(Pleased to let you know 'How I Became A Farmer's Wife' is getting rave reviews! Get it here on Amazon, and here on Flipkart, or at any bookstore near you! And don't forget to review it please.)
The words confronted me mockingly. I stared at them until
my eyes blurred.
Another morning, and I’d been up since 6 a.m., sitting
blankly at my desk, unable to compose a word. What was this
nonsense! I had the plot, structure and the experience—I knew
what would work. It should have been easy to get going.
I leaned back in my chair and put my palms over my bleary
eyes. This was horrible. I couldn’t shake the feeling that this was
the end of my writing career. I hunched my shoulders, defeated. It
had been an hour. I’d might as well give up and go make some tea.
I pushed my chair back and got up. Both Papad and Pickle
had sneaked in during the night and they lay on my bed, limbs
entangled, looking like Siamese twins. I looked at them fondly
and covered them up with the blanket they’d kicked away. It
was so much easier to be fond of them when they were asleep.
It was amazing to me, how deep they were in slumber, with not
a care in the world. So unlike us poor adults.
I stepped out and found the other poor adult already in the
drawing room. He was gazing at his laptop.
‘Hey Y!’ he said enthusiastically. ‘Come here! I’m looking at
options for farming.’
‘I’m going to make some tea.’ I headed for the
‘Already made two cups. Come have yours.’ I peered shortsightedly
at the side table. Two steaming mugs of tea lay waiting.
This was unusual.
‘Okay.’ I came and sat down next to him. ‘Thanks.’
‘You know, hon,’ he said conversationally, ‘it seems as if the
more profitable options are going to be dairy and poultry.’
‘Really? As if you’re going to do poultry farming!’
‘Yeah, right. What’s Papaji going to say when you tell him
you’re rearing chickens?’
‘Maybe he won’t mind if I explain the business logic behind
it to him …’ Vijay’s voice trailed off as he realized how hollow
that sounded. The strict vegetarian, Brahmin diet that Papaji
had followed all his life was sacrosanct. Secondly, as a professor
of physics, he carried an old-world academician’s distaste for all
‘So, have you spoken to Papaji about your idea?’ I said
craftily and sipped on my tea.
Papaji had been my collaborator
in recent years—we were both united in convincing Vijay
that he really wasn’t cut out for entrepreneurship. Papaji felt
particularly strongly about this. He had worked in the same job
all his life at a University in Jaipur. He believed it was important
to stick to your field, even though he never understood what
Vijay and I did professionally. Either way, our working in an
office was certainly better to him than the vagaries of business,
which he associated with money-mindedness and, inevitably,
‘I’ve been talking to him.’ Vijay continued to stare at his
laptop. ‘He thinks I can’t do it.’ He looked up and gave me a
level gaze. ‘But this time, I’m not going to let him talk me out
‘Or you, for that matter,’ remained unsaid at the end of that
I shrugged. ‘Poultry’s probably out?’
‘Guess so,’ he said thoughtfully. ‘But I think dairy appeals to
me much more anyway. That way, we will also get to have fresh
cow’s milk for Papaji—it’s really good for your health, especially
in old age. Yes …’ His eyes became dreamy again. ‘And I’ve
always liked cows.’
‘Huh?’ I raised my eyebrows. ‘Since when?’
‘Since always,’ he said breezily. ‘You don’t know everything
about me. I like them; they’re sweet.’
‘Cows? Sweet? And you have a problem with dogs?’
‘Cows don’t bark or bite,’ he said gruffly. ‘Anyway, milk is
something which everyone needs regularly. That’s why if you
get a good customer base, supply a reasonable quality, which
of course we will, the margins will work out. With dairy, the
profits come in sooner because if you buy the cows, you can get
going immediately—there’s no lead time unlike in the case of
crops, and …’
‘What are you reading?’ I peered into the screen. ‘Wikipedia
‘No.’ He shut the laptop a little defensively. ‘I’ve watched a
whole lot of videos. Been up for the last three hours.’
‘What? Since four in the morning?’
‘Yeah, when my alarm went off, I figured I’d do a little
research here and keep an eye on Papaji from this room. He’s
gotten up only three times so far.’
‘You’ve barely slept! How are you going to do a full day at
‘Ah, I’m fine!’ Vijay said carelessly. ‘I’ll just drink tea through
the day. Got to go meet Aunty later too.’
‘Yes.’ He nodded. ‘Now that Achu and I’ve decided we’re
doing this, might as well move fast. We just need to convince
Aunty that we are trustworthy. If this meeting goes well and we
can get a basic agreement in place, we’ll go see the land on the
weekend. It’s in Rewari.’
‘How are you agreeing to anything without seeing the land?
That’s the first step, right?’
‘That’s not how it works,’ Vijay said lightly and, I thought, a
trifle dismissively. It made my hackles rise.
‘Oh no?’ I spat out. ‘You don’t want to see the land before
you decide you’ll be renting it? Because that’s too … logical?’
