(हिंदी मूलपाठ के लिए कृपया पूर्ववर्ती पोस्ट देखें)
Bairgachi village of Araria district in Bihar used to enchant the visitors with its splendid natural shades. Trees and shrubs like Mango, Neem, Gulmohar, Amaltas, Tamarind, Hibiscus, etc. on both sides of the unpaved road from the main road to the village, provided an enchanting beauty. The fields looked very beautiful almost throughout the year with maize and sorghum in Kharif season and wheat and gram in Rabi season.
No matter how cool and beautiful the moon may look in the night, its spots cannot be hidden. There was a family in the same picturesque village, who had to work daily from morning till evening amidst the same greenery, as it had only one option to satiate the hunger. Nandu used to go to the fields every day to work with his mother, Dhaniya.
In the same village there was Batuk Seth, who had his own grocery shop. He had also twenty acres of agricultural land. Once Nandu’s father, Chetram and his mother, Dhaniya used to work as labourers in the fields of Batuk Seth. Everything was going well that suddenly all hell broke loose over the family, when Chetram died of tuberculosis.
Nandu was only five years old then. Now he can’t even remember the face of his father. What he knew was that his mother had to face a lot of difficulties to feed him and his two younger sisters. Who knew better than Dhaniya, the dire circumstances a destitute widow has to go through.
Out of sympathy, Batuk Seth, whose blessings were on Dhanno and Chetram earlier too, had helped her financially by giving her some money. But for survival, there should have been a regular source of income as before. So Batuk Seth again hired Dhaniya for working at his place. Some closeness between the two developed, and the people of the village started looking at her with suspicious eyes.
Being a widow was a curse in itself. The absence of his man sometimes made her weak. All kinds of gossips started doing rounds. Some people even started saying in suppressed tone that the face of Dhanno’s younger daughter, Naina looks similar to that of Batuk Seth.
When the things escalated, disputes and dissensions started appearing in Batuk Seth’s house, which culminated in the ouster of Dhanno from her work. This was the most difficult period for Dhanno, when she had to work day in and day out like an agricultural labourer, yet that was not enough.
Dhanno used to cultivate wheat and paddy as a labourer in the fields of others, but she could neither get wheat nor rice. She used to prepare breads from the flour of sorghum or coarse grains, which were normally given to animals or beggars. The family of four would then take them with salt and onions to satiate the hunger.
When Nandu turned ten, he too started working in the fields along with his mother. After a few years, Nandu got married, had two children, the expenses increased further. His wife Siya used to take care of the house and children. The light of the lamp in the house gets dim when the house starts getting bigger or the oil starts depleting.
The expenses of the house could hardly be met with the wages of mother and son. Since the work of stone-breaking stones was more remunerative, Nandu preferred it though it blistered his hands. But these blisters were better than the blisters due to the flames of hunger.
Nandu had also to marry off his both sisters, who were of marriageable age. But how to do it was a big question mark. Finally, his mother, Dhaniya had to go once again to Batuk Seth for seeking a loan. Seth first refused, then he gave twenty five thousand rupees with advice that Naina’s marriage should be decent.
Both sisters got married. Dhaniya and Nandu heaved a sigh of relief. The burden of expenses of both the sisters in the family was definitely reduced, but Seth’s debt had mounted with this. Nandu was upset. One day his neighbour, Jokhan said to him,
“Under the Integrated Rural Development Program (IRDP), banks are giving loans to buy cows and buffaloes. You too go and like me, earn money by selling milk. Income is good.”
Nandu liked this idea and after understanding everything from Jokhan, he went to the Block Office and the Bank.
In the Block Office, he got his case prepared by the village level worker (VLW). But it took two weeks to reach the Bank. Eventually the loan was also approved for two buffaloes. On the next Thursday, the market day, he got a buffalo with the help of VLW, Doctor Saheb and Bank Officer.
Nandu’s happiness knew no bounds. Jokhan had rightly said that for one’s own happiness, one must first make others happy. He did exactly the same. He also made Jokhan happy. He had to spend a lot of money to make everyone happy, but he knew that in everyone’s happiness lies his own happiness.
Like a brave warrior, he entered his village when he brought home the first buffalo. His mother, Dhaniya and wife, Siya were ready to welcome the newcomer. After worshiping her, she was named ‘Lachhmi’ (Goddess of wealth) as if she had come as an incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi.
The first couple of days just passed by. But Lachhmi’s tantrums were also not less. She would not yield milk so easily. Siya could not take full care of her fodder, water and other maintenance. So from the second day onwards, Dhaniya started taking care of Lachhmi along with Siya. But milking and selling was also a big job in itself. Nandu also plunged himself in this work.
