Orsang

Orsang the wild river of the Bhils
flows in the corn that is sunned on roof tops,

on the dry river bed watermelons
like ripe buttocks get warmed,

worms burrow into the flesh;
the hollow crimson cavity hold

tales of the river, stories of the people
who walk so gently that they appear to glide.

In the empty villages women and children
gaze at the winding road from their homesteads

waiting for lovers, husbands, fathers
to celebrate the festival of spring and colour

when jamun trees rain blossoms
petals of mahua pink like dawn toss in the breeze.


This is in response to a prompt from Poetic Asides, to write a spring poem.

Spring season brings to my mind memories of my interactions with the Ratwa Bhils, an adivasi community of people living in the Chottaudepur region of Vadodara district in Gujarat. I had the privilege of working with the Ratwas, visiting several villages in this region in connection with a health project. Ratwas are a graceful community of people, they are warm, friendly and very gentle.  

When the rivers, lakes and ponds run dry, when crops cannot be grown in the tracts of lands around the villages, men go to cities like Baroda, Baruch and Surat in search of livelihood. They take contract work in construction sites and return home for Holi , the festival of the spring season. Through the hot months of April and May they ready  their land for the next agriculture cycle that commences soon after the monsoon in the month of June.  

Spring for the Ratwas is truly the season of happiness and family reunion. Music, dance and revelry resonate all through the night of Holi.

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