Monday, 21 August 2017

The field.

The field

Lukewarm breeze, gently swept the 5000-acre hybrid maize field, swaying the slender crops and glimmering yellow against the evening sky.
Rajesh hopped down from the farm simulator tractor, after coating the last 100 acres of soil with new upgraded government sponsored fertilizer (nitrogen and phosphorus doubled in the sprays).
Last summer, the government had experienced a very serious shortage of crops and their slackish behavior faced heavy criticism from the public.
In a bizarre attempt to calm down the situation, during the budget allocation last year, the ruling party proposed the “Maize field project” investing one fourth of the village economy on agriculture sector. They bought the most fertile piece of land along the banks of the controversial Cauvery river and converted it to a hybrid Maize field.
Over the last decade, blood, disruption and economic instability had been making the headlines over the state affairs. The small village won over the responsibility of the water running through their land after the “Maize field project” was approved by the central agriculture ministry.
This maize field was the most important project the government had invested in both economically and politically, in this state. The field would not only provide food for a minimum ten districts over the south state, also implemented properly, it would be a great source of income for the government. The scheme provided the public with quality maize at cheap prices but no one else could privately sell the maize crop without government consent, essentially making themselves the sole producer of the hybrid crop.
They also cut down the taxes for the districts who bought the crops from the government trying to lure more and more district under the “Maize filed scheme”. The center had implemented this trail run in the south considering the reserves of fertile land, lack of food and the political conflicts in the area. The south a perfect test area for agricultural reforms.
If this worked maybe they could do it all over the country. Invest in farmers, in farm lands, in agriculture and solve the economic crisis.
It was great idea, but also precarious for the quick downfall.

Rajesh, the manager/ head farmer of this farm walked back to his small hut, dragging his brown waist jacket along the fertile sand and finally dumping it to a pile of older jackets.
His pants were plastered to his legs with dirt and sweat. He began peeling down the pants when his wife walked out of the hut. A steady flow of steam squeezed out through the hinges and gaps.
She was cooking their routine brown rice along with some red beans curry.
As the manager of the farm he was given a decent salary, a small hut and daily rice for the family by the government. For looking after the farm he was given about a hundred employees but he was responsible for farm in totality.
Rajesh was completely government sponsored.

Ignoring his wife, Rajesh, turned on the tap and crouched underneath it. The warm water gushed down on his scalp in full force, producing a slapstick noise.
An overall sense of relief as he faced up towards the tap.
His wife, Sukeshini wiped the sweat of her forehead with her faded yellow saree “You are back early; the tractor didn’t give you any trouble today?”
“No, it worked just fine.”
“Yes, as I can recall the tractor has never worked fine for more than a couple days a month. So you have finished the quota for this month” she chuckled.
“Yeah…. yeah I know” he rubbed his armpits and the nape.
“I have told you so many time, to request the resources development to get the tractor repaired and provide you with some more men. It is too much of a burden to you.” Sukeshini asked.
“Yeah……. ok…. I will ask” he said disheartedly.
“Why not, why not, you are a governed employee, you work hard every day for a very small amount compared to the workload you have, the least they can do is replace the old rusted machine”
“I know, but we have a good life now, me and you, we have food on our plates and a place to stay. I don’t want to risk it. We have settled down and we can think of having a child soon. Let’s not worry about the tractor now.”
Sukeshini wasn’t happy with his recessive nature. She shrugged and
“Ok, I will ask the resource team to look at it next week. Ok” he satisfied her.
“Ok” she said.” Now dry your hair quick, you don’t to catch a cold” she said and grabbed the cloth from her shoulders.
Few more refreshing seconds of water and face interaction and finally he turned off the tap.
Sukeshini, was quick to dry her husband. Thoroughly scraped his scalp and handed over it to him. Wiped himself clean.
Tied the wet cloth around his thin waist. They entered their home for their much awaited replenishment.
The sole yellow 250watt bulb lit up their hut. Kitchen, at the right corner and their mattresses at the left. And latrine, they didn’t have one.
Sukeshini, placed the steaming hot pot of rice first, where Rajesh was already seated, just below the light bulb. She got the bean curry and set up the plates.
He served the meal for both of them. Both of them were quick to start digging, separating
After a few more times of the separation, the heat had come down enough to freely tuck into it.
 “So, when do they need the supply.” Sukeshini asked.
“By the end of this month, but the resource development has asked me to deliver at least a couple days early, so that they can do a final test on the hybrid before sending it out to the public”
“I though all of the testing was already done.”
“Yes, they have done it but they need to adhere to a few more guidelines and specifications. This initiative hasn’t been planned very well, they have rushed.”
“But the government has to look at all this beforehand and not just before giving it to the public. But I suppose this isn’t something unexpected from them.”
Rajesh agreeing “I know, but this filed, this hybrid, it is more of a political act than an economic one. The government had to do something to stay in power and this field was their strategy, it worked well. Even the investment has been very unsteady throughout, the agriculture ministry has been given only one fourth of the budget allotted.”
“I just hope the public benefits something from this”
“Maybe they will, maybe.” He took a mouthful of the rice and bean.
“I hope so” she said as she let out a small burb.
The steam of the rice boiling had now escaped and a sense of resentment had taken over the room
Rajesh finally let out his frustration, months after taking his job, he wasn’t satisfied but he was bound to it for survival.
“We are just puppets for them, slaves we are. They pay us, put food on our plates and in return we shut our mouths, and simply exist like any other animal. We don’t matter. The government also just like us, work for money. Capitalism has taken over human nature as such, not just the government. Now the officials don’t want to stay in government for power, they stay for the money.”
Sukeshini couldn’t agree less.
He stared at the floor, in trance, his hands resting on his thigh and dripping curry over his legs. He didn’t mind.
“It will all be ok.” Sukeshini went over and hugged her man.

