“Take this cup of tea”, Mina keeps the cup of tea over a piece of log lying in the open field. Her husband, Mohan has been working in the paddy field since early morning. It is not the season for paddy. He is engaged in planting seasonal vegetable saplings in the field. He has enclosed the one bigha land with bamboo fences to stop the intrusion of the grazing cattle. Mohan is a changed man now. He works very hard in his vegetable orchard.
While working in the field his mind flies back to the past four years. The economic condition of Mohan’s father was not good. Though he was good in studies. After graduating from the local college, his father could not support him for higher studies. As there were two sisters at home, Mohan had to sacrifice all his dreams. His father used to tell him,”Bopai, why don’t you apply for a job? I am getting old and it is not possible for me to support the family with the little earnings from cultivation. We have to arrange the marriage of your two sisters.” His father’s words burdened Mohan’s as it seemed to be a huge responsibility. Mohan looked for a job everywhere but got rejected. He wandered here and there. He could see how the young boys from his village “Bahanipathar” were migrating to the various industrial places outside Assam in search of a job.
One day he went out for an evening walk and was sitting beside the pool in the middle of the village. There was no water in the pool. The paddy fields are desolate. In his village, people are engaged in cultivation for six months only. The other six months, the paddy fields remain desolate. No one is interested in growing vegetable plants for the rest of the months. Some people have small vegetable orchards in their houses. Mohan wondered why no one in his village was interested in growing vegetables commercially. Was he ready to become a farmer or go for a job? Definitely he would prefer the latter like the other educated youth of his village.
“Mohan, what are you doing here?” His chain of thoughts was interrupted by the call of Rajesh, his childhood friend.
“When did you return from Bangalore?” Mohan asked Rajesh. “I came the day before yesterday,” Rajesh replied. After a friendly conversation, Mohan expressed the cause of his frustration to Rajesh. Mohan had never thought of leaving his house and his family members but the suggestions of Rajesh compelled him to think twice over the prospect of getting a job in Bangalore. The time was very crucial for him as he had to shoulder family responsibilities. He brooded over the matter throughout the night. In the morning, he took the decision and went to meet Rajesh to inform him that he was ready to go with him. Mohan’s father was not happy with his decision. His father urged him to work in the paddy fields and take up cultivation as a profession. But he did not listen to his father.
A new life started in Bangalore. He had to work in a factory throughout the whole day. Sometimes he had to work for the night shift. As he was not much accustomed to this hard life, his health deteriorated. He was also scolded by the owner of the factory for his inability to work hard. Gradually he was able to cope up with the situation. He was very happy when he received his first salary and it was seven thousand rupees. Though it was not up to his expectations, he remained contented with whatever he had received. He sent five thousand rupees to his father by money order. His days were passing in toil. In the meantime, Mohan had to arrange for his elder sister’s marriage. He came home for the marriage of his sister. He had to borrow some money from the owner of the factory. After the marriage ceremony of his sister, he went back to his workplace. The struggle for maintaining the economic needs of the family continued. Mohan could see the exodus of so many educated and half-educated youth of his village to the city of Bangalore and other industrial places. It was the result of the growing unemployment problem in his state.
Three years passed in Bangalore. Mohan’s younger sister eloped with her lover to the neighbouring village. His aged father was living alone. It was a matter of anxiety for Mohan. On the insistence of his father, he had to hastily marry a girl, Mina who was an orphan and living with her paternal uncle and aunt. Days passed by and Mina took care of his aged father. Mohan was confused how to manage time for his newly wedded wife and his job in Bangalore. But Mina supported him and assured him not to worry about his old father. She took the responsibilities of house management. Mohan was relieved to have Mina as his life partner.
Misfortune never comes alone. Suddenly the epidemic Covid-19 broke out in the world and it gradually reached every nook and corner of India. The factory where Mohan worked was temporarily closed down by the owner and all the employees were denied salary for the time being. Back home, Mohan’s father was also not well. There was countrywide lockdown and all modes of transport came to a halt. For two months, Mohan and some other workers were confined in their places. They spent whatever money they had. Soon, they were running out of money. They were afraid that they would starve. He prayed to God and thought what was happening with his family without money. A news brought a temporary respite to Mohan when he heard that all the migrant workers would be allowed to return to their home, trains would start running for the purpose. But he had spent almost all the money. What to do now? Who will give him the train fare? Mohan had developed a friendship with a local worker. When he explained his problem to his friend Damodar, he assured him of arranging his travel fare. Ultimately, Mohan was able to return home but without money. He was very much depressed and dejected. After returning home, he had to stay in the district quarantine center for fourteen days.
“Deuta,” Mohan was totally broken to see the bed-ridden father. He repented for not listening to his father. “Deuta, you were right. If I had listened to your advice, then this type of problem would not have happened. I will take up cultivation and work hard,” Mohan assured his father. His father gave him a faint smile and lifted his hand as if he was going to bless his son in his new venture.
Author: Dr. Anita Konwar
Dr. Anita Konwar is an Assistant Professor in the department of English, Sonari College, Charaideo, Assam. She has contributed research papers and articles in different academic and research journals at state, national and international level. Her research interests include Women Studies, Indian English Fiction, Commonwealth Literature & North-East India Studies.