‘Hey, relax! I just meant that it’s important to establish a
rapport. Besides, she’s an old lady; she’ll want a certain amount
of respect shown to her. She is attached to the place, has built
it up over many years, and there’s the whole ashram thing. We
have to get her to like us. And, of course, we will see the place
before we put anything on paper. Today, we talk to her and if it
works out, she’ll get to meet you and Varsha on Saturday and
she’ll see we’re also nice family men and …’
‘Saturday?’ I exclaimed. ‘I have my Zumba class on Saturday
morning and the kids have Taekwondo in the afternoon. We
aren’t going to be able to make a trek to some place hours
‘Hon,’ he said pleadingly, ‘this is important. I’m not going to
make any big decisions without you.’
He had me there. I remembered the number of times I’d had
book launches in the last few years and he’d juggled his calendar
to be there, playing proud husband, and overenthusiastic
photographer. I couldn’t believe he was seriously contemplating
this, but I had no choice other than to go along with it. He’d
discover in time that this was impractical and unworkable.
Besides, I knew that coercing him into anything only increased
his determination to do the exact opposite.
I shrugged. ‘Okay. See how it goes when you meet her today.
She may wonder what you’re actually going to do with the place
since neither of you know anything about farming.’
He looked at me for a moment and then opened up his
laptop again. I sipped my tea—it was now a little cold—
and watched him type into the Google search bar: ‘farming
consultants in Gurgaon.’
I put the cup aside and stood up wearily. It was time to
wake the kids for school. At least one of us needed to stay in
the real world.
‘It’s my turn! Gimme!’
I sighed and paused for just a moment outside the front
door. They were at it again.
Vijay’s voice floated out: ‘Now … hey! I told you guys to
get ready, we’re leaving at ten thirty. Your mom’s coming back
now … no, Pickle, no hitting! I’ve told you … no, you give me
that … ’
I pushed open the door and entered the house, sweaty
after teaching an hour of Zumba. The kids were glowering at each other, and Vijay was holding up the bright blue tab I’d
‘Why, Y, why?’ He looked harried. ‘Why do you give them
these things? They’re obsessed with them.’
‘I don’t give it to them to use all the time!’ I defended
myself. ‘They’re helping me with research for the kids tab we
want to develop.’
‘Oh, great idea.’ Vijay rolled his eyes. ‘Let’s get kids to ruin
their eyes so we can make more profit. That’s a great value
system at Optech. Anyway, everyone, get ready now … we’re
going to see a farm, kids!’
‘Hey!’ I wasn’t going to let that one go so easily. ‘What do
you mean value system? You’ve sold jam and squash to kids,
which you’ve always said is nothing but sugar. This will be
an educational tablet, and will keep them away from other
devices … it’s …’
‘Yes, okay, okay! Can we please go now?’ Vijay pleaded. ‘Are
you going to have a shower?’
‘Of course.’ I breezed past him. ‘I’m all sweaty and sticky.’
‘It will be dusty at the farm,’ he cautioned. ‘Well, kids, you
guys don’t bother with a shower, just get your jackets on. You’ll
take too long and get dirty there anyway.’
All three of them were agreeable to this. I rolled my eyes.
As if they’d been falling over each other to bathe this early on
By the time I came out of my room ready to leave, Vijay had
our lunch packed into dabbas.
‘Sukhe aloo ki sabzi and poori,’
he announced to me. ‘And we’ve got water. Let’s go!’
‘Kin I take my tab?’ Pickle smiled at us winningly.
I hesitated for a split second, but Vijay cut in, ‘No! We are
going to a farm, Pickle.’
‘I am Farmer Pickle on my Hay Day farm na, Daddy!’ Pickle
reasoned. ‘That’s why I want to take my tab—to compare.’
‘Don’t compare,’ Papad said piously. ‘Compare is a bad
‘Okay, no. Forget your tab now, Pickle,’ I said briskly and his
face turned sulky. ‘And don’t you make that sulky face or you
can just stay behind, mister.’
‘Fine. I’ll stay.’
‘And I’m taking away your tab, so don’t think you’ll be
playing with it,’ I affirmed.
‘No!’ He stamped his foot.
‘No fighting, guys.’ Vijay started to usher Papad and Peanut
outside. ‘Come on, let’s all go and have a nice time at the farm!
Peanut, put away that book; you’re not taking it!’
‘I’ll read in the car.’
‘You say you feel carsick, and this’ll make it worse. Forget
‘Just a few pages, Dad.’
‘Fine!’ Vijay was clearly reaching the end of his tether. ‘Why
don’t you all just stay home then? I’ll go to the farm by myself.’
‘Fine!’ The rest of us shouted in unison.
‘What nonsense!’ Vijay exploded. ‘Everyone in the car. Now!’
The kids hunched their shoulders and dragged themselves
out of the door.
‘Wait! Say bye to Papaji,’ Vijay said, remembering in the
nick of time.
They all piled back, shoulders hunched, disappeared
momentarily into Papaji’s room and slouched out the door
I went in to say bye to Papaji too. He was in his chair in
front of the TV, with Pawan hovering at the back of the room.
Papaji smiled at me, his eyes crinkling and white hair glistening.
‘Yashodhara.’ He was the only one who ever called me that.
‘You’re going too?’