Far away from their hut, on the outskirts of the field, a man slowly crawled his way through the soil, the golden yellow crop brushing his nose. He was a worker of the opposition party, trying to sabotage the enemies project.
His job was simple. To set fire to the field.
He took out his lighter and set fire to a single crop and let nature take care of the rest.

Friday, 11 August 2017

The pharmacist

The pharmacist.

 Traffic across the street had slowly dwindled as midnight approached, the moonlit sky casting occasional shadows over us.
I could begin my process of the closing the shop. 5am-12pm was my work routine. It was a life sucking routine but the timings gave me extra customers, elderly in the morning, the younger later at night and also I could save the extra electricity costs by not keeping it open 24 hours. It was my shop and I didn’t mind working extra time to earn a few more bucks. I didn’t have a family to attend to, so this shop was pretty much everything I had.
As I was summing up my day’s earnings, my favorite customer, Syed dropped by.
“Hey, how’s it going my man. I can see you made good money today. Keep it safe. Especially from me” He joked, giving me a wide grin as he made his way to the neighboring shop, which was also mine. A popular smoking hotspot among the locals.
I could sense Syed’s rush to take a drag of tobacco.
Syed, the same age as me, worked as a welder in a factory in the outer city. Low wages and family circumstances had dragged him down to the world of crime. Petty crimes had now to bigger crimes, including demanding hafta from shops. I was the only one exempted and also protected by him. I was probably the first guy who he had made acquaintance with since coming to this city.
I went back to counting my cash.
2(2000) 4(500) 8(100) 10(50) 20(20) 30(10) and a few 5 rupee coins. And Syed was right, it was a good day.
“I can say from looking at the money you know; how long have I been coming here. 15 years now. Yeah 15 years. Long time buddy.” Leaning over my counter, he took a deep drag of his cigarette (ice burst blue) and puffed out a couple of smoke loops before letting it all out.
“Yes. I don’t remember a day closing the shop without scooting you away” we both laughed briefly before turning back to our jobs again. Over the years we cultivated ourselves not to take the remarks seriously. We could take a jibe at each other, make personal comments and still laugh it away.
But thinking about our long history, it scared me, that he knew everything about the shop, the money, the routine. He could even break into my shop if he wanted to.
 But also, I knew he would never do that to me. We both had mutual respect for each other much more than just friends and besides, he has got away with a lot of free cigarettes.
“Oh you have got more customers coming in, and this one looks like a lottery to me” Syed warned.
A young girl, in a short pink crop top and white shorts, descended from a red sports car, she walked right past us to the smoke shop, bought a cigarette and lit up our pants as she took the first drag.
Both of us were lost by the wonderful sight of this girl, her long fingers, gripping the cancer stick, as she placed it in between her red painted lips and inhaled deeply, creating a depression and accentuating her cheek bones.
Nothing beautiful lasts forever and a harsh adolescent voice interrupted our minds. “Hey……Hey……. HEY, whom are you staring at, you CREEPS.” a skinny teenager, wearing torn jeans, white printed t shirt and red dyed hair showed up at the counter. He could barely hold himself upright with those jeans hanging so low from his waist.

