They were at the gate, by its post, taking shelter under umbrellas; how did they get there, and why? They had that disconnected look that has now grown permanent on them; and they were cold and shivering when I peered at them through the thin columns of rain in the dull misty morning. My Jeep was small but the whole village climbed into it and the Jeep grew wider and longer but it grew no seats and they squatted on its fluted metal-floor behind me. The boys watched me; I beckoned and they came in and a new level formed a foot below the soft top of the Jeep and they lay prone there with their chin on the edge, and stared straight ahead. They are quiet when they meet me at the factory to negotiate, and they were quiet now, speaking not even with each other, and even the others were silent, their smell strong and rising now, and I revved up and came out the gate and went deep down and then steep up and turned left and went some distance through a sudden darkness and opened my eyes. It was three. I lay awake for an hour more and rose and went into my study. Some birds had begun their serenade already.
I have fine feints for problems, but I do not enjoy the suspicion and the mind-games that the union has spawned, even if I have learned to live very well with it. This week, for the first time, it has followed me into my dreams.
On Friday, another dream: Dada and Sujaya and I mixed something into Yashas’ meal and Dada offered it to him. I thought it wrong that we should be doing it but I told myself he was going to be safe. Dada was expressionless. Nothing happened to Yashas. What was it we fed him? Was the dream a warning sent by the greens?
A new elderly acquaintance called to say he’s read me in print. His praise was more than I deserved, profusely delivered on account of his age. He said I could’ve been a Sainath. Who? I forgot to find out, but on Thursday I checked on wiki and immediately ordered for Everybody Loves a Good Drought. The same evening I sat for drinks with Shyam, my friend from college. He is a senior executive in a multinational company, in charge of technology for medical electronics. “Everybody concentrates on technology for the top 8%, Shashi, but who is taking care of the bottom 8 per cent?” He told me of his own efforts—one story has stayed with me, of a student from Bangalore who has invented a cheaper technology for a critical medical procedure and a European multinational offered him €5 million for the rights and the young man refused it. Shyam helped him find the money to file the patents, and arranged for a partner to manufacture the product.
It has begun to rain finally in Malnad. The weeds we cut last fortnight, and the small branches that we piled together with them, have all rotted to a soggy pretty black at the base of the coffee. Above that compost, wherever we turned, and also up above, it was a stunning green. More rain has to fall to fill the lake that we dug ten feet deeper in summer. But Basavanna is waiting for the rain to stop a little so he can put coffee into another fifteen acres.
So much changes in a single place. So much change you experience when you go to far places. There is pain, and there is joy. There are people succeeding so well they’re leaving a green wake behind them, and there are the despairing who are even now consuming pesticide or hanging from trees.
I want to write because I like to tell things to people. Where shall I go to find the things that are good to tell?