The Drought Within

By Ganesh Shiva Aithal

General fiction, Literary fiction, Environment & nature

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346
13 mins

 

THE DROUGHT WITHIN

Foreword..............................................................................xi
Prologue..............................................................................xv 

It was a spacious home with a small front yard and a wild backyard with various kinds of wild flowers, creepers, various types of fruit yielding trees and what not. In the front yard there was a majestic Banyan tree with a circular cement bench surrounding its trunk. In front of it, in its shade was a small Tulsi plant grown in an earthen vase, which was planted by Venkatayya’s deceased wife. The sun was appearing and ripening from the edge of the horizon. Distant shrieks of a myna were soothing to any human ear. The wind playfully rustled among the leaves of the Banyan.

Seated under the Banyan was an aged man, with a plain Dhoti and a white colored shawl. Purely south Indian by looks, this old man of seventy sat dolefully looking at the sunrise. The surrounding in which he was present would have acted as a tonic of enthusiasm for anyone, but not him. Now a days Venkatayya, as this happened to be the name of the old gentleman, wasn’t as cheerful and filled with life as he used to be. He could be found sulking every here and there in his front yard. He was seldom seen in his house with his son Shankarayya and his daughterin law (Shankarayya’s wife) Sumati. Always he seemed to have got stuck with his sad expressions and to make matters worse, he grew thinner day by day. It was quite clear that stress had occupied a major portion of his heart and brain. The reason of this stress was kept well guarded in the archives of his brain. He wouldn’t let it slip through his tongue while talking to someone. It was known only by him and was caused simply because of his daughter in law Sumati.

Shankarayya, his son, had fallen for her graceful actions, pitch black eyes and silky hair, but what evil lurked behind those eyes he knew not and for Venkatayya her mind was an open book. Especially when he had heard Sumati talking to her husband, “Dear! Your father is of no use to us. He only lazes around and not at all productive. The only thing he does is eat like a bull and be a burden on us”.

These words had acted like poisonous arrows through the old feeble heart of Venkatayya. He hadn’t even dreamed that his daughter in law would think about him that way. It seemed that she had managed to poison his son’s mind, for Shankerayya lately didn’t cherish and idolize his father like before. Even he seemed to have sided with his plotting wife Sumati. The whole day Shankerayya would be out working in the fields while poor old Venkatayya would be mistreated by Sumati. Whenever Venkatayya sat down for food the words “He eats like a bull” rang in his ears and food would refuse to slide down his throat. Whenever he tried to talk to her, she would give laconic replies and sometimes would ignore or scold him. It was like torture to spend hours in his home with his daughter in law. He felt so helpless against Sumati. May be she was right, maybe he really was a burden on the couple. His aged body refused to do any kind of physical work, so he was of no use to them. He was just a old man without any importance, he thought. This morning he had noticed an unfamiliar golden chain on Sumati’s neck. He slowly walked up to her with some sort of fright and asked in one of his most polite voices, “Dear daughter from where did you get such a beautiful necklace?”

“None of your business” she snorted in an annoying way. “My husband bought it for me” she said after sometime seeing the dejected face of Venkatayya.”

Venkatayya swore in his mind “From where did this worthless son of mine get money to buy a golden necklace?” He worried about it for a while and forgot about it soon. Sumati’s arrogance and rudeness towards Venkatayya continued. His physical and mental state worsened.

One day fed up with such treatments he decided to visit his farm where he had toiled for half a century in his youthful days. His farm was just a mile away from his home. He set out. It was quite sunny outside, though it was supposed to be a rainy season, there was no trace of a single black cloud. Up in the sky the only visible thing was the sun with its piercing hot rays. His experiences and habits had made Venkatayya immune to any kind of harsh sunlight., He effortlessly strode towards his farm in the sun. His son was sitting under a tree having his lunch. “You! What are you doing here?” Shankarayya asked seeming a bit startled at seeing his father.

“Dear son, if you try to remember, I think it is my land, and I can come here whenever I like” said Venkatayya confidently. Shankarayya felt cornered, without his wife he couldn’t dare to speak arrogantly to his father. Venkatayya felt it was a good opportunity to ask about the golden necklace. He asked strictly with a frown, “Shankar from where did you bring that necklace, did you rob someone?.”

“No, No. I bought it from seth Ganpath’s jewelery shop” he said hesitantly. Venkatayya’s next question was something which Shankarayya had hoped he would have never asked, “From where did you get the money? I don’t think it grows on any tree.” Venkatayya interrogated tauntingly. Shankar fell silent. He couldn’t find his tongue. And as he was about to find an excuse, Venkatayya sternly informed, “And please stick to the facts.” Though Venkatayya became delicate as a flower in front of his daughter-in-law he was quite tough on his son. He glared straight into Shankar’s eyes, “Come on tell me, how did you get the money?”. Unable to bear it Shankarayya blurted out the truth, “Remember, I had asked you to sign (thumb impression) a document about our marriage certificate. It was actually a deed paper asking for your permission to mortgage your land for a loan. I did this only to please my wife.”

