By Vijay Darda | 05-07-2021
In our quest for materialistic progress, we do not even think about the soil from which we are born, to which we will all return
When President Ram Nath Kovind bowed down and applied the soil of his village on his forehead saying that motherland is greater than heaven, it sparked a flood of memories in my mind. I don’t know how many memories; some of childhood, some youth and some of recent times! The essence of all experiences is that we are all made up of soil! Heaven resides in this soil!
Some two and a half decades ago, a survey was conducted as to when people miss their home the most? The answer of a nurse working in Delhi deeply touched my heart. She had said, “When the drops of rain fall on the warm earth and the sweet smell of soil emanates from it, it reminds me of my village.” There is really nothing that can match the scent of soil. I consider myself lucky that my childhood was enriched with the fragrance of soil. This feeling is ingrained so deeply in my mind that even today the touch of soil in my garden warms my heart and mind. It takes me back to my childhood days. I would often go to my maternal grandmother’s house at Bela and Babuji’s maternal grandmother’s house at Madani when I was a child. There were no automobiles then. We used to ride bullock carts that kicked off a cloud of dust; we did not worry at all that the dust would make us dirty! A unique happiness lay hidden in that dust too.
Children in those days grew up playing in the dust and mud. The prevalent belief then was that the more children played in the mud, the stronger they would be. In today’s context, soil produces antibodies, but now the times have changed and urban mothers, as also those in villages, have started taking special care to ensure the child does not come in contact with the soil! They are afraid of the child falling ill. Knowledge and science is the product of this soil, but artificiality has become so dominant in life that it has created a yawning gap between man and nature. The love for soil is still there in villages but in cities the situation is a bit different. I often wonder why stop kids from playing in the soil we are all made up of? In fact, soil explains the meaning of life! It gives a sense of living! I am reminded of the American poet Wendell Berry who wrote:
The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector…
That’s the essence of life! This revives my childhood memories, when the pulses and vegetables were cooked in earthen pots and bread baked on an earthen pan. The food had heavenly taste, texture and smell! Last month, a childhood memory suddenly overpowered me so much that I introduced a whole set of pottery in my kitchen. The entire food was prepared in earthen pots and served in earthen plates only. The close friends I had invited over for a meal were greatly delighted and impressed with the delicious taste. I too enjoyed this taste after a long time.
Unfortunately, pottery has started disappearing from the villages as well. Earthen pots are sometimes sighted but rarely. You might remember that earlier tea was served in ‘kulhad’ in trains or even in cities. Now that has become a thing of the past. Although in Kolkata even today curd is served only in clay ‘kulhads’. Whenever I go to Kolkata, I make it a point to eat sweet curd in an earthen pot. To be honest, even a silver vessel does not give the pleasure of the food cooked and served in an earthen pot. Where will the silver and gold plate produce the fragrance from?
Eminent poet Munawwar Rana told me a few years back that at the time of his son’s wedding, when the girl’s parents asked him what he wanted as a gift, he demanded a complete set of pottery. The girl’s parents readily presented it! In fact, those who are emotionally attached, and are close to spirituality or want to live with nature, they want to maintain a relationship with the soil in some form or the other. For, the truth is that we are a part of the soil. This is why we have come into existence and if we are lucky, we will return one day to the soil of our motherland. Some will be cremated while some others will be buried under the ground. The same soil will create once again. A stanza from renowned poet Shivmangal Singh Suman’s poem is quite relevant in this context:
Mitti ki mahima mitne mein
Mit mit har baar sanvarti hain
Mitti mitti par mitati hain
Mitti mitti ko rachti hain
(Glory of soil lies in its flexibility
Soil restores and rejuvenates
Soil mixes and merges into soil
Soil moulds and builds the soil)
In fact, the ability to narrate the new song of life and produce a world of creation lies only in our soil. Science has made a lot of progress and it has also told us that even the planets where we have reached do not have soil like ours, so there is no life. On our Earth, as soon as the seed is planted, it sprouts and grows into a plant which bears crops, producing food grains, which is the basis of the energy of our life. Our natural games have arisen from this soil, from which we get energy. Indeed, our soil is a storehouse of energy. Heaven resides only in the soil of our land, our motherland and our village..!