“She is my girlfriend; you creep get out the way” the kid
“You know what, why don’t you mind your own business, before I break your bones and take your girl.” Syed walked up to the kid, cigarette in his mouth and gave him a stare down.
Syed’s facial muscles started twitching, this was a sign of immense danger. He was really pissed off with this kid, firstly for spoiling his fantasies and secondly because he was an arrogant kid.
‘Guys. Guys relax. Syed its ok……. Let’s just give that boy what he wants and send him away. We don’t want any trouble. Kid. What do you want.”
“Next time, Ill rip that red hair from your scalp” Syed let out the smoke to the boy’s face and walked away.
“Let’s see about that, you pervert” the kid was cocky and refused to back down.
I gently pressed my hand on Syed’s shoulder, as he settled back to the counter.
“OK, what do you want. We are closing now. Please be quick” I asked.
“Get me a box of condoms” arrogance radiated from the kid, directing it at Syed, taunting him, clearly stating that he was the superior one, the guy who was taking the girl home.
“Extra small, you forgot to mention” Syed retaliated and smiled by himself. I joined him as well.
“Its none of your business” the kid swallowed the insult.
I glanced to the corner of the street. The hot chic, put out her cigarette, with her white shoes and walked towards us.
She had a swag about her as she walked the narrow street, all eyes focused on her, jaws split wide open as she passed.
Getting back to my work, I looked for his condoms. I never had any customers, asking for it so probably it was stashed somewhere in the bottom closets.
As I was searching for the extra small sized rubber. I got another order/customer.
“Excuse me” an elderly man was waiting for the counter.
“Yes, what can I get you, Sir” I asked.
“My wife is having severe stomach ache since morning and I need these tablets. He handed me the doctor’s prescription”
“Yes sir, I will get it right away”
“Hey, I came her first. Get me my condoms first” the kid spoke with no hint of sympathy for the old man.
“But he needs it urgently, you can wait for a couple of minutes”
“NO……. if you don’t get me my condoms right now, I swear I’m going to sue you so bad, I’m going to take away everything from you.” the kid threatened.
“Give the kid what he wants” the old man said wearily, he didn’t want any more nuisances to deal with. He wanted to get back home to his wailing wife and comfort her.
“OK” I said, only after giving the arrogant kid a deathly stare I went back to searching.
Luckily I found it and handed it over.
“No, no I want the ultra-thin one, the other company, the……I can’t seem to remember…...” he was delaying it, enjoying it. Sadistic creases formed around the corners of his mouth. He was an arrogant, spoilt, heartless asshole who didn’t work a day in his life and got everything in return.
“Which one specifically. I don’t know which brand you are talking about” I asked sternly.
“…………. let me think…… the pink box…….” his right hand around the hot chic’s waist, creeping down to her rear end.
“OK, you keep thinking, while I get to the other customer” I said still trying to maintain diplomacy in this
“Hey, I remember now………. its……….” chuckling with his girl.
And then out of nowhere, Syed’s right hand landed straight to the kid’s temple. It was a perfect full power hook.
The kid fell unconscious to the floor.
“Give the man what he wants, I will take care of it” Syed instructed me, which I followed.
As I got the medicine from the back of the store, I saw the girl walking to the car with the semi-conscious kid on her shoulders.
Syed was at the counter, lighting another cigarette.
“He deserved it” I said.
“No he deserved more than that” he said and chuckled.

Next day.
It was quarter to 12 noon. Grey clouds had swarmed over us and it had started drizzling.
I pulled down the blue, plastic cover sheet over the counter, just for some water protection.
Syed made his entry.
Sometimes, he came in the afternoon if he passed by to buy some raw materials for the factory.
“Hey” Syed wished.
“Last night was really unexpected, wasn’t it? The kid had totally crossed the line……. he deserved it. You did a good thing yesterday.” I said.
“Yeah and you know what, after that blow to his head, I am sure he doesn’t remember what a condom is anymore” he said and chuckled.
“But the girl man………I just can’t get her out of my head.”
“I know” I said with a heavy sigh. Both of us already in acceptance that it was just a passing by instance.
“She is the real loser man, being with that guy, who has no respect whatsoever. She lost my respect man” Syed said. That made us both feel better.
He lit his cigarette and let out a satisfactory smoke.
As soon as I turned away from the counter checking on the new stock items, I received over boxes of antibiotics from Sun pharma, 50 boxes from Hindustan pharmaceuticals and a few boxes from the small time players.
Today morning I was elated as I read the news headlines.
India the world’s largest consumer of antibiotics.
No surprise considering the population and the low hygiene standards. But It was good for business. India is currently the best place to be in the pharmaceutical industry.
A loud shot penetrated through the established afternoon sky and a splash of thick liquid across my face.
I was blinded, till I wiped it out of my eyes.
Blood was all over and Syed head was lying on my counter with a hole on the back of his head.
I could see a couple of guys escaping on their bikes. I knew those guys. They were local gangsters and more importantly members of Syed’s rival gang.
Looking at the blood pour out from his brain, I was numb.
Sad that I had lost a good friend, a good guy.
All of my thought converged to a conclusion that maybe this is what he deserved.
You get what you deserve.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

