It’s fifty and more shades of green when you withdraw away from the urban existence as you know it and escape to the endearing countryside at the onset of the monsoon season. As you trundle into cozy and sleepy Walvanda located near Vikramgad in the Thane district of Maharashtra, you cannot help but notice the paddy fields surrounding you everywhere you cast a glance. Certain parts of this country are the proverbial rice bowl as we know them to be!
And given that rice is the staple kharif crop within the region, the livelihood of the populace depends entirely on agriculture for most parts of the year. Peer closely and you will be taken through what transpires after rice is harvested!
Agrarian households – or at least most of them in the present era – have a designated room where rice is milled manually. For most of us city-bred folk used to seeing the final product – also known as polished rice – the process of husking rice from paddy can seem quite novel.
The room has a small hole in the ground into which fistfuls of paddy are emptied. The stump of the betel nut tree is shaped to a hull that is used to pound the paddy grains together. The acumen lies in evening out the amount of pressure being applied – it has to be strong enough to de-husk the rice and light enough not to break the grain in the process.
Some things can seem easier than they really are – as part of the skill lies in not landing the stump on your own foot!
After it has been de-husked, the paddy grains are sifted on a tray made from bamboo cane. When this bamboo cane tray is made, it is layered with cow-dung thereby ensuring that it outlasts the many seasons. The rural lifestyle is an intriguing lesson on sustainability which can be quite in contrast to our way of living in the urban areas. While it might not seem to be the most time-effective way of doing things from an urban perspective, villagers de-husk on a daily basis, enough to meet their consumption needs for the day.
A few households within the village also have a manually drawn rice mill made from stone in their homes. This is used to prepare rice flour which is turn used to prepare tandlachi bhakri (Indian bread made from rice flour) – the alternative to rotis/chapatis in non-wheat consuming communities.
By- Elita Almeida