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Mustard fields are forever
by Moinak Dutta (Prose - Short Story) | Published On: 06-Apr-2016

Every spring afternoon when the sun would set into the mustard fields and the fragrance of mustard pollens fill the air, Safa would sit with her son Manjit at the dawa of their hut. 

Manjit would play with the chakki, making it go round and round while Safa would keep on grinding the spices using the pestle.

Her mother-in-law Parbhjot would read the Granth Sahib lying on the khatia, while Manjit's sister Mahek would massage her legs.

Safa's husband, Manjot, a soldier enlisted with the Indian Army, would come home only once, during the time of Baishakhi.

The whole family awaited his arrival.

Usually Safa would be informed of his arrival by Manjot, a week earlier. And the whole family would start thinking of something grand for him. 

Parbhjot would become particularly active, almost pestering Safa to sweep the dawa clean, to stuff the gola with grains and to do some alpana on the courtyard.

The celebration of Baishakhi and the arrival of Manjot would intertwine usually.

But this year, Safa had learnt that Manjot would not be able to come for he had been sent to a special counter insurgency operation somewhere.

Still, when spring arrived this year, and the mustard fields turned golden yellow, Safa dreamt of her husband to return. She even wrote to him via the army mail about her latent wish.

Manjot wrote her back saying he couldn't for the operation was to be carried out.

Safa had accepted that. She had been doing that all these years.

Manjit and Mahek also had learned to accept the reality.

Parbhjot, since her husband's death, rarely showed any sign of emotion. She woke up early, bathed and put on her white kameez and salwar and then took a walk to the nearby temple. 

There she would spend most of the day. 

At around one she would return, have her lunch and then would lie down on her khatia.

Manjit and Mahek after coming back from school would go out to play and would return before sunset, with dust all over them.

Safa would direct them to the well where they would wash themselves up.

Parbhjot would then summon Mahek to read for her the Granth Sahib. Mahek being nine years old could read better than Manjit who was six.

Sometimes, Parbhjot would read the Holy book all by herself and would ask Mahek to massage her legs.

Today, before the arrival of Manjit and Mahek, Safa went to the local post office to drop a letter to Manjot. The post office, barely three kilometres away from their house, usually remained empty. 

On her way she noticed a boy, twenty years or so, at a gathering, holding onto the microphone saying something about the disturbances that had occurred somewhere near Delhi.

The boy urged the people at the gathering to fight against those who were trying to disturb the peace and harmony of the country.

Safa's heart sank. She deliberately lingered trying to make out what that boy was saying.

Some people had supported the idea of bringing in terrorists from another country.

Safa was baffled. How could people of a country think of bringing in people from another country to kill countrymen?

It seemed a pretty absurd idea to her.

She prayed to God and hurried home.

Now that she was grinding the spices and could see Manjit playing while Mahek was massaging her granny's legs, she felt nothing could possibly be more beautiful than that.

Suddenly a strange thought occurred to her. Do not those people at Delhi have children like Manjit or Mahek or an old mother like Parbhjot?

The mustard fields, she knew had gone to the neighbouring country as well.

There also mustard flowers bloom in spring. There also pollen grains fill the air.

Safa knew that. She definitely knew that.

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