The days between Dusehra and Diwali are days for travelling, for buying property/gifts/cars/gizmos. The weather is cool and crisp, the sky a pure blue and the mighty mountains emerge after their summer hibernation.
Fresh snow paints the white peaks on the sky. The dark green foothills , the snaking valleys, the clumps of huts stuck to the hill slopes—it’s a sight for sore eyes. The sore eyes want more, and the decision to buy a plot of land to build that dream cottage (with fat roses and ivy covering the walls) is taken.
The brokers and builders take over at this point. One gets driven to sites all over the hills—Yes, road will be made, water will appear, the view will be just like this, the cottage will be constructed, the dream will become reality—just hand over the money.
Swiss chalets, gated communities, apartments, row houses—all have been built, and all have been equipped with modern amenities, and all lie empty and locked. The dream has been acquired, let’s go back to working hard, networking hard, earning big and let’s get the next dream now…
The dream home is visited thrice the first year, twice the next year and then, its drawing room conversation in the big city—“W have a cottage in the hills, do take the keys and stay there when you take that holiday, we have a man there who will cook and clean for you, do go”.
And when one asks, “What about you? When do you go there?”… “I would LOVE to live there, but you know, we want to do Europe/Canada/Turkey this year ( I want to visit the world while this body holds up)…and the kids get bored there…and business just doesn’t give us the time… but you must go and stay in our cottage”
Another one (cottage) bites the dust!
In the village nearby, in a modestly “pucca” house with some goats and a cow in the outhouse, sits a brooding man. He sold that land for the cottage for some meager amount which got the house repaired and renovated, a daughter married, and a cow tied in the shed. The money has finished….the son has completed school and wants a shiny bike to zip around town…the wife is busy with house work, feeding the animals, feeding the family.
The man stares at the big glass windows, the large cottage, the well tended garden…all ensconced in the land which belonged to his ancestors. He watches a big SUV drive up to the porch, a confident and smart man walk around the property, throw out orders to the staff (village folks and neighbors of that watching man). The man doesn’t see the long hours of office work, the hard toil of business trips and late nights at the office which have given the SUV man this property.
He just watches and smolders and broods. There is no land to farm and produce some grain (even though the monkeys and wild boars would take most of it), there is no money left to fulfill the ever growing demands of his sons ( even as they drop out of school/college ), there is nothing for him to do in the house ( even though his wife is working herself to the bone and is fast asleep as soon as her head touches the bed)..so what does this man do? As do zillions of men in the Kumaon hills these days? Drink, play cards, rant and rave and curse the SUV men, beat up the woman and/or the children.
And life goes on…on one side, a dream realized and then rejected. On the other side, past land replaced by present and future despair.