My T-shirt and the only surviving pair of jeans (I have lost a lot of weight, thankfully!) had stains all over them and I was staring and scraping at them while trying to hold a conversation. I had not been involved in a fight nor had come after playing around in the mud, though I wish I could do at least the latter (age is really just a number. Mud is for all!). I was in the fruit processing unit that Kumaon Grameen Udyog runs, making jam with my colleagues.
The jam in its path to the right consistency was boiling, bubbling up and down and splashing itself on the people around. An apron would have done just fine to protect my clothes excepting when the jam would deliberately look for places uncovered with the apron (I doubt such a conscious effort on any jam’s part but I have had jam splashed on my face when I was well away from the cooking vessel so I cannot discount that) but I, in my supposedly infinite and superior wisdom which is usually based on keeping things simple, had no inclination to wear one because I thought as I am getting my hands dirty doing this fellowship, why not get my clothes dirty too! I will finally get a reason to indulge in laundry at last, and a lot of people will in turn feel happy especially Maa. Nothing’s better to a mother than her son wearing clean clothes, if her son is like I am.
So as I said earlier, which I forgot in the sentences following it, I was trying to hold a conversation while scraping the stains away and the colleague I was having a conversation with, was stirring the concoction of mostly natural and sparingly used synthetic constituents that make up our jam (we are building up capacity for a fully natural product. It will take us some time and understanding to get there). I was listening intently I supposed. But perhaps I wasn’t for I could not comprehend any thing except that she was sharing something about what had happened some time before.
I could know only that because she kept using the past tense and the word “परसों” i.e. day before yesterday. Failing to understand what she was trying to convey I decided to give up scraping and look up while simultaneously admitting to myself for the umpteenth time in my life that I cannot multitask however simple may be the tasks.
As I looked up I said, “Can you repeat that again but slowly?”
She recited all of that again. I still felt at bay. I raced my mind to the recent past but I had to give up. I was about to ask her to repeat it again but one thing from her conversation suddenly struck me. I paused. I could finally comprehend what she was talking about. Though I still had doubts about the time all of that had happened. After thinking for a while, during which she stared at me, bewildered, I confidently said that all of that which she was talking about had happened three months earlier and not in the recent past which she kept referring to. She agreed. I was surprised that how she could agree with something which she had not even referred to.
I thought to myself, may be this is one of those times when both the communicating persons are at bay about each other’s thoughts even after having expressed, and do what you may none will understand. I have had a lot of those so I could not discount the possibility of it happening again. But I decided to pursue it further this time and asked her how with the usage of the word “परसों” can she refer to three months earlier? To which she had a simple response, “That is परसों only.” And she rested her case.
When I had first come to my organization, I was not in a habit of walking to places nor familiar to the distances and the routes. I was walking to Sitla once via the road for the first time (I had always taken the nature trail otherwise) and I was told that it is quite near. I walked and walked and walked and walked until I finally reached, ending up realizing that the oft quoted remark ‘near, yet far’ holds true at least some where. A lot of times in my interaction with the local people in my field area, I have been surprised with their usage of परसों to refer to the past events unlikely to have been remotely from the recent past and their references to places being very near. I wondered as to what could be the cause for the widespread use.
I walk to places a lot of times, alone and sometimes with Markus, who has clicked the featured image of this blog and who graciously gave it. I walk with him because he is very lucky at coming across animals. But he runs out of luck when he is with me. My walks’ other objectives include withdrawing money from an ATM at Mukteshwar (6km walk through a beautiful natural trail from where I live) and to get a chance to gaze at the Himalayas from Sitla and Mukteshwar (which are visible only during the winters). They stand tall as large white corrugations against the sky.
I have inquired locally about how far, aerially, are the Himalayas. I could only get to know their distance by road and by time! I looked up Google maps then and I came to know that the aerial distance is a hundred kilometers. I could hardly believe it. I had always thought that they would not be more than 20-30km away. It is hard to believe that you can look at something that is so far away. But one can, for the Himalayas are gigantic. It took me a while and a lot of trips to Sitla and Mukteshwar to make my peace with the fact.
In one of those trips to the two places, I stopped in the tracks as a certain postulation started forming about the Pahaadi measurement of time and distance. What if, it is the Himalayas that are an inspiration of Pahaadi people’s measurement of time and distance? As the Himalayas themselves are so far away yet visible. And probably in comparison to the Himalayas, nothing seems far to the Pahaadi people, places and events alike.
I wish the Pahaadi measurement of time and distance was true. 1983km would not have been too far then.