A Requiem for Ramasamy

I went into Thekambattu, one morning, last week, to “check my mail” (at the Post Office) and was passing the time of the day with Vellian, when the “Oppari” wailing started on the loudspeaker.

Vellian told me that Ramasamy, who had broken stones to build our house, was dead. He had committed suicide by drinking insecticide in his field the previous afternoon, and was found dead later that evening.

There was no kaatu prachanai (Land trouble: i.e. boundary disputes with his brothers or cousins) or veetu prachanai (House trouble: i.e. problems between husband and wife), so everyone’s thoughts turned to kaasu prachanai (Money trouble). He seemed well-off, with regular work in Karumandurai, his son having passed his Class 10 exam and working as a watchman at the Sun Hatcheries, and of course, all his fields well looked after.

But…. Some debt somewhere? Some moneylender squeezing him? He didn’t know which way to turn… A pleasant, rather shy man, driven to the last desperate “solution”… Now, he is one more in the endless statistic of farmer suicides. Actually he is saved that last ignominy, since in these parts, they do not automatically involve the police in their affairs.

I saw “him” that morning, waiting for all the clan to come and pay their last respects. The entire village, like me, was in a state of shock at his untimely and unexpected death. That night there was a terrific thunderstorm, and his ashes would have mingled with his fields.

I’ll end this with some lines from Oliver Goldsmith’s The Deserted Village:

Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey,
Where wealth accumulates and men decay;
Princes and Lords may flourish, or may fade :
A breath can make them, as a breath has made.
But a bold peasantry, their country’s pride,
When once destroyed, can never be supplied.

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