“One of us has to die” said Shom, his eyes looking down into the barren soil.
The three of them had gathered near the old banyan tree of their village.
“But who will it be?” They all looked at each other.
“The government is not listening to us. We have asked for interest free loan but see where it has got us. The crops were of good quality but see how much they paid us. It is a pittance,” remarked Shom.
“I went to the city once to deliver one extra sack of potatoes. All our goods there were sold at double the price. All our products are used to make thin small crispy roti. The shop keeper explained it to me.”
“If one of us kills himself, the rest will benefit.”
“But why is that?” asked Shyam.
“See when I went to the city and saw a crowd gathered near the market place, I asked them what had happened. It was some ministers’ bungalow. There was a farmer who had committed suicide and the MLA had announced a 1 lac compensation package and had asked the wholesale dealer of that village to revise the rate. He had sent his team to that dead man’s village and taken down all the details of the farmers there. We should do the same. There were lots of people taking his photo. I think the newspaper folks must have got wind of the story,” said Shom covering his head with the blanket.
They were all silent.
“But who among us will do that?” exclaimed Mohan, not wanting to give up on his only son.
Shom thought of his girls and how he would not get to see them grow up. His eyes grew moist and the cold didn’t feel so numbing any more. Shyam thought of his new bride. He remembered how her beautiful kohl filled eyes had smiled at him through the ghungat. Mohan’s son was older but he was all alone.
“It’s getting late,” said Mohan. “Let’s sleep over it.”
A few weeks passed. The rains came unexpectedly and ruined the balance crop.
A few days later Mohan’s body was found hanging from a tree.
Shyam and Shom’s eyes were moist and their hearts guilty. They hadn’t spoken to each other since that fateful night. They knew they had planted the seed of death in Mohan’s mind.
The men with the camera came as expected.
The men with cars and red lights came and gave Balwant, Mohan’s son the cheque of 1 lac rupees.
The wholesaler was penalized and had to give the correct rate for the crops.
The next year the MLA was changed and Shyam and Shom were again sitting under the banyan tree wondering when their misery would end. They were joined by Balwant.
Authors note: Maybe it takes a death to make changes. But for how long? Till the last farmer is left hanging?
This write up may not change anything but when one of my friends cribbed about the hike in the price of film tickets in Delhi, I wondered if our priorities are right. Do we want to fight with the government for over film tickets or for someone’s life?