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of watermelons and graves by Prashant Mishra

//of watermelons and graves// (TRIGGER WARNING)

There is a field under the Ganga bridge here in Phaphamau. I've been occasionally seeing it for over two decades, and on a more regular basis in the past five years. It extends from west to east, horizon to horizon such that if one is on the bridge at the right times of the day they would see the sunrise and sunset from and into the river. Farmers cultivate watermelons on these sandy fields, fishermen fish on their boats and on one distant corner of the bank is the cremation ground of the area. The ancient pillars of the Lord Curzon bridge have seen the dichotomy of life and death unravel before them.

I am fond of watermelons, in fact, I have some on my table as I write this. There is no strict demarcation of borders of the farming land and cremation ground. Usually, the land in the far corner is reserved for the dead to rest on their pyre while the rest of the land sees the farmers grow watermelons. A good year's produce would have more watermelons than the total cremations.

Watermelons are a rarity this year; there is a grid instead, of graves shrouded by orange, red and yellow sheets of cloth as far as the eyes can see. One is tempted to count, one does begin counting, one does shiver, one does abandon counting. The sun rises on the horizon through these bumps and sets in the west into the river. If you decide to take a walk through the fields, the dead in these bumps tend to hold your legs if you are not cautious. These are bumps of helplessness and desperation in the conscience of those who are alive and are somehow related to the ones in the ground. Bumps make it hard to move, they are heavy. They change a person's voice from asking for help to begging for it or even fighting for it. Is there a term for being so helplessly out of options and rib crushing hopelessness that one is left with no option but to hope?

Woods are expensive, rites are expensive, rides to the rites are expensive and today is a particularly rainy day. The expensive wood has soaked itself in the wild rain last night. Pyres are weary now, they deny burning. Man finds his way. If there are in fact, more than one catastrophe, how does one decide which catastrophe is most worthy of worrying about?

Fishermen don't go fishing on the Ganga these days. There however is an engine-powered boat drifting to and fro in the stream. Havildars are arranged on the boat by the administration to ensure no corpse is found afloat on the river. The king says it is night. Night it is. Havildars make sure Night it stays.

"Is it the bloated body of a fascist's empathy I see, that flows down the water; an indifferent system of scavengers feasting its stale?"

Watermelons are delightful fruits. Next year, for those who are lucky enough to not find a place for themselves in this growing graveyard of exposed apathy, this field will grow big red melons. The market shall be full of great produce, those bumps I see here today shall slowly within a year level up with the ground and those beneath them will become melons. Melons float on water.

Prashant is a Psychology student who resides in Uttar Pradesh, India. When he is not busy reading, writing and taking photographs he can be found on his Instagram page @door._.darshan . He loves to see the world in his unique way and fondly shares it with the lovely people he is fortunate enough to have in his life.


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