Bhalerao ki haaye!
The sight was blurred. Erratic sounds were buzzing in the background. Bhalerao was confused. Few moments before he was in the tranquility of his village and now he found himself in a bustling office filled with people. He was sitting on a bench in front of a cubicle. His confusion grew manifold.
“Bhalerao Holkar” someone from the cubicle called out.
Perplexed, he went inside. He had no idea where he was or what he was doing here .
“Sit down “ the person behind the huge desk inside the cubicle said.
Bhalerao sat in a chair and started looking at the person behind the desk dumbfounded.
“I am Trilochan Shastry, assigning manager at the Yamaraja office”, the man behind the desk introduced himself .
“Assigning officer? ummmm.”, Bhalerao stared in confusion.
“I am responsible for assigning heaven or hell to people on earth who die.” Trilochan explained.
“Oh! I didn’t know death was bureaucratized as well “Bhalerao exclaimed.
“You don’t know anything Bhalerao!” Trilochan exclaimed.”Let us begin with few basic questions. Name?”
“Place of birth”
“Reason of death”
“Consumption of pesticide”
“Was it forced”
“You mean to say you drank it voluntarily.”
There was a silence between the two for a few moments while the assigning officers referred to certain papers.
“Won’t you ask more questions”, Bhalerao timidly asked. Answering the few questions he realized how important it was for him to flair this interview. What he left behind was gloomy and harsh and now that it was over this interview will ensure the eternity of peace he was seeking.
“ I have nothing to ask anymore “, Trilochan said moments later. “ You have been assigned hell .”
“What, that’s insane, you haven’t even asked anything significant till now” said an exasperated Bhalerao.
Trilochan explained “There are set protocols for suicides . Hell . “
“But, you need to know the context. I had my reasons”, Bhalerao requested.
“No reasons defy the right to take your life.” Said Trilochan intervening.
Bhalerao began saying “That’s unfair. I took my life because death looked more promising than the life I was living”
”That’s ridiculous. If murdering someone would reserve the right of the person in hell , then suicide is murdering yourself, the rule is the same even then “, Trilochan argued indignantly.
“No it isn’t , I am a farmer. I have done good deeds my entire life. My history should be taken into consideration.” said Bhalerao counter arguing.
“If you would have died due to some natural reason like disease or accident, Bhalerao trust me your service sheet deserves a classic gold stamp for heaven. But suicide is unacceptable.” Trilochan explained.
“You mean to say Manikrao, Gulab Singh and Usmanbhai from my village are in hell as well.” A flabbergasted Bhalerao asked.
“Did they too drank pesticide like you did, voluntarily?” Trilochan asked raising his eyebrows.
“Yes , they did!” Bhalerao answered.
“Then, indeed they are. It’s a set protocol.” Trilochan snapped.
“But why ? we are farmers. We don’t live for ourselves. We work from early morning to late night in scorching heat and incessant rains to cultivate.We work in low margins so that not just our families but million of people could be fed.” Bhalerao said with tears brimming his tired eyes.
Trilochan replied compassionately “That’s noble, but law doesn’t give any right to anyone to take their lives. “
“What law, there is no law after death “, Bhalerao shifted in his chair uneasily.
Trilochan exclaimed ,”How did you know there wasn’t. One needs to die to know what’s after it.”
“Because, because that’s what was told to me my entire life. Do good, be good. Think of others before self. Do good karma, help others. Work hard, live an honest life. Be a good son, husband, father and human being. Being a farmer and feeding people was a karma which I would be able to take with me in death.” Bhalerao said
“It might be true, but killing yourself that just undo’s all your good work”
Bhalerao pleaded ,” Please Trilochanji , I didnt do it out of cowardice. I had my reasons.”
Trilochan noded his head in disagreement , “What reasons! you are a farmer, you are son of the soil, the noblest of all professions. Here in this office we value you above the priests in a temple.”
Bhalerao gave a wistful cry ,“Ha,ha. That isn’t the case these days on earth. I have been in debt since years. I had to sell half my lands to make both ends meet. Housing needs, children’s education , marriage . I have three daughters. Marrying them was a gigantic task as every cost had to be borne. I had to take extra loans to arrange for their dowries . On top of that I…..”
