Dignity in a Farmer’s Hard Work
21 September 2012
On a lazy and cool weekend afternoon, while sipping tea on the balcony at a highland resort, my gaze chanced upon a farmer hard at work in the fields not too far away. Suddenly, my thoughts were stirred. I had to remind myself that just because I was on a holiday and it was a Sunday did not mean that the world had stopped. Even while I was enjoying my weekend break, there were people toiling away for a living.
I then observed the farmer at work. It was a modestly-sized piece of agricultural land, by almost any standards. However, you could feel that the farmer took pride in her workplace, which very likely also doubled up as her home. It was simple but well-kept, with neat rows cutting across.
She was hunched over her workplace, carefully planting the seedlings one by one—by hand. At intervals of one foot or so, she would make a depression in the soft soil with her knuckles; carefully lay a seedling in place; cover it with soil with one hand while holding the seedling upright with the other again; before giving it a soft pat, as if willing the seedling to grow quickly. Seeing some of the other vegetables that looked almost ready for harvest, I wondered how many months it would take before those seedlings she was planting in the soil would grow to be like them.
In the half hour that it took me to enjoy my pot of tea, I had noticed that she had barely moved a few metres down the line. However, despite the apparent disparity between amount of work done and her progress, she maintained a quiet air of dignity, exuding patience and persistence. Slowly but surely, in a slow but graceful rhythm, she was entrusting the soil with young lives, one at a time, that would also be her sustenance in the months to come.
In that half hour, I developed an indescribable respect for the unnamed farmer. I had not had the chance to speak with her. I did not even get a chance to see her face, because she was constantly looking down at the ground with her face obscured by her over-sized straw hat. However, I somehow just felt a sense of admiration and gratitude for her.
During dinner that night, when I was enjoying the vegetables that were served on the table, I remembered the farmer. This humble-looking piece of vegetable I on my plate represented months of tireless and sometimes frustratingly thankless efforts of many like her, investing countless hours hunched in the fields, braving the elements. I made a silent promise to the farmer that I would be more appreciative of her efforts in future, and to say a silent word of thanks each time I took my meals, whether in a posh restaurant or at a humble street stall.
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Wonderful piece of lecture. I am impressed with the sensitivity of the author.