Saturday, 19 May 2012

Harvest season: The important of social capital to a farming household

I'm tired. And it’s only 8:00 am. I trudge along the dirt track that leads me to the latest village I have been frequenting. After two bus rides that pulverised my morning meal quite successfully, and a quick zip on a motorcycle, during which I nearly flew, I must complete the last 2 km on foot. This is hardly surprising, considering the village I am going to is infamous for the absence of a proper road, school, primary health centre and crèche. Even the most ardent of visitors, that persevering species called the political campaigner, does not come here.

The famed Indian summer has begun and I swelter under the unforgiving sun. My throat is parched and most of the fields lie empty, thirsty and cracked. The dust-laden track is lined with stunted trees: babool and dhaak, so scrawny by overgrazing, you’d hardly believe they could grow to be majestic trees. A dog, panting heavily and covered in slime, trots past – I know he has been sitting in whatever water is left in the puddle at the bottom of the village pond. Just weeks back, I had watched the wheat graze the wind, a verdant carpet swaying gently, holding the promise of a full granary and if luck would allow it, perhaps some extra cash. Now the stalks are bent with their bounty, the fields are golden, the rich colour of money. And summer. Ahead, a thresher is at work – noisily separating grain from chaff. Khatu Lal Meena’s family is hard at work.