Thursday, 14 December 2017

The wells and swimming pools

(Paalaguttapalle, Dalitwada) ... long ago. The wells have been bone dry in the recent many years of drought.
In 2005 after five years of drought conditions the rains were good and the wells were full after many years. Swimming would go on through the long summer afternoons.
The small children would have floats made by slashing together kalabandha (Agave sisalana) stems or drumstick branches. These would be tied to their waists and they would enter the welsl along the narrow stone stairs along the walls of the wells. Initially they would also have a stout rope tied to them, and later the rope would be removed, and still later the floats also. Finally they would swim like fish with strings tied to their mola taadis (waist strings) which were held by someone, till the adult felt confidant enough to remove those strings too. The smaller children and the boys would be in their underwear. The older girls would jump in in their gowns or salwar kameez. The women would generally come to swim when the men were not there, and would pull the sarees firmly between their legs and tuck them in behind and dive.
The elder children would actively guide the younger ones. Vinayaka would jump in from the well top holding Nandini who was then three. She would descend with him with a scream, go right in and get propelled up with him from the depths of the well.
The preferred well was Naren’s samadhi baavi in the coconut garden which had the dimensions of a huge swimming pool. The well would be full of Maalapalle children through the afternoon. They would troop in and troop out in batches, walking down the field bunds with their floats or towels. They would often come with shampoo sachets and take a good bath while in the well. The children would share the well with water snakes and various insect life. When this well ran dry there was the well just outside the fence. This was smaller and completely overgrown with bushes. Here the boys would create beautiful shaped with water waves which they would call mogga or flower buds. They would jump in from the well top in a cross-legged position, and as they sank, the water would rise in waves like a lotus bud formation.
Then for the last days when water had gone low in both these wells, there was the well near the ontillu or single house, so called because it is a single house standing separately on the road near Venkataraamapuram by the side of the owner’s fields. The owner, an elderly man, would protest noisily at the children. As he shouted them out, Vinayaka would come out with many profuse apologies, go some distance and come back at a fast run and dive. He used to say that if the old man was polite he would obey, but not when he shouted rudely.

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