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Free from School

De
59 pages
F REE F ROM S CHOOL
By Rahul Alvares 22nd August 2003
1 It’s not every day that a 16 year old writes a book. In fact, girls and boys of that age are supposed to spend their time studying what other people write. It is presumed that at that age they do not themselves have anything significant or interesting to say. And the education system guarantees just that. The best rewards go to those who can parrot set answers to set questions in examination halls. Those who try to use their imagination or reply differently are often punished with low grades. Rahul Alvares did not set out to write a book. Under the encouragement of his parents, he consciously set out to try his hand at learning things outside the school framework and you might say as a result, Free From School actually came looking for him! After his SSC, unlike his other classmates, he opted out of schooling to follow his instincts: fond of reptiles, he chased them up at the Pune Snake Park and at the Crocodile Bank at Mamallapuram. In the process, he also picked up trails of spiders, earthworms and turtles. He caught snakes in the company of Irula tribals. He got bitten by hot-tempered reptiles. He came out of it all grinning and wiser. ’Free From School’ is his story of a year out of school, when the learning graph of his young life went up leaps and bounds. He wrote it to encourage other boys and girls his age to move out of the sterile school and college environment offered by India’s antiquarian ...
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1

It’snoteverydaythata16yearoldwritesabook.Infact,girlsandboysofthatagearesupposedtospendtheir
timestudyingwhatotherpeoplewrite.Itispresumedthatatthatagetheydonotthemselveshaveanything
significantorinterestingtosay.Andtheeducationsystemguaranteesjustthat.Thebestrewardsgotothose
whocanparrotsetanswerstosetquestionsinexaminationhalls.Thosewhotrytousetheirimaginationorreply
differentlyareoftenpunishedwithlowgrades.
RahulAlvaresdidnotsetouttowriteabook.Undertheencouragementofhisparents,heconsciouslyset
outtotryhishandatlearningthingsoutsidetheschoolframeworkandyoumightsayasaresult,FreeFrom
Schoolactuallycamelookingforhim!AfterhisSSC,unlikehisotherclassmates,heoptedoutofschoolingto
followhisinstincts:fondofreptiles,hechasedthemupatthePuneSnakeParkandattheCrocodileBankat
Mamallapuram.Intheprocess,healsopickeduptrailsofspiders,earthwormsandturtles.Hecaughtsnakesin
thecompanyofIrulatribals.Hegotbittenbyhot-temperedreptiles.Hecameoutofitallgrinningandwiser.
’FreeFromSchool’ishisstoryofayearoutofschool,whenthelearninggraphofhisyounglifewentupleaps
andbounds.Hewroteittoencourageotherboysandgirlshisagetomoveoutofthesterileschoolandcollege
environmentofferedbyIndia’santiquarianeducationalsystem,iftheywishtoexperienceanothersidetolife
andlearning.Helostnothingbutgainedalot.Sodidhisparents.Whenyoureadhisstory,sowillyou.

ThisbookhasbeenoriginallypublishedbytheOtherIndiaPress,Mapusa,Goa.Copiesoftheprintversion
areavailablefromoib@sancharnet.inorTheOtherIndiaPress,AboveMapusaClinic,Mapusa403507Goa.Tel
0091.832.2263306
Copyright2003RahulAlvares
PermissionisgrantedtocopyordistributethisdocumentunderthetermsoftheGNUFreeDocumentation
License,Version1.1oranylaterversionpublishedbytheFreeSoftwareFoundation.
Theauthorhoweverrequestsanyonedownloadingthisbooktomakeadonation(recommendation$2orRs
50)toagroupworkingforthecauseofwildlife,particularlyinGoa.IfyouwouldtoknowofRahulAlvares’
preferencesonwhichgroupcouldbesupported,contacthimatcna@sancharnet.in

Contents

1AFishShopinMapusa

2LearningaBitofFarming

3PlantFestivals

4LearningaboutMushrooms

5ATriptoKerala

6SnakesAlive!

