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Short Story : Acclimatize

Nipun and his sister were the introverted new comers in the colony. They had come down from one of those north eastern states where even availability of new brands of ice creams ( which appeared each night as advertisements on the sole state television channel after the daily dose of abysmal news telecast ) was a luxury to say the least. Father had a transferable job, so every 3-5 years they were forced to leave their best friends back and move on to a new, strange place, with new rules, a new weather, a new school uniform and it's curriculum. Sports had always interested him as it channelized his nervous energies, all his internal conversations into some form of energy.  Sometimes spending energy on the ground helps you not have the energy to think about a haphazard life with no control over your surroundings. Sports made him switch off his social brain and just execute tasks to the best of his ability. He was not strategic about sports, it was not really the team wor

Short Story: Letters for Sale

The northern part of India is a predominantly Hindi speaking population, the Hindi heartland as we sometimes refer to it as.

While most of the economy is agrarian, the GDP only gets about its 15% from agriculture and ancillaries. The fertile land has always been a source of income for most villagers in northern India.

Bhola, was one such farmer in Patwai, in the Rampur district of Uttar Pradesh, one of the largest states of India.

Bhola had always worked on the farm since he was a kid and his father had taught him to sow, nurture & also time his reaping or harvesting perfectly to get better crops. His life was as mundane or exciting as would be of any farmer but he always wanted to teach the craft to his son, who he felt was destined to take over from him.

Bhola dropped off from the village panchayat school in class 8 when he was just 14-15 and since then his life had been on the farm. He knew the farming drill so thoroughly that he

He could read & write Hindi apart from just speaking the dialect Bhojpuri unlike others around him, which is a big progression from a large part of the population in the Hindi heartland.

Writing is a big thing in Patwai, a small town within Rampur. people more often that not gave lesser importance to primary schooling than earning their livelihoods and passing on their legacy as a farmer, potter, blacksmith, poultry, fish breeder and so on..

Although you see a lot of youth today which is college educated, internet savvy, but for the poorer, more remote sections of Patwai, education and in turn writing was still a luxury not many could afford. 

You would say most farmers were working in this profession for generations. They were experts at predicting weather, crops and even the chemical engineering behind the complex fertilizer business in farming process.

With no formal education, farmers had been handed over the art of growing crops from their forefathers.

But now these farmers were itching for more. Their dreams had led them to try out other professions.

While on one hand some villagers had left for cities to look for better paying, stable jobs in construction as daily wage laborers, building the fancy Indian cities; Some had other plans like working in the big factories, industries and had jumped on the bandwagon of Make in India initiated by our prime minister, Narendra Modi.

Yes, India was dreaming and India was not held back anymore in the crop cycles & patterns dependent on water, irrigation and weather.

Bhola on the other hand was a naive, timid, shy fellow who would not want to take such risks and give up his farming profession. He always said," this is what my father left for me and this is what i will do till the day i die and that would be in Patwai where my forefathers have lived just like i have. Leaving the confines of my village is beyond my imagination no matter how fascinating and how luring the grass is on the other side."

Bhola was the old school, traditional Indian farmer tied to his land.

Then one day, things changed when a village elder approached him to write him a letter to his son who was working far away in the national capital of Delhi.

Well, this started an endless string of letters that Bhola wrote for the village elder and became quite popular for his letter writing skills.

Bhola now had to work double shifts, farming and writing personalized letters for villagers who waited hours to get a page written for their relatives in distant land.

From letters for sons, daughters to letters for husbands fighting for the country on the border, Bhola started writing personalized letters and charging a rupee for each letter he wrote to somewhat lessen his burden but that was far from the case.

People started queuing in front of his earthen house with a thatched roof, waiting for hours in the scorching heat of the sun to get letters written from him with a rupee coin in their hands.

Bhola was far too occupied with his writing job and farming had taken a back seat for a while. This was not going in the right direction as per Bhola.

Bhola's son now suggested entering this business as a profession because it was earning steadily and was a necessity all across the district's many villages. He also cited agriculture was no longer the way to go.

People started coming to Patwai in search of Bhola and getting their letters written for their loved ones in faraway distant lands. Bhola had become a local sensation.

What started out as a small help to a village elder now stood potentially staring at tipping Bhola's farming legacy.

Bhola did not like this as he was always of the opinion that farming was his fate, and his land was his only asset. Skills like writing were never even close to a legitimate profession for him.

Bhola started the push back and stopped writing. He concentrated on his farm as the harvest season was near and all the people queuing in front of his house were told that he no longer writes letters.

With a sad, dejected face, people would wait and then leave when they saw no hope of getting a letter written.

Bhola's son took the mantle and that led to arguments between the father and son. Bhola wanted his son to learn the legacy of farming, the art and his son was far too concerned about losing potential business and earning a quick buck.

Bhola would toil on the farm alone while his son wrote letters for hundreds, sometimes thousands of people in a week earning more than Bhola could ever imagine. It was visible that writing was earning well and that it was a great fulfillment of social responsibility.

But Bhola's principles were challenged and he would never leave his land or hire someone to farm on his land. It was his legacy which he wanted to attend to himself personally. It was almost like his duty towards his forefathers' legacy.

Eventually this went on for months, Bhola harvested bumper crops and his son's writing letters became sporadic and dried up as many other young kids in the village started writing and Bhola's son was unable to get as many to write for as earlier.

He started charging 2 rupees and that further reduced business eventually forcing him to turn to farming with Bhola on the farm.

Bhola saw the entire journey and in the end smiled and told his son, that there will always be newer, better sources of work and revenue that would entice him to give up his legacy, his principles, his roots but he should not get carried away by the flashing lights in the distance, he should always keep himself grounded.


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