Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By: Debadatta Pati


The story goes that when Puneet Singh abandoned his newborn daughter wrapped in a pink, no-frills hospital blanket in midst of a sugarcane field near Ambala village in North India, she survived for 4 days without any water or food. It was the night of new moon, and the month of October, when he had left the baby and sauntered away. No one had a daughter in his village since a decade, and Puneet Singh had to keep it that way. He already had a boy to carry on his family line, to support him in his old age, and carry his bier when he would bite the dust. No point in giving birth to a second fiddle, a curse.

The villagers came by to relieve themselves in the morning with mugs of water. Some brushed their teeth by the nearby pond. The workers came in the afternoon to distill tharra, the crude rum from sugarcane. Throughout the day, farmers rode on their tractors to nearby fields.

Nevertheless, no one could know where the crying came from because that’s what happens in sugarcane fields. Rows of sugarcane act as sound barriers. You may hear someone yelling or crying all right, but you cannot know where it’s coming from really. Everyone knew it, starting from the police to the village elders. They could hear the music coming from a party faraway, the loudspeakers from a nearby puja, the sound of the cool October wind, but not the baby’s cry.

When the dead baby was found, everyone blamed the sugarcanes as usual.


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