7AVacationwithinaVacation

8Earthworms

9Spiders

10CrocodileDundee

11LearningtoTeach

12YouHaveSight,IHaveVision

13SurveyingaForest

14ChiefGuestAtBelgaum

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3

8

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Chapter1

AFishShopinMapusa

Y
OUMUSTTRYTOUNDERSTAND
thatwhenIfin-
ishedschoolIwasasrawasrawcouldbe.Ihad
nevertravelledanywhereonmyown,neverpurchased
atrainticket,sincelikemostkidsmyageIhadonly
travelledwithmyparentsorrelativesandtheymade
allthedecisions.Ihadnoexperienceofhowtohandle
money(myknowledgebeinglimitedtospendingthe
50paiseoronerupeeIwouldreceiveaspocketmoney
nowandthen).
SowhileIhadsetmysightsontravellingfarand
widemyparentswiselythoughtthatIshouldbeginby
learningtomanageonmyownwithinGoaitself.Itwas
alsotherainyseasonandtravellingaroundthecountry
wouldbemuchmoredifficulttheyexplained.
SoIstartedoutbyhelpingatanaquariumshopin
Mapusa,thetownnearestmyvillage.Theproprietor
oftheshopisAshokD’Cruz,acollegefriendofmyfa-
ther’s.ImusttellyouaboutAshok.Heisnoordinary
businessman:keepingfishisapassionwithhim.He
isfarmoreinterestedinchattingwithhiscustomers
aboutfishthanmakingmoneysellingthem.Ihave
neverseenhimforcinganyofhiscustomerstobuy
fromhisstockofaquariumfish.
Infact,itwasAshokwhointroducedmetotheamaz-
ingworldofaquariumfishwaybackwhenIwasjust
nineandstudyinginClassV.Underhisguidancethen,
Iexperimentedwithbreedingguppies,plattiesand
mollies,fairlysimpletypesoffishtobreed.However,it
wasamatterofgreatexcitementformeatthattimeto
besuccessfulinmyexperimentsandAshokwasgen-

3

erousenoughtoevenbuybackfrommethebabyfish
Irearedjusttoencourageme.LaterIdevelopedsuf-
ficientconfidencetoexperimentwithandbreedmore
difficulttypesoffish,likeSiameseFightingFishand
BlueGuramies-allundertheexperttutelageofAshok.
SoitwastoAshok’sshopthatIwenteverymorning
at9.00a.m.,speedingonmybicycletobeontime.I
wouldstaythereuntillunchtime,aregularhandson,
doingwhateverIwasaskedtodo.
Ashok’sshopisnotverylarge.Itisatwo-roomed
shoponthegroundflooroftheGomesCataocomplex.
Ithasadisplaysectioninfrontandastoreroomat
theback.Theshowroomhasabouttwentyfishtanks
ondisplaywithavarietyoffishthatAshokpurchases
mainlyfromMumbai.Eachtankstoresaparticular
speciesoffish.Ashok’sshopislocatedawayfromthe
mainmarketareasohedoesnothavetheadvantageof
casualcustomersdroppingby.HoweverAshokhashis
regularcustomersandtherearealwaysatleasttwenty
tothirtycustomersdaily.
Duringmyfirstfewdaysathisshop,myworkwas
onlytowatchthetanks,cleanthosewhichweredirty,
removethedeadfishanddosomeothersmalljobs.I
alsofedthefishandtreatedthewoundedanddiseased
fish.Sometimes,Ialsoattendedtocustomers.Grad-
ually,IbegantoaccompanyAshokonhisroundsto
variousplaces.
AgentlemaninMoirawantedtosetupanaquarium
athishome.Hehadatank.Healsohaddefiniteideas
abouthowhewantedittofinallylookandAshokwas