It was like a bolt from the blue for Venkatayya. How could a farmer’s son mortgage his land to bring a useless necklace for an equally useless wife? It was like mortgaging ones own mother. His blood boiled. If he had the strength he would have punished his son the way he had done before twenty five years. But now his son had grown up and he had grown old. Tears filled with sadness weld up his eyes. His heart ached with grief and helplessness “I promise I will work hard and use the money for high yielding variety (HYV) seeds and fertilizers. I will surely repay the loan” said Shankarayya trying to light hope in his father’s heart. Though he had sided with the beautiful evil doer, Sumati, he couldn’t bear to see such a condition of his father, the man because of whom he was in this world “I promise to repay the loan” he said.

Empty, false, depthless promises prove to be major cause of disappointment and depression. As days passed, Venkatayya daily noticed something or the other new, such as a Smartphone, costly sandals, bangles and saris, for Sumati. Shankarayya was using or rather wasting the better part of the loan on Sumati. Venkatayya was fed up with his life. His son didn’t change nor his daughter in law. She kept on demanding comforts and his son kept on fulfilling them. Today he had noticed a colour television set on a grand television stand. This worsened the situation even further. The whole day Sumati would be glued to a chair, with remote in her hand in front of the TV. Every month a huge amount of the loan would be sacrificed on the electricity and the cable bill.

To make matters worse the rains failed miserably that year. The farm soil was so dehydrated and fractured that for Venkatayya cracking the dry roti for his lunch or dinner gave him glimpses of his cracked land, making him eat less and less till, he gave up eating. The seeds sown and fertilizers mixed were wasted this year. Even the HVY seeds bought by Shankar to convince his father were ultimately used for cooking and eating. The well besides the Banyan tree was almost bone dry. A draught of doom had arrived in this village of Telangana. Venkatayya recklessly wandered here and there and to and fro. Helplessness was written all over his face. The draught and Sumati had sickened him. Because of the lack of money electricity supply was cut and Sumati didn’t seem to be too pleased about it. She couldn’t watch serials in the television, under the cool air of the fan. She was really agitated and started cooking up reasons for abusing and accusing poor old Venkatayya. Sometimes he felt like kicking Sumati out of his house and asking her to go out and stay out, but his tradition and culture did not permit him to banish, a daughter-in-law who was considered to be goddesses Lakshmi’s incarnate, so he meekly bore all the insults.

Today, an idea struck him. In addition to the house and farm, he was also the owner of a fertile plot of land at the outskirts of the state bordering Kerala. Maybe his family could shift there and try to earn a living; a mere thought soothed his mind. He went straight to his son’s room. Husband and wife were discussing something. Venkatayya strode up to them happily and was about to remark, “Hey! Listen….” Just then Sumati rudely cut in, “Shut up you old fool, can’t you see we both are discussing something important. You are really proving to be a great headache for….”

“Control your tongue Sumati” said Venkatayya quite enraged. Here he had come to talk about a way towards a bright future and here she was treating him like a mad stray dog. “From today onwards I demand respect from you both, or I warn you I will hang myself from the nearest tree” Venkatayya said in an angry promising voice, expecting both of them to be shocked. Of course Shankar was shocked and perplexed at the thought of his father’s hanging, but Sumati said with and arrogant smile, “Ha! You better do that. Anyway we were thinking of admitting you to an old age shelter, if you die by yourself, you would save us a lot of trouble.”

Venkatayya was shell shocked and his heart skipped a beat. His head spinned, he knew Sumati never liked him, but he had never dreamt in his worst nightmares that she didn’t mind if he hanged himself. His eyes moistened with tears of rage, grief and disgust. The rest of the day, he sat in front of the idol of the deity in his temple house. Extreme misery and agony kept him awake for the half of the night. If his own son and daughter in law for whom he was alive these days considered him as a burden and wanted to get rid of him, what was the point in living? In a bizarre state, at some unknown time of the night, he stood up and walked towards the shed where many farm inputs were kept. He clumsily grabbed a thick strong rope and walked towards the Banyan tree. He climbed on the cement bench surrounding the tree, which he had himself constructed few years back during his son’s marriage. He ties the first end of the rope to a branch and made a loop at the other, and with a small quick shloka put the loop around his neck, and by jumping off the cement bench, died a sad struggling death. With his fragile, nutrition and love starved body, it was all over in a minute.

