Early in the morning, seated like emperors on the chewed up seats of their tractor, brothers Mansukh and Hasmukh set out against the wind, in the direction of the nearest Government-run procurement centre. Propelled by the joy of having a bumper wheat crop, even the load of a 100 quintals of freshly harvested wheat could not hold their tractor back as they drove through the rustic landscape.

True to the meaning of their names, at that moment, a deep contentment permeated their entire being. Even the hum of their tractor sounded like a celebratory roar.

A ramshackle radio blurted out an old Hindi tune…

‘Rimjihim gire saawan
Sulag sulag Jaaye mann’

(Gently the rain falls,
and my heart burns slowly)

Arey, why is this radio singing such a melancholy song at such a happy moment,’ said Mansukh.

‘Ah, Mannu, turn off the radio. Today, we’ll sing our own tunes in celebration,’ said Hasmukh.

Mansukh banged the radio with his fist, and got right back at the wheel. The old radio paid heed to the request for silence and became a mute spectator to the rapturous singing of the two happy brothers,

‘Yeh desh hair veer jawaano ka…’
(This is the land of brave youth…)

Their happiness knew no bounds. The government had announced the start of the procurement from the beginning of next week. The enthused brothers had set out for the town two days ahead of schedule, just to be sure that they were the first ones to get their harvest weighed and get the fruit of their hard work. They’d planned to reach a night earlier and camp in their tractor on Sunday outside the procurement centre.

After a day-long journey, they reached their destination and parked their tractor just outside the procurement centre. They were the first farmers to have reached there. They felt happy about the head start. They wondered why other farmers hadn’t thought of arriving early. But they didn’t complain about the absence of competition.

They cooked dal and rotis on a chulha they’d carried from home and helped themselves to a tasty meal.

‘What a joy to be tasting rotis made of this fresh harvest of wheat, Mannu!’

‘Yes, Bhai, it has a sweetness to it. That’s a reward in itself!’

‘Sharbati wheat, the pride of Madhya Pradesh,’ announced Hasmukh.


‘Let’s get adequate rest, it’s going to be a big day tomorrow.’

‘Yes, Bhai,’ said Mansukh.

‘And once we sell our harvest, we shall celebrate with a drink!’ suggested Hasmukh.

‘Of course, we shall, bhai.’

The brothers lay down on top of the sacks full of Sharbati wheat at the back of the trailer.

As they lay back, looking at the sky, the presence of a flurry of clouds unsettled them.

‘Should we put a tarpaulin over the trailer, just in case it drizzles?’ asked Hasmukh.

‘Yes, let us do that.’

They covered the trailer with a shiny blue tarpaulin. With that as the last touch of effort, they lay down again in the trailer. The radio hummed,

‘Aaj mausam bada
Beimaan hai…aaj mausam..
Aane waala koi toofaan hai…’

(Today the weather is being
a big liar…
Seems there’s going to be
A huge storm…)

‘Turn off this omen of a radio! It better not rain tonight.’

There was a thud and the radio fell silent.

The next morning, the brothers woke up to a drizzle, and before they knew, it gathered into a storm. In a mad rush, they secured the tarpaulin firmly around the trailer and drove it under a banyan tree to get shelter from the rain. They couldn’t wrap their head around the unseasonal rainfall.

In desperation, they prayed for the rain to subdue lest their bumper harvest of Sharbati wheat gets moist.

The humidity in the atmosphere weighed heavily on them. It rained for four hours, and then the clouds fluttered away with the titanic wind.

They rested the night out under the tree as the weather cleared up. The following day, the procurement centre opened for business. A steady stream of tractors full of wheat harvest was beginning to queue in.

Still happy to be the first ones in the line, the brothers drove the trailer to the weighing area. An agriculture officer took out a sample of wheat from one of the gunny sacks for quality testing and handed them a token.

The brothers waited anxiously. Meanwhile, a few reporters were covering the story of a bumper harvest of Sharbati wheat in Madhya Pradesh.
Hasmukh being the more eloquent of the two, agreed to feature on the camera for a byte.

Mansukh held on to the token and waited to hear back from the officer.

Soon the officer came out of the testing room and informed Mansukh matter-of-factly,

‘We cannot accept your wheat. The moisture level is beyond the permissible limit.’

‘But, sahib… we’ve got 100 quintals, a bumper harvest….what are we going to do with it?’ pleaded Mansukh.

‘Why did you allow the grain to be exposed to rain? Didn’t you hear about the cyclone in Maharashtra? There was a forecast for rain on the radio. Didn’t you listen to it?’ reprimanded the officer.

‘We tried our best to protect the crop sahib….sahib… Please help us, we won’t be able to repay our loans if we don’t sell this harvest at the minimum support price.’

Mansukh was close to tears, as Hasmukh was happily sharing the joy of reaping a bumper harvest on camera, just a stone-throw away.

‘I can set you up with a distillery. You can sell it to them. They make country liquor. You might not get the minimum support price, but you will at least get something.’

The officer made the offer with an impersonal, almost calculated evasion. He made himself feel worthy of worship for his bureaucratic benevolence.

Mansukh was speechless. The officer took that as a yes for his offer. A few calls were made. Before too long, the harvest met the fate of being deliberately made to rot to obtain a ferment – the potion that promises to be the cure of all ills.

Dejected, he dragged his feet to his trailer. Hasmukh had just finished his interview. The cameraperson panned the camera to capture Mansukh’s face in the frame.

His eyes looked heavy,
as if weighed down by a surplus of moisture.

He heaved a sigh and struck his hand on the old radio.

It sang out

‘Yeh reshmi zulfein
Yeh Sharbati aankhein…’

(Oh these silken hair…
These Sharbati eyes…)

The camera froze.