CHAPTER1.AFISHSHOPINMAPUSA

calledtoseehowitcouldallbedone.Themansent
hiscarforus.Athishousewediscussedthelocation
ofthetank,lightingarrangements,thewaterfilters,the
kindandquantityoffishhewouldliketohave,and
maintenance.Afterwewerefullysatisfiedthatwehad
everythingrightandhadnoteddownhisrequirements,
wereturnedtoMapusa.Laterhecameforthematerial
whichwekeptreadyforhim.
AnothertimeIaccompaniedAshoktoaclient’soffice
toputapairofDwarfGuramiesinthefishtankandto
fixapictureasabackdropforthetank.Onsuchvisits
IwatchedcarefullywhatAshokdidandsoonenough
Ashokstartedsendingmeonmyowntovisitsomeof
hisclientswhohadsmallorsimpleproblems.
Iwenttoclientstofixaquariumequipmentsuchas
airpumpsandfilters,tofixtoysinthetanks,tocheck
fishfordiseasesoriftherewasasuddencrisissuchas
fishdyinginnumbers,orifaclientwishedtoaddmore
fishtohiscollection.Iwassenttocollectoverduepay-
mentsorsimplytoenquiretheaquariumsweredoing.
SometimesIwentonmyowntovisitsomeoftheplaces
wherewehadsetuptanksandenjoyedwatchingthe
fishswimminghappilyintheirnewhomes.
Onedaymyemployerdecidedtosendmeasaspy
tofindoutthepricesoffishandfishfoodatacompet-
itivefishshop.Itriedtobehavelikeacasualcustomer
andwalkedcoollyintothecompetitor’sshopandgrad-
uallybegantoaskthepricesoffishandfishfood.Af-
terIhadfoundoutwhatwasneededIboughtapair
ofcheapBlackMolliesfromhisshopjusttoshowhim
thatIwasagenuinecustomer.Fromtheinformation
Igot,wefoundAshok’stobecomparativelycheaper
thanthecompetitor.
DuringthisperiodIimprovedmyknowledgeabout
aquariumfishtremendously.Thiswasmainlydueto
twothings.Firstly,Ihadspentalotoftimeobserving
thefishatAshok’sshopandgettingpracticalexperi-
encefromtheplaceswevisited.Secondly,Ihadbeen
readingthefishbooksthatmyfatherboughtformeasa
giftforgettingadistinctioninmySSCexam.Thebooks
werequiteexpensivebutwellworththecost.Being

4

abletogettheoreticalknowledgeandpracticalexperi-
enceatthesametimegavemealotofconfidencewith
regardtoaquariumfish.
Oneoftheimportanthighlightsofmyexperienceat
Ashok’swaslearningtomakefishtanks.Ashoktold
methatsinceweweregoingthroughaslackperiod,
hewouldteachmehowtomakefishtanks.Ihadto
startfrombasicswhichmeantpurchasingglassforsix
tanks,havingtheglasspiecescuttospecificationsand
thenhavingthepiecesdeliveredattheshopwithouta
scratch.
IhadaccompaniedAshokonseveraloccasionsear-
liertotheglassshopandwatchedasheorderedglass
explaininghisrequirements,orhavingapiecere-cut
becauseitwasdonewrongly.Infact,Ihadbeensentof-
tentotheglassshopforsmallpurchasessoIwasfairly
familiarwiththeownerandtheprocedures.Ashokhad
eventaughtmehowtocalculatethepriceofglass.Still
itwasanewexperienceformewhenAshokhandedme
somemoneyandgavemegeneraldirectionsonwhat
todoandIwasonmyown.Imanagedtopurchase
theglassandalsotogetitcuttosize.Sofar,sogood.
Nowcamethedifficultpartoftransportingtheglass
piecestotheshop.IwonderedwhetherIshouldgeta
rickshawforthepurposebutwasalittlehesitantsince
Ihadn’tcheckedwhatitwouldcostforthetrip,short
thoughitwouldbe.WhileIwastryingtomakeupmy
mindbytestingthepackageforitsweight,theshop-
keeperassuredmethatIwouldbeabletohandcarry
theglasstoAshok’sshop,whichiswhatIfinallydid.
Istartedout.Inthebeginning,itwasnoproblem.
However,thepackagegrewheavierandheavierasI
trudgeduptheroadtoAshok’sshopwithrickshaws,
taxisandmotorcycleshonkingawayonallsides.Even
beforeIreachedmydestinationIdoubtedthewisdom
ofmyactionsforIwastiredandmyarmsachedbut
Idarednotputdowntheglasssimplybecauseitwas
glass.WhenIfinallyreachedtheshopIheavedasigh
ofreliefthattheglasswasintact.Ashokwashorrified
atmydecisionandunderstandablyveryangrytoofor
asheexplainedtomeshouldIhavehadanaccidenton

