My men stay in the driest part of a fertile state. My men work hard to produce their crops. They have a big responsibility. They produce bulk of the rice and potato consumed all over our country. They still struggle to meet their ends.
But, their resolve always shines, as do a smile on their time-trodden faces. Do they understand happiness? That is what I wanted to find out from them.
Happiness in Bengali is called ‘sukh’. When you ask them what it means, they tell you it is absence of ‘asukh’ (illness). For those who know Sanskrit, it will seem a simplistic depiction of an enigmatic yet widely-craved entity. But, for those who know my men, they will understand the poetic justice to it. My men don’t know why not to walk barefoot. My men don’t know why to seek help if it aches in their body. Because for them, if you can feed others (by producing the crops) and in the process feed themselves (by selling them), all is well.
But, give them the luxury of time, and may be a cool shade and patient hearing, they will tell you. Happiness for them is when their son grows up and gets a job or their daughters learn to read and teach them how to use a mobile phone. Happiness for them is when a healthy newborn tears apart the mundane village life with a loud shriek of life. Happiness for them is when the drums roll and Goddess Durga comes home in autumn, bringing them the greatest gift of the year- a promise. The promise that next year it will rain just right (and not flood their lands). The promise that next year the sun will shine just bright (and not drought their lands). The promise that next year they will find just the right buyer for their products (and not a fraud like this year).
Is their happiness different from others?
They don’t really know. When they drink on festivals and tap to the latest blockbusters blaring on the loudspeakers, they feel they resemble the hero onscreen. When they gift a pair of earrings to their wives from their hard-earned savings, she looks just as pretty as the heroine on the poster. When they are able to dribble past a few fellows with that dilapidated football, they see that superstar from far off Brazil in them. When you ask them, their eyes shine.
But, they still don’t know whether this is how everybody seeks happiness.
My men stay in Burdwan. They are shy. They haven’t really ever chatted with a doctor. Doctors elicit fear in them. But, once they feel you understand, they will speak. And, if they speak, you will understand, it’s not that they don’t cherish sukh as everybody else. It’s also not that they don’t have a way to express it. Just sometimes, they just don’t have that luxury. They have a huge job at hand, they have to feed so many.