Posted by: Mojo Jojo | December 2, 2006

Changing seasons…

The scalding summer

Harshad always knew that his father was a cruel man; and worse, a cruel village landlord.
Indeed, Thakur Balbir Singh never cared for the starving villagers — every favour had to come at a much greater price.
For instance… take the case of poor old Balua, he thought. The 80-year-old man had come begging for a bag of grain the day before; and his father had been making him toil for it under the hot sun ever since. First he had made him dig trenches around the village, then he made him plough the fields and now, he was making him wash the pigs — without even according him the benefit of a proper meal.
And yet, the villagers respected the landlord. The more he exploited them, the more his henchmen pillaged and beat up the commonfolk — the lower they knelt before him.
“Sooner or later, the Thakur will fall,” thought Harshad, “And justice will be served…”
He was truly ashamed of his father.

Spring comes-a-visiting

Then, one day, a cool breeze wafted across the region — very different from the usually scalding sandstorms that characterised it. “Here it is,” thought Harshad, “The winds of change are here…”
A messenger came running towards their palatial residence. “Thakursaab! Ranisaheba has come! She’s come back to town!”
Ranisaheba. Harshad had heard many a tale about her. Fifteen years ago, she had been the Thakur’s sworn enemy. That is, until the Thakur used his goons to drive her away.But now she was back. And the boy knew what this meant.
The beginning of the end.
“She’s back!” gasped the messenger, “And she is trying to win the villagers over. Even as we speak, she’s feeding them all at her haveli!”
The Thakur’s wife fainted and all the faces in the vicinity turned pale. But if Harshad expected to see any sign of disappointment on his father’s face, he was sadly mistaken.
“Ha! What’s wrong with you people?” the landlord hollered jovially, his giant mustache glinting in the sunlight: “Go get yourself something to drink and lighten up!”
“Overconfidence and pride. They will fade away with the setting sun,” murmered Harshad to himself a little too glumly.
Days followed months and the reports that flowed in weren’t very encouraging. The Ranisaheba was now feeding them by the horde. She had erected a pandal outside her palace, where her servants used to serve the villagers food — morning, noon and night. Hell, she was even constructing houses for some of them!
On the other side of the equation, the Thakur did not have villagers coming in for favours anymore. He could not even find people to grow crops on his land, leave alone make them work like slaves. And whenever he ventured into the village, the commonfolk would spit loudly to show their contempt for him.
And no, Thakur could not beat them into submission. Probably because all his henchmen had ditched him for the competition.
But, for some reason, the Thakur did not seem worried. And whenever Harshad asked him why, he would repeat an age-old cliche: “Patience. Time heals all wounds.”

The autumn of spring

And then, the tide started turning again.
According to newer reports, the Ranisaheba was not doing that well anymore. By splurging her wealth on the villagefolk and distributing it among them, she had achieved near-bankruptcy. She was now selling off the antiques in her haveli to keep up with the feed-the-poor routinue.
Harshad respected the Ranisaheba… but now, in her newfound poverty — he could feel himself pitying her. The reports started getting increasingly distressing: Ranisaheba could not feed the villagers today; Even now, they are squatting under the pandal, waiting for food. And a few days later: A few villagers tried to attack her while she was coming out of the haveli. She doesn’t even wear good clothes now. And they all spit on her.
This was all very confusing for Harshad. The Ranisaheba had been more generous than Raja Harishchandra himself… but all the villagers felt for her was hate.
He glanced at the aging Thakur; he seemed neither happy nor sad — just a tad impatient.
The weather was getting hot again. And dust-ghosts now whirled around at regular intervals, as if searching for a place to rest. As if hailing the return of the old days.

Summer’s here… again

A month later, Harshad saw the messenger again. This time, he had good news.
Last night, several armed villagers had entered the Ranisaheba’s haveli through a bedroom window on the first floor. They had stabbed Ranisaheba and her five-year-old boy, then burnt down the building. Nothing remained of the good samaritan now — just ashes.
Thakur Balbir Singh laughed loudly. Then he ordered a bottle of whiskey, which he consumed with a few of his closest associates. That night, revelry reigned in the Thakur’s residence.
The next morning, Harshad went to him again. And sitting on the edge of the bed, he asked him: “Father, how did you know this would happen?”
And the Thakur turned to him, whiskey still on his breath: “Son, I know I’m a hard man. But I’m like this for a purpose.”
Then, settling down, he said: “The Ranisaheba was a good person … wanting to help the villagefolk and all that. But she couldn’t understand the very people she was trying to help, and therein lay her mistake.”
“Her mistake?” Harshad did not know what to think.
“Yes. It’s very simple, actually,” said the Thakur, “When the Ranisaheba first started helping out the commonfolk, they were grateful and happy. But as time went by, they forgot that she was doing them a favour … the daily meals became their right. And God forbid, humans hate being deprived of their rights…”
Harshad understood. And when he looked to his side, he saw old Balua …. he had come after eight long months for another bag of grain.
“True,” thought Harshad, as he watched the Thakur handing a shovel to the elderly person, “My father must be a cruel man, but a wise one at that…”
For the first time, he felt proud of being the son of Thakur Balbir Singh.

The dawn of winter

Years passed… and one day, the Thakur eased into his chair.
The cold had set in now, and the desert night wore that spooky , mournful look — as if hailing in a whole world of change.
A couple of hours later, his wife, the Thakurain, tried to wake him up for dinner. But he didn’t.
He had passed into the afterlife with a smile on his face.
This story has no connection with the Ranisaheba one. Nor was the Thakur paying for all the hardships he had caused the villagefolk. It was just that his time had come.
Life, like all other things, must pass.

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Responses

  1. oh! somebody is writing again!

  2. ooooh yeaa..somebody is writing again!!! No sweat!!! that’s the line ma man..that’s the line!

  3. Hey this sounds like something right out of “chicken poop for the soul”???

  4. no sweat…yyyiippieee 🙂
    nice one JJ

  5. moe, your flashes of brilliance are always scary. have mercy on us

  6. @ Nandhu: Yeah, thought I should start writing. Considering I know somebody in Chennai who averages two posts a day.

    @ Everyman: “No sweat” … man, you guys r never gonna make me forget that one, are you?

    @ Mac: Thanks man. We aim to impress 🙂

    @ Rama: Hey, long time.. How was IFFI. And what was that about “Flashes of brilliance”? Do I detect a pinch of sarcasm there, by any chance?

  7. Hi anyonymous… No, haven’t read that one. But if it’s anything like this story, I better keep away, eh?


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