There has been a long gap since our previous Post but, at long last, here is one for August. A lot has been happening. August is always an important time for everyone here because it is when we concentrate on agricultural work. The monsoon blessed us with good rainfall this year so the farmers in our village are hoping for a good harvest. The rains just about filled the ponds, which are so important to us, both for daily life (for washing, bathing and cleaning) and also for Pujas, spiritual occasions and family events. In August each year we honour Ma Manasa Puja and celebrate Independence Day. In Dabar this year we also built a new dining hall, repaired the storm damage at the school and are doing what we can about the health problems that followed on from the previous months of drought.
Traditionally, at this time when most of the planting has finished, we celebrate a Puja for Ma Manasa, the goddess of snakes. This is a very special festival for our region. During the rainy season farmers will often encounter snakes in their fields. Twenty or thirty years ago several people would die every year from snake bite. Although people now rarely die from their wounds, farmers here still try to placate the fearsome goddess of snakes.
Since ancient times, on the day after Ma Manasa Puja people here have sacrificed and eaten duck. The meat is an effective remedy against some of the worms that collect in people’s stomachs. The worms get there by boring in through the farmers’ feet while they are walking through the mud in the paddies.
Independence Day is 15th August every year. We mark the occasion with a ceremony at the school. After raising the flag we listen to some short speeches, share out tiffin for everybody and the boys and girls perform special dance routines.
Whenever possible, despite the rain, the builders have continued working on the new kitchen cum dining hall at the school. We had started in July. The plastering work is now finished and so the painting work can begin. The room should be ready to use in the middle of September.
That first storm during monsoon tore the roof off our school’s office and the classroom for Year 2 students. The repair work is now finished so we can also paint this building at the same time as the dining hall. We decided to make the new ceilings higher, in order to make the rooms cooler, and to build the roofs out of concrete, so that they would be stronger.
The rain has transformed the countryside. The whole landscape looks green, the river is full again. We still get a little rain most days, which keeps the temperatures lower. The children especially are happier now.
Unfortunately, very many people in our villages still have skin problems and are suffering from internal illnesses because we had eight months of drought and a six week long heat wave this year. There was very little water to go around, even in Purulia town, which meant that the quality of what was available got worse and worse. In the short term we are trying to collect together some money, enough to pay for a doctor to visit the villages and for us to buy medicines. The plan is that a doctor should start seeing people later this month, after the building at the school has finished. Thinking of the longer term, next year we aim to improve the water supply and sanitation systems here.
Sanjay Kumar Mahato