In Goa, the monsoons finally come to an end in the month of September/ October. This year, it was mid-October when we experienced the last rains. With the rains gone and the sun out, this is the season for harvesting rice.
Harvesting rice is still done in Goa (and most other parts of India) in the traditional way and this is highly labour intensive. Very little mechanical means are involved in harvesting.
The rice is cut using sickles and the rice stalks are then either threshed (to separate the grain from the stalks) by using a wooden pole to beat the rice stalks or by beating the stalks against the ground (or a hard surface) to loosen the grain. This has to be done properly, or the grain could break resulting in broken rice and inferior quality of grain.
After this, the stalks are shaken well, to dislodge the grain. The grain-free stalks are left on the sides of the fields and roads to dry out into hay.
The grain (called paddy) is then sun-dried so that it can be de-husked later. Paddy is taken away to have the outer husk removed after which it is used as brown rice, or polished to produce white rice or else processed to produce par-boiled or boiled varieties of rice.
People working on the fields or fishing are everyday sights if you live in Goa. We are lucky to see a lot of this on our regular drives to work, into town and to the railway station or airport even though we live on the outskirts of Panaji, the capital of Goa.
I took these pictures (one of the rare occasions when I had my camera in the car) on my way back from Margao, one Sunday morning in October. Margao is 37km from Panaji (also known as Panjim), and like most roads in Goa, this road also snakes its way through some beautiful countryside.
Threshing on a small field on the side of the highway.
Beating the hell out of the grass?
Some part of this road is flanked on both sides by agricultural land and during the harvesting season, the roadside is the scene of harvesting activities. During this time, even the sides of the major highways become threshing grounds for grain, even as the traffic whizzes by! Some of the less busy roads are often used to sun-dry the grain!! At these times it is harvesting activites which get precedence over traffic on the roads.
Threshing on the side of the highway!
On this sunday, this highway was shared by the harvesters and the traffic alike.
Separating the grain from the chaff.
I came across Francis on the Velha – Curca stretch (home stretch) of my drive, that same day. Francis is a “render” (toddy tapper) and was pouring out the coconut toddy he had just collected, into a plastic jerry-can.
Toddy is obtained from young flowers of the coconut tree. This sweet sap contains yeast. On fermenting, the sap is converted to an alcoholic drink. Coconut vinegar is also made from toddy. The famous coconut feni of Goa is made by distilling coconut toddy.
Francis and his jerry-can of coconut toddy.
Pouring the stuff in!
Photo session over, riding his cycle away.
Francis (which he told me was his name) didn’t know English and I managed to communicate using sign language and some broken Konkani to ask if I could take some pictures. I think he understood because he was kind enough to pose for my camera. After which he got onto his cycle and rode away, probably wondering about the strange woman, who obviously wasn’t Goan yet not a tourist (you can recognize this species of the human being very easily in Goa), who was wandering about with a camera!