The muted and yellow glow of the solitary lantern hanging from a makeshift hook on the wall struggled in vain to pierce the unsympathetic veil of the dark. Vidya sitting on the damp and cold earthen floor of the thatched hut mechanically stirred the pot of boiling gruel with an old and twisted ladle that had seen warmer nights and cooler days. The firewood on top of which the pot was delicately balanced was the last stack left. “There is no more wood left in the house”, she exclaimed directing her remark at no one in particular.
Shashank, once muscular & strapping but now frail and bony, looked at his wife and responded, “I will go and chop a few pieces of wood at the break of dawn tomorrow”. Both knew that it had to be before the blazing sun towered over the horizon lest the energy sapping heat tire Shashank to submission. He turned his gaze towards the only cot inside the hut on which lay a human form wrapped in a rag tag bundle of hastily assembled clothes. Ravi, their two year old son. A child deprived of nutrients, bereft of warm clothes and devoid of happiness.
The crops had failed yet again, courtesy a crippling drought that brought small landowners and crop growers such as Shashank to their knees. The remorseless sun kept beating down on their acreage thereby putting paid to hopes of a decent harvest. Meanwhile the co-operative banks which had loaned them funds against the security of a future reaping of produce were fast losing patience and had even taken possession of a few farm implements and mechanical harvesters of a couple of farmers. Shashank thankfully did not own any mechanical accouterments.
Hope was fast dwindling like the stock of fuel feeding the one lonely lantern. A whistling wind began battering the hut from outside and as a few gusts made their way inside through the ‘un-thatched’ and ‘unpatched’ roof and walls of the hut, the one lonely lantern started swaying with a violent rhythm and the flames flickered impatiently.
As the light from the one lonely lantern extinguished itself, the last thing Vidya saw was Shashank staring intently and unblinkingly at a container of fertilizer which could, under dire circumstances also double up as a potent poison. Poison enough to snuff out the lives of two adults and one unsuspecting little child.
(This post has been inspired by the plight of farmers in India who are exposed to the remorseless vagaries of weather and the capriciousness of money lenders. Unable to bear the pressures imposed by nature and invoked by fellow human beings, a plethora of them resort to the only means available to rid themselves of misery – suicide)