As I walked through the corn field, I looked up to see a perfect blue sky without a speck of cloud. The gentle breeze I felt on my skin refreshed me and kept me going forward. I was in the center of an acre of corn field and I was determined to make it across the field. Not because a box of treasure awaited me at the other end but because I hadn't been to my village for the past 6 years and had missed all the natural beauty that the environment there provided. My village is towards the southern part of the country with hot & humid weather prevailing most months of the year. I despise heat usually but today, even the scorching sun didn't deter me from heading out into the corn field all by myself.
With a cowboy hat protecting my head and knee long shorts, I strode across the field, sometimes switching onto little runs. Time & distance flew by in the blink of the eye and I had made my way to the other side of the field by late afternoon. I had just laid down on the lush green meadows to catch my breath when I heard a group of people shouting their lungs out. Initially, I ignored it thinking it might be some kids but when I heard the cries of a girl a little later, I couldn't resist but go check out what was wrong.
I followed the noise and reached a small house around which scores of people had gathered. Since I'd returned to my village directly from college, everybody called me "The Doctor" and they knew me. On seeing me, they let me go past them to the front.
My picture perfect day got cast with gloom when I saw what was happening. A group of 4 people were thrashing a young couple with leather whips. The girl's clothes were almost torn, while the boy's legs were bleeding profusely. The girl was screaming in pain while the boy was face down on the mud and writhing in pain. I asked the people around why they were being beaten. I was shocked at what they told me.
The girl, 20 and the boy, 22 were working in the nearby tea estate and had fallen in love with each other. The girl's parents were very strict and the boy was from a lower caste. When the girl told her mother about their affair, the mother had told her that her father would burn her alive if he comes to know of it. She was told to break up with the boy.
The two, however had plans of their own. The boy, though from a low caste, belonged to a good family. He did not drink, smoke or gamble and was known for his humble and kind nature in the village. The girl felt safe with him and so, they eloped and got married. They sought refuge in the neighbouring village and when the girl got pregnant, they decided to come back. They had thought that with a grand child on the way, the parents might accept them.
However, their parents thought otherwise. They didn;t show the slightest hint of happiness on seeing the girl with her baby bump. The father pulled out his whip and lashed her. Soon, neighbours gathered and they got together and started beating both of them. I was appalled.
I quickly ran to the nearest temple and requested the head priest to come with me. Once they saw the priest, they stopped lashing the two. However much the priest tried to explain to them how inhumane and illogical they were being, the father was content on killing them both with his own hands.
I told the father that I'd like to speak to him and his wife alone but he bluntly refused. So I asked the priest to tell all the people gathered around that I want to speak to all of them. I, being 'The Doctor', they agreed.
Once everyone was quiet, I told them that I want to narrate a small incident that happened to me a few years back in this same village.
Few years back, I was walking past an orange orchard with my cousins marveling at the number of oranges that the tiny trees had. Our mouths were salivating, the aroma was enchanting.
Suddenly, we saw an old lady come towards us from the other side of the road. She was returning from the market, with a huge netted bag full of vegetables and fruits. We were sure that she was coming to scold us for loitering around the orchard!
On nearing us, she asked, "You little ones want to taste the oranges, is it?" We quickly said no, and that we were just looking at the trees. She chuckled and looked at us for a long time. She told us how she as a kid used to go around orchards with her friends when it was the harvesting season and ask for fruits. Her eyes sparkled with happiness as she talked of her childhood days. Suddenly, she sighed and said, "While most of my friends were given an orange each, I was never given one...", on us asking why she said, "I am from a lower caste, my little ones. They believed that if they gave anything to people of my kind, their harvest will get them nothing" We were dumb struck.
She put her basket down, went down on her knees and started removing plastics of vegetable from her bag. She pulled out a huge black polythene bag and gave it to us. We asked her what it was and she urged us to open it.
Our eyes were greeted by huge oranges in the plastic! The old granny said, "I was mistreated as a kid but I do not believe in castes-not because I belong to a low caste but because I know that all humans are the same. Both you and I bleed blood when cut & both you & I return to the same mud on dying, so how are we different? Eating oranges given by me wont disfigure you, dear children, so relish it." And she left.
I told the people gathered around this story.After I finished, everyone was silent. Nobody uttered a word - I was embarrassed, I thought I just made a fool of myself and nobody understood what I was trying to convey. Suddenly, I heard somebody clap and in no time, the crowd was applauding me.
In a row, people came forward and talked to the parents of that girl and told them that the boy's caste doesn't matter. What matters is that he is a good human being and that their daughter is happy with him. The parents were very stubborn and didn't give in, initially but when so many people spoke to them, they agreed to accept the couple. The two were rushed to hospital and I heard they recovered from the trauma.
I was in my village for about 3 weeks following that incident and every time I went out, people recognised me and looked upto me. Some families even called me to their houses and asked me to give my advice on problems they were facing. Some mothers wanted to admit their daughters to school, but the fathers were against it. On educating them on the importance of schooling, many of them agreed to admit them to school.
I was only 20, but people listened to what I had to say. They had faith in me. And I was glad that I was making a difference. I always believed in equality and justice. I always watched television programs that advocated social justice and often, my mother would tell me that I should be a lawyer or a social activist instead of a Doctor..
Today, I am content that I could instill principles of equality and solidarity in the minds of my village people. I'm glad that I was there, that I advocated for what is right although I was the only one against the scores of people gathered there, that I managed to get people support what is right.
The mindset of people in the world are changing and they're evolving to accept many changes. Yet, there are nooks and corners in various parts where women are still looked down upon, where girl infants are being killed, where girls are denied the opportunity of schooling, where young boys are forced to join the army - every one of the these people have a voice and they deserve to be heard.
If not for us, the educated lot, who will help them out? Without help, these people will have a very bleak future and die dis-satisfied.
Let us help them, when we can.
Fiction story I wrote for a friend.