Immersion Stories: Michael Fu #2
"Sudam" is a story written by Michael Fu, a recent participant on our Maharashtra program. It seeks to capture the essence of Michael's time with his village partner, Sudam, and their empathic understanding developed over several days.
It’s currently the evening, rain pours heavily outside but this will not be for long. Monsoon season is near an end and Sudam had only just arrived home, worn from another busy day of getting drenched but with fruitful harvests. However, in the back of his mind, he was unsure if even plentiful crops would sustain him and his family for the upcoming dry season. Sudam heads to the back of his house to clean up, he grabs a bucket and turns the tap for filtered water. A single drop of water drips out of the filter tank. “Guess I’ll use the rainwater then”, he thinks to himself as he grabs a bucket lying around at the back of his yard and pours it over himself. After cleaning up, Sudam heads to his room. A dying candle flickers on his makeshift wooden table, almost as if to symbol the end of plentiful harvests for the year. Despite being a man of ideas, Sudam was never vocal enough to voice his opinion to the greater majority of the community, instead opting to reflect and write his thoughts. And so, Sudam brings forth a notebook and pen, and begins to write.
“These lands were once cultivated by farmers with less access to tools and resources than us. These were our fathers, so too did our forefathers before them. Now with the many advances in the field, we are forgetting the methods our forefathers used, our practices are no longer efficient in comparison to the resources we have at our disposal.
It is nice to have a Monsoon season if at all, the weather provides us with plenty of water to sustain our crop for the duration of the season all round. However, past this season, a lot of the water we had during Monsoon has more or less been consumed during the season as a result of excessive irrigation practices. Such excessive and inefficient use of the water leads to a following dry season with difficult and unfruitful harvests each time.
At the current rate of practice, our income becomes extremely volatile and unreliable during dry season. Even if we were to conserve our own water, the village lacks true deposits which can store water long term and other locals will still uses such a capacity of water that it would only hurt our own income if we did, and I cannot afford this for my land, or for my family.”
A knock on the door is heard, Sudam’s wife quietly comes in, “would you like some chai?”. Sudam quickly closes his notebook and takes a cup, his hardened hands, for many years, have no longer felt the heat of such beverages anymore. “Thanks dear” he replies, as he notices his son, Abishek, stumble towards him and clings to his leg. “No no, daddy is busy”, Sudam’s wife says as he carries Abishek out of the room. Sudam thinks to himself how blessed he is to have a family, “I truly want the best for them”. Sudam once again opens his notebook and returns to writing.
“My son, Abishek, 2 years old and still growing. I concern over his health during the dry season. A growing boy of his age requires a nutritious diet and so too, will he require the funds for education when he grows further. We spare as much income as possible during monsoon to ensure we can afford the requirements to sustain our lives, but this will never be easy as it is during dry season, we require a lot of hand-to-mouth practice with our own crops, hindering our own income.
These water scarcity issues could all be rectified if the villagers understood the need to store water and be efficient with the utilisation of water. But even now, there are very few areas to store water and NGO’s have come and gone. Their attempts at assistance appear to be more about hitting quotas rather than being about practicality, assisting us very little in the matter.
I have many ideas, which put into practice, should be able to conserve a lot of water for the seasons ahead. Percolation is a practice I have utmost faith in but is seldom applied by other locals. But without community support, my ideas will never be possible, so I must remain stoic. At best, I can try to influence the youth of the next generation to adopt the values of our fathers, which have been lost in the practices of today. But even as the youth group leader, I find it exceedingly hard to influence todays generation in the practices of fieldwork.
Who knows though, in the future, we may have harvest years with sufficient water year-round, and stable income that does not heavily fluctuate in relation to the season. I’d want nothing more than a stable quality of life for the village, but more importantly, for my family and kids. But in order to achieve this, we need to work as a community and together, we can bring about change.”
Sudam closes his notebook as he looks out the window, night has fallen and the streets are pitch black, electricity must have gone for the night. So, too did the rain stop and will likely be the last heavy rain of the season before the next Monsoon. He breathes a heavy sigh as he walks to the living room, his wife and Abishek are sitting next to a woodfire, Abishek heavily curious about the cinders flying forth with his mum letting him view the fire but not so much as for him to injure himself. The two see Sudam and they both smile at him. Sudam reciprocates the smile, “let’s go to sleep, I’ve got to get up early to fields tomorrow”, he says.