Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Rain-Giver

There was nothing special about the village where this story took place, except that the people who lived there were having a particularly bad time, at the moment. They had in past experienced flood, tornado, and other epidemics. Those nevertheless, passed, leaving just mere blips in their memories.

Being far away from the nearest major city, the villagers had simple lifestyle, and they did not need much to be content so long they had their daily breads and some free time to share with each other. Off late, a severe drought had daunted their spirit, and they were collectively in a somber mood.

The monsoon came and went, yet, there was no rain. The land became dry. The fields where cattle would graze turned barren and flaky. Even their domestic animals were suffering from malnutrition and looked rickety.

One day the elder of the village asked all the villagers to gather at an open expanse and requested them to join him in a prayer. He said that he was a frail old man and did not have much strength left in him, regardless, if all the villagers joined him and prayed to God together, clouds would come and shower rain on their village.

So they all gathered and prayed together. They prayed hard and long, young and old, all joining hands in hands prayed to God for rain.

They prayed again the next day, and the following. Then one day the elder told the villagers, “Last night I had a dream. God told me that He would send us a rain giver, who would bring rain to our village. Make sure you take good care of him.”

The old villagers had faith in their elder. They had lived together through the thick and thin of life; their trust strengthened with the experiences of shared memories of many years. The younger people had no such conviction. They were smiling quietly, mocking the elder, and talking between themselves, “Rain giver? Whoever has heard of such nonsense?”

A young man who was visiting his parents from his city residence told his friends, “This is unbelievable. Whoever could think that people in the 21st century still believe in prayers? No wonder this village is so backward!”

Anyway, there is nothing permanent in nature, and even the worst of the moments come to pass. One night while people were in their sleep, rain came in.

Old and young, male and female, healthy and the sick, they all woke up hearing the nearly-forgotten pattering sound of rain drops beating on their tin-topped roofs. In an indomitable expression of happiness people came out of their homes and gathered on streets, and began dancing in the rain.

It rained for three days and three nights without stop, and it rained hard. Yet, no one complained.

When the rain stopped, the land was wet and muddy, but rejuvenated; life had taken a new lease.

The trees had traces of green again, birds returned and sat on their branches; blades of green green shoots of grass appeared through the brown thatches of land everywhere. Only in three days and three nights the village had been transformed— a miracle had happened.

The farmers took out their plows and commenced tilting their lands. Even their emaciated animals visibly regained their strength overnight. Soon they finished tilting and sowing their fields, and in record time the crops grew. Life had turned for the better once again, the villagers had their smiles back.

One day, while playing in an uninhabited remote area, on the fringe of the village, a few children discovered a small hut that seemed to have been built where there were only wild plants before.

The children grew curious, and they ventured in. They found an old man with long flowing white beard sitting on a mat inside the hut; all by himself. The man saw the boys and girls and invited them inside. The children went in, and the old man began talking to them.

That year there was so much crop that the villagers ran out of storage space. They invited people from other villages to come in and share their harvest, for they were nice and good people. The villagers had never been so happy, and they were keen to share their happiness with others.

Gradually, the word of the strange old man and his hut reached the ears of the grown ups of the village. They came to know that many young children were regularly visiting the old man and spending time with him. The seniors were curious. They asked the children why they were spending time with an old man, and what they did with him.

The youngsters told the men and women that the old man told them stories, and they loved to hear stories from him. The seniors asked the young boys to find out where the old man came from, what he ate, and what he did in a typical day.

The kids watched the man for hours, and hours, in day time and night time, nonetheless, they never saw the old man eating anything. The old man was never found to step outside his hut, and he was never seen sleeping. They reported their findings to their seniors.

The villagers grew suspicious of the old man. Some of them banded together and went to him, and questioned him. They demanded to know where he came from, what did he do for a living, and what was his purpose for being there?

Each question the old man answered with stories. The stories did hardly make any sense to the villagers, although the children found them fascinating. The only thing the grown ups of the village learned, the old man claimed to be the bearer of rain. He said he was the answer to their prayers. God had sent him to this village since there was a severe drought. The villagers grew angry with the old man for they thought the stranger was ridiculing them.

With time the villagers’ suspicion only grew stronger. The young man from the city suggested that the old man must have been attracted by the recent prosperity of the village, and he might have evil intentions. Perhaps he was an informer who was secretly collecting information about the good fortune of the village to pass to some bandits.

Finally, the villagers decided to drive him out of the village.

The day the old man went away, the elder of the village had a dream, God was telling him that he had sent his rain giver to the village. The rain giver did not impose on the villagers, he took nothing from them, and he spoke the truth when confronted by the villagers. Yet, the villagers took offense of the old man for no reason, and they drove him away from the village. God was not happy with them.

The next morning the elder gathered all the villagers, and narrated his dream to them. He asked the villagers to go out and find the old man, ask him for his forgiveness, and bring him back to the village.

Volunteers gathered, and went out in many directions. They searched and searched, and searched.

Morning turned into evening, and evening into night. The villagers came back to their homes tired and discouraged. The old man was not to be found anywhere. They were utterly dejected.

Days passed, the villagers noticed that the rain had stopped falling on their fields. The land was turning dry again. Trees were shedding leaves, and meadows turning brown. So they all gathered, and prayed, and prayed, but no rain fell, not that day, not the next day, nor the day after.

The older people started saying, “It is our jealousy and our suspicion that has brought the hardship back on us.”

The elder of the village was sad and angry. He said, you have turned God’s gift away. Now you must wait for your deeds to pass.

The villagers were overcome with remorse. They watched their fields turning desolate, once again, their fields cracking, once again, their cattle becoming rickety, once again, and they watched on helplessly!