Thursday, 15 November 2012

At home

Many of my friends have taken up farming. For the last couple of years, since daybreak, they can be found harvesting crops on the facebook news feed. Late at night they are still at it– watering their strawberries and milking their cows. They exhibit such dedication and diligence that sometimes I almost wish they do take up farming for real. But out there in the midst of mud, weeds and pests life doesn't obey a series of random clicks.

My herb garden is shutting down for winter while the spring bulbs are out, for now gently rubbing their eyes open in the soft soil moistened by the morning dew and rain. A few pots of tomatoes and green pepper, some herbs, some salad leaves that is all that this balcony buffeted by the winds from the Thames allows as far as edibles go. Rest are all hardy perennials, battle scarred but unmindful of rain, sun or cold. And there is also that one moment of indulgence– a fast spreading jasmine that in summer opens a fragrant pathway to dusty memories and if you happen to walk barefoot you can almost feel the earth scorch your feet even though the temperature outside isn't even in the twenties (degrees celsius).

For the last few years, no matter which tiny spot on the globe has been called home, farming small spaces has become a part of making it feel homely. It isn't an obsession, nor a matter of aesthetics. It is simply an attempt to keep the most engaging and rewarding of all conversations going. The conversation between humans and nature. The conversation in which one feels most at home.

Here's Daniyal Mueenuddin's poem, 'Trying Tripe'. A poem about memory, and farming. Published in (the superb) Granta 112: Pakistan

Three months this man’s been off the farm –
go back now, back to diesel, earth and pumps.
Sugar cane I planted has come to term,
and now I count the stalks, the germination.
One clump is a penny, one row,
running, I will sell it for one dollar,
this field buys an olive suit, numerous books
boxed and mailed back, a knife I saw and craved;
along these fields, maturing silver trees
become lunch one afternoon in Rome,
a sweating wine, the restaurant Archimedes
(I chose it for the name, the Screw
of Archimedes in Nefwazi’s Perfumed Garden,
tantric afternoon of love, seeping,
like this cream afternoon of mine.)
Lunching alone, what to do but get soaked again
in memory. Riverine prodigal heart,
I have spent whole countries on a woman’s youth –
England, where L. is everywhere, like ash at nightfall,
and all the towns, pirate torching youth.
In Rome, slightly drunk, I order tripe,
wash it down, furry, valved and strange.

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