CHAPTER1.AFISHSHOPINMAPUSA

thewaytheconsequenceswouldhavebeendisastrous
andhewasafterallresponsibleforme!Itrulylearntan
importantlessonthatday.
Learningtomakeanaquariumtankisgreatfun.One
hastofirstplanthesizeofthetank.Forthisonemust
firstdecideonthelengthofthetank.Afterthat,the
heightandthebreadtharetobeproportionatelycal-
culated.Thesidesoftheglassareheldtogetherwith
silicone,whichisaglue,andwhichfeelslikerubber
whenithardens.Siliconedoesnotdissolveinwater.
Thetrickypartisbeingabletoapplythesiliconeonly
totheedgesoftheglassandnotlettingyourstickyfin-
gerstouchanyotherportionsoftheglass.Otherwise,
theglasswilllookdirty,forthesiliconemarkswillstay
likeafingerprintontheglassforever.Afterthetank
isresealedontheinsidewithsilicone(togivedouble
protection),itisleftforadaytodry.Thenextdayitis
testedbyfillingwithwaterandifalliswellthetankis
readyforsaleandcanbedeliveredtothecustomer.
AfterIwastaughthowtodothefirsttank,Istarted
helpingwiththerest.IrecallhowoncebymistakeI
stucktheglassupsidedown."There’ssomethingfishy
aboutthelooksofthistank,"saidAshok.Whenhereal-
izedwhatmymistakewas,heverynearlyputmeinto
thetank!
Myfirstopportunityattestingmyskillsatfinding
outthereasonsfor"fishdyinginanaquarium"(the
mostcommoncomplaintfromcustomers)camewhen
themanagerofHotelOsborneinCalanguteasked
Ashoktocomeandexaminetheiraquariumontheho-
telpremises.Thefishweredying,hesaid.Theowner
ofthehotelwasaverygoodcustomerofAshok’sand
soAshokwaskeentosolvetheproblem.Howeveras
hecouldnotgohimselfthatdayanddidnotwishto
delaymatters,hedecidedtosendmeinstead.Hegave
methemanager’svisitingcard,directionstothehotel,
somefishmedicinesandapumptoinstallinplaceof
theoldonewhichwasdefectiveandIwasonmyown.
IwasproudandhappythatAshokfeltconfidenttoen-
trustmewithsuchanimportantjob.
Ileftintheeveningforthehotel.Ifounditwithno

