The wandering Bullock cart

The story of a bullock cart and its incredible travel across continents

Amazing, that was what I felt when I
came across this offer,

I was chuckling away after going through it, and I have to pat Suresh on the back for the idea. Well why not, we used to go ‘cart riding’ in places like Turkey (not go-carting, but in some places like Camlica –Istanbul, they have a pair of huge bulls and a colourful cart) paying big dollar. Tree houses, houseboats are all favoured these days, so why not a bullock cart ride (albeit long duration – back breaking….)?

All this took me back in time. When we were kids vacationing in Pallavur, our tiny little village in Palakkad…

There was a time when we had a bullock cart at our maternal home in Pallavur. I remember the chap who drove the cart, Eaachran, who was also our supervisor in the fields (I guess only trustworthy positions got the exalted cart driver status). The cart was not used very much though. In our times, it was parked in the shed (yes, it had its own garage) and once a week, our man used to get the two bulls yoked up in front and take the cart to get stocks from the nearby Alathur market. The cart would come back late at night, loaded with sacks of cattle feed, vegetables, oil tins, fertilizer and provisions. The cattle knew the route back and forth; Eaacharan was normally asleep at the wheels (a few bottles of toddy maybe?) on the way back, but no problems….

We used to take short trips on the cart with Eaacharan, he was a ‘bindas’ guy, had no complaints, he never castigated us for jumping around or making noise. The roads were empty, there were just two buses plying between Pallavur and Palakkad, the Ex servicemen bus twice a day and what was the other? I forgot, I think it was the JBT. An occasional car that was going to Nemmara or a taxi taking some sick person to the town hospital…that was all the traffic on the roads. The lone taxi in Pallavur was used probably once a week, the Landmaster car finally rusted away, I guess, from lack of use.

It was always quiet on the narrow road; you could hear the birds, the wind whistling past the paddy fields. The road was raised, paddy fields and hills on either side. When buses came it was always complicated, they had to back off (ha! Bulls could not back effectively – or so I learnt) many yards till the cart could pull in ‘to the side’. Can you picture the exasperated driver? One could hear the tinkle of the bull-bells and you always smelled hay. The wooden wheels with the metal rim creaked most of the time, no ball bearings or suspensions, mind you!! Divine, when I think of it all now, what solitude! No pollution, no speeding vehicles or unruly drunks around…Sometimes Eaacharen would take the bulls to the place where they put new iron shoes on the hooves. I used to cringe, when the guy hammered nails through the shoe into the hooves…while the bulls serenely continued chewing the hay…it didn’t seem to bother them.

Once I had a longer than usual ride in the cart, we were shifting houses and a lot of stuff had to be taken from Koduvayoor to Pallavur. Some surplus stuff that did not fit the lorry had to go by cart and I was permitted to ride the cart with Eaacheren, Oh! Man, was it a great day!! My son comments, gross dad, you rode a bullock cart??

Life eventually got modern, a new shed was built to house the car and the tractor that came by, the cart was re-parked in a shaded corner of the estate, but it had lost its place by then. Children used it for play when they got bored, but it was built of good wood and it stayed intact through many monsoons and heat spells.

The cart is no longer there, the bulls are dead, everybody has gone hither and thither, living their fast lives…Eaacharan has retired; the roads are now full with the many vehicles plying the road. No industries or pollution in the vicinity, the village remains largely untouched by time, but there are huge numbers of kids around due to the popular Chinmaya school…and suddenly people have started to complain of new problems like allergies due to the rice husk powder floating around…Boy o Boy…There is cable TV, dial up internet is popular, an odd Kawasaki or Honda screams past, compared to the only chugger bike ‘in village’ the Bullet that Company (mill owner) Babu used to ride.

Well, the cart found a final resting place, hold your breath, no jokes, and do believe me, it is now an American citizen, proudly showing itself off in my cousin’s front yard in Tampa-Florida. It was fully dismantled and shipped across the seas, two years ago. At first I could not believe this was happening or that somebody was crazy enough to do such things, but well…I wont comment any further lest I draw her wrath!

What a trip for the lowly bullock cart, from Pallavur to its new home in the new world…One of these days I will get a picture of the cart in Tampa and post it up here. I have not seen it after it reached US, but I will one of these days…

P.S. Eaacharan came out of retirement to dismantle the cart prior to its packing, know what he has no teeth in his mouth these days. I am told Eaacharen fainted from shock & disbelief when he was told where the cart was headed…

PPS. Have you seen a rich mans (Maharashtrian)
bullock cart ? Have a look!!



and - BTW there is an ongoing project to modernize the bullock cart..

Comments

Pradeep said…
Your post took me too back in time... To those few minutes I sat on a bullock cart. Where else, right in front of B2 quarters where we lived in Sainik School. I was kid.

In those days we all used firewood for boiling water... remember? So, someone used to bring these in a bullock cart from Chandavila. I don't know if it was for our house, or for your neighbour (Iyer sir).

But after it was all unloaded I pleaded with the "driver" to let me sit. I went in that till almost the Chandavila gate.
Anonymous said…
Hey....i did not say "gross dad, you rode a bullock cart?"

I dont recall ever saying that!!!!!
maddy said…
hi pradeep,
vaguely remember that. we lived up the road, not close to Iyer sir. but all those villages & carts & all that are slowly vanishing. very few like pallavur left where time has stood reasonably still.
Preetha said…
Hi maddy, I am also from pallavur.Though not born and brought up there we have heard of innumerous tales from our grandmother. we are from the perincheri family - "perincheri bunglowvile". Dont know whether you know us. Would like to hear from you. Preetha
Maddy said…
hi preeta, thanks for dropping by, plenty more on pallavur to read here...
yes, i do know of peruncheri veedu, not the people there,, in fact there are a few from your tharavad who hv passed by this site, check the talking drums page, and i myself am from ullattil house..
aathira said…
hey...I am from Pallavur (Perinchery family)as well...just ran a search on Pallavur and your write-up was the first thing that popped up!I remember my mom's tales about the Ex-Serviceman( it was during her time!I'm doing my post graduation now) bus and stuff; and I can picture the lush green fields and coconut groves, bringing back fond memories of home..
Maddy said…
hi aathira, nice of you to pop in..there is plenty more of pallavur related stuff here, so feel free to browse. one of them has a wikimap link showing the village & there are some pics on a later blog as well...
Very nice maddy. I too had my bullock cart rides in the densest forest roads from Bijapur in Bastar to the various weekly markets in villages. We used to travel whole night sleeping. The bullocks knew where they were headed. Tigers and panthers crossed the roads when the cart used to stop at a distance. Please maddy return back to Pallavur. California is not the place for you.
Maddy said…
Hi PNS..

Thanks, I wish..
but then 'roz ki roti' and so on keeps me where i am employed!! anyway the wish is always there...
Arun said…
Hey Maddy, like so many others in Palakkad (and elsewhere), I've enjoyed this blog for years and have gotten to know of many lesser known stories in history through your pieces. Thank you for all that! Some of us here are working to form a local heritage group in Palakkad. We have a Facebook page on which I've just taken the liberty of sharing this piece: (https://www.facebook.com/intachpalakkad/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel). Would love to know if you have other content too that would help in this general cause of getting people engaged with topics around local history. Thanks a lot again.
Maddy said…
Thanks arun
between my blogs historic alleys and maddys ramblings, there are plenty of palghat related articles.
let me have you email
send it to umanmadhan@gmail.com

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