Rain was becoming heavier and heavier… the splashing sound of the downpour was echoing all around the house.
” amma..amma” Mariyamma called Kavya who was engrossed in the day’s morning paper.
Kavya slowly lifted her head from the news paper and looked at the middle aged woman.
Mariyamma was more than just a house maid, had been working in her family for more than 20 years… without her kavya’s daily routine would be a big mess.
That too after she had moved to this small village near by Thekadi…as assistant collector her life had become so hectic, that Kavya left all the house duties to mariyamma. The 45 years old woman who had all the experience of house keeping and took care of kavya so well, that kavya never missed her parents who were in Delhi.
‘ammma’ mariyamma’s voice brought back kavya’s thoughts …
‘ what is it mariyamma?’
‘amma those villagers have come again asking for you’
kavya didn’t answer but thought to herself…’ what do i tell them now?… how long am i going to postpone this issue?’
with these thoughts kavya said ‘ mariyamma please tell them that i will see them in 10 minutes’
mariyamma nodded her head and left…
kavya washed her face and and went out to her house’s front yard… it was an old house, actually an antique bungalow too big for her, surrounded by trees and a small flower garden around the entrance and quiet a big back yard garden.
There were a dozen villagers.. murmuring among themselves.. silence filled as they saw Kavya.
kavya greeted them all and they wished her back. she asked them to sit …
After every one had settled down, and all the formalities done , followed by a moment of uncomfortable silence which was broken by one villager an elderly man.
He spoke with a hint of exhaustion ‘ madam… as you know our problem is getting worse every day…’
another young man added ‘ amma we had complained so many times but the police is not taking any action…‘
the elder guy added ‘ we don’t know what to do amma… our daily life depends on the river…as you know…’
kavya nodded her head and said in a concerned tone ‘ yes yes .. i know and i understand your problems… i will do what ever possible at the earliest …i too have clearly explained your issues to the collector… he said he will take action…‘
she paused and looked around the poor villagers… and said with some determined look ‘ i will meet the higher officials today, iam sure we will get justice soon‘
the old man now said ‘ madam… we all trust you… please help us … that is all we can ask… what else? the panchayath officer is of no help.. he is on their side…. ‘
kavya softly spoke to few villagers in person and finally they all left .
When she came in mariyamma looked quiet upset, she spoke to Kavya in her own authoritative tone as usual ‘ amma why are you asking these people to come home? after all you have just few spare hours at home to relax… these villagers they come daily with one problem or another…’
kavya smiled at mariyamma and said ‘ come on mariyamma.. these villgaers are so poor they have so many problems… ok leave that.. please make my break fast ready i have to go to office earlier today…’
mariyamma sighed and left …
kavya swiftly finished her break fast and reached her office…
she called the secretary ‘ when will sir come today Manikam?’
Manikam the elderly man humbly said ‘ madam sir has not yet come, iam not sure if he will come today…he said he has an important work today’
‘i am tiered with this collector… he is always busy with his own personal work, today he might be busy with his new guest house construction work… or he might be busy with the minister’s celebration party…. here we have so many problems to attend to …but collector Narasimman always has something more important to worry about… ‘ Kavya thought.. to herself…
these thoughts made kaviya tiered…
her thoughts were disturbed by the knock on the door…
peon Mani promptly brought a cup of coffee which kaviya was badly needing…
‘thank you mani…’said kavya.
mani wished her and turned to leave the room… suddenly he turned back and hesitated for a moment..
kaviya sipped her coffee and looked questioningly at mani…
‘yes mani what is it?‘
Mani came back to her desk and hesitantly said
‘madam…please forgive me for insisting…but that river issue…. madam ….we need to do something madam…’
Kaviya sighed… ‘yes Mani.. i know… don’t be disheartened i will do something about it…‘
Mani tried to smile and wished her and left the room.
Kaviya’s thoughts travelled few months behind….
it was a bright day and she had just settled down in her office…
collector Narasimman had been explaining about the next day’s works to her… suddenly there was some noise out side.. first it was feeble but latter kaviya heard high pitched voices and some one was talking loudly…
she and the collector went out to know, what that commotion was all about.
