Little Drops of Water
by Stuti Jamwal
Rama looked up at the overcast sky and heaved a sigh of relief. Thick, dark clouds hovering over his paddy farm gave him tremendous relief. As a farmer of meager means, he was highly dependent on the monsoon showers which had been delayed for about a month now. Today, it looked like the Rain God had taken pity on his dire situation and decided to save his paddy from drying up and yielding zilch. He raised his arms over his head and joined them in veneration, expressing deep gratitude to the Lord.
Wiping beads of perspiration from his forehead he bent down and touched the warm earth. How dry the grains of sand felt in his hands. The scorching sun had tried its best to wreck havoc on his field. As far as he could see, Rama could not find a trace of dampness anywhere. The few drops of sweat that fell from his neck were instantly absorbed by the parched land and lost as quickly as they had fallen. Rama was surprised at how hot it still was despite the clouds shrouding the sun and the sky. A light breeze started to blow just then and he felt better. He should go and check out the cowshed. ‘Poor Shanthi must be getting restive,’ he thought.
Shanthi was his favorite cow yielding around fifteen liters of milk every day. It was no big deal considering her size and age. But it was the best she could do given the amount of feed Rama could manage for her. In those times when the paddy failed to deliver a decent harvest, Shanthi’s milk was his mainstay, earning him around 2000 rupees per month. He saved a glassful for himself and sold all the rest to the village dairy. His farm was quite a long way from the village and the journey to the dairy was undertaken on a rented bullock cart and took him considerable time and effort. The other cow, Khushboo, had produced a sickly calf a year ago that died of flu after barely three months. Rama had to spend over a thousand bucks on the vet who had tried his best to revive the poor animal, but in vain. Khushboo had not been able to rally her spirits after this loss and began to waste away. Rama took her to the village fair one day and sold her off for less than a thousand bucks.
‘Hey Rama’, shouted Shankar, a dark, scrawny young lad of about fourteen who used to help Rama in ploughing the field and milking the cows. ‘Shanthi has unleashed herself and ran inside the house’, he said, running in the direction of the small one room shack where Shanthi was seeking to accommodate herself temporarily. Rama rushed inside, only to find an agitated Shanthi trying to get past the small back door. No matter how hard he tried to point her to the main door, she didn’t budge.
‘Here, take this’, said
Shankar, handing over a stave to Rama.
‘Chut, chut..’, said Rama as he tried to poke the animal gently and direct her to the other side of the room. Shanthi squirmed and flapped her ears but jibbed and totally refused to oblige. Rama gave a less gentlemanly poke now and this time the reaction was more favorable. A loud moo and a round of poo later, Shanthi shifted her great form to where her master pointed and ran out in high speed. Shankar tried to catch hold of her, but Rama held him back.
‘Wait up. She will go back to her shed. She can’t go anywhere else in this climate. She’s a gentle creature, just got restless because of the changing weather.’
‘But what if she runs away? The main gate is open’, said Shankar.
‘No, no. Where will she go? There’s not a source of food anywhere close by’.
‘Ok, if you say so’, Shankar resigned at the face of this serene confidence.
‘Come, help me lift the cot inside’, said Rama to Shankar. He was used to sleeping outside under the starry skies during summer. Inside the heat was oppressive. But today, it would rain heavily and he would need to move the bed inside. Together they held the cot from both sides and placed it inside the room, in front of the deity that Rama had installed in a niche on the wall.
‘I think we should check on Shanthi’, said Shankar, a little concerned.
‘I’m telling you she will come right back once it starts to rain. Any time the clouds will break now’.
Shankar went out to examine if there was anything else he needed to pull inside before it rained.
Involuntarily he looked up. The great smoky clouds seemed to be hurrying towards the east. Behind a particularly dark one, a pattern of bright rays was beginning to form. As it drew to the right, there emerged in the blue sky, a gorgeously lit up sun, shining vigorously, as if to mock at the audacity of the clouds that had been threatening it for the past few hours.
‘Rama! Rama!’ shouted Shankar with all his might. Rama came rushing out.
Neither man lent his grief to words as they looked heavenwards. Then Rama cried, ’Shanthi!’, and ran across the fields.
‘Chut chut’, he called.
‘Chut chut’, shrieked Shankar.
They ran all the way to the main gate, but the cow was nowhere to be seen. The exercise had caused beads of perspiration to break out on Rama’s forehead, which he swiped with his thumb so that the little drops fell on the dry, arid sand below. They mingled with a couple of tears that were stinging his eyes and were soon lapped up by the ever thirsty ground. ‘That’s all the water this land is going to get for now’, he thought, and, collecting himself, went back to his room to get the cot laid out before the sky became star-spangled.____