Farmer Diaries by Onaiza Drabu

I have one rule in life; I don’t lie.

Except, you know, when I’m kidding, or playing an elaborate prank, the likes of which I love, or when I do it involuntarily to avoid answering questions, or for a few exceptional cases.

One such occasion, where I’ve held on to a baseless story, is one which has made me look supremely cool across situations.

I want to be a farmer when I grow up.

Now you can easily argue that I’m already grown up; twenty-three is no age to decide things you don’t want to pursue right away but I will be a farmer when I grow up. Partly because the idea of running a farm and owning estates makes my childhood fantasy of becoming a feudal lord come alive, but largely because I do not want to explain to people how I have not the slightest clue of how to live a normal life and earn money through regular jobs after studying liberal arts for a year. I have been introduced to too many fancy professions and fun job titles to ever sit down on a desk and work on Excel. I am sorry, I’d rather be a spatial curator than an analyst; which, by the way, every third person I meet today seems to be. The creativity in deciding job titles is long since dead. A finance graduate is an analyst; a literature graduate is also an analyst. A lawyer is a legislative analyst, and a doctor is a consulting analyst. Even Tobius Funkey is an analyst and a therapist; beautifully put together to create yet another exciting job title; anal rapist.

So, I’ve decided to become a landlord.

Did I say landlord? I mean farmer. Yes. I shall toil in the fields and grow crops. Or toil in the orchards and overlook the growth of apples. Same difference.

So I land up in Kashmir, bag, baggage and MBA admit in hand, to work on a farm for nine months. I zoom past extraordinarily bright cars proclaiming loud thanks-in italics- to generous ‘daddies’ of the underage ruffians driving the car.

The first thing I know I have to do is get myself a burqa; I’d prefer a nice blue Kabuli one, with a niqaab like they show in all those terrorism based, white man’s burden, Afghanistan movies. That would be quite a statement, I must say. I’ve only come once, as a visitor, in the last 8 years. I haven’t stayed much after that. Interestingly a lot has changed.

Just a walk down the street and I can point out what all has changed. The beards, it seems, have gotten as long as the salwars have gotten short. Islamisation has hit the streets. Now we must wait for the Taliban to occupy. Joy. I wonder if they will have a taste for my apples and plums. Anyway, if they do come in, I fear they would rather plunder my lands than come to a fair deal about apples per kilos.

Meanwhile, on yet other streets, Islamisation hasn’t quite made the impact. Street urchins continue to put on their x-ray glasses and ravish you visually. I don’t blame the girls for their hijabs. I sympathize. However, sometimes I do crave to see female hair; on the head I mean. It has gotten as scarce as the bunkers on the street.

All this cannot put a dampener to my enthused spirits. My driver/guide/bodyguard/personal assistant and Excel sheets in tow, I head out to this land of mine. After all the jazz of chickens being killed and served in my honour is over, I sit down to finally plan and prepare inventories. My year of consulting training has taught me to fill and project all figures on to Excel. I plan to extend the magic of projections to the simple operations of this farm too, including the mammary yield from a cow’s breast. If the future of the country’s economy can be projected on Excel sheets, what is a little Holstein cow and her unpredictable yield of milk?

‘How many litres do the cows yield a day?’

‘Just this, 10 to 30 kilos.’

‘10 TO 30 kilos.’

TEN to THIRTY.

You mean anywhere from 100 to 300 percent. I breathe. I should have gone to Vipassana instead.

Did I tell you I also want to be an artist?

‘Anyway, may lightning strike down upon these cows. What business do you have with them?’

We Kashmiris are very entertaining with our abuses. May lightning strike upon you, or trath peyi, is common parlance and filler in speech. These abuses have often fascinated me. Only yesterday did I find out that one of the ‘bad’ words that we often use to describe helpers and other plebeians meant ‘one who is inflicted with a fungal infection of the hair’. You have got to give us some credit for elaborate thinking, really. I was thinking about collating an anthology of Kashmiri abuses but my mother thinks girls from respectable families do not engage with such vocabulary. It is a different matter that I grew up hearing most of this from her. But then again, sociology taught me how it’s a private and public sphere thing.