‘Yes,’ I admitted in a resigned manner. ‘We’re all going,
Papaji—to see the farm!’
He seemed amused by this and laughed, his eyes crinkling
even further. ‘Well, enjoy yourself then.’
‘Yes, Papaji,’ I said obediently, and went on after the others,
a little hunch-shouldered myself.
The car ride was less than enjoyable. The twins were cranky
because they’d knocked their heads together while scrambling
into the car. I asked them why they had to rush and they said
it was because they were scared the colony dogs would bite
After they calmed down, Peanut started to squirm, saying
that she was feeling carsick and really needed to sit next to the
window. The twins, who had each claimed a window, took
exception to this and a loud argument ensued.
I yelled that we had another row in the back of the Innova
and one of them could move there, which Papad did most
sulkily. The food had been placed in the back seat, and much
readjustment was required before he was settled there. And
even after that, he kept claiming that the food basket was
touching him on purpose just to trouble him.
The drive was
inordinately long, and to make things worse, we kept taking
wrong turns. I looked out at the dusty, crowded road; the fat, painted
trucks in front of us; the numerous roadside vendors hawking
their wares; small shops packed together in ramshackle buildings.
What godforsaken place was this—it was even worse than
Gurgaon. Where was the space anywhere near here for a farm?
‘Achu’s sent a Google Maps pin from there!’ Vijay announced.
He was sitting in the passenger seat next to Kamal and looked
rather comfortable compared to me sandwiched between our
children. He opened Google Maps on his phone and said, ‘Oh
ho! Kamal, peechewala right turn tha. U-turn lena ab aage se.’
I sighed and elbowed Peanut a little to get her to give me
room, but she took it as an invitation to lean her head onto my
shoulder. It was uncomfortable, but I leaned my cheek against
her soft hair for a moment. She was a sweet kid. I opened
my mouth to tell her so, when she whispered, ‘Mom, I think
I might vomit on you.’
I elbowed her more roughly and she
straightened up and gave me an evil grin before staring out of
the window again.
The twins were quiet now. I glanced around to find out why.
Ah. They’d both gone to sleep. Wonderful, I thought. If they
ever took even a five-minute nap, they bounced around till
midnight. I hoped we’d get to this farm place soon.
We were now out on open road and making good speed.
Vijay exclaimed ‘Look, hon!’ To the right, I saw fields, the grass
a lush dark green. Now this was more like it.
I turned to the
left and saw a huge field full of yellow sarson—it was quite
beautiful against the blue and sunny autumn sky.
‘Look, Peanut,’ I urged. ‘Sarson!’
She turned, but by that time, we’d already gone past the
field. ‘What?’ she asked.
‘It was yellow and very pretty—sarson.’
‘Like “Open sesame!”?’
‘Something like that,’ I murmured, my eyes peeled for the
‘Er, sarson is mustard, Y,’ Vijay reminded me.
‘Whatever!’ I shot back. I knew that.
‘Yeah, whatever,’ Peanut repeated.
I frowned at her. Even though I was sceptical of this entire
exercise, I thought a nine-year-old should be more interested in
the world around her.
‘Well, just keep a look out and you’ll see
After another few minutes, Vijay said, ‘Hey, wait, wait!
There are two roads up ahead … But the map … Arre, yaar, no
signal here! Kamal, ek minute roko.’
The car stopped and Pickle and Papad both stirred awake,
making resentful little noises followed by sleepy cries of ‘Are-we-there-Mom?’
and ‘This basket is still touching me’.
We were on what looked like a deserted road but I then saw
what Vijay had already spotted some distance to the left. Just in
front of a small chai stall, was a group of five old men wearing
dhotis and pagris, sitting on two charpoys with cups of tea in
They gaped at us curiously.
‘Bhaisahib!’ Vijay tried to sound as earthy and rustic as
possible. ‘Yahan se Rewari kidhar padega?’
Immediately, all five broke into enthusiastic chatter. We
stared, a little baffled, as they all spoke simultaneously.
‘Rewari?’ One old man raised his arm towards the road
leading left. ‘Lekin jana kyon hain?’
‘Wahan se chhota padega,’ said a second, pointing to the
right. ‘Waise wahan se bhi ja sakte hain,’ he admitted, pointing
to the left.
‘Aap net se aaaye honge, hain na?’ chuckled another at the
same time, confidently pointing to the right.
‘Net se kuch nahin
pata chalta, Dilliwaale bhaisahib!’
This last one struck them all as a very funny joke and they
all started cackling loudly.
Vijay somehow processed this and seemed to come to some
conclusion, ‘Okay, thank you.’
‘Welcome! Welcome! Thank you!’ The old men were
laughing merrily at us. I realized that the kids and even our
usually robotic driver Kamal were giggling at the old men and
their animated talking over each other. Vijay was shaking his
head in amusement as he told Kamal ‘Left se chalo’.
I couldn’t help cracking a wry smile.
This might turn out to
be an interesting visit, even if nothing else ever came of it.
(Liked this sample chapter? Get the book 'How I Became A Farmer's Wife' here on Amazon, and here on Flipkart, or at any bookstore near you!)