The diary of a freedom fighter

The diary of a freedom fighter.

 I set the air condition to 18 C, turbo mode on, directed the air flow to my bed.
Refreshed after a steaming, hot water shower I crashed, face first on my crisply draped bed.
As the cool air performed its duty of drying me, I repositioned myself from prone to supine.
 A wet patch
Today I decided to start a new book.
 But this time, it wasn’t a bestseller by a famous author, or a critically acclaimed book by an unknown author, or a book suggested by my reader friends (who read one book a year, so it had to be good) or a book recommended by amazon for me.
Today, it was my grandfather’s diary, which my father had given me when I was 15 years old. The book dated back to the 1940s and it was a memoir of my grandfather’s time in pre-independent India.
After 10 years of procrastination, finally the faded black cover of the diary was staring at me.
I took a deep sniff of the approximately middle pages of the book. I did it before every new book.
The peculiar, ink printed page smell was replaced by a fresh aroma of long standing fungus.
I went back to the first page.

After a few blank pages, it read “24 August 1942”
The book was written in kannada. My grandfather served as the editor to one of the most influential independent newspapers in the state.
Throughout my childhood, I heard father telling stories of his bravery and his contributions to make India an independent democratic nation.
But the truth is it never inspired me all those stories.
I don’t believe it was because I am too young or immature to understand, but because I didn’t care about pre independent India. I didn’t experience it, I wasn’t a part of it, I just couldn’t relate how those hard times can influence my present.
So I never bothered to think of the sacrifices people like my grandfather made for me.
But reading would help me get a glimpse of the pre independent India and inside the mind of a freedom fighter.

“24 August 1942”

““The quit India movement has spread like wild fire across the nation, with people turning to violence to vent out their demands and in this process smoldering hundreds of post offices, public office and courts. Mohandas Gandhi was arrested the same day he launched the Quit India movement at the Bombay sessions high court with his team. All-important members of the Indian National Congress were arrested
I wasn’t able to comprehend the intensity of the situation. In just a few days after the Mahatma’s arrest, people across the country poured out their emotions to the British regime. Angrier than ever. We made it very clear that it was time for them leave after nearly 100 years of unjust command over us.
  My colleagues and I had planned to do the same on our town. We were ready to fight for a free Independent country where we, the people of India govern the people of India.
Our increasing violence over the past years reflected our frustrations and outrage against the British empire.
So a week earlier, Rizya Khan, a Muslim journalist, my close associate from the north of the state, had come to me with a proposal to stage a protest in front of the viceroy general’s office.
I readily agreed, so did my other counterparts.
We quickly spread word about the protest all over the town and set everything.
And today we were going to do it.
Early morning, Rizya, Gopalchand, Diwakar and me assembled at the port.
At least 10000 people had already gathered there with flags, banners and hoardings of Quit India.
Rizya, led the march to the office. Toady was a really proud day for all of us to be led by her. She was a true patriot of our country and a visionary. She not only fought for the independence but also the caste discrimination and women empowerment.  She was one of the few Muslim journalists who wrote and encouraged a cordial Hindu-Muslim community.
Watching a strong, independent woman lead the crowd, a deep sense of pride refueled my inner energy, building confidence and motive with each stride. She stood for all the right reasons and she believed in her principles.

