chapter  6
21 Pages


The rice shoots ar e planted out in the paddies in th e middle weeks of June just after th e start of the rainy season, the 'plum rains'. The sky is leaden. Drizzle falls day after day. Shoes are covered in mildew overnight and when the sun does break through, it steams up th e damp from the roofs and th e field s. It is an unhappy time for the townsman who uses his summe r bonus, a month's salary paid in June in addition to his normal wage, to buy the odd drink with his coll eagues afte r work and to brighten up life amidst all this drabness. But the farmer works on , for this is on e of the busi est seasons of his year. He strips to the waist, goes barefoot and rolls his trousers up above his knees; as he stoops to press in a plant, the waters of his paddy reach almost to his thighs. He flings a bundle of rice shoots from the narrow pathway at th e edge of the field to th e workers in th e water and th e bright emerald flash stands out starkly against th e dull background. Then, his plants once set , he prays for a little more rain; after that, for a hot, baking sun to bring on his crop and ripen the ears.