Durgabai, aged 65, a resident of Wardha, shares her experience as an organic cotton farmer. Revisiting her memories of an entire cotton cultivation season, she shares her emotions and dreams in this story.
I belong to the small yet beautiful village of Maharashtra. All the phases of my life- be it childhood, youth or being at this ripe age, all of it has been spent here joyfully on this land of mine.
Despite my age, my day begins only when I step into my farm, breathing in the air around deeply, basking in its oneness with me. Life for me revolves around my farm, the temple and home. For me, the circumference of the village is the circle of my life, it is my world.
One day my grandson showed me some pictures on his mobile, ‘Look Grandma, this company has such a beautiful collection of clothes!’ I could not refuse but remark: “Bajrang, what am I supposed to do looking at such pictures of clothes? It is of no use to me; I am happy wearing my old sarees.” But he was unrelenting: “But Grandma! Please have a look; this is a result of our hard work. A company called Bestseller has utilized our cotton as the raw base product to make these beautiful clothes.’ After pausing for a few seconds of silence, she shared the entire journey of more than 300 days.
The moment Durgabai heard this; she fell into a state of wonder and surprise. Tears made an immediate appearance; she gazed at the beautiful and handsome models, admiring their clean, crisp fine-looking clothing. Bajrang noticed this fleeting expression of hers as she began speaking to the beautiful models on the screen about the journey before the clothes took shape in their present form.
For years, her day has always began same as early- five o’clock in the morning. Long laborious days were spent in the fields, planting seeds. Each member of the house worked relentlessly till 5 pm every evening and came home with spoiled clothing and tiredly aching bodies. After working hard whole day, getting into bed felt heavenly. The entire month of May was spent in preparing the field for the crop. A lot of care was taken during this time, physically as well as emotionally.
The sowing began in June; every seed a Ferris-wheel of dreams. We visualized a car for my son; enough money for my daughter’s wedding, my yonger son’s education fees being paid and collecting money to raise the second floor of our house; buying an additional fan and so on. A lot of dreams were woven in our hearts and our eyes at this time. We often were thinking; once we sell this cotton, what shall we buy and add as wealth to our family?
The clothes you wear and adorn as style statements; those fashionable clothes carry so many of our emotions: dreams, smiles, laughter, fear, sorrow, disappointments!
Our family worked hard for long hours in the field, months turning into years. Our dreams grew along with our crops. We felt closer to our dreams and aspirations as each day passed by. Yes, a fear always crept into our thoughts, playing peek-a-boo when we lay in our beds gazing at the open skies and stars. An unknown fear spoke to us from our ancestors’ words, experiences, haunting us about the vagaries of Mother Nature and the uncertainties they held. The fear of our dreams never being fulfilled would keep us up at night. In this manner, despite leading daily life with its chores, we lived through the nine months with fear as a constant companion. But at the end of this nine-month period of turmoil, tiresome days of crop cutting, fear would do a vanishing act. Our feet took on the speed of the wind, our hands worked skilfully and efficiently and we almost forgot what it meant to be tired. Our minds were overwhelmed, we could not wait to collect the huge pods of cotton from every plant immediately, encompassing our dreams into the cotton bales we were working to create!
It was then the time to transform all our dreams into realities! This time, our dreams got a Bonus! Bestseller decked our cotton with floral bouquets, welcoming our cotton into their company! We have always been paid our credit and worth of our cotton by every trader we have dealt with in the market so far. Bestseller went a step forward by realizing the worth of our care towards the cotton we reared, nurtured as our own; merging love, work and creation as one. Bonus was given to us as recognition of the care we took when nurturing our cotton.
We bought some saris and a lot of other things but most importantly, we brought back ‘Rudee,‘ our beloved cow who we had to give away as collateral to fill the acute food shortage we had faced ahead of the harvest. The sound of Rudee’s bells, the warm giggles and laughter of the children, seeing a new saree stylishly worn by my daughter in law, seeing my son Mohan in a new white kurta and giving a twirl to his moustache, all of it warmed my heart.”
Bajrang voiced his own feelings too: “my grandmother was eating her betelnuts (Supari), sitting peacefully on her cot, gazing at the models donning beautiful clothes and smiling by herself.” As if, she was telling them: “Yes my beauties! Always remember to be respectful to Mother Earth who has created us and given us space and life to spend time on this planet. Never mistreat her. If we try to interfere too much with her cycle, we will no longer be able to witness the miraculous transformation of a seed turning into a plant. Water will also be scarce, leaving us with a parched throat and nowhere to go.” Having said this, grandmother wiped her moist eyes and continued chewing her betelnuts slowly.