Last Wednesday I received a call in the evening from my Man Friday Mangal. In fact, it was the caretaker of my neighboring plot, Ashok who called me. Ashok Aghan, yes that’s his name. A katkari tribal his village is named Aghanwadi, all residents surnames here end with Aghan. Aghanwadi has around 35-odd houses, stranding on forest land leased to the residents.
“Mangal couldn’t call you because his phone doesn’t have much charge,” began Ashok, “so he asked me to call you.”
Whenever Ashok calls me I expect the bad. No, no he isn’t a harbinger of bad news. But is the first to call me when the pipe bringing water to my farm becomes a victim of a crazy earthmover resulting in no water for my young plants or when the rains and wind decimate a mango or a guava plant. Over the years I’ve relied on Ashok for everything pertaining to my farm—seeking his advice on what to grow, when to put fertilizer, when to trim the branches of the fig tree or how to address the issue of coconut palm leaves turning yellow.
“This morning, me and Mangal,” he resumed, “found some 10 cows in the farm. They had broken the gate and entered the farm. They’ve chomped on the entire patches of palak (spinach), methi (fenugreek), chana and dhania (coriander).”
“Hope everything else is fine, “I asked in trepidation.
“They have eaten the banana leaves too but have left the fruit bunch,” he replied in Hindi.
That was the first night I tossed in my bed. It was unlikely of me because I’m one of the few bipeds who can sleep to glory even when standing. My wife laughs at me because I can doze off at any place, any time and calls me “sukhi purush.”
In fact (let me admit) she is really really jealous of me: for I can count on my fingers the days she really had a nice sleep. And those are not many. May be 30 days in a year! When she stayed in a hostel, her friends called her a bedbug.
Having gone through the experience of losing patches of palak & company I can now empathisize with farmers who lose their crop to marauding elephants or deer.