‘I’ve come back here to work with you people now. I shall take charge and that is why these cows are now my business.’

 The first thing I know I have to do is get myself a burqa; I’d prefer a nice blue Kabuli one, with a niqaab like they show in all those terrorism based, white man’s burden, Afghanistan movies. That would be quite a statement, I must say. I’ve only come once, as a visitor, in the last 8 years. I haven’t stayed much after that. Interestingly a lot has changed. 

‘Arey ji, you are our respectable young little girl. This cow business is dirty. You must not get involved. Have you seen how well the two new rose bushes have come out? They are very beautiful. Why don’t you go take a walk, go where the grass isn’t too high? We cut it just for you.’

A slap in the face would have been politer. I’m reminded of another very funny Kashmiri saying. They call it hapath yaraz; a bear’s friendship. The tale behind it goes that once, a young man, as all sensible men do, befriended a bear. The man was having a jolly time as his furry friend got him a constant supply of delicious honey. Until one day, he fell asleep after eating the honey and a bee started circling him. Fearing that the bee would sting the man, the loyal friend, bear, had a plan. He got a big rock and flung it at the bee. The bee didn’t bite the man, as it flew away in fright, but the man didn’t live to repay his friend’s kindness, his head having been crushed by the rock. It is this macabre yet humorous incident that is termed, hapath yaraz.

I feel like the manager at the farm is my hapath friend today. The roses do sound like a good idea though. The orchards have something very special about them; you feel like all the air you breathe has been oxygenated just for you. It feels absolutely lovely. It would be a great place to sit and write. I could have a writer’s retreat built here and people would flock to it.  Oh, I’d get to do it up nice and pretty.

Did I tell you I wanted to be a designer too?

Lifetime achievement unlocked. Then I could employ all the workers’ wives and they’d work here, and I’d generate rural women employment and it would look spectacular on my resume. MBA schools are going to be a sucker for me; diversity, minority and social work.  All I need to do is start a few more dialog conference things and I’m set. I can see it, it looks so…

‘Isn’t your mother coming today, beta? I have been having trouble with gas in my stomach.’

Doctor Child Trauma 101. Please, forever feel free to come and tell me about your urinating habits, your flatulence troubles or how you weren’t able to defecate well today morning. Joy is me, on hearing of your excretion.

I’ve seen so many of these; it’s the worst when the patient is your teacher and profusely thanks your mother for some intimate concern through you. Probably the worst was a patient who once stopped at a petrol pump, got out of his car thereby stopping five other cars behind it, walked up to our car and got us to roll our windows down, only to stick his tongue out at my mother and have her get a look down his throat. It had been hurting all week; we had the good fortune of being told that it had hurting ever since he went for that marriage where the cold drinks they served were too cold. Poor old chap.

I checked out the roses, walked around a little bit and after this strenuous afternoon, sat down for tea. I can see the sun set behind the tin roof of the garage. Maybe I should try and drive the pickup truck before I leave. Eight-hour workdays are beautiful.

It is such fun to drive this pickup truck around a little bit. It is so rugged, and me sitting in it gives the necessary juxtaposition to make a perfectly composed picture. I put on my sunglasses for effect and pose with a victory sign with my fingers. To good times ahead; this job seems easy enough.

Oh wow. This one is fantastic. This stuff is going on Instagram.

#nofilter #pickuptruck #farmergirl #thegoodlife #firstdayatwork

Published in Vol.03 Issue.07. Get this issue to discover more such stories.

About the Author

Onaiza Drabu

Onaiza Drabu is currently working as a freelance writer and illustrator other than coordinating an initiative called The Asian Lenses Forum. In her spare time, she draws childrens' books, paints and talks about Kashmiri culture more than is tolerable.


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