Yes,” I answered forlornly. We were standing in the middle of a field that looked like a manic barber had taken the scissors to his hapless client’s head, leaving behind a clumpy mess. Tufts of sharp, uneven faded yellow stalks poked their noses jauntily and I stepped as though I was on a tightrope.
“Careful — there’s a rat-hole just there,” warned King Kong. Rats, he explained, often made their homes within rice fields, so the chances of suddenly sinking ankle-deep in a quagmire were high. I stumbled over a field’s varappu, and gazed at a farm stretching over 6 acres. It possessed two wells and fields that descended step-fashion, into the north-eastern corner. Two had just been harvested of rice while a third held rich, green groundnut plants. This, according to my mother, was very weird, as rice is the crop of water-filled areas, while groundnut isn’t — they’re almost on the opposite ends of the crop-spectrum.
“Water is available until February,” KingKong answered my mother’s anxious queries. “And that, if it rains during the month of Aadi, and then Karthikai. We’ll have to limp along during summer.”
This didn’t seem too promising, until my father pointed out that this farm lay almost under the area’s lake, assuring us of water-supply. “And by the way, PreciousGems is the name of the village,” he volunteered. “Pretty, no?”
Thus my answer, right at the beginning. PreciousGems seemed empty and unkempt, with wild shrubs, bushes and unknown trees rising like fungus on moldy bread; surely there were other, better options? But my father had made up his mind, for he’d just heard some news: our erstwhile land-partner had already sowed his first crops. To him, this felt like a slap in the face. “How many more farms are we supposed to sift through?” He asked, irritated, as we returned to Chennai.
“This one is at the foot of the lake,” objected my mother, ever cautious. “If it should ever flood -”
“It won’t,” Biriyani answered confidently. “This is Thamizh Nadu. When has there ever been a flood? Our problem is always less water - not more.” In September, when the late rains began sluggishly, the Sale Agreement was duly drawn; all parties, after suitable wrangling — signed the papers; we paid an advance. Weeks passed. Suddenly, the seller’s lawyer called up. “Where’s the date on this Agreement?” He demanded. “You haven’t filled that in.”
He informed us that Sale Agreements have a shelf life of 4 months from the date of signing; failing the mention of this specific date, the date of purchase of the stamp paper would be valid… and we discovered with horror that our Sale Agreement mentioned no date of signing. Our seller was now taking advantage of this fact, and arguing that as per the date mentioned within, the Agreement period was almost at an end — and seeking new buyers.
(The writer is a journalist, artist,translator, historian and editor but not necessarily in that order)