More and more people poured into our protest as we reached the town hall intersection.
The viceroy general’s office was just opposite the intersection.
Rizya stepped ahead and raised her palm in the air signaling us to halt.
After I felt a few small shoves and pushes from the sides, we now with a strength 20000 stood in front of the viceroy’s general’s office.
Rizya , Gopalchnad, me weren’t expecting this kind of outcome but we were glad. The movement had finally ignited the spark inside us Indians.
 20000 protesters stood alongside each other completely packing the intersection of the four roads, waiting for further instructions from our Muslim leader, Rizya.
She slowly walked up a few meters, away from the crowd, focused on the gates of the viceroy’s office, guarded by Indian men. At least 100 Indian police with wooden lathis and shields provided by their employers and a few British on their horses, they never expected such large number to show up and passionately knock on their door. The British implementing the divide and rule policy wanted us to fight our own people while they watched us from the sidelines, kill each other.
Dive and rule has proven to be an effective plan. Otherwise how did a small island of foreigner’s rule over a land at least ten times bigger than them in size and more in terms of population. The British were always good at inducing internal conflicts in our country.
Such a sad sight it was, to see Indians fighting against their very own freedom.

Rizya held the loudspeaker close to her lips.
“Today we are here, not to cause any harm or any disruptions in the town. We do not want to hurt anyone. We are here simple asking for our basic rights.”
The press coverage was good, so most of the local and state papers were present.
Her speech would be reported in tomorrow’s papers.
“We, all of us, even you” signaling to the Indian men wearing British uniform “All of us have to let them know that we have tolerated their rule for 100 years now and it is time to leave our country peacefully. Mahatma Gandhiji has paved the way of nonviolence and satyagraha, for us to follow and that is what we are here for.”
Again signaling to the Indian police.
“All I can say is, you can join us, your brothers and sisters and help us in attaining freedom or you can serve the British and be treated as slaves forever”
It was a kind offer she was making, after all these years serving the wrong side, she was giving them a second chance, to do the right thing.
The Indian police in the front row, didn’t move a muscle, they firmly stood their ground, tightening their wrists around the lathis and shields, ready to obey the next command from their master. They were loyal servants.
The British had injected a freshly prepared dose of “divide and rule” into their systems.
They were totally brainwashed by the British and decided not to join us.
Rizya, sensing that her offer wasn’t appealing, now led the charge.
She turned to us and yelled at the top of her lungs “We will die fighting for the freedom of our countrymen and honor all the brave men who have laid down their lives in doing so.”
The ground below my feet reverberated as the 20000 Indians behind me roared in unison “Do or die”
I joined them the second time.
“Do or die” “Do or die” “Do or die” “Do or die” we marched forwards together.
Rizya in front leading the charge, holding a big banner of “Quit India” written in capitols, with paint dripping from the edges of the letters, using a thick paintbrush dipped in bucket of black paint.
We stopped at a distance from the guards, Rizya and me in front, standing at a higher ground than the rest.
An hour into the protest and still no signs of the viceroy’s general.
I turned back to see how the rest of them were doing. and I was happy to see them still going strong.
A sea of people fighting for their brothers and sisters.
Out of nowhere, I could see the rectangular crowd getting split up into small squares and triangles.
The viceroys had immediately called for reinforcements and they were here. Now they had their numbers and weapons and they attacked us with lathis and shields.
They were smart enough to wait us out till they have the numbers.
There was chaos everywhere, some retaliated back, but some were too weak. They took heavy blows and crumpled to the ground, leaving their fate to the almighty. They could die of the stampede, the injuries or they could even survive and live to fight another day, though the chances seemed meagre.
I felt a sharp pain sting my neck and radiate to the back of my head. I felt my legs weaken. It was a massive blow to my head.
I struggled to my knees and could see Rizya being dragged by the police, handcuffed behind her back.
Pink bruises across her forehead and chin, eyes half shut, semi-conscious.
That was the moment I witnessed true patriotism in action.
For Rizya, nothing in this world could take over the respect she has for her country. No religion conflict couldn’t change her views, the pathetic treatment women received in this country didn’t stop her from loving her country, and now even the brutal beatings wasn't enough.
I never saw her again after that. 
But I couldn’t let her down. Even though our protest was dismantled by the British brutally.
I couldn’t let Rizya down, I couldn’t let this fade away.
Being one of the few who survived it, I am going to make sure that we will be back again.
 We will fight back. We will take back what is ours.
We will fight for Rizya.””

I let my fingers run over my grandfather’s handwriting, hoping to get feel of his divine fingers.
I had not experienced even a word of what he went through in his life.
I know I can never be as great as my grandfather, but at least now I know why.

Peace treaty

Peace treaty. Faint pink light traversed through the clear sky, forming thin rectangular strips across her brown eyes, transfixed at t...