Lake of diamondsJul 14th, 2009 | By editor | Category: Delhiwaalah, Young World
The village of Paritaal had got its name from the lake in the middle of it. The lake was the life of the village. Stories were told of diamonds that lay buried beneath the lakebed.
But this summer things were different. There had been no rains for two years and the threat of another drought was looming over Paritaal. The lake had dried up. Eight-year-old Abdul lived with his family in the village. His grandfather was the village sarpanch. One evening the whole village gathered to discuss the delayed rains. The village priest Acharya was a well-read man.
Haji the potter asked the sarpanch about the legend of the buried diamonds in the lake-bed. “Let’s all dig up the lake and find the diamonds. Then we won’t be hungry and poor anymore.”
“Yes, yes, we must do that,” agreed Laxman the carpenter. The sarpanch and the priest were worried. If it did not rain this year there would be mayhem. Hunger and poverty would make beasts out of men.
Abdul knew how difficult it was for them to get water. His mother and sister would be away for more than half the day, as they had to walk five km to fetch drinking water. They could not carry much water, just three pots. It was the same story in every house.
The villagers insisted that they should be allowed to dig up the lake and find the diamonds. The priest tried to dissuade the villagers and instead suggested that they all offer prayers. Abdul’s grandfather managed to convince the villagers to organise mass prayers.
But there were a lot of people who did not believe in the power of prayer and felt that the sarpanch was cheating them by not allowing them to dig up the lakebed. Two days was too long a wait. Haji the potter, whose idea it was to dig up the lake, was very restless. For Laxman this whole business of praying seemed foolish. Every member in his family including himself had been reduced to a bag of bones. He wanted to dig up the lake-bed. And that’s what he did. He kept at it all night aided by the light of the moon.
The day of prayers came. Before sunrise, all the Muslims gathered at the lake, knelt down on the dry lake-bed and prayed. Abdul too had gone with his grandfather. It was a beautiful sight to see people united in adverse times.
Just as the sun rose, the acharya came along with all the Hindus and they had a yagna on the caked lake-bed. Just then, the villagers discovered Laxman’s attempt to dig the lake. The sight of the dug-up lake-bed was like a trigger that had been pulled up. The villagers seized any implement they could grab — pick-axes, spades, shovels, crow-bars — and started digging.
By afternoon it was baking hot. The sarpanch pleaded with them to stop but no one was in the mood to listen. By night, the lake was at least five times deeper than it was. Not a single diamond had been found. Like madmen they kept digging all night. By daybreak the lake was really deep.
Suddenly water started oozing out. The soil became slushy and the digging stopped. Ropes had to be let down to pull the men up. The men were disappointed that there were no diamonds.
It took the wisdom of the sarpanch and the priest to show the men that water was the greatest treasure they could have. “Where there is water, there is work; where there is work there is wealth and prosperity,” said Abdul’s grandfather. The men saw the point. They were tired, but ready to plough their lands and prepare for prosperous times.