September 16th, 2008

The harbinger (Response to writing prompt 5)

"Wish you a happy journey", read the road sign. Illiteracy didn’t stop Namdeo wondering at the irony. The government had not missed putting signboards but had forgotten that people lived in this remote part of Vidarbha region of Maharashtra.
As he trudged, the dried grass on either side of the road gave no evidence that it was the rainy season. The earth was as scorched as any summer day. No rain since the onset of monsoon was the partner in crime along with the blistering sun. Namdeo cut an unusual and solitary figure on the empty road. Along with his bicycle, hidden somewhere between all those cans and pots clinging on to some part of the bicycle, he moved along the dusty road. His only protection from the hell above being another set of pots tied at the end of a rod rising from the handle of the bicycle and spread like an umbrella above him.
It was hours since he had left his village but he didn’t stop once lest he missed the water tanker visiting the neighboring village. The folks there would surely allow him some water. Failure was not an option for him since it meant days without water for his tribal settlement.
As he came down along the dusty hill road and reached the outskirts of the village he realized he had reached in time. He could see the clamor for water from some distance. He reached the tanker and saw the endless line of utensils stretching out before him waiting to be filled. He noticed anxious stares from the people of the village. He went up to some who looked as the sarpanch and other village leaders and asked them for help.

"I am from the ramoshi wadi sir. Could you give me some water?"
Immediately, Namdeo sensed the uneasiness among the villagers. Someone quipped behind the sarpanch, "Why should we give these low castes our water." That gave rise to a supporting murmur.
The sarpanch asked namdeo to unload his pots while he talked with the villagers. As he went towards his bicycle he heard murmurs turning to heated arguments with the sarpanch at the center of it all. With the last of the pots unloaded he sensed the sarpanch walking up to him.
With eager eyes and folded hands he stood waiting for a providence; which never came. The sarpanch asked him to leave and come again two days later when the next tanker came. His only explanation was that there was not enough water to spare. With moist eyes he started loading his bicycle again. He was thankful to God as he could shed tears at least notwithstanding his caste!
His journey home seemed to last an eternity and so did the tears on his cheeks. Expectant looks from people turned to disappointment. Shattered, he burst out crying; but no one saw those tears. For they were washed away by the water from the heavens as it had started raining.