The sweet-smelling dust of a scorching May evening settled in front of Daya’s house. The blistering sun had dipped down beneath the horizon, the salmon sky sporting a canopy of faint grey clouds which never rained. As the darkness spread its veil over the land, the clouds seemed to be devoured into the night, replaced by a sprinkle of stars. The clouds brought with them, a little spark of hope- a hope that led farmers like Daya to believe that it would rain that night. When it didn’t, they felt their hearts wrenched out till it shed the last drop of blood. This type of hope was dangerous, for it brought them happy dreams and later pushed them into the dungeons of delusion.
That evening was no different.
Daya sat in front of his house, on top of the weak bamboo fence that had cost him a small fortune.
When his old father had passed away, the land in front of their dingy hut had been passed on to him. With high hopes and brimming dreams, he had taken out his broken bicycle with the bent wheel frame and leather-less seat and rode to the marketplace where he had brought five fences to cover either side of his land.
On his way back from the marketplace, he had stopped at the moneylender Govind ji’s house and asked him for a little bit of money to buy the seeds and the fertilizers. When the scrawny, greedy man with a bald head had hesitated, Daya had told him about the piece of fertile land he had inherited and how it would reap the gold. With eyes on the little land, the moneylender had given some money to Daya.
It was strange how things had suddenly started favouring him. He had money. He had the land. He had the spirits. And he had a bundle of hopes that he was going to make it big. Perhaps, they might appoint him as a member of the Farmer’s Association in their little town of Kaman. For a man who had spent almost half of his life doing odd jobs on another person’s land, even six feet of earth meant a lot to him.
That very evening, the rains had come lashing down on the little village, quenching the thirst of the parched soil. The rain had drenched the flamboyant trees and their leaves had turned a shade brighter. Little saplings were awoken from their slumber and they greeted the silver sheets of rain as it crashed deafeningly on the thatched roof of Daya’s hut. In a matter of few minutes, the sky had gone from an eloquent blue to an ominous shade of gravel grey.
Daya and his wife had sat in a corner of their little hut, escaping the dripping droplets of rain. As occasional flashes of lightning lit up the dark sky, Daya had felt a uncontainable joy at the pit of his heart. Oh, how he would plant the radishes and carrots and potatoes in this little land! Oh, how generous were the lords to bring them a spell of showers in early summer! It certainly meant something good, didn’t it? Daya’s poor human heart exploited his hopes with richer thoughts.
Daya had tilled his land with viral enthusiasm, singing songs in merry stupor and buying his wife a brocaded silk saree from the market. When his wife had complained, he had asked her not to worry for they were going to be rich! Such were his hopes that it drove him into a frenzy.
Each night he had gone to sleep, smelling the rain that lingered in the air and the canopy of stars in the desert night sky.
However, only the smell of rain had lingered. It never came down in a glorious downpour. It never kissed his land and never brought it back to life. It doused off all his dreams, zoning them out into oblivion.
How he had waited for the rain! How he had waited for his hopes to come back!
Two dry months.
And it hadn’t rained.
The last traces of summer wind waltzed past him, creeping into his lonely house where his pale wife lay, bathed in the glorious light of the evening that trickled in through the little windows. The same saree, that Daya had given her months ago, was wrapped around her in a careless fashion, rough knots of her unwashed, dark hair drowning into the creases of the fabric.
The sound of a little bird rose and fell with the wind, the wispy clouds clearing from the sky to make way for the stars.
The chilly desert air had taken its toll, but it did nothing to the restless, thirsty throats of the couple who hadn’t eaten for a week. The land in front of their house had cracked open. The little saplings that Daya had planted had withered away, leaving no trace behind.
A faint light from the lantern flickered inside his house and smelling the scent of the burnt wick and the smoked glass, Daya turned around to see the same, obliterated by the rapidly darkening night. The darkness of the moment devoured his sanity, transforming him into a madman.
Everything had started chalking his doom.
When he had visited the mukhiya the other day, he had waved Daya off. At a time when drought had taken over the land, there was very little anyone could do for anybody.
The greedy, heartless moneylender had come to his house, demanding him to return the money. Poor Daya could only give him the brass utensils and a pair of bronze bangles that belonged to his wife. Although the man had his eyes set on the piece of land, he left, knowing that the land wouldn’t be of any use as the drought had set in.
There was nothing left in the house. Only two pitchers of clear water stayed in a desolate corner of the house, staring at the agony of the helpless couple.
Daya jumped off the fence and started making his way inside his little abode. The tatters, he wore were unwashed, and covered with freckles of dirt and his bony chest glistened as the low light of the lantern hit him. His wife sat leaning against the mud wall, her hand on her head, wondering if they were suffering because of some sin they had committed in their previous lives.
Oh, the heartbreaking explanations we resort to!
The things that had seemed to be going so well had instantly stopped, driving their ripened dreams into an unfathomable dead-end. Life was a brute, wasn’t it? And so was the restless human heart that held on to the withering thread of hope, thinking that one day or the other, radiance shall come through the pain.
Daya staggered down beside his wife, crawling up to the bed and leaning against it. Staring at the faint darkness that was interrupted by the light from the night sky, he let out a hollow laugh.
“It will rain!” he cried in feverish excitement. “We will grow everything on our land! We will be rich! Everyone will look up to us!”
A slight sob escaped his wife’s lips.
On a dull, summer night, when the moon was high up in the sky, a blissful cry erupted from somewhere, the breeze carrying its echoes into forgettable corners of the land.
From nowhere, the air became thick with moisture, the rain-laden breeze calling out to the people of the land. A clammy haze of rain spread across the land, hiding the moon and the stars somewhere behind their drapes.
Tiny drops of rain splattered across the unpaved paths, clearing out the sand and trickling in between the cracks. A few drops trickled into Daya’s house through the thatched roof and landed on their limp bodies. If only they had held on to that hope for a little more.
The next morning, all the people of the land knew was that, the drought had driven yet another farmer to his death. No one sympathized. They blamed it on fate and they blamed it the sins the poor couple had probably committed in their previous lives. No one blamed the rain. No one blamed the drought. For them, it had become an everyday phenomenon, waking up each day to hear how a couple of farmers had given up. They stared at their abject poverty and prayed it didn’t happen to them.
It rained for the next few days as well.
If only Daya was alive to see the same. If only…