About 40 years ago, this village looked entirely different.
With a population of around twenty thousand or so and with a total house-hold of around four to five hundred, this village had a river flowing by its side, a small river with the name ‘Paaleru’ that looked most of the days calm and thin with ankle-deep water sliding forward silently over the sandy bed beneath.
Fetching water from the pits, specially dug into the sands of the river, was one of the most commonly done activities for both men and women of this village during the mornings and evenings. They depended on the river for quenching their thirst, farming and other daily needs as well. People used to walk along the sands of the river leisurely, talking to other people, discussing events seriously at times, until they unmindfully completed the ritual of filling the empty containers they brought with them with water and carried them away to their respective homes.
Vast stretches of Sarivi plantations (they used to call it ‘Chauka chettu’ , a tall tree, very tall indeed, it resembles the eucalyptus in its height, only in its height and nothing more, its leaves looked totally different, they don’t look like leaves at all, they looked like green strands, mostly a foot in length, hanging from the branches… the leaves frequently get dry and the dried leaves which naturally fall down onto the ground are collected and used as a good firewood…even we used to collect heaps of this dried leaves for our ‘Bhogi manta’ …the exact ‘botanical’ name of the variety of this tree grown in these areas is ‘Casuarina Equestifolia’) adorned the other side of the river. Unseen paths through these plantations lead to another village, a Km or so away from the other side of the river. One need not think about the correctness of the path really, accustomed feet never failed to find their way through these plantations and reach the village.
During moonlit nights, the river and the entire landscape surrounding the river appeared clad in silver clothes. One has to be there to experience the beauty of the glitter, the silent feathery flow of the waters of the river and the soothing chill that accompanied the quietly blowing wind, to really believe it. And all this for free, no need to pay anything to any body, no entry fees, no security checks, no fear of any mindless activity around you, no fears of traffic snarls to reach back home. One has to just reach there and be there as long as he or she liked to be there….no one there to disturb you…you are entirely left to yourself….all alone!
Yes, I had been there…countless number of times, often accompanied by one or two of my childhood friends, relaxed on the sands for a while and returned back home. This happened for years together, until we left the village one day, unmindful of the fact that we were leaving the village forever and things would not allow us to return to the village that easily.
Forty years is a long time.
On my ‘Second’ visit recently, what I saw really sickened me. There was not even the trace of the things once existed. The change and the decay were unimaginable!