Legs clambered down into the rice fields. A great jostling was there
under the tank.
The weather was pleasant with the farmers shouting at the oxen giving
vent to their inability to walk faster in swamp, troubles of farmers
cultivating with buffalos, teasing between related people in the
When the fields were ploughed they covered them with leaves or
something. As they started planting the previous day’s extracted
plants in the surfaced watery bed Shivamma started to work.
Lakshmamma stayed at home making Sangati.
Gowri was at the field. Shiva’s brother in law Balaiah was making the
walls and “grains should come… for an acre we should get grains full
of barns! come …come on” Subbamma called.
It turned inevitable to Gowri.
She tried to tether up the saree like others but it was a futile
trial. Tried to tie it like a lungi …impossible…. If she gets down
into the field with the saree, stamping it with mud, it’ll be hell to
pull her saree up and work. Noticing her trouble Subbamma came and
tethered her saree up. Gowri clambered down into the muddy field. It’s
difficult to lift the leg and stride in the mud. When one leg is
lifted keeping the other one in the mud without slithering is too
difficult. she has to wave her hands in the air to balance herself.
No other person is facing this problem. As she was not used to it she
has got to struggle with it.
Even the saplings are not getting fixed in the mud. Taking a sapling
with two fingers deep into the mud and bringing back empty fingers out
is not known to her.
Subbamma taught her it holding her hand. She herself managed two rows.
As she went on teaching Gowri they remained far behind the others.
Munemma started singing a song.
Oho my dear
What a stench you have
A vessel full of grains
And the belly filled with lumps
To eat you are an oxen
But for the work, a lazy lass
Gossiping at the barn getting slaps from your man”
As she uttered ironically everyone laughed.
“What a twitter you had?” Subbamma stood up.
“You are not even a bottle gourd at my home
Not even a cloth bag at my waist
Not a rabbit in the grass
Come on my girl
Let us compete
Even as a friend
You tell the distance I’ll throw the stone
I’ll sing, you tell the tune
I’ll say a puzzle, you solve it
Otherwise I untie your saree
My dear servant’s daughter”
She threw the challenge with her words.
Meanwhile two laborers came up and completed the work.
Everyone was laughing as Subbamma and Munemma teased each other.
“Unless two people helped you out you couldn’t come up sister in law.
Are you the same at eating too, unless my brother stretches out his
hand won’t you get up?” a young lady, a cousine sister of Shiva teased
“We helped her out not because we had pity on her, but scared of
Shivanna coming there to help her if she remains back….”
What she said was true to a great extent.
Gowri remained behind Shiva planting the saplings from the other end.
When she was struggling to pull out her leg from the mud and dancing
in the air almost he felt like running there to help her out.
Some even noticed his anxiety. Subbamma started a song standing in
the middle of the field.
“Sesame seeds turned powdery
The mill made a sound
My brother had lice in his hair
His wife tried to take them out
But fell in the ditch of rice water
And struggled and struggled …”
“Shall we tether the tall brother in law
To a log
Shall we feed him hay and pour the husk
Standing him on the mound turning a plate around
Shall we give him harati?
The shameless guy”
She turned a wisp of rice saplings around him. Listeners felt enthusiastic.
Munemma didn’t step back to Subbamma. She was confident that if she
opens her mouth others would be nothing in front of it.
“A child this side and another one that side
One more moving in the belly
A bit of rice and dal
How can it be sufficient?
My sister in law
Licked the rice spoons
Well wishes to my sis in law’s hair
Well wishes to frog in a ditch
Well wishes to my sis in law’s voice
well wishes to the blind crane
That roams in the marshes.”
one or two joined in the chorus and it went on well.
“Ok, ok it’s enough” Balaiah said smearing the edges with mud.
Munemma stood up holding the saplings’ wisp in a hand.
“What’s the matter bava?
You say ok ok
Your ok is in my arm pit
Your address is in my belly button
Come in the night to converse
Come in the dusk to cram …” with this she bent down to plant the saplings.
Everyone giggled .
A laugh bloomed on Gowri’s lips too like the wetness of snow .
“Your husband is no match to you, so you have no fear at all” Balaiah said.
She raised her head.
“What fear? Or is it a way?
A bullet of thorny fruit
Is it deep after falling in a well?
The softness of Nalleru
The haunting of onion
Or the stabbing of a cotton seed?”
“Why do you argue with her young boy? An ugly mistress!” said an old lady.
Munemma turned to her.
“You come on, an old hag, let us see.
Your hair turned gray let me put forth a puzzle, solve it and show, (
when you can get all Guntur chana ,chennapatnam thin petals mogunur
white cotton –you get that fruit, on top the money, sides a lady a
friend of mine –if we call the youth of washerman the king would die
and another alien became the king I’ll come ) tell what is this oldie
let me see.”
She threw a challenge.
With the entertainments, songs, poems and puzzles and teasing with all
the jostling Gowri felt a move in her heart.
she went on planting the saplings bending with them and she didn’t
realize the back pain.
the planting concluded and the labor climbed up the edge and watched
It looked as if the saplings fixed in the mud absorbed the melody of
the words and have already turned green.
Saplings that were kept in by the middle of her two fingers and fixed
in the mud were there in that greenery making her feel thrilled. The
consciousness of giving life to some of the plants germinated mellow
in her heart.
With the jostle of singing the work went on .
Before it turned dusk all the laborers retreated their way to home.
That day Subhadra brought the cattle home with her fellow children.
All the buffalo walked in line as a herd .
“It seems the buffalo reached its time to deliver the young. The
udders are as long as an arm “ Munemma said to lakshmamma.
