I stood off to the side, watching the fun, laughing with them, taking photos. They were working, but it felt like a party.
The thought crossed my mind, “I should try it sometime.” And I told myself that, yes, I would next time I got the opportunity. I’m not sure why I thought that the next time would be better than today, but I did.
She must’ve read my mind, because not a minute later my friend called out, “Have you ever tried this? Why don’t you do it?”
But the mud, my clothes, I wasn’t dressed for this…
The next thing I knew I was kicking off my shoes, rolling up my leggings, and stepping into the deep, squelching mud.
Someone passed me a bundle of seedlings. “Two at a time, two at a time,” they kept calling.
And that’s how I found myself this morning, planting rice.
The mud was not just between my toes but over my ankles and crawling up my calves. The paddy had been dug up before being flooded, and bending over, I stuffed the rice seedlings–which look exactly like long blades of grass–two at a time into the oozy earth, trying to space them evenly.
“This isn’t as hard as I thought it would be,” I thought, “and it’s certainly a lot more fun.” Then I finished my bundle and looked up and realized that the field looked much the same as when I’d begun, and the small paddy was barely a fraction planted.
The rest was taken up by more experienced hands than mine, but I came away with a newfound appreciation for the time-consuming, backbreaking effort that goes into producing a plate of rice. –A job that here in Nepal, is still done mostly by hand, at least in hilly areas, where the paddies are small and often terraced.
Yesterday was National Paddy Day; by this time most of the rice should already be planted. But the monsoon has been patchy so far, inconsistent, so not all farmers have been able to plant out yet. On the cover of today’s edition of The Kathmandu Post there’s a photo of a woman preparing her fields for sowing, but they’re too dry to plant in yet. The Himalayan Times has a happier photo on its front page of schoolchildren playing in the mud while planting rice at a festival to celebrate the National Paddy Day.
The field behind my house has played host to two neighbourhood weddings over the past few weeks, and when I got home this afternoon three men were tilling it — two by hand and one with a small mechanized tiller, removing all traces of the partying and leaving smooth furrows behind. As I watched them the rain rolled in, first lightly and then so heavily that they abandoned their work and ran for cover. It’s been raining ever since and, cozy in my house with a mug of coffee, a makeshift prayer came to mind as I watched the rain fall: A good monsoon, and a good harvest, for all those hardworking farmers that most need it.
The rain is still coming down.