I am a scarecrow in the middle of the field. I have skinny limbs and cannot stand without support. I have a twenty-four hour job and can see in the dark too. The wind is my friend. He helps me nod my head and wave my arms. I cannot do anything with my legs. I need to keep my balance. I cannot speak but sometimes a croaking sound comes out of my throat as the wind blows around me. I usually sport a large turban; three bands of sacred ash are mandatory on my forehead. Shiva’s third eye in the center band wards off the evil everywhere around me. My hair flows long like a Sadhu from Benares.
My responsibilities are great. They sit lightly on me though. I cannot help nodding my head; I cannot help waving my arms. These come naturally to me. I love my job.I wave and nod to keep the undesirables away or more correctly keep them at bay. What fire does to the wolves and the bears I do for the crows and the sparrows and the pigeons? I scare them away. I like to think that small boys, girls, and thieves are in awe of me.
If I did not wave they would stop, and then we would not have harvests. The farmer would have no grain, all would starve.Babies, and kids would exhaust themselves crying. Cattle would have ribs and dogs would steal poultry. Calves would have no milk and the cock would be slaughtered. Only the crows would be happy and they would invite the vultures too. Then they would have a right royal feast. Calves, chicken, ribbed dogs and cats, and silent large headed babies with open eyes as the light dies out slowly.
I am the scarecrow in the middle of the field. I wave things on. I know my responsibilities and I never stop. Sometimes when the wind helps me I look to the sky and the birds they know that I am watching, the aeroplanes think twice about landing here and the clouds too move on. They must not stop they must not fall. I just give them a look and a nod and they understand. I sometimes wonder what my son would do without me. I have not seen him for a while now. However, I suppose he would understand.
Today while I was minding my business, two people came on a motorcycle. They stopped and looked at me. I gave them a look and tapped the rider gently, “move on” I mouthed, he looked at me intently for a moment. The second stranger who looked like my son kept scanning the horizon behind me. The rider spoke to me. “You look tired old man, don’t you want to rest? But not to worry, soon you will have a long rest.”Some people in the field stopped to watch us. I waved them on. If they stop then we will have a smaller harvest and then we will starve, then the crows will have a field day and invite the vultures along. The man put his hand in my pocket and took out some nuts and jiggery. I always keep some nuts and some jiggery. I like to feed babies and kids even as I like to scare them a little at first.“You know you should get some rest now old man,” he says while popping some nuts into his mouth. “Everyone wants some rest now and then and I’ll help you get a long rest. Would you like to rest old man? He asks. I nod my head. I wave my arms I want them to move on. They do not seem to understand. Close your eyes, the man says to me. I close my eyes. I feel a sharp prick on my arm. The men carry me on the bike.
As we move slowly on the rutted road, I dream my dream. It is always the same dream.
I am supine, and the crows descend, they are followed by the vultures, which hover over them, a couple of dogs sniff around me keeping the crows at bay. The crows hover over aiming to devour me once the dogs leave the scene. Babies cry and women scream. Men come running and stand in a circle around me. I want to tell them “keep moving, otherwise all would starve; the dogs will develop ribs and the babies big heads” but not a sound escapes me. I wanted to open my eyes but the man had told me to keep them shut. As I open them, I feel a sharp pain on my arm a second time.
Then I dream a different dream
I am lying on a stretcher placed in a palanquin. The air is suffused with the warmth of the sun and there are no clouds. The palanquin moves slowly and gracefully, and my nostrils catch the smell of jasmine, marigold and rose. Somewhere a bell rings and a priest intones the names of God.I wave at the few people who are travelling with me. They have come to watch me, and they seem relieved that all is well. After the dream is over, I open my eyes.
The motor cycle man is next to me and looks at me quizzically. Are you at peace now he seems to be asking? A stranger who looks like my son is speaking to him.” How is he” he asks, the motorcycle man pinches me? I feel a slight pain and then nothing. I want to tell the stranger who looks like my son that all is well but no words come out. I look to the sky and find it devoid of clouds there are no crows. I try to get up but find I cannot move, really I do not feel like moving at all. The motor cycle man pinches me once again and although I feel a little pain, I say nothing “old man, rest in peace he says” and moves away. It is late afternoon now.
I am the scarecrow in the middle of the field. I have my job to do. A few clouds move slowly into my line of vision and I try to wave them. I find I cannot move so I try to blow them away. They look different now; this is a different field. Somewhere close by I hear the sound of a train engine. It seems to be coming closer. Cannot really do anything about it but I must blow and nod it away.
If I do not wave, the engine would stop and the people would stop by, and then we would not have harvests. The farmer would have no grain and all would starve.
As the growl of the train engine grows louder, I see the motorcycle man and the stranger who looks like my son come near me. They look at me and the motorcycle man pinches me again. The two of them shake hands. The stranger who looks like my son seems pleased. I will arrange for the property papers next week. We need to close this deal quickly.
As they move away I keep blowing away, I have my job to do.