5

problematall.Itwasalargehotelwithlovelylawns
andaswimmingpool.Iwalkedintothehotelproudly,
withmyheadheldhigh,andtriedtoactasifIwerea
veryexperiencedfishdoctor.Iwentandmettheman-
ager.Hetoldmewhichfishhaddied.Isearchedfor
symptomsofdiseasebutfoundnone.Ithenrealised
thattheproblemwasverysimpleandonethatisvery
common:acaseofoverfeeding.Fishrequirefoodin
proportiontotheirsizebutoftenpeopleputmorefood
thannecessaryintothetank.Theextrafoodmakesthe
watercloudyandpollutedandthiscausesthefishto
.eidIcleanedthetanks,replacedthepump,checkedthe
filtersandshowedthehotelstaffhowtofeedthefish.
Ievenmanagedtodosomesalesworkbysellingthem
somefishmedicineswhichtheycouldkeepasstandby
andmadeabillforthemonthebillbookthatAshok
hadgivenme.Theyseemedsatisfiedwithmywork
andmademeacupoftea,whichIdidn’tdrinkbecause
Idon’tdrinktea.AfterIhadfinishedIcouldn’twaitto
tellAshokaboutmyexperience.
Duringthisperiod,Itooktheopportunityonceto
visitfishshopsinPanjimwhichIhadheardaboutbut
hadnotyetseen.Theoccasioncamewhenmy3-gear
cyclebrokedownandIneededtogotoPanjimtoget
spares.Itriedtopersuademymothertogetthemfor
mefromPanjimsinceshewentthereoften.Shere-
fused,sayingthatIshouldlearntodothingsonmy
own.That’swhenIthoughtofmakingawhole-day
triptoPanjimtobuythespares,visitfishshopsand
alsomakeafewpurchasesforAshok.
Thenextday,IaccompaniedmymumtoPanjim
wheresheshowedmeafewessentialplacesandthen
leftmeonmyown.Iwasabitnervousbutwasdeter-
minedtomanagesomehow.IfirstwenttotheKamat
restauranttoeatasIwashungry.Iwasamazedathow
muchitcostmetofillmystomachoutsidehome!After
that,IsearchedforashopfromwhereIcouldpurchase
silicone(Ashok’serrand).AfteralotofaskingaroundI
foundtheplace.ThenIlookedforthecycleshop,found
itquicklyenoughbutdiscoveredthattheitemIwanted

CHAPTER1.AFISHSHOPINMAPUSA

wasoutofstockandwouldbeavailableonlythenext
.keewIwasthenfreetovisitthetwofishshopsIhadin
mind:"Bislin"and"SomethingFishy".Bislinwaswell
stockedandhadmanytypesofexoticfishbutIfound
itveryexpensive.Ichattedwiththepeoplewhoran
theshop(itisafamilybusiness).Theyalsokeptbirds
forsale.AfterwatchingthefishforsometimeIdecided
togotoSomethingFishywhichwasjustaroundthe
corner.AtSomethingFishy,Iwasdisappointedatfirst
sighttoseeveryfewfish.Theshopassistanttoldme
thatastheywereexpectingfishthefollowingweekend
almostalltheirtankswereempty.ButwhatIsawre-
maininginthedisplaytankamazedme.Isawman-
eatingpiranhaswithmyowneyesforthefirsttimein
mylife!However,thepiranhaswerequitetimidand
shy.Apparently,itisonlywhentheyarekepthun-
grythattheybecomeferociousmeat-eaters.Something
FishyalsohadexoticfishcalledBlackGhostwhichsold
atRs.3000apair!
ApartfromlearningaboutfishatAshok’sshopI
gainedalotofothervaluableexperience.
Ihadneverdonebankingbefore.ButonedayAshok
casuallyaskedmeifIwouldgotohisbanktowithdraw
somemoney.Ididn’tfeelliketellinghimthatIhadno
ideaofhowtogoaboutdoingthis.InsteadIaskedfor
directionstothebankandsetout.SomehowIfigured
mywayaroundandgotthejobdone.Iwassentmany
timesafterthattothebanktodepositandwithdraw
money.
AlthoughIhadallthetimeintheworldatmydis-
posalIfounditwasnottheeasiestthingformetoef-
fectivelymanagemytime.SeveraltimesIwouldbe
speedingawayonmybicycletoAshok’sshopbecause
Ihadwokenuplatethatmorning.OrIhadtopushmy
lunchhourtilllaterbecauseIhadnotcompletedallmy
tasksfortheday.Itwasanexperiencelearningtoplan
mydayproperlyandIwouldfeelquitepleasedwith
myselfwhenIgotthingsrightonmyown.
Ialsogainedalotofvaluableinsightsintomyown
hobbiesandinterestssinceforthefirsttimeinmylife

