CHENNAI: Two weeks into finalising the farmland deal in Mahendra’s Ring, I was still mugging up the historic sites along the River Cheyyar. My father was poring over the patta documents, while my mother scrounged for dried up sketch pens to mark the precise position of wells (for the required allotment of our shared assets, of course). The amount of farm literature consumed was mind-boggling. Suddenly, we discovered that what we knew about the amount of weeding for a paddy field, or safeguarding tomato plants from insects, was negligible. And water. What if there wasn’t even water? Still, a happy, nervous buzz filled us during these days, permeating ordinary household chores and mundane office tasks. We were about to be owners of a farm. We hugged the secret to ourselves, waiting for the day of the registration when we could make the news public. And then, fate, that had taken a hand until then, decided that enough hand-holding had been done.
Our land-partner informed us that he was re-considering the purchase, as he hadn’t received several payments due to him. Meanwhile, the owners of the Mahendra’s Ring land, buoyed by a prospective sale, were making muted noise about hiking the price.
This was a blow to us, but things were about to get worse.
Our partner backed out citing lack of funds, but urged us to go ahead. We tried to re-open negotiations with Ring’s owners about buying our share of the land, but they refused. All 9 acres must be sold as single unit - and at a higher price. We tried to confer with our partner, but he remained out of reach. We didn’t know the reason for his silence until, one evening, GoldSpear blurted out the details in a rush of truth and alcohol.
Our partner had bought his share of the land without our knowledge — land he’d previously claimed he couldn’t afford. He’d negotiated secretly with Ring’s owners for the original price, having convinced them that we had no serious intention of buying.
But why, we asked. We were supposed to purchase together.
GoldSpear shrugged. “He said he didn’t like all this ‘sharing business’,” he answered finally, looking sheepish and leaving us dumbstruck.
“It was his idea, in the first place,” dad pointed out.
As though driving the last nail in the land-coffin, our partner had contravened another agreement and purchased all the land that adjoined the road, which meant that the rest of the fields had no outside-access. Had we managed to purchase land, we’d have been locked on all sides. As it turned out, even this choice was taken out of our hands, for the next week, the owners informed us that these had been purchased as well, by our land-partner’s friend. Turned out that our erstwhile collaborator had wanted a partner — just not us.
The whole business soured Mahendra’s Ring for us, and we gave it up for good.
(The writer is a journalist, artist, translator, historian and editor but not necessarily in that order)