The next day when Sumati came to water the Tulsi, she saw the body of Venkatayyah dangling on to the branch. The next two days the house was kept busy by the media. Every Telangana newspaper had the news on its front page. Sumati was seen inquiring measures for getting compensations. The complicated reasons behind a suicide are known to the person who had committed suicide and his god. But for the rest of the world the story was….” Draught in Telangana forces yet another farmer to commit suicide.

(ALL THE REST OF THE CHAPTERS WHICH FOLLOW DESCRIBE the events that envelope a town following a painful tragedy. 

(pages 1-172)

The story in the book describes how the farmer can come out of the ignorance and his submissive melancholy, and realise that he is the most respected soul of his country. Instead of committing suicide, he can become aware of availing all the government facilities and schemes made available for his convenience and well-being. All the farmer has to do is become the protagonist of this story ~ ‘Padmayya’ and rise superior to the dark conditions around him, seeking out the welfare of not only himself but also everyone around him. Undoubtedly, there may be initial troubles, but he will definitely come across many genuinely humane people like other characters of the novel like Mukesh and Pawan to assist him and a godfather like Capt. Vijaysingh to guide them.

With ‘Padmayyas’ everywhere and in every village India can and will prosper. The story describes how this would lead to the prosperity of real kings of India – ‘The Farmers. Armed with courage and knowledge, the farmer will know no fear from drought; instead, he will overcome it with his skills. Thus, he will lead the country’s path towards success and glory by learning to face the drought within. In the book “The Drought Within” is presented a story of human guilt, human, bonds, human nature and its desires, a story of what can be done in extreme situations, rather than what has already happened or is happening. This is a story about fight against odds, with a vision for rehabilitation. This is a story of a phenomenon called success. This is a story about resilience and hope in the midst of life-changing disasters. Author Ganesh Shiva Aithal explores human guilt, human bonds, human nature and its desires while delivering a deeply moving message of the power of positive thinking and how it builds optimism and hope.)

A Teacher Fails................................................................. 1
The Godfather....................................................................15
The Two Cyclists............................................................... 27
More Orphans and Disease...............................................35
Ever-mounting Miseries.....................................................57
Dreaming Ideas.................................................................63
Road Map for Dreams.......................................................72
Seth Karodimal..................................................................85
Padmayya Decides.......................................................... 92
Reality of Dreams............................................................ 98
Karodimal’s Penance...................................................... 115
Restoring the School.......................................................131
Capt. Vijaysingh confronts Mallayya...............................137
Rains bring Green rewards.............................................149
Padmayya’s Speech.......................................................159
A New Beginning............................................................171

Epilogue.........................................................................173
Glossary.........................................................................179
References.....................................................................185
About the Author............................................................187


Epilogue (pages 173-176)

Drought in India has resulted in tens of millions of deaths over the course of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. Indian agriculture is heavily dependent on the climate of India: a favorable southwest summer monsoon is critical in securing water for irrigating Indian crops. In some parts of India, the failure of the monsoons result in water shortages, resulting in below-average crop yields. This is particularly true of major drought-prone regions such as southern and eastern Maharashtra, northern Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana. In the Telangana State, ground water availability has always been a challenge, and has only worsened in the past decade. The average ground water level of the State in March dropped to a 17-year low in 2016.

Officials from the Telangana Ground Water department describe the drought as “singularly unusual” with special reference to ground water situation. Over 140 mandals in the State are severely stressed, with water levels plunging to more than 20 metres below the ground level (mbgl). Five mandals of the Adilabad district, which share their geological features with Latur in Maharashtra, are facing acute ground water crisis owing to the type of soil and terrain, which cannot hold water. Maharashtra government has launched the project “Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyaan” in a bid to make Maharashtra a drought-free state by 2019. The project involves deepening and widening of streams, construction of cement and earthen stop dams, artificial lakes and water reservoirs and digging of farm ponds. The project aims to make 5000 villages free of water scarcity every year.

In a survey carried out by Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai on orders of Mumbai High Court on farmer’s suicides it was noted that following were the reasons for farmer’s suicides, 16% failure of crops, 13% family problems with spouse, 5% Marriage of daughters, 5% Debt burden and borrowing too much. Other factors mentioned by close relatives and friends included political affiliation, property disputes, price crash, borrowing for house construction, losses in non-farm activities. Though these reasons were given by close relatives and friends, there are multiple reasons for suicides. In the survey, not even one case was given only one reason. Droughts come and so do rains. Actually, there is nothing strange or peculiar about the droughts. The strange thing is how we react and respond to it. We humans have been taking the rain sent from above for granted. For example, we clearly understand that the money in our bank accounts are only as resourceful as our deposits, we cannot keep on withdrawing, without any depositions, and expect the account to remain inexhaustible.

