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Son of The Soil

Son of The Soil

illustration for the story

In this lovely short story, the writer Gankhu Sumnyan highlights the vain boast of those in power who hardly realize or ponder on its effects on people around him.

‘Son of the soil,’ the bald, sweaty leader thundered, ‘I am the son of the soil.’

When he looked around, beyond the rain-grey walls of the houses in his constituency, he could, if he stood on his toes, see at far the green paddy fields that covered fifty-percent of the land mass of his state.

Son of the soil! His words evoked the freedom and expanse of the fields – the soft wet soil, kingfishers dipping into still ponds, lotuses and water lilies, and rain drops that fell to nourish the green saplings. He meant he shared equal destiny with the creatures and workers of those fields.

That if needed, he was ready to give up his politician’s jacket and change into vest and lungi.

Son of the soil!

Son of the soil!

He wouldn’t mind being baked red in the sun or wade through knee-length rain water as long as he had the sight and smell of the fields around him. He thought of these and became emotional.

Son of the soil!

Micro-Bug Particle A, in the stagnant drain outside the high wall of the leader’s house, heard the words and wondered whether the speaker meant it was part of the same viscous environment as itself? That before the speaker too, colours and smells floated in different but flavoured densities?

Did it also ride on mushy white globs that floated slowly down and abandoned it right before it reached less dense environments? Was it son of the soil in that way?

Micro-Bug Particle A imagined a similar creature as itself – small-mouthed, large-headed, large-bodied, with many arms and legs; who could walk, swim, and float.

The world would be similar – a goo-floating, tenaciously murky, sudden and precarious environment where the biggest was the strongest. Surely it meant son of the soil in that way, didn’t it?

And even if otherwise, the voice spoke with so much feeling, its love had to encompass the bug’s world. Micro-Bug Particle A felt, at that moment, a tender affinity with the speaker.

And because the voice was large and extra-terrestrial, the bug hoped its possessor would protect the bug’s world during certain occasions. It wouldn’t mind, for instance, regular maintenance of the consistency of its environment.

Because on some days there floated through – making one doze and lose one’s bearing – thin, transparent globs that affected the senses of anyone within short distance of them.

Now where did these come from? Bad for the young ones! Bad for everyone around! Could they be stopped from entering the environment? If that happens, that would be a great credit to the possessor of the voice. And during certain seasons, could it prevent the bug’s environment from becoming transparent? For that gave a chance to the predators, whose gills could then cope with the bug’s environment.

But not take it to the other extreme too, for over-thickening and intensification of density had led to a catastrophic incident once.

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Micro-Bug Particle B, a survivor of that extraordinary adventure, would lapse into many silences while recalling the event. It told the terrified but fascinated listeners how, stuck deep in their environment, without much freedom of movement, it and its kin had felt their world moving and crumbling.

Then they had been exposed to the entity which they understood to be the source of life, the mystery behind all mysteries – the pale grey light that had throbbed in their lives for as long as they could remember. At that point in the story, Micro-bug Particle B would drop its large head and mutter, ‘Ah! That was it! It was that!’

And what price to pay for that knowledge! Decimation of thousands of them, their breath and pulses flagging, bodies becoming rigid, stunted, dried. Micro-bug Particle B was close to death too, except without knowing when or how, it regained consciousness in its world.

Recalling the story, Micro-Bug Particle A thought that although the event was fascinating, as a practical being, it wouldn’t want the repetition of the same.

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Not hard for the possessor of the voice to grant, Micro-Bug Particle A imagined. For its voice filled the bug’s world like the entity of the old story. Were they the same Gods? Or if not, part of the same world?

That would explain the power of the voice, claiming itself as the true ‘Son of the Soil’, as the humble-but-great progenitor, curer of ills, righter of wrongs, preventer of mishaps and incidents, and listening to whom Micro-Bug Particle A felt enthralled and uplifted.

‘I am the son of the soil,’ it heard again.

The leader on the terrace felt his words absorbed by the air around him. The crowd below understood him clearly, he was sure. Shielding his eyes against the bright sun, he could see the line of mountains far away and felt they blessed him. He would be true and pure; he had to be.

As the crowd dispersed, a municipality truck pulled up on the road next to his gate. Men got out to clean the stagnant drain; the leader had called them. Today he was all about purity; nothing unclean was to be touched. He promised himself he would remain so through his political years – eat clean food, wear clean clothes, bathe twice a day, for he had a tryst with the mountain winds.

Men began to scoop up the mulch from the drain, to clear up clogged parts of it. The dark grey mass was an offensive sight to the leader and he turned his head away. It was good the sun was out; that would dry up the drain.

Micro-Bug Particle A, having just finished the prayer exhortations, felt its world shake, ‘Oh, what’s happening?’


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