October 6, 2013
I was born on 3rd January, 1934 into a farming family in an obscure village with hardly any paved roads to move out. So, the villagers mostly remained confined to one place like one family. There was joy and there was fun all around. We knew no caste or religious barriers where I lived in coastal Karnataka.
I was among the five siblings. Elder to me was a brother, younger to me was another brother and then the last two were sisters. Schooling was difficult as it was far away and the church was farther. Yet my elder brother who stayed at a rich uncle’s house in Kadri had finished his 8th standard in the Higher Elementary School in the village earlier and became a priest after further studies in St. Aloysius College. My younger brother finished his 8th standard and started business in Mijar with another rich uncle and I remained to help my father after I failed in 6th standard, to work in the little piece of land that we had.
I never liked to study, for nothing would get into my head and I was a complete dunce at school. Farming with father really gave me joy and fulfilment. I enjoyed walking behind the bullocks as I ploughed the earth and enjoyed unearthing the soil that would give us food to survive. I was a born farmer unlike my brothers, for one was too religious unlike me and another was too businesslike again unlike me. I liked to walk behind the bullocks unlike both of them and unearth the soil and sing at times while furrowing. I had a very good voice and whenever I sang behind the bullocks they would look heavenwards and begin to blare with joy. After all they too have some common sense!
Sometimes I would call Abutam to plough and flatten the soil to level the furrows and would sit on the plank that would level the soil after ploughing I would be in the seventh heaven sitting behind the bullocks holding their tails. It made a fantastic sight and was fun, that most other city bred folks were deprived of.
My two younger sisters never wanted to get married unlike me, and they left the house and joined the convent in Mysore and Bangalore. Once I went to see them in Bangalore and I was wonderstruck by the beauty and grandeur of their vast convents and a thought crept into me about joining the priesthood but the other thought of not being allowed to marry, quickly crushed my ambition of jumping into such a misadventure.
You see my father was of a very weak constitution and could no longer do the farming and eventually left all of it on me and soon I made myself a great farmer. I cut the corners of all the hills around and expanded the farm and began to get up before the sun would peep out and would work on the farm and get a good yield as the soil was fertile and water was plenty.
One day my father fell very ill and there were no doctors around in the village. The village doctor was a quack. He simply could not make out what my father was ailing from. When I had got fever sometime earlier he gave me some grey powder and the same powder he gave my father. My poor father took the medicine and as expected he soon succumbed to his illness. Now I was left with my mother. I was like a pillar of support to her and one day my mother said, she was getting older so I must get married. I immediately agreed for she needed help in the household chores. After all, as a dutiful son, I must agree that she was getting old and I was getting matured, so a wife in the house was a blessing.
I got married to the village “gurkaram’s” daughter Juliana, quite an amazon of a girl was she, and I called her “Julie” with a tinge of love in it. Soon, God blessed us in quick succession with four sons and then a daughter. As the mouths to feed increased, so did my zeal to turn out more food out of my land and one after another I sent all my children to school. I did not want them to be like me, run after the bullocks and sing songs “Thamde Roza” and so on.
I gave my children good education and later higher education too and money was not a dearth, thanks to the yield that I got in plenty from my farm. The boys got educated and one after another left the house. Soon the time came for my daughter to get married and she wanted to marry the boy from the village who was working in a bank in Hampankatta. I was delighted, that the boy was a “shiklolo”, but used to drink. So what? Everyone in my village drinks, I can’t be beastly to her, so I gave her hand to the boy of her choice. My two sons soon went to the Gulf, another one studied very hard to be an engineer and went to Gulf and from there he went to Australia. My sons were clever you know and they had my Julie’s brain you see?
My mother by now had turned very old and said her time had come to follow my dad. She was really suffering and one morning she never woke up. She died in her sleep. I was sad but thanked God for sparing her the ordeal of the pain and suffering of old age.
My wife and I were now getting older and suddenly found that there was no one to look after the farm as I was now getting older and weaker by the day. One day my wife complained about pain in her chest and by now I could see the ramifications of modernity all about my village. A well qualified doctor had established modern clinic in my village and the moment he saw my wife I could see some change in his aspect. He checked her B.P. and advised complete bed rest and prescribed some medicines. She had a weak heart and instead of taking rest she went to draw water from the well and there she collapsed and died. I was heartbroken and now I was lonely. My boys were scattered all about and only my daughter would occasionally visit me. Poor child she too acquired several of her own problems with what her husband increasingly drinking by the day.
Old and frail that I was, as the time had taken its toll on me, I could only get fresh energy the moment I plunged into my farm. There were plenty of coconut trees, arec nut trees, betel leaves, fruits of various hues and denominations – There were jack fruits, mangoes, chickoos, you ask and you have it. But there was no one to eat besides my daughter, her children and me.
I was by now 74 and was bereft of any mental or physical energy to slog in the fields. My two sons were in the Gulf, one in Australia. The youngest one became a “Gar Zavayi” in Parangipet. I asked my sons to come and take over the property but none of them was interested. Finally my son in Australia sent me a visa to come and stay with him.
I went to Australia and stayed with my son in Sydney. In the morning before I got up my son and his wife would leave the house for work and I would sit alone and have my breakfast. His children would speak only English. It was some foreign accent and I could not understand a word of it. They did not know Konkani and I did not know English and I became a dumb show piece around. I was lost in my own world. There was not even one percent of the warmth and friendship that I experienced all through my life in the village. There was no one to talk to. I spent most of my time in Australia doing some house work. Even my son was not the same as he used to be. He had no time for me.
Anyway, after a stay of almost a year I returned to my village, a fully shattered man. Today I am an old man. My wife is dead and gone, my brothers have also become very old, my daughter hardly ever comes, for she has children to take care of and her husband has taken to drinking and taken VRS.
My land is a piece of wilderness, it has grown wild with weeds and I can no longer walk into the farm. Partly I must blame the lure of Gulf as the land that I cultivated kept me very happy for well over fifty years and there was no dearth of cash or corn. I was a happy family man once upon a time long ago but now today I am 79 and I can see that my end is close at hand and like a man groping in the dark I spend the rest of my days wishing that on no account I should be bedridden for it would be the worst catastrophe that an old man can ever face. A former farm hand Baptist (Bathu) is in charge of me and my house, but bereft of my sons around, my life is hollow, I have resigned myself to my fate that is full of gloom and I look forward to my doom which is not so far away.
Jimmy Noronha - Archives:
- What's in a Name?
- Is there Life After Sixty?
- The Miracle of a Morning Walk
- The Thief who could Not Spoil Our Beautiful Holiday
- The English Teacher
- Is an Ounce of Luck Worth a Ton of Effort?
- Friendship Beyond Words...
- The Changing Face of Man in the Gulf
- A Widow's Wisdom
- Is There Life after Gulf?
- Mangalore to Bombay...