Khéjur-gur

(page 5)

We were asked to come over the next morning at 7a.m., when Anand would start making khejur-gur from the morning harvest of sap. In order to photograph him putting up the earthenware pots for the night harvest we arranged to come in the evening around 4 p.m. whilst I would still have sufficient light to take the photographs. Usually, he would do this job late in the evening, almost at dusk.

When we reached the village in the evening, Anand’s wife had cleaned the earthenware pots in the pond and was tying them together with coconut fiber rope. The ropes were of an exact length that fitted around the neck of the pot in a loose loop.

Anand was examining his instruments necessary for the job. These consisted of two sickles, which he honed on a log over which he sprinkled sand from the ground, and a flat wicker basket, which he tied around his waist with the basket resting on his lower back and buttocks. The outside portion of the basket had a small iron hook attached with thin coconut rope. He also carried a piece of stout split bamboo with a coconut fiber rope tied in the middle with a loose end about 3 ft. in length, which was attached to the hook on the basket, and a length of strong jute fiber rope which he tied loosely around his waist.

This rope loop on the earthenware pots served the purpose of hanging the pots on either end of a bamboo staff, which Anand carried on his shoulder. It was also used to hook the pot on to the wicker basket when Anand climbed the tree. Six pots each on either end of the staff was a heavy load and the pliant bamboo staff on Anand’s shoulder worked like a leaf spring keeping time with his gait as he walked toward the Phoenix sylvestris trees.

On reaching the grove, Anand unloaded the bamboo staff from his shoulder and gently lowered the pots to the ground. He went about his job with swift precision. First he removed a pot and hooked it on to the back of the wicker basket tied around his waist. He then untied the jute fiber rope from his waist, slipped it around the trunk, and tied the two ends in a knot. Leaning against the rope and adjusting the length a couple of times, he proceeded to climb the tree with agility, despite all the paraphernalia dangling from his back. He slid the rope up the tree trunk and hoisted himself in an incredibly fast gait. He stopped about 5 ft. below the crown of the tree and tied the stout bamboo stick horizontally to the tree trunk with two equal halves jutting out on either side. Stepping on the bamboo, first with one foot and then the other, he stood up, eyes flush with the tapping point just below the crown of leaves, leaning at an angle from the trunk on the rope that went around the tree trunk and his waist.

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