Om Prakash (OP)

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People say farming is a difficult profession. And it’s true. Farmers aren’t progressing today because of a lack of access to advanced technologies. If we had this, our yields would improve. But with low yields we don’t get good money and without good money, we aren’t happy.

But in my opinion this isn’t the deepest issue. It is concern about the results of our actions that causes us ultimate suffering. In the Gita, Lord Krishna says: “karm karo, phal ki chinta mat karo” (do your deeds and don’t be concerned with the results).

To me, this means you shouldn’t worry about the results of your actions or expect immediate results from them. Rather, to find happiness you should throw yourself into your work with love, expecting nothing in return. That’s why the Pandavas in the Mahabharat won the battle, because they weren’t worried about results. If I’ve done a good deed nature will reward me for it, but it may be that those rewards will come in ways I can’t see.

“Jahan summat tahan sumpat nana; jahan kumat tahan vipat nidhana”. It means wherever there is mindful action, different kinds of wealth come to you. Wherever there is an absence of mindfulness, all sorts of unsolvable problems will arise. I think this is the reality. Our fates are written in time. However long my life is, it was meant to be that long. So if I am to die at a certain point, it is when I was meant to.

OP took a long, considered sip from his glass of milky chai as he looked out towards the straw-topped huts that surrounded us. We were sitting in the covered area that fronted his house, which nestled towards the edge of the village of Kaharanpurawa. Surrounding us stood a growing contingent of wide-eyed, scraggly-haired children who looked on curiously; twirling their reddish strands of hair or tugging at loose shirt buttons.

Like his father and grandfather before him he has been a farmer his whole life; a profession that makes itself known in the sinewed cut of his limbs and the ruggedness of his hands. He has a warmth and sincerity about him that is instantly endearing and a face wrinkled with laughter lines carved beneath the fierce open elements. Relaxing for a few moments before leaving for the fields, he leant back against the concrete pillar that held up his roof and looked into the earthy fabric of his past.

My ancestors have lived here for as long as I can remember. Well, over in the village of Chellaha which is just over there (he pointed), close to the river.

Life was hard as a child. We really struggled for food and clothes. My house was a mud hut back then with thatching and a low roof. But over time we’ve turned it into the brick house you can see today. Things have changed a lot here and the village has struggled a lot to develop.

We used to have no roads, just pagdandis (small footpaths). Sometimes we would just eat pickle for a day or two to save money so that we could develop the roads. That’s how we managed to pay for our other expenses too, like food and clothes.

By saving small bits of money like this, we could finally start to think of buying land. We began with 7 bighas (about 0.25 hectares) and now we have 5 acres of land where we grow rice, corn, wheat and millet. It’s our most valuable asset. Those who saved money like this are established and those who didn’t are still living from hand to mouth. It’s as though if before we were standing, with no place to sit; now we are able to sit down, although we are still not able to lie down.

My father was completely illiterate, but he worked hard so that we could be educated. Education is everything. We were a family of eight and as the sole earner he struggled constantly. He would even skip his meals to make sure we had enough. My elder brother worked as a farmer when he was old enough, too, investing in his education with everything he earned. Thanks to my cousin, he found a job working as an accountant in a cooperative society. I went to school, too and completed my 10th standard. I wanted to go to college and pursue a higher education, but that didn’t happen.

Now aged 38, OP is one of the richer members of the village; a fact made evident by the presence of strong cement-rendered walls that now contain his simple home. It is one of the few houses in the village that has any brick walls. Without grid power, clean water or sanitation in this area, his riches are relative. I asked him what was most important to him in life and if he would change anything if he could.

The most important thing for me in life is farming. Farming has given us a living and a good economic position. I don’t want to give up farming, but having said that there are a lot of things I would change if I could. I want to be a businessman. I spend so much money on my children’s education. All of them are studying now, and it costs me 4-5,000 rupees a month. I want to earn more and to help other farmers too through the business I create, selling fertilisers and other new technologies. I wish I could do other things too! I want to be a tourist and see parts of India I’ve never seen. I want to get a car. But all this depends on God.

You see, you must utilize your life well, because another person could be sent in your place to this Earth. We are sent here by nature as a medium for her needs. Whatever nature gives us, she takes back. Everything we do is guided by God. I write the Gayatri Mantra every day and it reminds me of this.

At this, OP jumped up and pulled a crumpled piece of paper from a plastic bag that lay towards the corner of the porch, to show us this writing. Upon it, lines of neatly composed Sanskrit text handwritten in red ink made their winding way from one side of the paper to the other, filling the sheet from top to bottom from days of inscription. In India, such auspicious texts are often written in red ink.

This mantra reminds me that love is the most important motive. You should love everybody and cooperate with all of your fellow human beings in life. When we do something good, we will also get something good in return. That’s what I believe.

It was time to go. As we left for the fields with OP he took us to see his banana orchard, which had been recently flooded by unduly heavy rains; rains that had destroyed hundreds of homes in the region. Diving into the thick leafy green for a few minutes, he returned clasping a large bunch of bananas for us. As we left, we tried to give him some money for the bananas saying it was a contribution to his children’s education, but he refused point blank.

“It’s not our way”, he exclaimed, both smiling and looking slightly aghast. “It’s a gift!”

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3 thoughts on “Om Prakash (OP)

  1. Anna, these are awesome. Particularly love the way you have captured OP’s village and personality… Hope to see you soon lovey ( and also this made me want to make it to India so much!) xxxxxxxxxxxx

    Like

  2. Love the way you dive straight into the story without any intro or embellishment. Within moments, you’re speaking as Om Prakesh, giving historical perspective along with a vivid picture of his environment, and priorities, and even introducing some of his spiritual ideas. All in the clearest prose. Paul Theroux would clap out loud.

    Like

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