6

Iwasonmyownandfreetomakedecisionsorexperi-
mentwithideasIthoughtworthwhile.
IdiscoveredthatIhaveagreatpassionforreading
books.Iusedtogoeverymorningtothelibrary,on
mywaytoAshok’sshop,andpickupsomethingto
readduringmyfreetime.Myfavouritebookswerethe
HardyBoysandIfinishedpracticallytheentireseries
whileIwasatAshok’s.IalsoenjoyedcomicslikeTintin
andPhantom.
Evenings,afterIhadfinishedwithAshok’sshop,I
wouldlistentotheFMradiomusicprogrammes.Like
anyotherteenager,Ilikefastandloudmusic.Fortu-
nately,myauntAllisonvisitingusfromCanadagave
meawalkmanwhichenabledmetoplaymymusic
withoutdisturbingtheothers.Ithoughtaboutstarting
tolearntheguitarbutmyparentsadvisedagainststart-
ingguitarlessonsimmediatelyasIhadplanstotravel
outofGoainthecomingmonths.Letterwritingisnot
oneofmyfavouritethings.However,Iwasforcedto
replytothepeoplewhosentmelettersandcashprizes,
congratulatingmeonmyexaminationresults.Iwas
overjoyedtoreceivepromptrepliesfromseveralofmy
relativesandfriendscommendingmeonmychoiceof
ayear’ssabbatical.Ialsorealisedthatyouonlygetlet-
terswhenyouwritetopeople.However,Istilldon’t
enjoyletter-writing.
OnSundays,Iusedtodoafewoddjobstoearnsome
pocketmoney.LikewashingthecarforwhichIusedto
getfiverupeesfrommydad.Iwasalsothemainerrand
boyathomeandIdidallkindsofjobslikepayingthe
electricitybills,buyingtherationsandsoon.
Allinall,workingatAshok’swasagoodbeginning.

FieldWorkNotes:
NowJulieHasaFishTank
JulietandPeterD’Souzaarecollegefriendsofmypar-
ents.TheyliveatCalangute.Peterisacriminallawyer
andJulietisaschoolteacher.Ourfamiliesoccasionally
goonoutingstogether.Ononeofthesepicnicsduring

CHAPTER1.AFISHSHOPINMAPUSA

mySSCyearJulietdiscoveringmyinterestinaquarium
fishpromptlytriedtogetmetoassistherinsettingup
anaquariumintheirhome.
Actuallytheydidhaveafishtankearlierbutthebot-
tomglasshadcrackedandJuliethadgivenittoAshok
forrepairs.Andthereitremained,inAshok’sshop,
withnobodyattendingtoit.Juliethadremindedme
onseveraloccasionsaboutthetankbuttherewaslittle
IcoulddootherthanpassonherreminderstoAshok.
WhenIstartedworkingwithAshokIquicklytookthe
opportunityofkeepingmypromisetoher.
Thefirstproblemwastofindthetank.Ibegan
searchingforitinthestoreroomofAshok’sshop.I
founditrightatthebottomofalltheotherbigtanks.I
wasrelievedtoseeitstillinonepiece.AshokandIthen
removedthebrokenbottomglass.Wetookthemea-
surementsandboughtnewglassfromtheglassshop.
Afterfixingthetank,IwenttoPeter’sofficeandtold
himtopickitupandtakeithomewheneverhecould.
Petercamebyandtookithomethenextevening.A
fewdayslaterIcycleddowntotheirhousetosetitup.
OncethereIrealizedthatJulietdidnothaveanymate-
rialforplacinginthetankexceptalittlegravelwhich
wasnotenoughtocovereventhebaseofthetank.I
explainedtoheralltheessentialitemsneededandshe
gavemeafreehandtopurchasematerialanddecora-
tionsforthetank.Onmynextvisit,Itookafewki-
losofgravel,apump,plasticplants,fishmedicine,the
undergravelfilter,somepipeline,afewregulators,T-
jointsandafishnet.Ialsotookfourtypesofaquarium
toysandtwoshellsforhertochoosefrom.
Istartedoffwithwashingthegravel,thenfixedthe
under-gravelfilter.Inextpouredgraveloverthefilter,
andplacedthedecorationsofshellsandtoysontop.
Thenthetapandfilterswerejoinedtotheairpump.
AllthiswhileIwaswatchedintentlybyAngelannand
Miriam,Juliet’stwoyoungdaughters,whokeptoffer-
ingopinionsorhelphereandthere.Afterabouttwo
hours,everythingwasready.Onlythefishandaquatic
plantsremainedtobeputintheaquarium.Thetask
ofselectingthefishforthetankwasnotpartofmy

