Wednesday, June 6, 2007

A Grain of Truth

The rains have come. It is the season here for planting rice. Driving down the road, I was amused to see a couple of farmers, their backs bent but apparently happy to cultivate the first seeds. Then I thought, may the Rice Godess drive the storms away this year. For I will surely weep with these folks should this planting season not end in a bountiful harvest.
Indeed, for us Asians rice is life. It permeates all aspects of communal living.. Rice is in music, particularly folk songs. It reminded me of my college thesis. My subject was about lost folk songs mostly sung as rice rituals. It thrilled me then to find out that rice is also in various forms of the arts – from poems to paintings to sculptures. It is in tradition, folklore, ritual and even language.For most of us Asians, life without rice is simply unthinkable. I, for one, find it odd that I don’t feel good and tend to slack when rice is taken out of my meal.
As a young girl growing up in countryside Philippines, I was taughtt that rice is "all that makes you strong and wise." It is not to be wasted. We find various ways to recycle leftover rice. Any rice remaining after a meal must not be thrown away, but must be put on top of new bolied rice in the cooking pot. Even the crust of rice sticking to the bottom of the pan is to be eaten. Not a morsel should fall on the table, or you will get the dagger looks from Mother.

Looking back, I also must have gotten my love of the written word during all those times when I had to tend to boiling rice in our old clay stove. We never cared for electric rice cookers even when we could already afford one. Cooking rice is in itself a worship, a ritual. I penned my first short story in English, at the age of 10, spread over many days of cooking the “perfect rice”.That was a mighty long time ago and much has changed since. But I am not about to forget how our days began with "morning rice" and ends with "evening rice." I thought much yesterday about our communal this grain has shaped the history, culture, diet, and economy of billions of our people.

As we drove on, I lowered the car window for a closer view of the planters. Come to think of it, the growth stage of the rice crop marks the passage of time and season in my own life. The cool wind touched my face, I wanted to get off but it was time to move on indeed. All the same, something magical and spiritual -- radiating from the depths of the green fields -- is what I shall ever carry in heart.

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