Pick your apples, and beliefs, wisely

Updated: Nov 01, 2019, 07:29 IST | Rosalyn D'mello | Mumbai

Harvesting apples may be serious work that involves focus and stamina but at the end of the day, it reaps a wealth of rewards

I used both my hands to pick the fruit and began to relish the sound of the apple being torn off the stem
I used both my hands to pick the fruit and began to relish the sound of the apple being torn off the stem

Rosalyn D'melloI told my partner I was too tired to write my column today. I was apprehensive it would show. He suggested I inform you, my readers, about the state of my body, and hope you'll understand. I'm very accustomed to writing and sending my column on Thursday. But since I have to be on the apple plantation by 8am tomorrow, I've been advised by him to issue my dispatch early so it's out of the way. I'm deeply exhausted, dear reader. But I'm running on an adrenaline high.

So this column that I'm writing to you at 9pm on Wednesday night, will be a listing of everything I managed to accomplish today, primarily because I have yielded to wisdom in the clichéd adage that delights in emphasising the healthy connection between early sleeping and early rising.

Last night I was asleep by 9:45pm. I woke up at 7am. I made myself scrambled eggs which I ate with toasted bread while my partner had his regular favourite, cornflakes with cold milk. As soon as I was done, I fired up my laptop, wrote a story and sent it to my editor. I responded to other urgent emails while simultaneously putting the beans I'd soaked overnight to boil on the stove.

Uncle Johann called my partner to tell him it was raining on the apple plantation, so we couldn't go as planned at 9am to start picking. This gave me more time to work. By 11am, I'd finished my work and had lunch ready: Rajma-like beans cooked in hearty, spiced tomato gravy; beetroot raita with toasted sunflower seeds, and chapattis (I'd kneaded the dough the previous evening, after returning from Innsbruck). We ate by 11.30am so we had time for a coffee and to get changed. My partner made me wear at least six layers over my torso and gave me a pair of working trousers and two pairs of socks, and gloves. It was cold outside and he didn't want me to shiver. We left for the plantation.

As we surveyed the rows of trees, he gave me instructions on picking the Pink Lady variety of apples. There had to be at least a 40 per cent block of blushing redness for it to be harvested. It took me a while to feel confident enough about my selection. After about an hour, he encouraged me to use both my hands to pick the fruit. I began to relish the sound of the apple being torn off the stem. Plucking is an onomatopoeic word, I realised.

He was monitoring my work, and I derived great pleasure from learning the tricks of his trade. It made me more aware of how he amasses his vast reserves of patience, and how and why he is so caring with his fingers, and so calm and well-tempered as a person. I noticed how he places the apples in the container, so preciously, and yet without affect. Occasionally we compared notes, or I asked him about how he came to commit to working on this land, or we shared an inside joke. But mostly we inhabited a silence.

I allowed thoughts to stream through my brain. I revisited some ideas, for instance. I thought about how defensiveness is our go-to defence mechanism when we feel reprimanded. We're so conditioned to deflect blame when an incorrect behaviour is pointed out to us; when it might be wiser for us to accept responsibility and apologise. As children, 'please', 'thank you', and 'sorry' were taught to us like magic words. As adults, we prefer to be entitled than ask for permission; we rarely ever give thanks, and saying sorry doesn't ever come naturally. Maybe we're always waiting for an authority figure to compel us to use these words. I'm not sure.

I thought also about the difference between being entitled and being empowered. If I ever have children, I would like to be the kind of parent that encourages the latter.

Many songs sat in my head like earworms. One was from my memory of singing in a choir and frequently at weddings. It was a song called 'Walk through this world with me'. I felt soppy about it playing on loop for almost all of last week. I always thought it was a hymn until I Googled it and learned it was a song by someone named George Jones. The lyrics are super tacky, but I just couldn't help it. It was catchy, and the last two lines resonated with how I was feeling.

We got home by 5:30pm. It was pitch dark by then. We'd stopped by the butcher and bought two sausages. He cooked them. I made couscous with stir-fried and lightly caramelised carrots and zucchini; and experimented with aubergine strips coated with flour, egg, breadcrumbs and parmesan, and then grilled them in the oven. It was delicious.

After I'm done with this sentence, I will grind the rice and urad dal I'd soaked when we returned so we can have dosa for breakfast tomorrow with the leftover bean gravy from lunch. Then I will sleep the sleep of the righteous.

Deliberating on the life and times of Everywoman, Rosalyn D'Mello is a reputable art critic and the author of A Handbook For My Lover. She tweets @RosaParx Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

The views expressed in this column are the individual's and don't represent those of the paper

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