7

assignmentasJuliesaidthatshewouldbuythefish
fromafishshopinCandolim.However,asshedoubted
whetherliveplantsweresoldinCandolim,sheasked
metosendhertheplantsthroughPeter.Shealsotold
metoprepareabillforherwhichIwastohandoverto
Peter.AllthisIdidwithinthenexttwodays.
Aweeklater,IhadtovisitPeterandJulie’splaceto
deliveranotetoPeterfrommydad.Iwaskeentosee
thefishshehadboughtandhowtheyweredoingin
thenewhomeIhadmadeforthem.AsapresentI
decidedtotakefivepairsofguppiesfrommygarden
tank.ImaginemyshockwhenIfoundthatthetank
wasjustasIhadleftit,withnofishatalltoinhabit
thelovelyquarters.IwasgladIhadbroughtalongthe
guppiesandthesebecamethefirstlotoffishtoinhabit
thetank.Ialsofixedthelightandtheregulatorsand
settheplantsproperly.
Juliet’slittledaughterscrowdedroundmeasIstood
backtoadmirethenowcompleteaquarium:fishswim-
minghappilywithnewlyinstalledplantsandairfilters
bubblingawayinacorner.Julietsoonjoinedusand
thankedmewarmlyandtomyuttersurpriseslipped
a50rupeenoteintomypocket.Iprotestedthatshe
shouldnotpaymeforthisasIwashavinggreatfun
butsheinsistedthatItakethemoneyandthisbecame
myfirstearning.
InsimilarfashionIsetupfishtanksforafewother
familyfriends.Besideshavingalotoffunandgain-
ingvaluableexperience,Ialsoearnedpocketmoney!
AvdootandRekhaMunjinMapusahavealovelybig
tankwhichIhelpedsetupfortheirdaughter;Alvito
andCelineSantiagofromParraalsohadanemptyfish
tankwhichtheywantedtoputbackinuseandIorgan-
isedthefishforthemtoo.
Therewasalsothelargefishtankintheofficeof
thePrincipalofmyschool(St.Anthony’satMonte
Guirim),whichIhadmaintainedduringmyschool
days.Icontinuedtokeepwatchoveritthroughmy
youngerbrotherMilind,who,likeme,isalsoafishfan.

