Those old eyes — sunken deep into the two waterless wells beneath the sparsely sowed white hair, sheltered by his venous trembling hand like a the brim of a barret, from the blaze of the lurid Sun — gazed up in the spotless azure, awaiting it to be blotted with an endless river of black clouds carrying wholesome life. Once a dense field of slender green fledglings of rice, quarrelling and bouncing in the moist breeze of the monsoon now rolled across acres and acres, up to the horizon’s end as empty and sutured as the skin of that brown old man. It hadn’t rained for two years, not even much as to quench the thirst of people both, old and young. His heart had been bloomed by the deceptive helping hand and burnt afterwards iteratively by the power hungry people so much that his nerves were ashen and numbed; that he could shed no tears any more. If only he could, he would shed them for his dearly land till life sprouted into his sweetheart seeds buried beneath the dead soil. The mortgage he had taken, swirled and hovered over his head like shrewd eagles and poverty circled his ankles like a quagmire.
From about a hundred yards away came a child clad in an unkempt white shirt and an unbecoming dull brown trouser which had been stitched, restitched and restitched till it bore the appearance of a decorated and battered war hero. The oblong shaped bag on his back jumped up and down as he popped his burnt bare feet against the blazing soil and leaped finally into the arms of his haggard father who hugged him tenderly and asked, “Aye boy! How hazz tha school been? Studying, are ya?”
“Yes, Ba, with all my heart,” replied the eight year old with a gleam in his eyes that soon turned grave and grim.
“If it doesn’t rain this year too, will they snatch away our land, Father?” inquired he with trepidation.
“Noi, ma boy, not at all, they won’t. I will get rupees and will pay tha loan,” replied his father with an assuring smile that belied the dismay within, “Now off ya go home and bring me lunch.”
Bala retreated just the way he had arrived on his dark brazen feet. The air was replete with golden dust, flying haywards around the sapling of basil like the breeze of heaven around the mighty God, as a little girl wearing a neatly knitted green blouse and a brown skirt swept the yard. Her plaited hair shimmied when she looked up to see her brother standing forth her.
“Rukmini!” he was panting and gasping for air, “Where is Ma?” asked he.
“Inside,” replied his sister.
“I have a great news. I am going to crack it to Ma first,” he said with excitement and hurried into his dingy house. It was a dingy cube with a small, grilled square window from which only ample light entered the house. The stony floor and walls were daubed with cow dung and soot had made the alcove above the raking hearth its home. The air within queerly tasted of smoke, cow dung and milk.
“Maa!” he yelled.
“What happened, Bala?” asked a woman in a worn out saree, that had been used, reused and reused till it looked like a large mattress.
“Ba said he’ll recompense the loan. Great news isn’t it?”
“Did he? He ain’t telling tha truth, is he? Keeps saying it, that old man,” said his mother resentfully.
“No, Ma! His eyes could not lie, he assured me. He looked very happy. I am sure he is not lying,” replied Bala with a child-like eagerness.
“Is it so? Let’s see,” she said dubiously, “Take this lunch for yer Ba,” and she handed him some food wrapped in paper with which he went on his merry way towards the farm.
The blazing Sun had gone to sleep behind the flock of clouds as the scaly barks of Guava sped across him. He was never as happy as he was now, he never could be. A strong wind soughed through the Mango tree when he reached the farm, the tree which gave him the sweetest Mangoes in the summer, the tree which he climbed onto after teasing his little sister, also the tree, on the dusty dry branch of which, now hung a brown old man. His neck in the noose, tongue fallen out of the mouth, breath pinching Bala’s heart, there was he- the old man, dead and gone.
The loan had been paid as help would come now, as it always does, after a life is lost.