Kumar has been staring hard at the sun beaten walls of his mud house for the past three days. In the time that I have been observing him, his life was getting harder as the days passed. Facing the realities of life as an 11 year kid with no parents was tough enough. But aggravating the situation was the fact that his parents had left besides him a younger brother, all of 8 years old. But it does not end there. They had left him just Rs.1422 in a plastic cover to face the world. The only brightness that I could see for him was that there was at least a plot of land to call his own. The government had issued a decree just two years ago as a means of compensation that enabled his father to try his hand at agriculture.
I have been observing Kumar for the last two years. He is my favorite boy in this village. He always studied hard, rarely shouted, had a calm demeanor and only spoke when spoken to. It is rare to see such a boy in this dusty little village, for it had always been the play ground for noisy little children who enjoyed playing pranks on the elders and passersby. For the past one month all that Kumar had wanted was a Camlin fountain pen. The teachers in the municipality school where he studied were reprimanding him every day for not bring one. He was mesmerized by the pens that the other boys had owned and was craving for one. I have been seeing him plead for the pen for the past one month into the ear of his drunken father, to of no result. But the boy’s persistent nagging had made his father to finally agree to get him the pen in two days time.
Kumar’s mother Laxmi had passed away two years back during the great south Asian Tsunami that lashed the shores of
I observed that the brothers had developed lean, but strong bodies. I have often seen them helping their father irrigate that parched plot of land to try to grow something profitable. Every morning at six, just at day break, the boys would get up with their father and help him water the plot. The boys would then scurry off to their school which started at nine in the morning and went on till noon. I knew that it was almost impossible for them to grow something without my help and so for the first year, I lent them my help at the plot. The reaping was just about enough for them to fend for themselves. It was the second year that ran bad. I refused help when I saw Kumar’s drunken father. Therefore the yield was subsequently low that year. It made him curse me even more for not helping him.
Then two days back it happened. Kumar’s father was riding home in an inebriated state from the local grameen bank with Rs. 5000 in his pocket, when two men robbed him of his money. What was even worse was that Kumar’s father tried to fight back in his drunken state. A short row ensued that ultimately finished when a blow from one of the men landed on his head. It was the blow that left Kumar and his brother orphans. He was found a few hours later by the local policeman and was brought to the local hospital that lay at the corner of the village. I watched with guilt as Kumar and his brother cried and tried to digest what had happened.
The local lady doctor tried to help as much as possible. But it was inevitable. Eventually it was time to carry the body to the burial ground. But I preferred to devout my attention to the helpless little boys. For two days, the boys did not leave the hut and ate almost nothing, save for the curd rice that the old lady next door made them eat. On the third day, Kumar had dried up to tears. His mind started to reel back to reality again. I watched him as he began assessing what his father had left them. That was when he found the plastic cover with the money hidden behind Lord Ganesha’s portrayal. Other than this there was the land and the bicycle that his father had used.
On the morning of the fourth day, I saw a very different Kumar. Kumar woke up at eight in the morning. He did what was necessary of the household chores and sent his little brother to school before leaving for the farmer’s seed bank that was located a few kilometers away. As he left the hut, his eyes fell on the shiny new Camlin pen that the Doctor had offered him at the hospital in an attempt to make him stop crying. It was still in the pocket in which she had pinned. It was a wry smile, but a smile nevertheless. He took the pen with him. By six the next morning, he was getting ready to plough the land and sow the seeds. And I, the soil on which his produce will grow, was ready to help him as much as I can.
The Earth Elemental.
End of Part Two