Archive for June 25th, 2008

Painter of signs!

June 25, 2008

It is a fairly big yard as only yards without any large, permanent structures can be. Of course, there is a small thatched roof to house the power supply main (and, probably also to accommodate a cot for the owner of the place, when he comes by — but, today there is no cot to be seen). The place is dotted with trees of various sizes; these trees are neatly lined up along the circumference to mark the boundary of the place; all but one huge rain tree are neem.

The place is buzzing with activity; at one corner, a old woman is cutting leaves to feed a goat; another is sitting a bit away from her in the sun; she uses the corner of her saree to cover her head; the goat-feeding lady shouts “Hey! Sit in the shadow! What is this rain-sun, rain-sun, you are saying? It is too hot”. At the diagonally opposite corner, surrounding a huge mound of coconuts (with their hard outer skins removed) sit four men; three huge bamboo poles are stretched in front of them. The men use the strip of land between the poles as bins to separate the coconuts into three groups; they take coconuts; tap them with their fingers; shake and listen to the sound; sometimes they tap two coconuts together or one of them against the stone; and then, using some strange mechanism, which I could never fathom, throw the coconuts into one of the strips. As the separation proceeds, even my untrained eye can pick the general characteristics of the pile — probably, in the market, each pile will be priced differently. At the adjacent side, several men, all in their fifties, are removing the upper layer of the coconut skins by impaling them ever so slightly on the crowbars. Nearby, a couple of children are playing; one of the men notice that they are breaking the coconuts open; he tells them not to; their mother comes by, picks those coconuts, and gives the water to them and then takes them away. Finally, at one corner stands a tractor; it is not even clear how the tractor was parked in that place, in that crooked manner in the first place. Several women and men, lined up from one end to the other with huge baskets full of compost on their head, transfer it from the mound at one corner to the tractor carrier.

The place is filled with the fragrance of drying copra; it is also full of noises — the indistinct murmur as a result of the different conversations taking place at various parts of the yard, the bleating of goats, the cawing of crows, and the sounds of at least a few different species of birds, the screeching of squirrels, and the movie songs that waft (on and off) in the air from some TV or radio. Occasionally, a goods train also passes by just behind the yard, adding to the sights and sounds of the place.

He sits at one corner with his tools, which consist of two aluminium bowls filled with purple and dark green dyes, a tin stencil and a couple of brushes. He spreads nearly fifteen or twenty jute bags; putting the stencil on them, with one brush he marks the first line of the name in purple and the remaining two lines in green with the other. This is the first time I notice how the jute bags get the names painted on them. And, thus, he — the painter of signs — completes the scenery at a coconut mandi at eleven in the morning!