Thursday, April 24, 2008

THREE PONDS TO PONDER...

I like the sound of the word, "pond". There's a quality of stillness in it, as if you are throwing a pebble and there's a 'gloop' sound, some ripples stretching out, and then silence and stillness again.

I loved this silence in the pond which lay next to my childhood house, undisturbed in the noonday heat. I would never sleep in the afternoons, and would often spend the time near the pond, trailing my fingers in the water. My hands would get caught in the floating roots of the kachuripana (water hyacinth), which grew at a ferocious pace and covered the entire surface of the pond, all green with delicate lilac flowers. When they dried, the brown balloon-like bulbs could be pricked with a pop. At other times, the pond would be covered with tiny green shaola (lichen). Sometimes, I would crouch down on the slab of cement that served as a ghaat (pond-bank) and gather the water in huge kachu-leaves (colocasia). The leaves were water-proof and the green water would transform into a shivery, silvery, mercury-like liquid, and I would imagine it to be my secret hoard of silver-riches. Sometimes, I would watch the white, orange-beaked ducks waddling aimlessly - they all obediently returned to their owner's home in the evening when they heard the familiar sing-song "CHOI-CHOI-CHOI" call. For some strange reason, nobody bathed in this pond, though the surrounding families (ours included) would use it for washing clothes and utensils (till we were upgraded and got the Municipality water connection). Once, in winter, I got the scare of my life when I almost put my foot on a whole gaggle of snakes, all sleeping together (is that the right term?), coiled around each-other at the foot of a pink hibiscus tree bordering the pond.

The pond where I (and countless other children) learnt to swim was part of a neighbour's property. The ghaat here was cemented, with proper, though slippery, steps, and the jaldhora (water snakes) and small fish would scatter away as we plunged and splashed about, practising backstrokes, dubsatar (underwater swimming) and (feat of feats) staying afloat with our feet above the water surface.

The other pond which comes to my mind is the pond-that-never-was at my mother's grandfather's (I told you, Indians love joint families) place at Belur. This was a really big pit at the bottom of the garden, with rough-hewn steps going down to the bottom, but which had no water. All the neighbours had ponds in their gardens, so this lack of water was very mysterious and much-discussed. I remember circling this pond-that-wasn't warily on my trips to Belur, and finally, only once in my life, gathering courage to go down the pit, and gaining a fish-like view of the sky and the garden.

A FINAL POINT TO PONDER: Ponds are fast disappearing from urban and semi-urban India, buried under piles of debris, newly-consructed apartments, and the greed of property developers. I have never seen a pond in Mumbai, though there are places like Dhobi-talao and Shantaram-talao (talao = pond).
What are the ponds you ponder about?

11 comments:

SwAtI said...

Heyy!!
This was a lovely post..I loved the description of your childhood pond.. :) I could almost imagine the whole setting.. :)
Iv always been in the city..haven't seen a pond..so I dont think about one..

Really liked this post..
Regards!

Paul Bernard said...

Wow! That was an excellent post. So full of richness and onomatapeia.
I could almost see the places you spoke of. You haev a lovely tone. Very clear - comforting almost. Like a mother or teacher, explaining that the world is not so scary or complex, it is actually just like this...
Have you published anything?

Aleta said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts about ponds, how lovely. Your words carried me back to a special place. When I was 12 years old, my cousin came in town for the summer. We went with her father to a retreat home. The area was mostly woods with small paths. Every day we went out a little further along the paths until we found a pond. We brought pen and paper with us, sometimes a sketching pad. We're draw and write poetry. Yes, ponds do bring a sense of calmness and almost.... timelessness...

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eve's lungs said...

lovely post - could almost hear the ducks and the water and smell the kachuripana ..

Archi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Archi said...

Let me know when you publish your first book, if at all you do.. I want the first copy..

Sutapa said...

Lovely post.The touch in the writing takes me to a different world.

Jaquanda Rae said...

Thanks for checking out my blog Sucharita. I don't have any experience with ponds really. Not anything striking.

I appreciate the questions re:stalker. It's a bit of all three or two out of three.
The rejected woman ages with her devotion to someone who doesn't share her feelings...not all women but many can identify with that feeling of burning in the flame like the moth.

τ ħ€ ĐάЎđяёάmёя said...

talao naa re talaab :P

reading ur description..i remembered my mama bari...we got a pukur on our backyard where we used to spend hours splashing water..
last year I went there and I found no sign of water anywhere nearby...I remembered reading in my social book..bangal pokharo ka desh hai..but today i feel like everything wriiten good abt a place ultimately becomes history..
feeling nostalgic..
lovely post
a very nice read..
btw u share the same name wis my didi..
cheers

Sucharita Sarkar said...

Thanks, people, for pondering on ponds (and other things) and creating ripples in this memory-blog!