“Soon you’ll have the favor of a lactating buffalo”
“Not so soon, it may take a month more….” Lakshmamma said.
Everyone talked at least a word about the colour, shape, extracting
milk and the quality of the calves of the buffalo.
Gowri never thought of all these good qualities in their buffalo. She
thought of watching all these in their animal. She surveyed the herd
completely. She tried to recall their buffalo that always used to be
tied at the end of the shed but its shape never came to her thought of
It was not seen even in the flock.
All the buffalo looked the same.
How can people recognize their own buffalo? she couldn’t grasp.
As soon as she came home she felt the body pains as an aftermath of
the day’s work. Back was paining, thighs were heavy, shoulders slid,
and every muscle of the body started sounding with unknown pulling.
whole day fixing her feet in the mud and pulling them out her whole
body looked as if broken by someone everywhere.
She lay down across the cot.
Lakshmamma could notice her daughter in law’s condition.
“ it seems her story has concluded…”
She bent her lip and smiled. Mid-day’s Sangati was there, the curry is
also there. So she washed half a cup of rice and started cooking it.
Brought the hen under the basket, put the fodder to the buffalo, she
had a morsel of food and came out and sat under the neem tree on the
cement bench and opened her pan bag.
Govindamma came there asking her a bit of pan.
Grinding the pan in their mouths both started to talk. Till that
minute Shiva roamed in the streets and just arrived. “ where is your
daughter in law?” Govindamma asked lakshmamma.
“ she is inside.”
“Didn’t even come out…….”
“Today she got down into the field… she never used to do any work ….
Her body might be paining, laid across the cot….”
“ why don’t you boil water and give?”
“ let them only boil”
“ O my foolish lady” Govindamma slowly got up, went up to the
threshold and thought of pushing it open.
Words came out….
“ only one medicine for these pains….. Massaging till the muscles
move………. Pouring hot water till the skin turns red. I’ll do that……”
“my rascal” grumbling Govindamma returned. She went up to the cement
bench and called lakshmamma “ don’t go inside” and trailed away from
As she walked slowly Shiva’s words echoed in her ears. The feeling
behind the words rushed up to her chest like the waves of an ocean. It
was trying its level best to come up as scenery. Even after reaching
home the same sounds echoed in her ears.
In her thoughts she asked silently –where did you learn it my rascal?
She roamed up and down in the street two times.
Mind was not stable. She sent a person to call Muni pilla.
Took out her cloth bag from her waist and put a piece of tobacco in her mouth.
As soon as Munemma arrived she conveyed the matter in her ears.
Munemma looked at the old lady strangely and laughed still in a
“Won’t it be wrong, Avva?” she asked.
“If we tell someone or if we make it public then it will be a wrong…”
The moonlight looked as if flour was spread on the ground.
The sound of tinkling of small bells came from the oxen. They moved
towards the back side of Shiva’s home to the barns. Lakshmamma noticed
them from the cattle shed.
“where are you going?” she asked.
“ Avva had some stomach upset” Munemma replied.
Both went behind a heap of hay and stood there.
They waited till Lakshmamma moved away from there to the premises of
her house. ‘after that they moved slowly and reached the backyard
Standing there they activated their ears, as if drawing the water from
the well the sound came.
Under the wall a few crags are there. If they climb them they could
see into the backyard. Munemma climbed it and peeped once.
Shiva might have gone inside. The old lady looked at Munemma ardently.
Munemma, with a feeling of some stealing occupied her mind, looked
the surroundings carefully.
“Come on …if you hang this way for the whole day how can it be?”
“ I’ll bathe…you go”
“Who will brush your body? Should apply the oil to do the massage,
Take out your clothes…”
“No …no…. no”
“Why do we have shame between us? Hand over your body to me, you are
an infant. I am your mother that’s all…….”after that her voice is not
heard. She might have handed over her body to him. By that time
inexplicable feelings filled Govindamma’s heart. With Munemma she
climbed a few crags and peeped in.
Drenching completely in the drizzle of moonlight sitting on a wooden
seat a naked body………as the oil was smeared the moonlight glistened on
As a heap of brightness…….as if the pollen dust was ground and made ……
Moving the muscles of that doll as waves a man’s palms moving secretly
……….as the muscles moved the raising of gasps as a symbol of comfort
Expressing the affection of ancient human bodies which never knew the
feelings of domination…….
Govindamma’s heart was filled with happiness. A marvelous feeling that
never had even the touch of teasing drenched her heart.
Lifting her hands up she folded them. As the body started quivering
looking at the scene she clambered down the crag. Without even
bothering about Munemma she walked away from there uttering something.
On the way when Lakshmamma greeted her, she didn’t even lift her head.
Munemma too was in the same condition. If all the folk songs which she
used to sing are mixed into one, and are rolled in the moonlight, it
resulted in the naked body there. The palms and finger tips moving on
it …….probably might be her lips, tongue tips and sighs……….
Munemma now is realizing what she has lost in her life ………… Govindamma
felt that she had now a fistfull of lessons to teach about what an
young couple should not lose.
Between the bodies of man and woman even if they are husband and wife
how many restrictions! How many borders! And how many stone walls! How
A truth is realized in the moonlight.
“O God! Give these young couples strength to look at their full bodies
at least once with their eyes. Give eyes to their hearts. Give courage
to look at each other’s body without any concealment. Whoever reads
their body never disdains it. ., let it be a man or woman…..O God,
give them all the palms of Shiva, and Gowri’s soul to all the girls …
changing herself into an infant and slipping into her husband’s hands
, give that mind of hers…….
Original Novel by Sannapureddy venkataramireddy
English Version by Swathee sripada