shepherds, who were driving them around, became curious, on seeing me taking photos of what looked like an ordinary lake. They asked me, ‘Where are you from and why are you taking photo of this lake?’ I replied that, I was from Hyderabad. He asked, ‘Don’t you have these kinds of lakes in the city?’ I said, ‘We don’t’. ‘Oh, that is why you are capturing this one’. I was thankful that, he was so quick to understand, without my having to get into the details.
‘Can you take a picture of Raju?’ Raju was the sheep dog, who kept a close watch over its wards. Being a dog lover, I happily obliged. After they left, I lingered for a long time, saying goodbye to the trees which grew on its banks. They were witness, to my dreamy childhood days, spent lazing around near this lake, trying to catch fish or simply, watching the washerwomen at their job. We would drop a small cloth into a puddle and wait for the fish to get trapped in it. Only tiny ones did; just the same, we were proud of the haul and would present it, to our aunt, who in turn cooked them, for my Grandfather. My Grandfather was the only one, who, appreciated our efforts and in turn, he would try to make us learn swimming, with the help of a dried up bottle gourd. None of us could learn, even If we tried to.
When I came to our village, in summer holidays, I kept my eye out for the lake, as we drove closer home. We could see it from the road, and my happiness waxed and waned, with the size of the lake. If it was shrunk, I would feel sad and when its expanse stretched, to a far horizon, I was the happiest. I do remember when we came to sell our summer house, the first thing, I did was, head towards the lake. It was all shrunk into a muddy puddle, despite, it not being summer.
In summer, when it was shrunk, we went trekking to the banks of Morancha Vaagu, where one of my uncles lived. Those trekking trips are an unforgettable part, of my memories. It took more than three hours of walk, to reach it, but one could see some astounding sights on the way. There was a place, which was marshy, and only shrubs grew, cutting out accessibility all around. But this was a bird lover’s paradise. Birds lived there in hundreds, everywhere you could see bird’s nests hanging around. Untouched by humans, the birds thrived in that place. Then if you went a little further, there was a pond full of water lilies. This was where we did our washing, in summer. White coloured water lilies floated everywhere.
Sometimes, young boys would come to give a bath, to the buffaloes in the pond. They would pluck and give you the water lilies, if you asked them, for it. We just sat on the bund of the pond, with our feet dipped into the cool water, of the pond. But nothing beat the trekking trip, to the Morancha Vaagu. We saw many wild fowls, also, the shy and reclusive mountain sheep, on the way to our uncle’s house. Even bears lived there, but only our uncle had the fortune of encountering them, as he often trekked home in the darkness of the night. He grew watermelons in his fields and so, while returning, we would all carry a water melon each and often, dropped them, unable to carry them for long.
When we reached the house, we all ran to the banks of the stream. Only a gentle trickle would be flowing, and one could never imagine, that, during the rainy season, this quiet one would flood, the areas all around, even to this date. Jamoon trees lined its banks and shaded it from sunlight. There was a valley all around. We would settle down on the sands, in the banks of the stream, and sleep till the evening, when we had to make the return trip, before it would get dark.
Writing about them now, makes me feel, it had all not been real, and that it was not me, who experienced, all that, but someone else, from another time. With so much of water, one would imagine that we never had any drinking water problem. But in the summer time, we had to get water from Ghanpur Lake, which lay, just a few kilometres away. Whatever grew in the backyard, in the fields, was solely, dependent, on the rains.
As one of our friends from Eturnagaram commented, under my article, ‘How green was my Telangana!’, that it was simply way too difficult, to do agriculture, when you were not cash rich, Bapu gave up on it and the sale was inevitable, leading to some heart wrenching, moments for me. A part of me died, I think, when we sold that house, it was like some quick storm came and blew everything away, from me. That is what is life is, I guess, that- each time, some part of you, has to die, and in the end, we are never a whole, but just a wraith of what we were, in the beginning. Only children can be whole I think, adults, are all, half eaten up, by the sands of time. That is why we are so hardened to everything.
When I was a child I used to always wonder, how the adults could, just lift a hot vessel off the stove, with their bare hands while I shuddered at the mere thought. Now I know, as, I do it too, and I look back upon that child and think, that- ‘You got there very fast, didn’t you, with all your wondering about’.
I am reminiscing, here, about the lakes and ponds, of long gone days, as the TRS government has taken up, the revival of water bodies, in Telangana, in a big way. On my trips all around Telangana, I see most of them, are either dead or dying, from sheer neglect or exploitation. There is a chemical factory right next to Ghanpur Lake, spewing its venom into it. This is one place, where I’ve seen a second crop being grown, with the help of an amazing irrigation system, built by the Kakatiyas. One has to go and see, to understand, the wonder of the ancient and resilient system, built by them.
Pakala Lake is supposed to be home to some rare algae, which have curative properties, but now, I don’t really feel like experimenting, to know, its properties. Apart from the vast expanses of water built by the Kakatiyas, every village had a lake or a pond and our lives were entwined with them.
That is why Bathukamma has a bond with it and women let it go, in the waters of a pond or lake in a symbolic gesture, of letting go, of all their fears and sorrows. The water will take care of everything, must be the surmise.
In the end, it should not just be the cash rich farmers, who own the fertile lands, around the water bodies, but everyone else, too, who should benefit, out of the revival. The families related, to the same cash rich settlers, who, own many of these fertile lands come and brag in the city, that they are the ones who did the unthinkable, of harvesting a bounty in an arid Telangana and that people of Telangana do not know agriculture. I used to wonder what was it, that filled all those ponds, streams and lakes, and now I know, how mud headed those people were, to tell such lies.
Untouched by humans, many streams and ponds still thrive, in the deep pockets, of Telangana, but with the disappearance of forests, by frequent poaching of them, even they are under threat. So lesson learnt is, protect the forests and everything else, in it, will be protected.
As the native Indian saying goes, ‘Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.’
I would like to end with a recollection of what I saw on my way to Kaleshwaram from Medaram. Since every time I go, in a hired car, with a new driver, they take us through a different route, and got us, lost twice. I count myself fortunate, as I am richer, by what I saw. It was December’2013 and all the streams were overflowing, and where we got lost, in a deep forest, it was difficult to drive across roads, with over flowing streams.
There was this stream, with such clear water, that it appeared transparent. Its surface looked like glass and we saw moss filled pebbles, on its bed filled with sand. There was a lone woman washing clothes, I was tempted to stop and wade into it, but I had a tryst with Jampanna Vaagu. Unfortunately, the government at that time had undertaken a project for building dams across nowhere, at Jampanna Vaagu, for the sake of pilgrims. The Jatara time was due, to be held, in another one and half months time.
But what was once a laughing brook, with all the meddling, turned into an ugly, and muddy, filth ridden, water, with scum floating around. I could see only contractors, getting rich, with building roads which, get washed out with rains, with building of dams, which only dug water from other side, while shutting the flow on another side.
I hope that the Government closely monitors the project and its progress. Not just government, all of us, should keep a close watch and participate, in some way, in what is surely another movement closely linked with Telangana and our lives and our dreams.
(Note: The photo is the lake described in the first para and is located near, Mulug, Warangal, Telangana. I don’t want some mud headed guy coming and telling us, that it is not from Telangana and that there is no water there and that all I wrote is only a Mirage in a desert!)