Markazhi

The Blue Gold Hunters

As soon as the break fast  is completed,my father ushered four well diggers from Varattippalliyal. They  turned up with a special wooden wheel , during the first leg of midsummer vacation to “clean our well .””Kunhunnikka,Bavakka and Sulaiman followed by our neighbour Dasan.Kunhunnikka unloaded a specially designed wooden wheel ,  Urulu  as we call in  malayalam , flexible creeper woven baskets and rolls  of thick coir. What attracted me most was the special wheel with four spokes.i felt it as the first wheel designed by human beings upon this earth..

They  camp out beneath the mango tree that leaned against the kitchen and
by the time the diggers come, father stayed close to them supplying necessary accessories ..

All the  Grownups may go around the well peering down every details making comments and shouting instructions to the well diggers  underground.

It  makes us  nervous  and we feel we are not Ok,my little sister and me.

I’m the only
one in my family worried about this. They would never permit us to look into a well to check the water level..They dreaded that we would peep into the well.  and slip into it with a sound as our elder cousin did and left himself drowning in the deep open wel It may seem contradictory that our grandma who often suffer from giddines goes around the well once or twice in a day and chats with the well.She used to powwow with her cow Malukkutty ,stray dog Pandan and  scavenging crows.””oh you have come down with one” Pampuvary” means the well-curb .(the narrow two inch wide edge around the well designed after every unit of depth) during the last week.”” “”It seems water is getting  unclear after the last night rain.”she would  complain about the level of water and quality of water..and frequently tastes water drawing a fresh bucket from the well..

Father enjoys drinking water freshly drawn from the open well. Whenever  Grandma  conducts the purification process at home by spilling divine water  “Punyaham” brought from the local temple, she never forgets to pour an ounce or two into the well to purify the water.

But if we ever complain to grandma ,she
always pulls out the same lame excuse:The well is more than sixteen “kolu “deep and .dangerous..You may feel dizzy while peering  down .


I think Mom and Dad are too worried about us., Still, we have, secret experiences with the well though nobody had noticed that. That too in the rainy season when the well is in the brim, purer than light blue colour and when the sun is up the vertical rays cast the water world in the sunny noon, an enormous frog with bulging eyes perched on the wall around the well. The well was ancient, bound on all sides .the blanketing moss has mapped the virescent empire inside the wall. the creepers snaked up along the inner curves of the well. A dream coloured kingfisher sat on the twig contemplating a  sudden swoop. 

The water, in the well, lay luminous in the dark, in mysterious transparency. The frog plunged into the well as it saw us. As he dived the gleaming ripples below the water world stretched. It dived into the well, and deeper, into the well within the well.  We felt that the water was like many glassy doors and silken curtains in the vertical sunbeams. Frog made his way past the magical world and moved towards the abyss. As the frog journeyed on, he sends back glassy bubbles.
I felt that my little sister was not much involved in the process as  I did.

Everybody in my neighbourhood is outside today,
enjoying the well cleaning process and sunshine. Well,
everyone except me and my sister. As we watch from a distance, the well diggers  Bavakka and 

Sulaiman gets off cutting the shrubs and herbs in the shady haunts and at the mouth of the well, They disappear over the ridge. They pump the water out and bring out the silt.

Mom and Dad got really surprised when they
found the once vanished cute bronze vessel in the silt. Surely, that was the same vessel inherited from grandma’s mom.
Mom and Dad thought the vessel was supposed.
to be snatched away by stray dogs or managed to purloin by Chembi..the maidservant who assisted the mother in household chores., So now they’ve expressed regret for blaming Chembi and the dogs. Those were times before there was piped water, and there were wells in almost every house—the more prosperous persons build a wall around it and plastered.

.When a bucket or vessel is lost, we may use an instrument called “Pathala karandi””it’s a cluster of iron hooks that are anchor-shaped. We may moil with it first. If we fail to retrieve,.the missing the lost stuff, Moidukka maybe sends for. He dived and retrieved things fallen into wells very easily.. No one has seen that blue calm water, lapped in a green hollow of  Thannikkunnu hills, except Moidukka. People believe that The goblins have dug the well within the span of one night . The dark shola forests slumber on its banks, and the enormous laterite rock patches whose ledges descend steeply to the large well. The wilderness hardly breaks the stillness and even the solitariness of the hillside. Moidukka can retrieve a pulley or a battered bucket, a pitcher of copper or bronze, at times a gold or silver ornament.

The one thing I’ve learned about environmental activities is that there were some natural integrated folk approaches that prevailed in our society which were truly eco-friendly..the well -hands paste no posters. launch no campaigns .. Can’t we recognise them as environmental workers? Water conservationists?

I never found any evidence that this was not true,
but that didn’t stop me from checking every once. When  I go through an experience..You may verify if  I am true or not.

Years have passed last year’s drought has brought the well diggers back to the centre stage..As usual, they came home with wheels and accessories and they demanded a table fan too.””We should check the oxygen level by lowering a burning torch…if it fails to burn at the bottom that means oxygen concentration is insufficient. Then we may descend the table fan and turn on it connecting with long wires and improve the flow of air..Dasan described.

Dasan and  Appu fixes their wheel  on two bamboo poles and ropes..

Appu went down into the well using thick ropes  as  he  had been in circus for s long time.its an awe inspiring drill of co ordination, camaraderie and skill.

My younger son  watching this says that in the future,
people will have robot body parts,
Well, I hope I don’t have to wait too long for
that, because if I could buy myself a pair of
robot legs, I could get into the well and climb the coconut trees to pluck coconut trees!!

First the silt ridden water must be pumped out.””.Then bucket after bucket tis lowered into the well..They pull out the stinky silt ,mud ,muck and broken branches are pulled out.they appeared as  persons in another world..When they spoke their sound echoed within the well.As open wells draw water from shallow sto they are also easily affected by surface pollution, which can be seen in the water quality .so we may use bleaching powder Dasan echoed the words of an Asha worker,the health field visitor.

An open well is perhaps the earliest tool invented by the mankind to access groundwater.  They started to move inlands  from the river basins.

Then they pour out stinking silt and. The time Dasan and Rajan got back, Still, I remember by the end of the day, the basket was wrecked and everyone was smothered with filth and totally worn out, and they wrung out sweaty clothes.

An open well is simply a hole in the ground that allows access to underground water Open wells are used to extract water found at the shallowest level in that area, which are typically found in  soil or rock layers at shallow depths underground, in which water is held without any pressure. 

We have  practices and metaphors on water wisdom abound, displaying collective memories where community ownership and responsibility formed a heritage culture. We have attained “water literacy” .We can  illustrate examples of cultural images on water, ancient practices and work by water warriors to affirm the value of traditional heritage on water wisdom.

Open wells received maintained properly, open wells can last centuries too. Water when it rains or other surface water filter gradually through porous earth down into the open well. This process is called recharge. Their water levels rise and fall depending on the amount of water entering or leaving the well also rewards you for good behaviour. If you recharge it, you can directly see the rise in water levels. Open wells have an implicit culture of sustainability than other types of water wells.

If we listen to open wells, we will use our water more carefully ,we can conserve water..So these persons are not mere well diggers the manual labourers..They are silent environmental workers of water conservation.

I’ve tried scraping the label of welldigger off, but
whatever kind of glue they put on those things is
meant to last until the end of time.

Markazhi

Markazhi

There is always something left behind…a twig, fragments of a bangle, a seed, a blossom on the hedges enrolled in the red list.

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