Of Dreamworlds and Catastrophe ( Part 2)
The railway station is an elevated platform in the middle of rice fields. I am told that a racket of land speculation is on the rise as many companies want to buy these lands. Agriculture is increasingly financially unviable, and the farmer prefers to sell off and have his sons do something else, than find himself entrapped in debt. Where was the middleman all this while? I ask. He was here, but operating more covertly. Now he has come out in full glory. He buys a cauliflower at 50p and sells at Rs. 5 in the market. The consumer worries about rising prices. The grower remains impoverished.
A story of a violent transition towards non-agrarian services on agrarian land is told to me. A structure of services exists, and a new one is called for. A broker steps in to make money off of this precarious void. Often quoting prices that the existing structure cannot support. Essentially an entrepreneur. Looking for the best opportunity. Its his business to sniff around and foresee change. The entrant of a company is heralded as an invasive outside force, determined to loot and ravage. If you manage to plug in, some of the loot will be yours. A scene, historically borrowed from the harboring of foreign ships up the Hooghly. Except, in this chapter, there is a ready grammar of interpreting the outsider. The outsider comes from the government to ask you the weight of your newborn, give him polio medicine, give you credit or fertilizer. The outsider comes to inspire you towards war against the powerful. The outsider comes to invite you meetings and micheels, for cha and biri. The outsider bats traveler-lids through digital lenses to capture your cowdung by the afternoon shadow. The outsider tells you – you are beautiful, you should not change one bit. Change comes banging at your door, and prices of land scale up.
The outside woman wears a hat on the stage. Jatra audiences laugh out aloud. A marker of the foreign is domesticated with disdain and wonder. She transforms into the good agrarian wife. She wears a red and white sari and comes back from her morning temple trip. The inside has conquered this round. Woman remains the last bastion to be held on to. The one that nurtures an old amour for her brother-in-law is a damned whore. For disturbing the equilibrium of Home. Home – the last fortress. Where woman waits for you to come back from your wars and carnivals, with a warm meal, clean towel. She is eulogized, just so she is not tempted to run off with one of the outsider, just so she doesn’t seek an evening out in the town. But she find ways out. Her heels reflect a mirror of outside fashion. On the odd carnivalesque occasion, she pulls up her tight jeans, brings out their lipsticks, and gets on the bus. It takes two and a half hours to reach Kolkata. Then a longish to the college. She secretly spread wings of desire on the way. She has a Facebook account. Woven in tinshed cyber cafes. She looks out for the next wave of change. To get a new pair of heels. You can’t hold her back. You can’t hold onto the land. You must move and make way. The middleman has moved onto to the next almanac of change.