Friday, March 11, 2011

On a parched roadside.

It is March. Onset of a long and hot summer. It is the time when the farms would be at the mercy of the canal laid to the village from the distant reservoir, water supply erratic at best. State government approved the laying of a water pipeline of larger capacity for this village, and the nearby villages too. But it was a long time ago. Only recently has the file been retrieved from some nook or the topmost shelf of the rural development committee office after repeated complaints. There used to be a narrow cart road from between the fields some time ago. Now, the daily wagers have dug it up, put stone and a bit more soil here, and the bulldozer has leveled it off. The only day motor vehicles plied on this road was the day it was inaugurated. Now, it’s pretty much a cart road again, littered with dung here and there, except for the fact that its corners have been dug up again, for that much awaited pipeline. Daily wagers have gathered from this village and nearby villages, under NREGP(National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme).

Among these workers is a boy, who seems to be somewhere around twenty one. Young, industrious, dark, with worn out hands with a few torn blisters too. He and another man take turns in digging the road and shoveling the loose soil into a heap along the brink. He hails from a nearby village family, has two younger brothers and one elder brother. Younger ones go to school, while the elder works somewhere in the city. His father tends to cattle and has gone farming every single day that the boy can remember.

Each day, a few women pass through the site with earthen pots on their heads and another smaller brass pot tucked along their waists. Younger girls need to maintain balance of the pot on their heads with their hands, so they carry only one. Among this little caravan of ladies, is a girl. She might be nearing eighteen. Wheatish complexion, short, has a pony tail and a ‘dupatta’ passing from over her head, along her face where she is holding a part of it in her mouth lest it may become unmanageable, or maybe trying to avoid the sun, and finally making a small coil around her neck before falling over her back. 

And as a daily routine, the workers, some of whom might be having wives in this little caravan ask them for water. It is a brief activity that happens every day, and the ladies quench these workers gaily, although their families would have to make do with lesser amount of water. The girl also lends water, mostly to the boy. It is something inherent that this division of labour ends up each one either serving their husbands or in other cases, men from the same village, or in this case, of the same age group. Married ladies observe ‘purda’ even with husbands here, but unmarried girls have a relaxation. 

As this chore comes to pass, no words are exchanged among the boy and the girl; nothing transpires mutually, but yes, smiles! Smiles are exchanged, and sometimes muffled giggles too. They are pretty much used to this activity as a habit. The work progresses slowly among chatting villagers and their talks of monsoon, drought, the pipeline, deaf government, deaths, farms, loans and little things. He smiles and laughs at jokes cracked by other fellow workers, and cracks a few jokes himself too. But that isn’t pleasure. That is amusement, a distraction to ward off tiredness. But in these brief moments while drinking water after a long day at work, with her, he smiles, he smiles out of pleasure, genuine. No he doesn’t know that, not yet. 

Days pass, weeks fly, it’s about one month, and the digging is almost done, but the pipelines still needs to be laid. It is on the other terminal of the road, stacked, rusting in the open, waiting to be earthed. 

It has been three days since she showed up. He has had a break in his habit. Someone from behind a ‘purda’ gives him water. He cannot even ask where that girl might be. He never asked her her name. And he cannot ask the other women what so ever, everyone seems to be an ace at leg pulling. If he does ask about her whereabouts, they might tease him for being so concerned about that girl. No he doesn’t want that. She might have taken sick, or so he thought. 

Five days. Now he really misses her. He misses that smiling time. I think, now he realizes that it was different kind of smile. He still laughs at jokes, but he knows better now. What he does not know is what happened to the girl. 

She has been married four days now, married off to a different village. Oh she still goes out to fetch water, but from a different reservoir, on a different route. This village has a metalled road, though worn out. Much nearer to the town, it has bus service, two buses a day. The reservoir is also nearer, and less erratic. But now her ‘dupatta’ doesn’t fall around lazily over her back, but helps her cover her full face as a ‘purda’. 