Peon Mani was surrounded by few villagers and he was in tears!
Collector indifferently asked ‘Mani what is all this mess?! what happened?’
Mani just stood there sobbing… a villager said ‘ Sir… Mani’s son and few other teenagers who went for boating at the river drowned!‘We all came here to tell this to Mani.…’
The collector intervened and said in a matter of fact tone.. ‘ ok ok.. just take mani and leave now.. don’t create a scene here…’
But one villager was furious ‘ sir… but this is the third time ….! already with in two months 3 boats had drowned….in the river bed…. he yelled,sir… please… do some thing about the sand thieves…. we have complained so many times to you…sir…’
The collector didn’t even bothered to look at the guy he just said ‘now…. every one leave now… this is no place to do your silly acts… we will take action..now first take Mani home’
Then there were just murmurs and the villagers left with Mani… except for a young villager who was furious…and was trying to talk to the collector…
Kaviya was stunned as she watched all this in silence…
the collector ignored the young villager and turned to Manikam and said…’ go fetch me my files iam off for today…‘
he then turned to Kaviya and said ‘check all the files that i had been talking about and send to my desk tomorrow‘ not waiting for Kaviya’s reply.. he moved quickly to his car.
Kaviya was shaken by all that had happened so quickly…
she looked at the villager who was still standing at the corridor…
she called him to her room…he hesitantly followed her,
kavya looked at him kindly… he was a young fellow his face was furious with anger … yet he was trying hard to be calm ….she made him sit and in a concerend voice asked ‘ yes tell me who are you and what is the problem?‘
the villager hesitantly spoke, now in a softer tone but he was emotional,’ my name is Jeeva iam a fisherman in this village…
Murugan …. Murugan is my friend… he is Mani’s son….today when his boat drowned… i was the one who picked him up… i tried hard but…. ‘the guy stopped abruptly.
Kaviya understood .. and nodded concernedly…
Jeeva continued after a while… ‘ but madam… this is not the first time ….
even last month two boats drowned in this river… 5 men died….
as you know this is all because of that Paranthaman and his men … he is stealing the river bed sand…
he has been doing this for a long time… he also owns so many lorries and he carries the sand from the river at nights…
we have launched so many complaints against him.. but no action has been taken…
he is a friend of the village panchayat officer…. and also close to the local M.P and has lots of friends in police department too.
madam due to this.. the fishes in the river are reducing… we can hardly make a living …
the drinking water wells are going dry
and we have so many boat accidents….
and this collector is not doing anything about this…
what can the villagers do madam?” the youngster had calmed down a bit.
Kaviya observed Jeeva calmly and she understood the youngster’s rightful anger…
She herself felt irritated by the collector’s indifference…
she spoke encouragingly to Jeeva and promised him that she would do what ever possible about this issue …on that Jeeva left wishing Kaviya.
Latter that day she visited Mani’s grieving family, mani was heart broken and his family were in tears
and from then on kaviya collected all the details about the illegal sand mining issues.
she took extra effort to convince the collector to take action against the sand stealer. Her interest on the problem brought little hope in the minds of the distressed villagers.. so they came to her home often and shared their grievances with her.
All these thoughts filled kaviya’s mind …. she lost track of time and only when manikam came knocking on her door she realized that it was way past her office hours.
As she entered her residence,Kavya saw a small crowd in front of her home.
she anxiously went in pushing away the small gathering… Mariyyamma was standing in the front yard.. two neighbor women were talking with her as they saw kaviya they moved away with respect…
kaviya asked hastily ‘ what happened mariyyamma?‘
mariyamma quickly responded ‘ amma today again the elephants created a big mess at our back yard.. the fat thieves…. i was washing clothes… suddenly two small elephants ran into our back yard from the river…they ate all our plantains…and they made such a horrible noise that all our neighbors came out! and they helped me chase the little devils off our yard…‘
kaviya’s anxiousness faded immediately, she was relived after mariyyamaa’s explanation.
