(Author: Ki. Rajanarayanan Translation: Radha Soundar & R.S. Saha )
Sreeni Nayakkar and Yengachi stood, shocked, on their porch.
Their dear curry tree was covered in locusts.
They weren’t sure if that’s what the insects were. As they watched, the tree lost all its leaves.
Each locust was roughly the size of a hand, possibly less. They had never seen nor heard of locusts of this size.
Yengachi hugged her husband, scared. Is the world going to end? She thought.
It was said that the apocalypse would come with a ceaseless storm raining down water droplets as thick as an elephant’s trunk. But they had never heard of locusts being the end.
Sreeni Nayakkar pulled away from his wife and beat the insects away. The once lush plant was now a thin trunk and some branches. His throat clenched. Wherever he turned, he could hear the locust clicking.
The whole village looked like a honey comb that had been drained by these insects. Moments later, the wails of villagers resounded. Men and women wept, beating their chests and heads in grief and helplessness.
Men watching over the pearl millet crop from atop tall guard posts hurriedly came down at the sight of the locust. They beat at the insects and yelled, trying to chase the locusts away.
The insects descended on the crop and soon only they could be seen. Each plant was covered from its base to its tip in locusts, the fields filling with the sound of crunching leaves.
The insects were difficult to kill, with serrated hind legs that tore open a hand when caught.
Kind Hearted Tiravathi was watching over his fields. His crop, just like that of other villagers, was expected to be bountiful. He had been planning on starting the harvest the next day but this event had struck.
He tried to drive the insects away. He beat at them with a bedsheet he had been using to keep warm. Some died, others were simply knocked to the ground. But, due to their voracious hunger, none of them left.
Watching the fruits of their hard labor be destroyed like this couldn’t be stomached by anyone. Kind Hearted Tiravathi ran around seeking help, only to find that others were facing the same plight. He exhausted himself from running.
With only a single harvest month a year, how could they prepare for the next one in this condition? They had no food for themselves nor their livestock.
“Oh God…” Kind Hearted Tiravathi fell to the ground and sobbed. It was like a child crying after its treat was stolen by a crow.
The farmers abandoned their fields and came to the village. On the way, they saw the same image of destruction.
From a distance, they could see the locusts swarming the trees near the pond.
They covered the rooftops.
Terrified, many villagers locked themselves into their homes.