I really had no option whatsoever but to stay for the night at the village. There was another house that I visited with Prashin. Darkness had engulfed the whole village, first because of the dark clouds and secondly there was no electricity supply. Khurjhadi is accustomed to live life without 12 to 16 hours of power cut daily… I wondered if we are really living in the 21st Century India… Mr. Manmohan Singh are you listening please?
The rain was still pouring and in the dark evening Ujwala’s son led me to late farmer Kawadu Anandrao Petkar’s house. I met widow Usha now in her 40s, who has been leading a painful life since 2006. 45 years old Anandrao Petkar committed suicide on the 21st of February 2006 because of debt, which had risen to 1.60 lakhs. The four children – Surendra (eldest is soon to be married) was earlier working in Pune but after his father’s death has taken over the reign of farming; Nanda (next in line), daughter has been married; Kunda is pursuing Nursing Training in Pune and the youngest son Mayur is a class Xth student. The Petkars have 4.75 acres of land and they grow cotton, soyabean and dal…
Widow Usha with son Mayur
Anandrao’s father and mother are old in their 70s. The compensation money of 1 lakh given by government was spent in paying electricty dues and daughter’s marriage. I managed to convince Usha to join our small unit and eldest son was happy to know about our project, something that will bring in extra money in the house. They all assured that they would work hard to be part of the unit with great enthusiasm. After a while we returned to Prashin’s house.
Father of (late) Kawadu Anandrao Petkar
My dress was still wet and immediately mother and son made a nice bed for me and requested me to rest. While we were interacting, I was touched by their reply when I said – ‘Me tumala tras dilo na (I gave you trouble),’ to which Ujwala replied – ‘For us you left Mumbai and in such heavy rains pedalled all the way from such a far distance… this is the least we can do for you.’ Emotions overflowed within me to hear such sweet soothing words and I wonder why we city dwellers cannot be like the villagers… Ujwala got busy preparing food and I wondered who give these widows so much strength to work all day in fields and yet when they are back home, they have the energy to do the household chores… if men have a misconception of being superior, they should really compete with these women… then they will know how superior women are in reality!
After 30 minutes, dinner was served hot… bhaakari (rotis made with rice flour), dal, thecha (chutney made by chillies & garlic with oil), onions and cut pieces of raw mango… my-my… I just canot describe the joy of having such a wonderful dinner in words… it is an experience that I shall cherish all my life… the love with which it was served… I ate more than I usually eat :)
By 9 pm I tucked myself in the new quilt (I guess that was made for me only, waiting for my arrival) and in wet clothes went to sleep. For a while I was looking in the darkness hearing the sound of the cricket wondering – who am I for them that they have so much trust, love and extended me such loving hospitality? Even before I was reaching to any answers, I was fast asleep. I slept like a baby and it was only in the morning with the cockaduldoo at 4.30 am, I woke up fresh with no sign of tiredness. The most wonderful part of the night was that there were no mosquitoes to disturb and the doors of the house were kept open without any fear.
The early morning ride back to Wardha was a beautiful and fast one… rain had stopped and I felt a joy within and know widows Ujwala, Usha and their children will surely work hard to set up the unit of envelop making once the monsoon is over.