Today was yet another pre-dawn morning. We accompanied the teenage students of the Sri Aurobindo International School to ashram-owned paddy lands, near Ousteri Lake on the Pondicherry – Tamil Nadu border, to harvest sesame (til).
For them, as for us, the outing was a way to experience the basic mechanics of agriculture – or at least one significant part of the process – and remind ourselves from where our food comes. It was also hard work and good fun.
The Sri Aurobindo Ashram is largely self-sufficient in producing the food to sustain its 2,500 members, with entirely organic orchards, fields, paddy lands, and dairy operations. Indeed, the ashram has been producing a surfeit of rice in recent years, and has been rotating its paddies to produce non-flood-irrigated crops like groundnut, sun flowers, mustards, and sesame, which are pressed into cooking oils.
Yesterday evening brought an unseasonable storm to Pondicherry, utterly torrential last night, tapering to showers this morning. The sodden paddy fields were good fortune for us in two ways. First, the wet earth made the pulling of the til like butter.
Second, there are few things in life (I won’t enumerate them) as deliciously pleasurable as the mud of a paddy field squishing through your toes.