In the Shadow of Development

In the Shadow of Development

DaduDadu… wake up, Baba has brought sun lights for us.” Meethi shook her Grandpa out of his afternoon nap.

Birju was not asleep. Since the first announcement about solar lights in his village, he was often lost in his daydreams thinking how wonderful it would be to feel the cool luminance of electric light.

That day Birju’s son had gone to the Panchayat office to collect the lighting system. This was the most fascinating thing to be ever brought home. A system that will produce light from the sun. Who could ever imagine something like this, let alone have one for themselves? Meethi clapped and danced with joy. Birju’s mind was no less ecstatic.

Forty years ago when the big dam was built near them, some of the displaced families were asked to settle at this location. All of them had to leave behind their homes and give up their land for throwaway prices. For Birju, his small patch of land was everything. He became too emotional even at the thought of dispossessing it. 

To convince the villagers, the then Prime Minister had said, “If you have to suffer, you should do so in the interest of the country”. Against this seemingly noble appeal, Birju’s desire to hold on to his land appeared too shallow, too selfish.

The compensation Birju got was never enough to buy any land. The land price had skyrocketed in no time. Initially, he had worked at the dam site as a daily wage earner. Despite his hard work throughout his life, he remained a landless labourer. 

The dam project was a mega success. It generated a huge amount of electricity. Electric lines were drawn to far off cities and industries. One wire even went over Birju’s village. However, his village never had the good fortune to glimpse a ray of electric light.

The wait was finally over. The government has provided them with solar lights. That evening marked the beginning of a new era not just for his home, but for their entire village. Darkness became history.

Meethi was playing hide and seek with her own shadow making funny gestures at it. Birju buried his face between his knees crying tears of joy. He was missing his wife Sulochana dearly. 

He murmured, “Sulu you should have been alive to witness this day.”

Alas! After a few months, the glow of the bulbs diminished. And one day, the entire system stopped working. Meethi cried all evening in darkness.

Birju used a part of his savings to fetch a repairman with the help of his son.

While checking the system, the repairman casually remarked, “In cities no house uses solar.”

“Why?” Birju had always presumed that this high-end technology must have been long used by townsfolk.

“It’s costly.” 

“My goodness! The government expects all villagers to use a costly system to make it cheaper for the city dwellers! How absurd!” Birju slapped his forehead in despair. 

He knew his life was back into darkness.
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