He remembers her, but the memory is fading. Soon, the work would end, and he’d be off running other errands. Soon, he’ll forget that he missed smiling out of pleasure. Sooner, he’ll stop thinking about what happened to the girl. But till then, he will keep waiting, everyday, eager in his heart to smile again, like he used to. Though he does not know this either that he is so eager to do it, but he is eager nevertheless. 

Sometimes I wonder, we all knew what happened to the girl, me, you and even most of the workers from that village must have known this. But an ordinary marriage is seldom discussed among daily wagers, men, when there are droughts, rains, farms, fields and loans to worry about. I wonder what he might have gone through, even though the emotion was momentary, and too small. Had he been told, wouldn’t he be saved from the little letdowns that he had every day when some woman granted him water from behind a purda. Could he be saved from missing things, until he eventually forgot them? Why didn’t anyone tell him? Why didn’t I tell him.


Fatima said...

Why didn't you ??
Weaved a beautifully story according to me..but then come to think of it, its not a mere story but someone's reality...

How do you come up with such diverse stuff Anshul ?
A treat to read :)

Take Care.

Giribala said...

Very well written! Your minute observations and details make the story worth reading.

Anushree said... was an absolute pleasure reading this!!!

Purba said...

Wordsmith - spins a perfect yarn. Do a collection of short stories please and submit?

Jules said...

Wow, beautifully written and a pleasure to read. :)

The obvious answer here is hope.
Have a great weekend!
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

yasha said...

Absolutely loved it Anshul.The best thing is,I can almost picture the incidents happening in front of my eyes and thats the beauty of your style of writing.Keep it up.:)

Blasphemous Aesthete said...

It could be someones reality, true.

Thank You!

Thank You

Submit to whom?


Thank You Yasha!

Vaisakhi said...

awesome write....sheer pleasure to read...felt this is much more than a story a lot more real...n well u should have told him......

Unknown said...

he will smile.

Anonymous said...

Very well written. Melancholic yet detached.

Chandana said...

Why dint anyone tell him? hmm... it might have complicated things... Maybe he would have gone after her, you never know.

Best if its left this way... He'll learn, he'll realise, he'll forget, he'll heal :)

Lovely story.. The best until now! (for me!)

AL said...

Why didn't you tell him??!!


Rià said...

Yes why dint u?? Beautifully fluid...yet so sad.

Blasphemous Aesthete said...

Yes, I created him, I should have told him. Thank You.

Oh yes, but not like before.

thank you :)

No, he wouldn't have gone after her, that is for sure.
And thank you.

I never knew what he might have done, see? I cared for him :P


Unknown said...

what a story. i was hooked to this. i guess there's no way you or anyone could have told him. these things happen, day--in day-out, i suppose. they are almost a way of life.

Alka Gurha said...

Beautifully woven, great observation and so different.....A treat.

Meher said...

Beautifully written, and it's so sad. It has happened to all of us at one point, wherein things have fizzled out, in friendships, in relationships, and we've never realized why.

Bhargavi Kashyap said...

Very nicely put together :)

S said...

I am tired of praising you one post after another!!
And I loved the way you defined pleasure. But that isn’t pleasure. That is amusement, a distraction to ward off tiredness.

The details of the boy and the girl sounded very stereotypically filmy, though :)

P.S: Unlike your posts which are usually QUITE long-ish, your replies on comments are SHORT!! Like I imagine you replying back ":)" to this comment.

P.P.S: ok this is turning out to be a very long comment!

Suruchi said...

the narration is outstanding again...and the poignant love stories that remain incomplete are perhaps those that remain forever...

sometimes when things are beyond our reach, isn't it better that we remain blissfully unaware of them?

Blasphemous Aesthete said...

Yes, things like these happen day in and day out, and yet they are neglected, until they are forgotten

Thank You.

It isn't that sad if I come to see of it, its just that we realize lack better than fulfillment.

Thank You!

If you happen to visit a village which has such roads, you would find that the boy and the girl there would all not carry vanity as the people who have come in contact with the modern civilization. What would be movies if not a depiction of the mundane?
Still, I will try to make them more realistic next time.