“Why are you telling me all this,” interrupted Trilochan uneasily.
“So that you realise why I did what I did . I have always been a farmers son, I don’t know anything except farming. My education has been which seed to sow in which season, when to water the crops, when to cultivate, when to harvest. I haven’t been to a school because since childhood two hands on field were beneficial then two hands writing in a classroom. Since childhood I have known the traditional way of cultivating crops Trilochan. As time has progressed the game has changed. The climate has changed, mandi rules have changed, risks have increased, and amidst all this I never prepared for those changes. I thought maybe I was lagging but my friends from my village too had the same story.”
“Didn’t you try seeking help?”, Trilochan asked softly.
“I did. We all did . The government, the society, financial institutions, market, money lenders. Nobody really helped. We were used for leveraging agenda for elections, performance reports, for retaliation in arguments. We voted and we waited. Seasons after seasons of crop failure and money requirements soared. Life was a burden as years after years situations remained the same.”a crying Bhalerao answered.
“But ,” added Trilochan “this step of killing yourself, it isn’t justifiable”
Sobbing Bhalerao continued , “I beared it all Trilochanji. Even after all the low points and betrayal the land was still there with me, nurturing and supportive. It was my lifeline. But bits by bits my beloved land started becoming aloof. Mistake was somewhere mine . Out of desperation of higher yield I had used such huge amounts of fertilizers . The lands lost its originality. It failed. I failed. Years after years. I couldn’t leave it and go some other place. I have seen farmer friends leaving everything and going to cities and failing miserable. Atleast in village there was a roof which we called ours. I tried and researched new technology. Took more loans, got a tractor and learnt new ways of cultivation. I was hoping things would improve.”
There was a moment of silence between them
“Then,” Trilochan asked curiously.
“Then it all faltered. The rain Gods eluded . The crops failed miserably. The insurance company refused to pay. The money lenders were at the doorsteps daily. The only option was to rob a bank. Which I couldn’t .Money was the problem and the solution. Happiness seemed a distant dream. Death seemed a luxury. “ Bhalerao moaned.
“I can understand the situation Bhalerao , I can only empathise. You made your choice . Every choices has consequences. I am bound by rules. You have taken away your life which is unacceptable.”
“No Trilochanji, please, you have to help me . There has to be a way to come out of this. In death I should find some justice.” Bhalerao started crying hysterically and begged
“Think of it this way Bhalerao, what you went through was hell. It was hell because it was unjust and it let you down. Forget the nomenclature. The place where you would be going you know already that its bad . Its not soaring your hopes or aspirations. If it’s bad then you knew it already that it would be so. If its good then its heaven as compared to what you left behind. Heaven is subjective. For a person as hopeless as you are whatever beyond this point will or should be better. Stop fighting Bhalerao with yourself and me. Enjoy your death and hell. “
“No!!”wailed Bhalerao . “This is all philosophical nonsense Trilochan and you know it. Your words wont soothe me . I have seen worse and death was where I thought I would find peace. Heaven was an illusion I have lived my entire life. I worshipped all the right Gods, I donated even in my meagre earnings . My only fault was being born a farmer. I lived miserable and when I thought that in death will I find justice is it has betrayed me . “
Trilochan now looking concerned said “Listen to me Bhalerao.”
“There will come a time when this land would be barren and there will be no son of the soil to take care of. There will be a time when all farmers will be in hell. Pesticide will be the ‘amrit’ they will drink to run away from their drudgery and will be shaken to find being fooled in death too. I might be a tiny speck in this whole gamut of universe but I curse the just God and its creation that until the time the son of the soil is defied there would be no truth and no nirvana. There would be no guts and glory. There would be no nyay and dharma.” Said Bhalerao,now a fallen man raised from his chair and moved towards the door .
“Summon your guards to take me to hell.”, he added.
“I will Bhalerao, I only hope you find peace.” , Trilochan answered slowly.
“Peace, is an illusion,” said Bhalerao finally departing the room.