It was 7:40am when I woke up and readied myself for my weekend trip to my Uncle’s organic farm. Arvind uncle hadn’t left when I got out of my room after taking a bath. Vanaja aunty had told me yesterday “If you aren’t up by 8:10am, he’ll push off!”, so I was glad to see the couple in the drawing room. “Ah, you got up!” Vanaja aunty exclaimed “And you’ve taken your bath it seems!”; I smiled and nodded. “Would you like to have coffee?” she asked as she usually does, but what she actually means is “You may prepare a cup of coffee for yourself if you please”; she had kept a tomato-and-cheese sandwich on the kitchen table for me, which I ate before making coffee for myself. The coffee machine made it so easy to make coffee I wished I had one at home in Gujarat. The coffee mug was kept in the dish-washer, and my aunt took it out for me; I told her how I’d suggested my parents to buy one at home but they argued that a keeping a maid for the job was cheaper. She told me a dish-washer did a far better job then a maid but even she had a maid apart from the dish-washer in case there was no power at home, which was common in Chennai due to power supply shortage.
She then told me about her college years, how she got her degree in zoology, then left for U.S. after obtaining her Masters in Psychology to study computer programming. She had taken up 36 credits over a longer period first, as she had her part-time job plus had to take care of her family, including her two children who were seven and twelve then. She learned FORTRAN when it was relatively new, then an array of other Computer languages; once her flair for computer programming became apparent, she was suggested to take an accelerated Masters course, which she did after quitting her job. She said that times were tough for her family then, and much of her husband’s income had been invested for her tuitions; her kids didn’t get snacks except on the first Sunday when Vanaja aunty would bake about five hundred cookies for the month! In the university, fellow students would look at her as ‘the Indian lady who’d never used a computer before in her life’ and even her teacher would be condescending towards her. Well that was until the first test – her batch mates sniggered as she left the class after about an hour during a two-hour test only to be dumbfounded when the teacher announced the next day that ‘the Indian lady who’d never used a computer before in her life’ had got everything right! That moment onwards, everyone came to her to solve their doubts.
After returning to India with her Masters in Software Engineering, she found that none was willing to take her at first as she was far ahead of them; in India, Windows OS hadn’t come yet and the only programming language they needed was something she wasn’t taught. She was compelled to learn the language so that she could get a job, but her office staff were very impressed with her skills and she progressed rapidly without much difficulties. It so happened once that the program for handling customer survey of an Indian company was given to her for approval but she delegated it to her assistant programmer due to her tight schedule. The next day, she was informed that her program had a bug which halted the service throughout India, and so she spend about two full days rectifying the bug while her mother-in-law fretted about her spending full nights at the office. Later, it was found that the bug was caused due to complexity of the programming code – a whooping fifteen thousand line code! She helped to reduce it to a thousand line code, thus rectifying the bug. She’s the COO of Thinksoft today.
It was close to ten when my uncle Arvind and I left for his farm. I took my ‘Oxford University’ cap with me; it was a souvenir from my aunt (not Vanaja aunty but my mother’s sister) who had visited UK to participate in a week-long business seminar. I also took my IPad 1because the drive to his farm was to take about 2 hours. My camera got it’s turn to see ‘lighght’ after twenty long gloomy days in the luggage bag. Uncle and I hadn’t talked much since my arrival on the 8th of May and this was a good time to interact. On the drive to his farm, the topics for the conversation included my rapture at sitting in a car for the first time since my arrival (I usually take public transport i.e. Local bus), ubiquitous hoardings of Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Jayalalitha, new developments in Tamil Nadu and his farm. He told me quite a bit about his farm, that he bought the land about four to five years ago from a person who grew organic produce and reared cattle.
The land bought was used for the purpose of growing organic vegetables and fruits and a number of trees, especially palm trees. The farm used drip irrigation and also had solar panels for generating electricity in the guest house, built by an NGO. There was no air conditioning nor a refrigerator and Arvind uncle was planning to get a fridge in the next two months. After our talk, I began reading poems of Emily Dickinson on my iPad until we reached our farm.
The guest house had four members waiting for us. It was the new caretaker’s family, who had just moved in ten days back after the previous caretaker, who had no experience in farming unlike the current one, was let go. There was the man who smiled nervously as he greeted us and his wife, who was genial and kind. Their two kids were very shy at first but later opened up when I asked one whether I could take a pic of his. The younger kid is three years old and his sister is five; they told me their names but I am unable to recollect. Knowing kids loved games, I made them play Fruit Ninja on my iPad. My uncle had switched on the
television and I think a silly Tamil movie about ‘girl finding guy with condom; girl upset’ was going on. The tiny tots too settled comfortably on the sofa until their father, anxious that his children might create a poor impression of him in front of his master, shooed them out despite my insistence to let them enjoy the film. Silly old values of that man!
My uncle and I went to see the farm later. For me it was sight-seeing, for him inspection. We saw that the water level in the well was very low and only rabies could help. After touring the farm, we had our lunch, a traditional south Indian meal of Sambhar rice, Rasam rice and Curd rice with gravy. We left after lunch, and the heat bore me down completely so I slept the entire time on my way home, and then slept again at home till evening. Surprising how I’m using the word ‘home’ for my aunt’s house. I like to call it home; I feel comfortable here now.
A Few Good Pics clicked at the farm
- Diary Notes on Trip To Chennai Day 1 (sashankkini.wordpress.com)