Thursday


Just a simple way of life


Saleh Al Shaibany

What you see or hear is never permanent.  Natural beauty is everywhere but how we interpret it makes the difference

As the summer sun was burning the land, scorching everything in sight, the old farmer was standing in the shade looking at his wilting crops. He tugged his beard thoughtfully then barked some instructions to his three sons. The tractor came to life and the roar of its engine filled the air.

The second son was filling a large plastic container with insecticides. The third young man, who had enjoyed his 18th birthday a couple of days earlier, carried his tool box to mend the water pumps. It was a family business that stretched back for a couple of hundred years. To most people, the arid land in the eastern part of Oman is both inhospitable and infertile. Yet, the family of this particular farm made most of it and managed to earn a living from it as well. They stuck together and turn what it should have been a wasted ten acre land to a productive cultivation.

As I stood next to the old farmer, I saw hundreds of lime trees, large patches of water melons, cucumbers, carrots, lettuce and other vegetables growing everywhere. It was never easy, he said. With the sun mercilessly beating down on them, there are no moments of comfort at any one time while they work. Their day starts at five in the morning and ends up at three in the afternoon in a blistering ten-hour working cycle.  There are only three of them managing the crops but the local community helped in buying them. They even barter with animal farmers for meat and milk.
 
I noticed that not a lot of money exchanged hands in the local market. They almost give away vegetables and fruits. Meat and fish cost half the price that we buy in Muscat. My host would not let me buy anything and when I left the village, my car was laden with fresh farm produce including milk. Out there, in a hamlet tucked away behind rugged mountains, they live life in its basic simplicity. As I cleared the mountains to catch the sight of a dual carriageway and a sign board showing the way to the city, I knew I was leaving behind more than a memory. We always dream of an idyllic life where clear streams meander peacefully and birds chirp away in chorus. That life has never existed because it is the mind that controls what you feel. What you see or hear is never permanent. Natural beauty is everywhere but how we interpret it makes the difference.  It remains that a network of well connected people in a closed-knit community makes life easier and bearable.

You bump into people every square inch of the city but life here lacks a sense of belonging. There are no familiar faces and no nods of greetings as you go along doing your business. As a matter of fact, some of us go to a great length avoiding such 'nuisance'. A jungle of concrete and a maze of expensive shops populated with faceless people is all you get in the urban communities. It is a world apart from a roofless market in a village where shoppers sweat profusely as they fill their bags but paying little for it. I guess you pay the inflated prices in air-conditioned malls and polished marbles. The high price in the urban areas spreads beyond the shopping list.

I noticed that almost everyone in the village I visited was either a farmer or fishermen. It is far from the material comfort we know but these people live healthier and hence longer. For city dwellers, it is not an idyllic living but the rat race you run in the urban rushes you to an early grave. 

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Reader Comments




Regular reader of your articles while in Oman and now back in India and each one reflects some beautiful messages. Very nostalgic sometimes! Keep it up!