If you leave, I will perish…An ode to our farmers

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Credits-Manas Saran of photraits.com

My mother and I were having a verbal scuffle about my joda for the marriage that day. She has been that way since the childhood, whereas I have always been a demanding child. It is because my father always treated me like his lucky charm. I am the dearest to him.

Even that day my mother was raising her voice at me, uttering the same old words, “learn to stay happy with whatever you have”. That’s when Appa walked in and said, “let it be, let her do as she pleases”.

Appa was always like that. He, as my mother liked, stayed happy with whatever he had and made the best out of it and never complained. However, when it came to me, he’d never settle without the best for me. Amma left the room for the kitchen and Appa came to me to and placed his hand on my oiled head. That moment was disturbed by a sudden shout at our door.

“Laakhan! Come out!”. I was shaken a bit. Amma also came running to me. By that time Appa was already at the door. He came back in a few minutes.

Amma asked him what happened, and he just smiled at her in an assuring manner and said, “nothing”.

Days passed. Pongal was on its way. The crop was good that year. Appa was very happy, despite of the small field we had. By God’s grace, the produce was abundant and good.

Seeing our good crop this year, the adjacent farmer seeped water from his field into ours. A major part of the crop was destroyed. No one would have bought it even for a penny had Appa gone to sell it in the market.

While Amma wept and cursed the other farmer, I just sat in the kitchen thinking about how the expenses in the marriage will be a burden to Appa. He had already incurred a huge loss through the destroyed crop.

I was packing some of my things that day since I was to be married soon when Appa came to me and said, “don’t you worry at all child, your Appa is still alive”.  

Then looking at the suitcases he said, “if you leave, I will perish”.

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Those two not-so-comforting statements by Appa were terrifying. He, at the same time said two contrary things and none pleased me, or comforted, for that matter.

Both were disturbingly certain in their own respects and both affirmed that Appa existed for me. But I never really liked the thought. I prefer that he lived with me. I couldn’t sleep that night.

All the pre-wedding ceremonies had commenced a day after. Guests had already started arriving. The season of harvest had arrived with them. Whole of the village was in a joyous mood, as if they all were celebrating my marriage. The day for marriage was decided to be on the occasion of Pongal, which was tomorrow.   

Next day was my kalyaanam. The village-men were arriving with blessings and presents adding to the chatter and murmur with the flutes playing in the corridor mesmerized the environment.

While I was getting ready, I overheard two of my uncles talking about Appa. One said, “being a man of limited resources he took a loan for his daughter’s wedding, that too from the most notorious moneylender in the village.” While the other said, “Anna, even small farmers like Laakhan deserve to celebrate the happiness of their share.” I never knew Appa had borrowed money for my marriage until then.

This conversation was suddenly interrupted by a huge cry by someone. Running came a village-man shouting “Laakhan! Laakhan!” I was beyond terrified. I was ready to take my seat in the mandapam and commence with the solemnization.

Two men carried Appa to the mandapam. He was badly beaten and was profusely bleeding. The men who had done this to him stood right there.

farmers
                                                           Credits-Manas Saran of photraits.com

They were the same men who were there at the door that day. One of them wrathfully shouted, “he had borrowed money from us which he has failed to return on time. We cannot let this marriage happen and will bear the losses he has caused to us by taking away everything.”

Appa with his hands joined, in a murmuring pathetic voice pleaded to them to not to do so. In few moments, he collapsed. My Appa was gone. While he closed his eyes for the last time, the men kept shouting. I, with all that I had left in me post the trauma of Appa dying before me moments ago screamed, “you’ve taken enough, you’ve taken it all”.

The thought came back to me when Appa had said to me, “if you leave, I will perish”. I perished with him that day.

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This piece is dedicated to the Tamil farmers who have been protesting at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi since months carrying the skulls of their fellow peasants who have already perished due to extreme poverty. They are living in the most agonizing conditions. Some forced to drink their own urine since they have no water. Soon will be feeding off of each others’ flesh or whatever is left on their bare bones anyway.

-Priya Sharma 

Edited by Tanmay Dhiman 

Read more about them here.

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