Review: How I Became A Farmer’s Wife by Yashodhara Lal
Part memoir and part fiction, How I became a Farmer’s Wife is really about the quest for change
Midway through this narrative, one pauses to wonder what the fuss about being a farmer’s wife is all about. In these troubling times when farmers are in the news for all the wrong reasons, no woman in her wildest dreams would think longingly about being a farmer’s wife. Neither did Yashodhara Lal, a working mother of three hyperactive kids, whose life swings between the extremes of managing a dreary boss and a husband in pursuit of creating a steady supply of organic milk from his own farm.
Part memoir and part fiction, How I became a Farmer’s Wife is really about the quest for change, for something different from the repetitive conditioning of urban life. Outwardly everything looks calm, but the turmoil within disturbs life’s rhythms. The comfortable steel-and-chrome high-rises of Gurugram with their challenges, the author seems to imply, are like a tea cup with soggy biscuit bits lumped at the bottom to destroy the tea-drinking experience.
In the now familiar genre of tales of techies quitting their high-paying jobs, this story is about the coming to life of Vijay who, only a short while before, was slump-shouldered and resigned to his daily routine. That he found a new meaning in cows and crops is only part of the story; that his better half finds comfort in yoga as she unwillingly pursues a corporate career to help him with his dream is the second part. ‘Why don’t you take up yoga again; you seemed to feel a little better at that time?’ is the subtle advice given by the budding farmer to the lady of the house. Lal successfully captures the change sweeping through her household, the delicate moments, the cheeky encounters, and the weird incidents as she writes of what it takes to be a farmer’s wife.
With the choice thrust on her, there is little the author could do but float in her partner’s dream world of fresh milk and organic gobhi. The list of items coming out of the leased farm did grow in the dream sequence, but it was really only the milk which started flowing with a few packs of organic veggies tossed in. The family was forced into the on-the-job-exposure of getting into farming with some surprising results. Away from tabs, weekly visits to the farm were engaging experiences for the kids. Choosing nature over technology, they learnt to be empathetic towards puppies, cows and the crows. But it did take some getting used to. Jatropha sounded like Jethro Tull to the author, and her children took a fancy to savouring dung cakes. Still, farming turned into an engaging and entertaining vocation for everybody. Despite her initial reservations, Lal soon discovered the similarities between tending to cows and to children, and her sympathy for Vijay translated into unconditional support for him as a farmer.
Written with wit, flair and purpose, How I became a Farmer’s Wife chronicles the mid-career crises that many techies often go through. But farming is not easy, and it soon became clear that comprehending weather vagaries, understanding crop rotations, learning to milk cows, and dealing with rural eccentricity is more challenging than punching keyboards in air-conditioned cubicles.
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Towards the latter half of the story, the author realises that success is more than winning the race. Even if the transition wasn’t entirely completed, the experience did create a farmer in her husband and made her accept herself as a farmer’s wife. The passion Vijay exuded and the freedom he acquired lifted the morale of the entire family. As the couple rode out of the farm for the last time, Lal writes that she felt a distinct sense of connection with her husband. Finally, the parallel tracks had begun to merge.
Sudhirendar Sharma is an independent writer and academic.