Sometime between the land registration and tractor-point wrangling, a young man had presented himself to us: our driver PrettyMan’s brother, called Victory, or Vic, for short. He’d appeared suddenly at Indra’sGift in complete office regalia: brilliantly washed and pressed, crisp shirt buttoned up to the neck; spotless trousers; slick crop and shoes. My father offered a position on our farm — but warned him that it included everything from managing accounts to getting into the mud, for ours was a small enterprise at the moment, and we needed someone who wouldn’t mind donning office-dress, or getting dirty (in the rice-fields, I mean).
Vic was fine with this for earlier, in his village in the vicinity of Gudiyatham, he informed us, he’d been a sort of compounder/physician dispensing injections and medicines as and when he saw fit.
Was he a doctor, I asked. Or a chemist, a nurse, or — “Ayye, nothing like that,” he grinned, teeth blindingly white in his face and eyes round and shiny like black grapes. “I used to be an assistant to a Homeopathy doctor and in time, I started practicing medicine. It is very easy, you know; same medicine for everyone,” he shrugged, as we gaped at him.
“But authorities found out somehow and stopped me from continuing. After all, I was doing social service, but there — do people understand?” He shook his head. “So I really need a job — and I like this Vic stood by us as we irately confronted SilverTongue over the missing saplings, for it was as though the sweet-tongued machine-planter had never existed. “There is no such variety as ADT 45,” he announced briskly, much to our outrage. “I have been dealing in rice varieties for years; you are
For some weeks, now, I’d been documenting our farm experiences; I now produced a photo that clearly showed tray upon black tray of such saplings, with even a crudely written board scrawled with said rice variety’s name. SilverTongue’s thick lips snapped shut, and his eyes glinted. “Is this how you treat people who have trusted you?” Vic demanded, and SilverTongue’s arguments collapsed; out came the truth: Someone else had approached him for the same variety, offering a higher price — and SilverTongue had calmly handed over our saplings to him. “You can have another variety, if you want. Same number of days.” He shrugged without remorse. “But I will not transport the saplings to your farm; my men have better things to do.” This was a setback, for our agreement had been otherwise —but my father managed to come to an understanding: SilverTongue would get the saplings to our farm, at our expense. It was a half-hearted compromise and we felt that things had not gone well, for a promising relationship was now in tatters.
“Never mind, Amma,” Vic consoled us. “I am here for you, no?”
(The writer is a journalist, artist, translator, historian and editor but not necessarily in that order)