As for the length of the comment, it depends. :P

Only if it were to be blissful. :)


Its brilliiantly depicted.

Tweety said...

touching in more than one ways anshul....its such a treat t read a versatile writer like you...amazing one... ;)

Simran said...

You always come up with something different that's a nice quality of yours. It happens with many of..but others don't give attention there.Really that boy's heart will always miss that girl to see her once again to have that cheerful laugh once again.

Nice post as always :)
Take care..

Paulami said...

its like i said..revelation.. and you work wonders with words..and heap them into stories..

Tanishka said...

Very well written but why a sad ending.... I sooo wanted them to be together in the end.. Why don't you write one happy ending post... I would love to read something of that sort from you... :)

Blasphemous Aesthete said...

Thank You.

thank you Tweety!

not always, she wasn't anything to him, nor was he to her... its just the fragility of tenderness that is missed sometimes, but not for long.


But why Tanishka? This isn't falling in love, its just a normal life cycle.
And it isn't sad particularly, not to me. It's just normal.
About the happy ending posts, we'll look into that soon. :)

Prateek Bagri said...

Observation was too strong. A very well put up and first two paragraphs reminded me of villages and my subject SST. :D

Sayak Shome said...

The story was good, as usual; but the backdrop of the story was intriguing. :)

Tanvi said...

Someone's life woven into a real story... :) Nice one pumpkin pie! :D


Unknown said...

Beautiful realistic description...what's the point of telling him?...they were just connected by water and the basic human need for hole, new pitcher till he finds his "purdahwali"....but to weave a tender tale from forgotten, mundane moments is an art... till next Friday.... :)

Sadiya Merchant said...

oh! :(
dont like sad stories

Blasphemous Aesthete said...

LOL, I thought SST classes taught us many more things other than panchayati raj?

Thank You

Only if I had met him or her :P

:) Thank You, it was a satisfactory answer to me.

Oh, but only if the main characters don't end up together doesn't mean that it is a sad story.

Samadrita said...

Great story BA! (I have shortened your nickname :P) The ending lines created a lasting impact.

Cloud Nine said...

So nicely spun...but makes me so sad...sniff...sniff...little nothings and such missed smiles are there in everyone's life, aren't they???:(

AcetylCholine said...

I couldn't stop once I had started reading this. Loved it.

But then again, it was somewhat his fault that he let himself spiral into thinking about her. Again, human nature. Maybe not his fault? Gah. I don't know what to say.

Beyond Horizon said...

An everyday story of a Life, simple and yet elegant through your words!
Hmm..someone should have told him, but guess this is World too!

Your words truly live up-to "Beauty lies in knowing"

Vagabond said...

He remembers her, but the memory is fading.

it is always dawn to dusk, always all for a day or so it seems

Blasphemous Aesthete said...

Thank You :)

@cloud nine
then why would you cry over someone else's life? :P
Yes, it is true.

And welcome here.

By now, the memory is almost gone, the roads are done. :P Thank you for appreciating.

Thank You.

It's just momentary.

Sonshu said...

Wow, that was so well written. BEAUTIFUL if i must say! :)

Pri said...


i love the way this post builds up :)

Punam said...

Beautiful emotion captured so vividly, Anshul!! Kudos to you. This one had me stuck through till the end. When it started, I did not know where it would lead me.
But that was a wonderful twist. We meet so many people during our journey in life.. but not all are 'forever'.. this one is a good example of those strangers that leave a mark in your memories but can not be identified. :)

Blasphemous Aesthete said...

:) Thank You if I might add. :P

Thank You !

Some stories are made just to realize a simple lack, so that next time, it is fulfilled. :)

Eon Heath said...

Hey, Hi
may be these small let downs were necessary for him to understand, or realize that lifes uncertain, we should make most of the moment we have at hand rather than regret later..
:) life always teaches a thing or 2 even in its miseries...isnt it?

The Silhouette...

Ire said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alcina said...

As always that i say you have a very keen observation which makes your readers realize what they might not :)

A very thoughtful end and a nice way to let the story be imprinted on mind for a longtime :)

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