The Provider

At the break of dawn, he sets out barefoot to his field; his two bulls giving him company. The white skinned bovine creatures are a stark contrast to his sunburned black skin; the effects of working for long hours under the sun clearly showing. A piece of loin cloth for his body and another piece of cloth for his head are his only accessories against the scorching heat that is about to stream down upon him. It isn’t just the physical agony that attributed to his drooping shoulders; his mind filled with turbulent thoughts had something to do with it as well. He still rejoiced the feeling of the sun’s heat warming his bare back, being knee-deep in mud, the smell of the wet earth filling his nose. He always felt at home with nature in all its forms. But this time he felt cheated. The rain gods had evaded him this year. The fields baked with heat, devoid of water were showing cracks and fissures; the crops slowly withered in the blistering heat. The sight of luscious green field was being replaced with a tinge of brown. But he hadn’t lost hope; after all it was the only thing a man like him could hold onto. He had heard in the radio of an approaching low pressure in the nearby ocean and of the resulting rains that may accompany it. In times when he was in neck-deep debt; a faint glimmer of hope like this was enough for him to survive. He had taken the debt from the money-lender predicting a good harvest which would then translate into a tractor for him and a good groom for his daughter. Knowing that he was at nature’s mercy, he sat under the shade of the neem tree that stood in one of the corners of his field. It was under this tree that he had his lunch; sometimes alone and sometimes with his wife and daughter when they too helped him in the fields. With them for company even the dull food tasted good. He even had put a rope swing for his daughter. Sitting beneath the trees rustling leaves, the chirping of birds that made him happy earlier annoyed him today. Lost in thoughts, he didn’t realize when he fell asleep only to be woken up with distant thunder rumbling. He rubbed his eyes not able to believe the sight he was seeing. Dark clouds had assembled, and as if on cue, it started raining. While the cattle moved under the tree to avoid the rain, he couldn’t control himself and started dancing like an elated kid under the raining sky. But fate had other plans for him. That night, the rain intensified. Again he was at the receiving end of nature. Sitting in his veranda, watching the rains, his eyes rained too. He cursed himself and took the blame upon himself for having wronged the rain gods oblivious to the fact that it was the local politician whom he voted every time was the one who had wronged him and others like him with hollow promises. It seemed like a very long night and the rain was relentless. Daylight finally arrives erasing the darkness. But it’s only the darkness of the skies that’s gone; the darkness in his life still lingers. The rain had stopped and he steps out of the house and starts walking towards his field. Although he wasn’t expecting any miracle but still the sight of utter devastation left him shell-shocked. The fields were waterlogged and there was no trace of any cultivation. Distraught, he went numb unable to judge right from wrong. Death seemed like the only escape. He ties the rope around his neck and hangs himself from the neem tree. The tree provided him solace even in times of death just like it provided during his brief lifetime. His corpse now hangs from the same rope which he had used for his daughter’s swing.

Note: Every year thousands of farmer commit suicide in India. With technology taking such giant leaps every day, it’s hard to believe the dependency our farmers still have on natural elements. Sometimes in the form of excess rain and sometimes the lack of it. The amount of monetary risk attached with farming can only be imagined if one puts his entire fortune out in the open with nothing protecting it other than hope, hope that everything would be fine. Try sleeping with that. It’s saddening to note that the one responsible for the food on our plate has to go through all this trouble without even receiving a note of thanks. The provider for the entire nation fails to provide for his own family and is pushed to taking his own life.


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