The family gave up the labour work, thereby losing wages. They had no knowledge or experience of the milk business. Everything from buying fodder to vaccination and selling milk was new for them. Once Jokhan had even hinted that Nandu should give Lachhmi to her, and in return Jokhan would give him five kilos of milk daily, while he himself would bear the cost of fodder, water and maintenance.
Once Nandu thought it was a right proposition, but it was difficult to take care of their food and other needs as also to repay the loan with that amount. He, therefore, decided that once Lachhmi had entered the house, he would now keep her with him and will also take her proper care. Nandu started doing the work of bringing fodder and selling milk, while Dhaniya and Siya were responsible for looking after Lachhmi and milking her.
There was no consumption of milk in the village. He had to go to the city to sell it to a confectioner, that too at a throwaway price. Though Sudha Dairy people used to come to the village itself, and after measuring milk with a lactometer would give the price according to the purity, their price was much less than the market price and the payment was also received only after the end of the month.
There was no significant improvement in income as compared to earlier wages. But when the second buffalo ‘Rambha’ was given by the Bank after a gap of six months, the family heaved a sigh of relief. But with it arrived some new problems as well. She was a bit violent and used to kick while milking her. She also developed cough and fever. Her milk output was too less.
With these problems Nandu again went to Jokhan, who suggested, ‘Tie one of her forelegs before milking her. Put ten or twenty drops of mustard oil in her mouth, her cold and cough will disappear. If even after feeding her calf, Rambha is not yielding milk, then perhaps she needs an injection. You just inject the needle before milking her.’
Nandu did the same, and he was surprised to see the expected improvement in Rambha. The quantity of milk also started increasing. Lachhmi was but Lachhmi, she always gave more milk than Rambha. Now there was only one problem and that was of selling milk at better prices.
One day when Nandu was coming out of the confectionery shop after selling milk, a person asked him,
“Have you got any more milk?”
Nandu told him that he had just sold it all. The man said again,
“If you want to sell milk to households, then give two kilos in my house everyday. My house is blue in color, that one in front.”
Nandu liked the idea and started selling milk to him from the next day onwards, and the rest to confectioners. Then he also asked other households in the neighborhood. Since he used to bring milk directly from the village, many people immediately agreed to buy milk from him. Nandu’s milk was now being consumed in the households of the city.
Nandu was getting better price of milk as compared to confectionery shops. The new customers were also happy to see the purity of the milk. A housewife told him that she no longer needed to buy ghee from the market, as she extracted ghee from milk.
Everything was going well. Life was starting to get back on track. After the introduction of a gas stove and a small TV in the house, everyone’s routine had changed. Dhaniya was more than happy at this ability of Nandu.
Nandu started remembering his mother’s saying in childhood that the days don’t remain the same. The cycle of time goes on. After sorrow comes happiness and after happiness comes sorrow.
Rambha fell sick terribly and she stopped eating and giving milk, and one day she passed away. However, under the National Livestock Insurance Scheme, Nandu had got both the buffaloes insured with the help of the bank and Doctor. Nandu went to the Bank with Rambha’s ear tag and filled the claim form, as directed.
But to no avail. Despite running helter-skelter, he did not get any compensation nor any other buffalo. The insurance company put certain conditions that were impossible to fulfill. People were advising him to go to consumer forum and court, but that needed both money and time. Meanwhile the debt continued to grow at its own pace.
Nandu tried to get the third buffalo, but under the Integrated Rural Development Program, there was a provision of only two buffaloes. The bankers refused to give the third buffalo, saying that in order to take more than two buffaloes, he should have some land of his own to mortgage with the Bank.
With reduction in milk output, the income also started declining. Customers were also dwindling. Now only Lachhmi was left to rescue the family. She was alone again. She had entered the house first, and so she probably felt a sense of responsibility and took care of her family well.
But destiny holds upper hand. Time plays its own role. Change is inevitable and that was now easily palpable on her body with signs of ageing. Milk output had decreased considerably. It was not possible for the family to survive on depleted income. Oxytocin injections were of no use either.
Nandu once again went back to Jokhan. He handed over Lachhmi this time to Jokhan. Dhaniya started working in Jokhan’s family, because she had got a lot of experience in animal husbandry by now, and probably also because she did not want to be separated from her Lachhmi.
Siya started working in the fields and poor Nandu started going again towards the mountain for stone-breaking. Dues of both Bank and Seth were yet to be repaid.