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Yashodhara Lal’s techie husband decided one fine day to become a farmer. Which is how she became a farmer’s wife. An excerpt from her best selling memoir, reviewed here.
‘You seem a little … stressed,’ Vijay remarked. The two of us were in the back seat of our Innova as our driver Kamal drove us to work.
‘You think?’ I looked up from my phone and leaned to his side of the car to see how I looked in the rear-view mirror. Damn. I should have gone to the parlour. I rummaged around in my bag and found a spool of thread. It was a great timesaver, this little skill I’d learned in college. I tied the thread to the handle above the window on my side, twisted it expertly around the fingers of my left hand and proceeded to do some threading.
Kamal, who had been with us many years and never displayed curiosity about anything but the road, kept staring straight ahead. But drivers and passengers in other cars were less polite and gaped open-mouthed at me as my lips pressed together into a thin line and I twirled and twisted the thread around each stray hair above my upper lip.
‘Uhh. Yeah,’ Vijay pressed on. ‘Why did you lose it with the kids like that? Didn’t sleep well?’
I paused the threading. ‘Yeah, not very well. And I got up early but I was feeling drowsy and I just couldn’t write a word. And I’ve got today’s meeting on my mind …’ I resumed threading my lip and then examined the result. I had to really strain to see my reflection clearly. My eyes really were becoming weak.
‘You think …’ Vijay ventured, ‘you may be trying to do too many things at the same time?’
‘What?’ I scowled at him. ‘I’m not the one driving. This saves parlour time!’
‘I didn’t mean that weird thing you’re doing with the thread. I meant, in general—with the writing and the full-time job? I mean, sometimes, I think we may not be spending as much time with the kids as we should.’
‘Dude,’ I looked at him coolly. ‘I’m back at work after a one- and-a-half-year sabbatical. I’ve spent loads of time with them. You’re welcome to sit at home with them and see how that goes.’
‘Well, I wouldn’t mind,’ he said immediately. ‘I’d love to be able to take a sabbatical from work and do my farming thing alongside—spend more time with Papaji, the kids … set up a nice place where we can maybe grow some exotic spices …’
Here we go again, I thought wearily. I sighed. ‘Hon, don’t you think this farm talk is getting a little excessive? Why do you go on and on about something that can never happen?’
‘Why can’t it happen?’ he countered. ‘Did you know a few years ago that you’d be an author?’
‘Yes,’ I said with con dence. ‘I did know. Because I always liked reading.’
‘Oh. Okay. So I’ve always liked eating vegetables. Why can’t I grow them?’
‘You’re just being silly now,’ I said in an icy voice. But it did nothing to quell him.
‘I was speaking to Achu yesterday. He also said it was a really great idea.’
‘You spoke to whom?’
‘God bless you,’ I said smugly. Of course I knew Vijay’s old friend from IIT.
‘Very funny. Anyway, he said he knows of this one aunty— some neighbour’s relative’s friend, or maybe friend’s relative’s neighbour. Anyway, she lives in Delhi, but she has some farmland about an hour or so away from here. It’s got some ashram inside and a few acres of land surrounding it which can be used for farming. She’s looking to rent it out now because she’s getting old … can’t visit the ashram as much as she used to.’
‘Oh. That’s a pity,’ I mused, half-listening.
‘No, it’s an opportunity. Don’t you see?’ He sounded a little impatient, so I snapped back to attention. ‘His aunty needs someone to look after the land and some activity at her farm; I want to do some farming but can’t afford to buy the land. This may be a good way to get started.’
‘Get started?’ I struggled to follow his line of thought. ‘Wait, you’re not really serious about this, right?’
‘Why not?’ he said carelessly. ‘I’m sick of putting off what I really want to do. I’ve done this corporate job for twenty-three years now …’
‘Really?’ I was surprised. That was a long time.
‘Yes, really! And at this rate, I’ll end up doing it for another twenty-three, and that’ll be it! If I don’t follow my dream now, then when?’
Never, I thought but wisely held my tongue. He looked like he was getting upset, which was unusual for him. I reached out and put my hand on his arm. He was staring out the window now.
‘Hon, listen,’ I began, ‘If you really want to do this, go ahead and explore it. But tell me, if Achu also thinks it’s such a great idea, why don’t you ask him if he’d like to do this with you? I mean, you’re old friends; if you do this as a partnership, you may actually enjoy it more. Besides, you know what they say about new ventures—having a good partner is critical to success.’
‘Who’s “they”?’ he enquired a little suspiciously.
‘Generally. People. You know that’s why such few solo ventures succeed,’ I nodded sagely. ‘Yes, if you’re going to do this, you must have a good partner.’
He was silent for a few moments. ‘All right.’ But he looked doubtful. ‘I’ll talk to him. But he travels a lot—to Nigeria of all places—almost every month. I don’t think he’ll have the time.’
‘Ask him, no?’ I urged. ‘No harm in asking—and besides, the land belongs to his friend’s relative’s neighbour.’
‘No, I think it’s his neighbour’s relative’s friend … maybe …’ Vijay murmured as he gazed out of the window thoughtfully.
I still had the thread twisted around my finger. I checked my upper lip in the rear-view mirror—it seemed smooth as far as I could make out. I snapped off the thread and leaned back, satisfied.
Achu was the staid, steady type. It was one thing for him to encourage Vijay about farming being a great idea; it would be entirely another to have himself dragged into it. That would give Vijay a much-needed reality check.
Get your own copy of Yashodhara Lal’s memoir How I Became A Farmer’s Wife.
Mild-mannered Vijay is the perfect good Indian husband – responsible and predictable. Well, at least he was, until he decided to turn Farmer! Vijay’s unsuspecting wife Yashodhara is caught off guard when, tired of the rigours of city life, he actually rents land and starts dairy farming! As if Yash didn’t have enough going on already, what with her high-octane job, three children and multiple careers. As Vijay dives deeper into his quirky hobby, the family is plucked out of their comfortable life in the steel-and-chrome high-rises of Gurgaon, and thrown headfirst into a startlingly unfamiliar world – complete with cows and crops, multiple dogs and eccentric farmhands, a shrewd landlady and the occasional rogue snake. Will these earnest but insulated city-dwellers be able to battle the various difficulties that come with living a farmer’s life? A laugh-out-loud romp that’ll leave you wanting more!
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