Similar are the rains and rainwater, we have an account beneath the very ground where we live, the question is - are we regularly recharging our water accounts? With the ever-growing population, if we are to stick to the present careless practices with respect to water management, it will not be surprising that drought scenes would be more frequent in the near future. Right from the time each and every individual in his heart dreams of constructing a house, and starts to live with his family, he must resolve to contribute towards water saving, water management and water harvesting systems.

The government and its people will have to resolve and abide by this. When the monsoon fails to arrive, the land is parched, rivers run dry, vegetation withers away and drought is said to have arrived. For about a couple of months the place seems to be in the deepest depths of melancholies and miseries. It seems as if Mother Nature with all her beauty and resourcefulness simply walked away leaving the place in eternal agony. A human heart is placed in the same situation.

The scorching sunrays dry up all the hope and courage in it. Everything seems to be in oppose to man. Man, with his throat parched and granary empty recalls and repents for every drop of water he had wasted when situations were favorable. Unable to see the dispirited face of his wife and his hungry children craving for food, dark emotions and gradually darker plans and ideas cloud his mind.

It may seem, at one depressed moment, that the only way to overcome all this would be to relieve oneself of all responsibilities of the world, forsake one’s own life, and commit suicide. Man always had a tendency to get inspired or copy the success mantra from others. It seems that when nothing works out, and one farmer commits suicide, the act is simply copied by others as a shortcut solution. Least the clogged mind in such situation recalls that orphans and widows will be left behind. 

Next year, after a harsh summer, clutching tightly the little rays of hope and positivity remaining in them, the only survivors are left to welcome the monsoon. Inevitable is the fact that rains do come one day. The trees are then bound with most beautiful lush green leaves, the land that had seemed dehydrated and was in pieces, again becomes soft and moist. In addition, it is carpeted by the new warm and tender grass and wildflowers. Insects and animals, birds and reptiles arrive out of nowhere happily forming their own habitat. Isn’t it the most bizarre thing that when the rest of the population of the country rejoices arrival of monsoon, the owner of the land, the direct son of the earth, toils and works hard to grow in the farms, which is the only thing that brings prosperity to the country. It is unfortunate that many farmers of this nation are sad and unhappy. Only if the farmer comes out of the ignorance and his submissive melancholy, and realises that every individual of this nation, in his heart, harbors genuine respect towards him. Instead of committing suicide, he can become aware of availing all the government facilities and schemes made available for his convenience and well-being.

All the farmer has to do is become a ‘Padmayya’ as of in this story and rise superior to the dark conditions around him, seeking out the welfare of not only himself but also everyone around him. Undoubtedly, there may be initial troubles, but he will definitely come across many genuinely humane people like also in this story two young enthusiasts, Mukesh and Pawan to assist him and a the main friend, philosopher and guide of the theme Captain Vijaysinghji to guide. Seeing him, many other farmers from far and wide, according to man’s tendency, will follow his example. With ‘Padmayyas’ everywhere and in every village that is said to be the real representative of India will prosper. This would lead to the prosperity of real kings of India – ‘The Farmers. Armed with courage and knowledge, the farmer will know no fear from drought; instead, he will overcome it with his skills. Thus, he will lead the country’s path towards success and glory by learning to face the drought within.

Glossary............................................................................179
References.........................................................................185
About the Author..............................................................187

Ventakayya sitting depressed under the tree in front of his house.

The main Characters in the fiction, who take up to rehabilitate a Dystopic village.


Padmayya ~ the grandson of Venkattayya in an identity crisis between a teacher and a farmer.


Padmayya the resigned teacher and now a farmer meets Dr. Pawan for the first time ~ an Idea is born.

Two cyclists Dr Pawan and the Engineer Mukesh reach their routine point ~ Javed bhai's Diamond Dhaba.

Padmayya loves to laze around on the cot in-front of his house under the Banyan tree, his grandfather had planted.

Retired Military man and the Godfather of the village Capt. Vijaysingji ~ in action, who has the capacity to turn negative thinking minds to positivity and is also the only hope for the village. 

Seth Karodimal is the villain who sells liquor and grabs lands in lieu of loans given on heavy nonreturnable loans to the villagers.

THE FINAL SCENE OF HOPE AND PROSPERITY WITH A ARTIFICIAL WATER RESERVOIR AND COMPLETE AFFORESTATION OF THE VILLAGE.


WHEN EVERYTHING ENDS ~ HOPE REMAINS!

(Cartoon courtesy with permission: Ismail Lehri)



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