Lords of the Global Village

By Ranendra

Click here to buy Lords of the Global Village.

But that day was neither a festival day, nor was it Thursday or Friday. The crowd looked angry. The light-hearted feeling of the festivals was absent. I reckoned Ramchan had created some problem. […] But I was wrong. Today’s crowd had not arrived with a grievance against Ramchan. It was one of the village boys, Soma, who had a gripe against his own Baba. The matter, more or less, was that his Baba had handed over one acre of land to a quarry owner’s middleman in return for a measly five thousand rupees. He had put his thumb print on a blank piece of paper without considering the young son’s future or consulting his family. Why? And it was not only Soma’s Baba. Everybody was falling for the honey trap of these sly men.

The attitude of all the mine owners, big or small, was similar. They preferred mining on the gair-majurwa and Asur raiyat land, rather than the land leased out to them. Illegal mining had been rampant for years. […] Eventually, a few more conscious people like Lalchan Da and Rumjhum began exerting social pressure to make sure that nobody would give his raiyati land to the companies. If they did, there would be no land left to plant one’s foot on for inhabitation, let alone for cultivation. Where would the Asurs go, then?

But this morning, Soma’s Baba seemed to have gone deaf and dumb. He did not reply to a single question. For all he cared, everyone could go on banging their heads against the wall.

The hours passed. The sun rose high. Everybody had to look after their own work. Finally, Lalchan’s Baba got up and led the old man aside, taking him to one end of the akhra. Suddenly, Soma’s Baba broke into a loud wail. Everyone in the akhra froze. Lalchan’s Baba returned to whisper something in his son’s ears. Lalchan whispered in turn into Rumjhum’s ears. Gradually, the news spread through the whole akhra. People bowed their heads and started leaving, one by one, taking heavy steps. The story was that Soma’s sister, who had been married off in a distant village, had contracted cerebral malaria two or three days ago. Her in-laws had taken her to a private clinic in the city. The doctors did their best but she had not survived. The private clinic refused to hand over the body without receiving the money for her treatment. The son-in-law arranged for some money and, broken, had come to Soma’s Baba for help. The dead body of the daughter had to be brought back home, so the old man had hardly had a choice.

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