By: Adya Bhalla
Arvind dreamt up swarms of bees. He continued to do so for months after he had been stung. He felt the fear and he felt the pain creeping up his calves as he sprinted through the tall crops. But not the burn of the sting itself. Never the burn. When he would open his eyes to the timid, mellow Sun at dawn, Arvind would anticipate pain. Fear would tiptoe behind most naturally. Until it halted, all of it did. The familiar buzzing under the Banyan tree died down. So did the mild humming through the wheat crops. Baba’s farm fell quiet. Eventually, Arvind came to know how silence also, in fact, stung. It breathed down your neck and smothered your protests to whimpers. And when apprehension droned inside your veins, silence buried its thorn under your skin, ever-present, forever making you itch and ache. At school, they’d tell him Albert Einstein once claimed that it won’t be possible to feed ourselves if bees are wiped off the face of the Earth. But the people waving torches in front of hives didn’t know of Einstein. They knew of hunger alone, and hunger only knew to grow, grow until it cracked your roof and the sky came crumbling down. Arvind often wondered about the verity of Einstein’s claims. But the lines on Baba’s forehead grew so dense, that there was little room left to wonder. Yet, every time Baba came back with another batch of those chemicals for the farm, Arvind would imagine himself painting another line on his forehead and Amma’s chapati shrinking further in size. And each time they’d set fire to another hive, the smoke would sting his eyes and run its razor-sharp teeth down his throat. Arvind would dream of a swarm of bees. Not chasing, but being chased now. He saw himself entangled in the tall crops with Baba’s lines etched on his forehead. He would sense the urgency of a large fire but not feel the burn of it. Never the burn. And when he would open his eyes to the blushing dawn, Arvind would anticipate pain. Fear would tiptoe behind most naturally.