A rice-bag's diary in lockdown

Thursday, 12th March

Dear Diary,

Hello Diary,

I am Brownie. My friends know me as a happy bag of rice. I was born last week when a brand new jute bag mated with Buta Singh’s fresh farm produce. Buta looks like a man whose hard physical labor has aged him to fifties in thirty years of his life. He has deep dark eyes and a tinge of white in his beard. He sings well. He was singing all along in his farm while filling the jute bags with sparkling new rice grains. It was tough to decide who was shining more - the white grains amidst the shining sunlight or Buta with his gentle smile & a twinkle in his eyes. This was his best harvest in nearly a decade. I was his best harvest in a decade (giggles..!!).

Sunday, 22nd March

All rice bags have been packed on the farm. New bags were born every day and I have made so many friends among them. They think I am a bit too chatty. But I don’t care about their opinions.

Buta brought us to his godown. Actually, it’s just a shoddy old mud house. He has arranged all of us very neatly. There are 10 racks of 10 bags each. I am staying on the 10th floor. No weights on me - Yay!

Moreover, Buta has been kind enough to place my rack near the door. Now, I will also get regular doses of fresh air whenever Buta opens the door. It’s been a lucky day!

Saturday, 4th April

The godown’s atmosphere is too gloomy for my liking. Other rice bags are in constant despair. They miss the warm sunlight of the farm. They worry about their uncertain future. What would be their next destination - another crappy mud house or a modern well-maintained storage center?

They also worry about getting drenched throughout the coming monsoon if they get a similar godown at their next stop. And what if someone decides to open them up and eat all the rice? That will annihilate their existence.

I am unable to relate to this gloominess. Why worry about things out of your control? In fact, this uncertainty about the future excites me. I would love to explore new places, roads, trucks & carts (not the bullock ones though - those are old fashioned). I believe in my life’s purpose. If I get out of this place soon, it will mean that Buta managed to sell me at a good price. That would be the second time that I made him smile.

There is another higher purpose in my life. I am destined to feed people. I have to help them get rid of their hunger. Even if it’s just for a day or half. People will sleep better because of me. That isn’t a bad end to a life, is it? Call me self-righteous but I think my destiny is one of the noblest!

Tuesday, 21st April

I am getting a bit eager to get out of the godown. To live life freely and fulfill my destiny. I am waiting for that day to arrive but it is taking some time. A bit more than usual. The rice bags from the previous harvest are getting old. I don’t want to grow old here. I might get rejected by buyers if pests infect me and I don’t look good enough. Looks matter in this business. I don’t want to be rejected. Also, if I don’t look good, I will fetch less money for Buta and that will make me sad.

Why are the trucks not coming? What on earth is Buta waiting for to sell me? The older folks tell me that this delay is unlike others. Usually, half of the bags are out of the godown by now.

I am getting anxious.

Thursday, 7th May

Buta came with a visitor today. My heart stopped when I heard the door being opened. I hoped to see the trucks outside the door. Even bullock-carts will do at this point.

Buta brought the other man inside and showed him the godown. Buta said that he had 100 bags of rice in here and all of them are gonna rot if the lockdown is not lifted soon. My heart sank when I heard this. Is there a possibility of us rotting away? That wasn’t my life’s purpose. I can’t just rot away. I won’t. But Buta’s words have increased my anxiety.

Also, what the hell is a lockdown? And why does it need a lifting?

Buta also talked about the loans he will be unable to pay because of the lockdown. This lockdown must be a very evil person. Is it a person though? Or is it just a thing that needs to be lifted? A man as strong and muscular as Buta should be able to lift it. Why isn’t Buta lifting it himself?

The other man said that all the villagers will face the same fate if the lockdown is not lifted. The lockdown must be pretty heavy if so many villagers are not able to lift it together. The man talked about farmers across the country being in distress because of it. I think that the lockdown might be a demon. A demon so giant, that when it sleeps, it spreads across the whole country. Who will even dare to lift such a demon?

Sunday, 17th May

It’s been 10 days since Buta came last to see us. I guess the lockdown is still sleeping. I wish it would wake up and go sleep somewhere else so that Buta can sell us. And smile as he used to while harvesting us.

Saturday, 23rd May

Buta came with his son today. He had tears in his eyes while looking at us. He is rightfully crying - we don’t look as beautiful as we did 2 months ago. He took one of the old rice bags with him. His son helped him get the bag out of the godown. They were talking about how they need to make sure that this rice-bag lasts at least a month for them because they have nothing else to eat.

Just when he was about to lock the door, a man shouted his name - “Ram Ram, Buta bhaiya!”. Buta didn’t recognize him. I got a glimpse of the man. I didn’t recognize him either. Though I had never seen him before.

The man looked extremely tired and weary. He told Buta that he had walked over a thousand km from the city to come back to the village. There were no earnings and food available for people like him there. Thousands of people are walking back to their villages. That too without food and water. Children, elders, men, and women - even pregnant ones. Some of them died during the journey. I can’t imagine the pain they must have gone through. They died because of hunger - something I could have saved them from. Isn’t that my life’s purpose?

People are dying outside without food while I rot in this godown in darkness. This is horrible. What kind of monster is this lockdown? And who allowed it to come to our village? Somebody please give him a lift.

Friday, 12th June

I feel old and weak now. And I am bored to death. The dreams of trucks & carts, cities & villages, dirt roads & highways have withered away. I have little hopes of fulfilling my destiny now. If I stay here another month, the monsoon will hit the godown and make me all wet and sticky. The oldies say that it is not a good feeling. The wetness makes you feel cold for hours. And by the time one dries up, the rains hit again. That kind of numbness tends to stay for life. Oldies say that.

Sunday, 26th June

Buta came with his son today. He took another oldie with himself. It was drizzling outside. The monsoon is knocking on our door. In a way, it can be a good thing. The rains can wake Mr. Lockdown from his sleep. That should make him lift himself. Wouldn’t that be great for Buta and me?

Thursday, 7th July

Buta came alone today. It was sunny outside. Maybe a truck has come to take us away. He tried to reach out to me - for the first time since I was put here! It must be a truck then. Otherwise, he always takes an oldie.

His hands couldn’t reach me from the ground. He tied a knife on a rope and threw it at me. It got stuck on my chest. It was hurting a lot. He pulled the rope a couple of times. I thought it was to pull me down but he stopped trying after an initial couple of jerks. He held the rope tightly in his hand and started climbing towards me. Then, he pulled out the knife from my chest. That was a relief - but I started bleeding rice. Spurts of white grains made my clothes dirty.

I thought he would push me down to get me near the door. That would hurt again but hey, at least I will get out and fulfill my destiny. Moreover, Buta knows how to sew a jute bag so he will patch my wounds up.

But Buta didn’t push me. Instead, he stood on me and tied one end of the rope with a nail on the ceiling. He tied a knot with the other end forming a circle from it and put it around his neck. He pulled the rope to fit his neck. And then he allowed his legs to slip past me.

Buta Singh and my destiny were hanging lifeless before my eyes.

Written on September 20, 2020