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What’s recorded alone is not history; in fact, there are several great lives that have sunk into oblivion unnoticed and unrecorded. Life, after all, is no bed of roses; thorns too have been woven into it. Only those understanding this have survived the shocks and startling hurdles that life throws up along the way. These homespun truths have found their embodiment in Balakrishnan, a farmer, 78, of Ozhalur village near Chengalpattu. His life story feels like a history of weathering several storms and yet bubbling with life force; a history of how hard work, unfazed by the vagaries of life, can hold its own.
Looking back at his life, Balakrishnan says, “In my youth, we used to cultivate paddy, corn, millet etc in the fields. My wife Lakshmi used to ascend the parapet of the well to draw water through a device tied to an iron rod horizontally placed above the wall. She had that much stamina, typical of a sturdy male. In those days, we used to have bumper harvests in the fields.
The granary at our house would be overflowing with grains. Yet, we continued our farming work. On other days when there was no agricultural work, I would go for stone carpentry work.”
While speaking about the first tragedy that struck his life, he says in a voice tinged with sorrow: “When I was engaged in stone carpeting work at a house near Tirumalai cinema theatre in Chengalpattu, my wife brought food to me. Then someone from our village came and informed us, saying, ‘You both are here; over there buffaloes are playing havoc with your crops.’ My wife then madly rushed back to our village. On the way, she was struck dead by lightning.”
“I have never recovered from that tragedy,” he says sadly.
There are people who keep changing their principles; some who don’t have principles at all and some who cultivate principles spurred by some significant incidents.
His life story feels like a history of weathering several storms and yet bubbling with life force; a history of how hard work, unfazed by the vagaries of life, can hold its own
Balakrishnan speaks about one such incident: “About 50 years ago, after sweating it out in the fields, I went back home in the afternoon and ate up the gruel that was around. My elder brother who came there just then beat me with a stick indiscriminately, angry that I had emptied the vessel of food. From then on, I began practising the habit of eating only the food given by others. However hungry I am and whatever food items are in front of me, I would not touch a single bite. My wife who knew this habit of mine used to serve me food as long as she was alive. Now my daughter-in-law serves me.”
Soon, he lost his son as well. Talking about his bereavement, he recalls sadly: “As I was not literate, I got my two sons educated. My elder son is employed in stone carpentry in Andhra Pradesh. My younger son was working as a driver for a company, transporting workers. Once some rowdies waylaid him and attacked him. Agonising over the incident, he consumed poison and informed his brother over the phone of his suicide bid, saying, ‘I did not inform you of the assault because you, your sons and our father would go all out to take revenge on the rowdies. That would cause a big problem for our family. So, you take care of your two children.’ Later, the police took the body to the hospital. The incident has remained an unhealed wound in my mind.”
When Balakrishnan shared a strange experience of having spoken to God, it felt like a fairy tale. “Once, while sprinkling nine flowers mid-sea at Mahabalipuram, I asked God, ‘I remain honest all through. Then why do you cause us these ordeals?’ Then I heard God’s voice saying, ‘I have given you strength enough to stand amid waves mid-sea and also a strong mind to withstand trials and tribulation. What else do you want?’. Then I stood convinced as God reasoned with me. Finally I came back ashore. I have since learnt to resign myself to all that happened in life.”
He said that his son had not heeded his advice to earn money by cultivating vegetables at the farms and instead has been working at a stone quarry in Andhra, sending money home to take care of his wife and children. “Life goes on like this,” he says in a tone of resignation.
Then he goes off to his customary work of wood-cutting.
As the tiny old frame slowly dissolves into distance, it leaves behind a history not recorded so far anywhere – one of countless histories of several people languishing at the lowest rung of the social ladder, uncared for, unsung and unnoticed.
Read in : தமிழ்