trigger warning: suicide as incidents
Netrapal is a farmer. But he works in a motor garage. He is bathing under a public tap near his house- a one-room apartment in a Delhi slum. A nice place, if you don't mind the fragrance of a nala nearby, flowing like a sage: timid and serene. And a continuous tunneling of one's ears by the shriek of machines. Really Nice. Nice and cheap.
He pours the last mug of water over his head and stands up. His thighs glisten. His eyes drip with water. He is not crying, even though he misses his village. He can't. He is a man. But he can miss. So he does- the nahar where he used to bathe in flower-infested air, under a warm sun. Mustard fields where birds chirped and midnights looked like a blackened syrup of desires. And the courtyard- where under Neem, they would have dinner together, fighting with mosquitoes.
He finds his wife working on a table. A stove over it, and under it a gas cylinder. A rolling pin in her hands. The room smells of cumin. She is mute- throwing tantrums for a little slap. Not that he has no love; he can kill for her; it's just- he expects respect. He is a man, she a woman. Just as his father was a farmer. And the man in the black coat- a lawyer.
He remembers his face- flabby. And his car- black and big and beaming. He remembers even his father. Muscular and tall, with a thick brown mustache, and always in Kurta, with a Dhoti around his waist.
Netrapal has a towel. "Where's the uniform?" he asks, expecting no reply. His words echo, even though the room isn't so big. He finds the uniform- gray with the name of the garage on it. Now breakfast.
He was having breakfast when the lawyer came. For the garage sale. In some places they call it a yard sale. Some- auction. But words don't matter. They don't care about farmers.
It happened in the courtyard- bigger than his apartment. His family's belongings strewn around. Three charpoys, two buffaloes, an ox, two calves, a big old iron box, another box, a heap of utensils. And bags. Bags and bags- made of cloth. The sun was up. The birds were chirping, the temples and mosques were hooting, and the fields were dry. He remembers everything. How it looked like a party. And how the head of his father was in between his hands.
If Netrapal knew how to write, he might have written a long essay on mental health of farmers. How painful it is for one to lose his field. This issue is of a different kind. No one talks about it. They only say-poverty. And Government. And a number - of farmers committing suicide. It is a topic of Macroeconomics. Of Politics. Of numbers. Not Psychology. Only one line in psychology- farmers are unhappy because farming is a dying art. Machines have taken over farmers. Evolution of species. Nothing to worry about. Everything important. But farmers come last.
My fields are everything to me, his father used to say. No. Netrapal is not a farmer. He never was. He would go to the fields, but his father was the real deal. And the uncle- who couldn't take the pressure of being one and made a brilliant knot around his neck. Yes. Netrapal is an expert. He has seen enough, felt enough. He can write an entire book on mental health of farmers. Sadly, for him, this topic is not in vogue in universities.
Despite being pissed, his wife places food before him. Puris and Kheer- the traditional food eaten on death anniversaries of pitr - fathers in Hinduism. He finishes it slowly, thinking about his father.
On the day of garage-sale, he had butter-curd, Gur and a thick slab of chapati with hot milk in breakfast. The lawyer came in when he was eating. With a bunch of buyers from nearby towns. And then things took a whirlwind. Shouting and screaming. And wailing and crying and hand clasping. People raising their hands. Rating buffalos and bags. Guessing their cost price.
Netrapal was only twenty. They were yet to share the problem with him. He was too busy with his new wife, anyway. He heard about it only through the lawyer - Marriage. Loan. Failed crop. Loan. No rains. Loan. Uncle's funeral loan. Failed crop. Loan and loan. And now- GARAGE SALE. Same old story.
Last night after he slapped his wife, because she won't shut up about something important, he had felt guilty. But he couldn't show it. What else could he do? His actions were beyond him. Just as the GARAGE-SALE was beyond the lawyer. And his uncle's knot was beyond him. But his father didn't look like one to tie knots.
Then why did he?
Netrapal gets dressed and comes out. He will walk to the garage. He rarely sleeps. He only has nightmares. About the garage sale- by whose end, there was nothing left in the courtyard. Even the Neem was cut. Someone paid five thousand cash, and every rupee counted.
And there are nightmares in which he meets his father, his uncle, his mother who had perished much before. About the many walks he took in his fields. And sugarcanes. And his father walking him to a village fair. He lives in continuous memories. Of that garage sale, when he lost everything. Of blood around his father.
A dropout of various colleges, Nachi Keta is a Kidney Transplant Recipient and a neurodiverse writer from New Delhi. His name is a combination of two terms: Nachi, which means 'death', and Keta, which means 'a creative force'. His work focuses on mental health, oppression and the absurd in social and personal. His words have found a home in various magazines like Perhappened, The daily drunk, The Bombay Review, The Howling Press and Sock Drawer, an updated list of which can be found here: nachi-keta.com.