A painting by Ernest Rodrigues

Rahat. The dictionary says that Rahat means a water-wheel run by feet or with the help of Bull. But for us Vasaikars till recently, Rahat run by Bull was not just a water-wheel but was our lifewheel. Though now Rahat has become an old-age system which one can see only in photos & the museums, once it was at the center of Vasaikars’ life. This Rahat has seen Vasaikars’ struggle to live, manage to live, grow with it and now throwing it away as garbage. Gone are the days, when a small well generally surrounded by trees like mango, jackfruit, coconut etc. shall have a Rahat attached to it. The Rahat shall also have proper shelter so as to protect the bull & the farmer from sun & rain. The Bull with his eyes blindfolded by ‘dhopna’ & carrying a ‘ju’ or ‘jota’ on his neck shall run clock-wise besides a centrally located pole which is attached to a vertical wheel and the axel of vertical wheel shall lead to rotation of the bigger wheel on which is placed the ‘chain of small clay-pots’. This clay-pots are called as ‘Baandya’ & the chain as ‘Rahatmaal’. This Rahatmaal shall fetch water from the well and pour it into the half open pipe made of coconut trunk called Pondal. The Pondal shall deliver the water to the small canal called ‘Daand’ which is connected to the field (mostly of Banana).

Any tom-dick-harry cannot build the ‘Rahatmaal’ a special skill is required for the same. All the jobs right from getting the raw material (Thate, Phade, Baandya) for the Rahatmaal to putting it onto the Rahat were distributed among the partners of the well & Rahat according to their individual skill-set, resourcefulness and capabilities. The usage of the Rahat was shared among the farmers on the basis of the amount of land possessed by them in terms of days of week (waar). The hutment on the Rahat used to be the popular meeting place of the children to decide their plan of Swimming, picking Mangoes or Coconuts from somebody’s field or to go out for fishing. Young & old people shall celebrate their ‘Bandi’ parties (boiled wal-papdi, potato & Eggs with Todi or home-made liquor) here on the Rahat. During off-season of monsoon this Rahat shall become the shelter for the poor ‘Adivasi’ families working in the field. In those days by virtue of the Custom and shyness, the newly-wed lady could not able to communicate with her husband openly at home & hence used to communicate while on the field (Bhaat) on the Rahat. The entire life of Vasaikar farmer was not just attached to but was ratating with the Rahat. All their joys were celebrated and sorrows shared on this Rahat. There was a special bond between the farmer & his bulls & his Rahat & they were part of his family. This special relationship made him compose lovely sweet songs like ‘uth maalya sandala’ & ‘maza rahat go ilo pilo, javude halu halu’. But with increasing literacy rate, limited & uncertain income in the farm and the career opportunities available by virtue of Vasai’s proximity to Mumbai city, the new generation is no more interested in the farm. Some gave their farm for cultivating to the aadivasis, some kept it idle and some sold it off to get quick money. Bulls were sold. Rahat became idle. And one fine day, the Rahat also was sold as garbage. The Rahat which taught us not to worry in difficult times and not to get carried away in prosperity has become the thing of past now. An eternal music has come to an end. Rahat has not gone alone; it has taken away with it the peace our forefather used to enjoy. Though my mind says that there is no Rahat left in Vasai now, my heart is not ready to agree. Rahat is still there in my heart. I can still hear the sound of the bells in the bull’s neck, the water dripping from the Baandis, the farmer singing on Rahat, …. Rahat has not gone from our heart. Rahat will not go. Rahat should not go. At least till the time we, who have saw the magic of the word Rahat, are breathing in Vasai or anywhere on this Planet Earth.

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