a view from two hills

Villagers around a water-hole sunk into a dried-out river bed

A villager in the city, I was born and raised at the foot of Kutha Hill, right where the stony creek and the river meet. The rocky river- bank oozes grey powdery salt, a lot like dried-out tears for the cattle to lick. This salt makes the water underneath the sand hard and bitter to taste.

Here at Kutha Hill, (don’t bother looking it up, google doesn’t know of it’s existence) the red soil is fine and too dense for rain- water to drain quickly. Although we’d rejoice when the rains came, the water would form pools around the young plants for days, leaching all the nutrients into the ground into which it would gradually disappear. This would leave the young plants a malnourished yellow, a sad precursor to a poor harvest. Rain was the frenemy.

But now I find myself living at the foot of Box Hill. Well, not really. But I have done an excursion to Box Hill, just like Emma and her neighbours in Jane Austen’s ‘Emma’. Of course, I bypassed their horse and carriage for the faster, more comfortable motor car. Upon arrival I searched for the hill’s layout; its flat box top and gradual slopes. But there was no hill to work with, and why the place came to be named Box Hill remains a puzzle in my mind.

Here in Box Hill, folks do not give much thought to the colour, texture or porosity of the soil because everybody knows that Box-hillians don’t live off the soil. If we did, we would know the labour and sweat it takes to create food and perhaps, think of buying a litre of milk for a dollar as injustice, not a bargain.  Instead, we Box-hillians live off giant monopoly structures away from the soil called supermarkets. These have the power and the magic to produce everything we need and want, and everything we don’t need or want at prices that beckon us back. It is a different world from the way Kutha-hillians live. But rain is still a frenemy, for we hope that the drought breaks with as much intensity as we do that the rain stays away. Comfort is important here, you see.

I find myself contemplating life atop and between these two hills. My thoughts oscillate between the purity and simplicity of Kutha Hill and the dynamic complexity of Box Hill. These are the props that help me understand, absorb and critique life; its creative energy, its giving, receiving or taking and thus inform my writing.

Whether from Kutha Hill or Box Hill, join me as we share the good, the sad, the humorous from both hills and question the questionable. For it is a difficult thing for a writer to tell the audience who s/he is. It might predispose the written stories to an interpretation confined to the author’s self-description. But I hope that as you meet me in the stories that you read, you will begin creating a sketch of who you perceive me to be if that is important to you.

Perhaps sharing the art will draw us into each other’s worlds better.

Aaaah, the journey begins!!!!

Nini Mappo

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