Chapter2

LearningaBitofFarming

OneofmyplansfortherainyseasonwastogotothatIhadsoreadilyagreed.NextmorningIwaswo-
RUSTICFarmwhichisinThanem,asmallvillagenearkenupearlyandwesetoutforthefieldswhichare
Valpoiintheremotenorth-easterndistrictofSattari,soquiteclosetoourhomes.
thatIcouldgainsomeexperienceinfarming.RUSTICHoldingtheploughmayappearasimpletaskbutbe-
FarmholdsaspecialattractionformebecauseIwaslievemeitisnotsoandcallsforquitealotofskilland
bornwhenmyparentslivedonthisfarmandwestayedstamina.Thetrickistokeeptheploughinthecentre
theretillIwasthreeyearsold.AlthoughIhavenorealandavoidcuttingthehoofsoftheanimalsatthesame
recollectionofthatperiod,wehavemanyphotographstime.Oneneedstoputtherightamountofpressureon
ofmybabydaysonthefarmandmanystoriesthatmythehandleastheploughshouldneitherbetoodeepnor
parentstellusofthosetimes.Westillvisittheplaceattooshallowinthesoil.Alsoonehastoconstantlykeep
leastonceayearandalsomaintaincontactwithseveralone’seyeonthebullockstodirectthemtoturnaround
ofthevillagerswhoworkedthenonthefarm.Yesu,attheendofthefieldandtolifttheploughwhenit
ourdomestichelpforthepast16yearscomesfromthatreachesabund.Lastly(andthisismostimportant)the
area.In1985RUSTICFarmwassoldtothepresentbullocksmustrecogniseyouorelsetheywon’ttakeor-
ownersShyamandUjwalaAchrekar.Ihadintendeddersfromyou.
tostaywiththemforamonthandlearnaboutfarming
first-hand.Unfortunatelyduetosomepersonaldiffi-ThebullocksknewGuruverywellbutIwasa
cultiestheycouldnothavemevisitthem.ItisoneofstrangersoGurumademekeepshoutingcriesof
thefewregretsIhadduringmyone-yearsabbatical.As"heereeheeree"whichishowtheygettheanimalsto
thingsworkedout,however,Iwasabletolearnafewmove-sothattheywouldatleastbegintorecognisemy
basicsaboutfarminginmyownvillageatParra.voice.AlthoughIwentploughingwithGuruforsev-
eraldaysinarow,heneverletmeploughonmyown
Myneighbours,theKandolkars,areapeasantfam-becausegettingtherightbalancewasstillverydifficult
ilyandduringtherainstheytaketofarmingtheirformeandifanyofthebullocksgothurtduetomyin-
ownfields.Theyalsodoploughingworkforothers.experiencehewouldhavetogivetheanimalatleast15
Guru,theeldestson,hasafinepairofbullocksforthedays’restwhichwouldcosthimheavilyinearnings.
purpose.ItsohappenedthatGuruwasdoingsomeAftertheploughingisdonethegroundhastobelev-
masonryworkatourhouseandIwaschattingwithelledforseeding.Thisisalsodonebythebullocks
himaboutmysabbaticalwhenhecasuallyaskedmewhodragawoodenpieceshapedlikeabroadfork
whetherIwouldliketocomeploughingwithhim.Iacrossthefield.ThisIwasallowedtodoonmyown
jumpedattheofferevenasheseemedabitsurprisedandIenjoyeditthoroughly.Itwaslikehavinganice

8

CHAPTER2.LEARNINGABITOFFARMING

ride,standingonthewoodenlevellerwhilethebul-
lockswentupanddownthefield.
Ialsotriedmyhandatsprayingseedsandlaterfertil-
izer,onthefields.SometimesIdidabitofweeding,to
whileawaythetimein-betweenploughing.Onsome
dayswhenwewereploughingitusedtorainheavily
andIenjoyedworkingintherainwithalltheother
farmers.Afterploughingwewouldbetreatedtohot
teaandbreadorpaobajibytheownerofthefield.
Irecallhowsurprisedtheownersofthefieldswe
hadploughedwouldbeonseeingmesittingwiththe
otherworkers-dirtywithmudlikethem-becausenat-
urally,theyrecognisedme,sinceIamfromthesame
village.Onelady,infact,thoughtIwasplayingtruant.
Shetoldmeshewasgoingtoinformmymotherwhere
IwasthatSundaymorning.ShethoughtthatIoughtto
havebeeninchurchattendingMassinstead.
Thefieldworkwasagoodexperienceandonewhich
Icherish.IhelpedGuruploughabouthalfadozen
fieldsandevennowwhentherainyseasonapproaches
Irememberthatexperiencewithwarmthandpleasure.

9

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