she smiled and went in, mariyamma quickly followed kaviya in disappointment ,
and said ‘ amma.. how many times i have told you.. just do something about the elephants….
they are a big nuisance here… see yesterday the small elephant dragged next house kamal’s Saree…!
can you believe it…
and today… this….
i hope some hunter catches these elephants….
i heard from our milk vendor .. that these elephants spoil the crops it seems…
they are a big nuisance i tell you….‘ mariyyamma seriously complained with innocence.
kavya smiled and said ‘ mariyamma… why are you getting so upset? they are poor animals why should we bother them… ok ..now you don’t worry let me talk to the watch man and we will find a way out …’
mariyyammma was convinced after kaviya’s promise and she left for her room in peace.
These days every one in the village had some incidents with the elephants… the tuskers seemed to be amused by disturbing the villagers…
latter that day kavya called the watch man and said ‘ balu anna have an eye on the back yard.. better build a fence or something by next week… so that the elephants trouble may reduce…’
Balu the watch man agreed to this swiftly by saying ‘ yes amma … i will finish those works by next week‘
After her dinner… kavya was sitting in the veranda,,, in her head the words of peon mani was ringing.. again and again… ‘ but that river issue…. madam ….we need to do something madam…’
simultaneously the collectors cold, indifferent voice echoed in her mind as well ‘ see miss.kavya these issues needs time to settle down.. and more over the villagers are exaggerating things… these silly people are careless and they get into accidents but they blame good businessmen like Mr.Paranthaman…so just leave the matter for now’
when kavya was persistent about the sand mining the collector got really mad…
he curtly said ‘ how many times i have told you kavya.. this issue is not in my disposition, i don’t want any more pestering from you or from the villagers’
Kavya had tried to solve the problem by police but that too was not working out, due to political pressures…
was jeeva’s, mani’s and the rest of the villager’s complaints are just exaggeration?
isn’t the lives of the people who are drowning in the river important?
how will the villagers survive with the water scarcity?
and what will happen to the village when they have storms and the river bed overflows …
even the elephants around the river bed are venturing into the villages due to lack of water….
all due to the illegal sand mining….
“amma.. amma” mariyamma’s voice brought kaya to the present.
she looked around to see mariyyama at the door step…mariyamma looked tiered after the days work,
kavya smiled warmly ‘ mariyamma you go to bed… i will come latter‘
mariyyamma protested ‘ amma its already late, you better get in and take some rest…its cold … you may get sick.. so please do come in‘
Kavya knew mariyamma would not allow her to sit outside anymore… the house rules by mariyamma were pretty strict .
so she followed mariyamma .. and she quickly slept … until some one was banging the front door of the house
By the time Kavya went out.. mariyamma was speaking to some one out side…
it was Jeeva standing out side … when he saw kavya he smiled at her and wished her…
‘greetings amma… you know what… that Paranthaman… his son was found dead in the river bank…!’
kavya was shocked to hear this…she stammered ‘ what… what happened?‘
Jeeva explained ‘ amma yesterday night Paranthaman’s son and his men went to the river bed as usual to steal the sand…but they were attacked by the elephants … the elephants didn’t allow them to come near the river…Paranthaman’s son tried to wade the elephants but the elephants attacked him . More over the elephants didn’t allowed the sand miners near the river it seems!
only in the morning the elephants moved away… “
Jeeva stopped as the phone rang…
kavya heard the anxious voice of the collector at the other end
” hope you know the news.. Paranthaman’s son is dead… they say, he was attacked by the elephants… i am at Paranthaman’s place… so you just take the necessary action …. i want the elephants to be tackled by tonight… ‘
kavya intervened and said ‘but sir… what elephants…? there are no
indication of any elephants by the villager’s reports… i think Paranthaman is just exaggerating things sir… the eye witnesses here says that like many earlier drowning this too is an accident ‘
the line went dead on the other side…
Jeeva looked up at her and gave a warm smile with gratitude.
Kavya was getting ready mariamma came to her and said ‘ amma ask Balu to bring some plantains for the tuskers’
Kavya smiled at her knowingly.