Press Trust of india

FICTION: La harvest de l’été

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By: Vivek Bhat

Sprinkling rice seeds all over the field, the farmer walked from one trail to another, with his sweat filled eyes blurring his vision, he had seen the zamindhar sahib coming towards him. He had reminded the farmer of money that last crop year he had borrowed as informal credit and status of new credit utilization of that crop year. He persuaded him that he would pay all his dues after harvest. Seeds sprouted, the new life had seen the existence and tiny plants had begun to grow. Those plants were later transported and replanted with required space along whole farm. From inches to foots, like a baby he had witnessed the crop growing. The monsoon that year had remained good leading him to the thought that the yield would come good for him. As mere money he had saved from last harvests was spent on fee and boarding charges of his son pursuing studies in City College.

On one fine day, his wife cooking tortillas on earthen stove fired by cow dung cakes, He told her mockingly, “Your boyfriend could have given you better life than me. You should have married him”.

She hushed him by saying, “Can’t you maintain courtesy of words in front of your young daughter?  That man used to follow me only”, she added.

He left the home to inquire the status of crop as it was almost ready for harvest. At noon he was being visited by his daughter coming with tiffin in her hands marching on trails. He told her that she was the only girl in whole village pursuing Masters degree and thus should spend most of time on studies and they, his children, were the only ray of hope for him who could help him to get out of the quagmire of poverty and those monotonic debts.

During conversation at meal she hesitantly told her father of the boy who loved her and wanted to marry her. Families met and the wedding date was decided after the harvest but with a condition that she was to continue her studies. The family had a good vision and was one of the respected families of village. Finally the day of harvest had come and the crop was cut and next day threshing was to be done. Farmer was exhilarated to see good crop yield that year. He returned home and shared that happiness with his family.

In that intervening night he was awoken by next door neighbor. There was fire on the fields and they both had rushed towards the farm. The sky was black with smoke as the fire was dosed off and there was nothing left at the farm except ashes-ashes of his money and his dreams. He was the one who incurred major loss. All he could imagine was his daughter’s marriage being cancelled, his son thrown out of college and hostel for lack of funds and the penumbra of intangible debt trap. So he had decided to end his life. Pesticide was in his very reach and at the boundary of death and life his alter-ego had given him a glimpse of future. He could see his family wailing over him, his son thrown out of college either, marriage being canceled either because his dead body couldn’t give them money. He could see his lenders asking for money he had borrowed from them from his family members. The life full of insults he was about to bestow to his beautiful wife. So he decided to live and face. The tin of pesticide had fallen from his hands.

He returned home and trio spent the gloomy night, all awake, in tears.

Next morning he went to local STD and narrated the whole ordeal to his son. The son consoled him and informed him that he had attended an agriculture seminar and was coming home the following week and they should apply the knowledge he had gathered on farm. The boy had returned home and informed him of agro-climatic agriculture, organic farming and zero tillage agriculture technique. They had managed to buy time for credit payment. The family of boy agreed to postpone the marriage for some years on their request. They had applied for formal credit instead of informal one that time and also did the crop insurance. For the first year the harvest was no profit and no loss in-toto and from second year it had started to bear fruits. They had also begun to diversify the agriculture first through poultry and then animal rearing.  The knowledge mustered by his son had become his savior and proved as a game changer for the family.

All credit dues were paid. The daughter was married happily. After her marriage, he and his wife were there to see off their son for city. The son boarded the bus and bid them adieu. Then sitting at the iron sofa at bus stand his wife leaning her head on his shoulder said, “He who endures he conquers. Problems are to face and not to run away from those. The efforts you put in to sustain the family are myriad. I am proud of you”

He replied, “You know I would have consumed pesticide that night but there was only one thought that had prevented me from doing so.”

“Which thought?” she asked in low voice romantically.

“The thought of you running with your boyfriend,” he replied with a big laughter.

She lifted her head, stared at him with a stern look and pushed him away and they both joined the laughter.

Every cloud has a silver lining.

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