Midway through this racy narrative, one pauses to wonder what the fuss is all about being a farmer’s wife. In these troubling times when farmers are in the news for all the wrong reasons, no woman in her wildest dream would imagine being a farmer’s wife. Neither did she, a working mother of three hyper-active kids, whose life twirls between the extremes of managing a dreary boss fixated on selling chunking-looking tabs to the kids to a surefire husband in pursuit of creating a steady supply of organic milk from his own farm. Between these extremes lies a life which is as ordinary as it could be, and as exclusive as she has made it look like.
Part memoir and part fiction, How I became a Farmer’s Wife reflects an unending quest for change from the urbane life laced with repetitive conditioning. Outwardly everything may look calm; it is the turmoil deep down that disturbs life’s rhythms. Metaphorically, it is akin to the tea cup which seems normal on the surface, but for the soggy biscuit bits which lump disgustingly at the bottom to destroy the tea-drinking experience. The comfortable steel-and-chrome high-rises of Gurugram are like the tea cup, with its soggy posse of challenges.
Within the familiar off-beat tales of techies quitting their high-paying jobs, this story is about the coming to life of Vijay who only a few months ago was slump-shouldered and resigned to his daily routine. That he found a new meaning of life in cows and crops is only part of the breezy narrative, his better half finds comfort in yoga as she unwillingly pursues a corporate career to help him with his dream is the second part. Only one sacrifice in the real world will suffice.
Running on two parallel tracks, the tongue-in-cheek narrative is about de-stressing life as the leitmotif of urban existence. ‘Why don’t you take up yoga again, you seemed to feel a little better at that time’ is a subtle advice to the lady of the house to keep cool while the budding farmer gains roots in the startling unfamiliar territory. With an incredible knack of story-telling, Yash captures the microcosm of change sweeping the household amidst its daily ordeal. Capturing delicate moments, cheeky encounters, and weird incidents, she lets the writer in her take control of expressing what it takes to be a farmer’s wife.
With the choice thrust on her, there is little that Yash could do but float in Vijay’s dream world of fresh milk and organic gobhi. The list of items coming out of the leased farm did grow in the dream sequence, but it was only milk which started flowing with some packs of organic veggie tossed in. Getting into farming was an on-the job-exposure that the entire family was forced into. Away from tabs, the weekly visits to the farm were engaging experiences for kids. Choosing nature over technology, the kids learnt to be empathetic towards puppies, cows and the crows.
Amidst the unending efforts of getting the city out of her, the lingua franca of farming weighed heavy on her and the kids. While jatropha sounded like Jethro Tull to her, the kids took a fancy at savoring some dung cakes. Nonetheless, prodigious vocabulary and distinctive techniques turned farming into an engaging and entertaining vocation for everybody. Despite her initial reservation, Yash soon discovered similarities in tending cows and mending kids. Her sympathy for Vijay translated into an unconditional support to let him be a farmer, and she a farmer’s wife.
Written with wit, humor, flair and purpose, How I became a Farmer’s Wife chronicles the mid-career crises that most discerning techies often go through. After all, there is a limit to which urbanscape comforts can comfort these upward mobile couples. But farming is no bed of roses either; comprehending weather vagaries, understanding crop rotations, learning cow milking, and dealing with rural eccentricity makes it more challenging than punching keyboards in air-conditioned cubicles. Not only challenging, the transition could fall short of expectations too.
Towards the latter half of the story, Yash realizes that success is more than just winning the race. Even if the transition didn’t go the full circle, it did create a farmer in Vijay and converted Yash to accept herself as a farmer’s wife. The passion he exuded and the freedom he acquired had lifted the morale of the entire family. As the couple rode out of the farm for the last time, Yash felt an incredible sense of freedom and a distinct sense of connection with the man whose waist she hung on to for dear life. Finally, the parallel tracks had begun to merge. Freedom comes at a price, only if one is willing to pay for.
How I became a farmer’s wife
by Yashodhara Lal
Harper Collins, New Delhi
Extent: 318, Price: Rs. 250
First published in the Hindustan Times on June 8, 2018