Skip to Content

33. Lessee

When I decided to buy a cashew garden on the hill-top known as Caper Hills, my studies concerned the soil, climate, variety of cashew, the characteristics of the cashew plant, its present yield, its greatest capacity to yield, etc. These were all studies in cultivation of a crop. My friends and relatives were constantly reminding me that scientific studies of a crop may be important, but there was something more important, viz. the human factor. I was proposing to buy a piece of property officially described in the government records as forest. Wolves and jackals still lived there in good number. One has to carry drinking water from outside as there was no possibility of finding water anywhere on the whole property. Leave alone drinking water, life was not safe. The physical safety of a person was in danger in those places. All of them constantly asked me how I was going to feel safe and secure in such a place and how I was going to protect the property in such an atmosphere. I was well aware of these dangers, especially after I paid a few visits there before purchasing it. As I had in mind an idea of founding a modern farm, I was planning to create an organisation there in the coming years. When dozens of people were trained and employed, several supervisors recruited working under a farm manager and a crew of watchmen going around, the dangers described by the well-wishers would be overcome. Until then, it is surely a risk and an adventure. And no success can ever be gained without risks. Therefore, I overlooked the good advice given by many and purchased the garden.

The very first thing I did there was to appoint the man who was in charge of that garden for the last 20 years as my lessee. Before I took the effort to contact this man, he was on the look-out for the buyer and tried to explain to me the advantages of keeping him in continued charge of the garden. I spoke to him at length of my plans to found a modern farm there. Promptly he reacted to the idea saying that nothing of that kind would work there, as property of any description-equipments, sprayers, etc.-or, for that matter, anything of value could not be kept safely.

My original plan was to clear the jungle, level the land, put up bunds in every place that needed them, plough the fields as often as necessary and saturate the soil with manure. All this work needed a great deal of investment and a long wait of three to four years for results to show. I was prepared for the effort, investment and long wait, as I had calculated the income of the garden would rise several fold in four years, dwarfing the effort. Those were days when an acre of cashew was giving Rs.50 return collected as jungle produce. No one ever spent any money on cashew trees, except the wages for collecting the nuts. Even for groundnut cultivation, only Rs.250 was spent, while my planned expenditure for modernising cashew cultivation was Rs.300 to 400 per acre. If only I succeeded in completing all the improvements, the rewards would far outstrip my investment. But that was four years away according to my calculation. My work started as planned and proceeded season after season to greater heights of success, confirming at every stage the calculation of results I expected. Two full years had been completed. The same lessee continued as my manager. He did all the work and spent all the money himself. I visited every morning to check the work.

The lessee, who was the manager, contrary to all warnings, proved to be loyal. He was interested in the progress of the work; rather, he was excited about the future prospects for the garden and for himself. He almost identified himself with the work. My friends quipped that I was lucky to get a good man as lessee, as otherwise their fears would have come true.

Though the lessee was very good and honest, our relationship was not without those subtle moments when he would hint that my safe operations on the field were only because he was there. Often visitors would allude to the fact that I was lucky in my lessee. But I had seen occasions when the lessee would put me face to face with field situations that only local people could overcome, whereas I, as an outsider, could not. That he did very rarely to drive home to me his importance for me. Once in a threatening situation I took the lead and decided to handle the situation myself and the situation did come under my control. In a flash the Rudra in him came out and he asserted himself against the pilferers. By and large he was a good man.

My third year arrived with the third season for me in the garden. The trees were fantastic, with flowers as no other garden around looked. People commented that my expected results came a year or two earlier. They said my three years investment, including the original purchase value could be retrieved in that one year. The flower laden trees spoke for themselves, and it looked as if everyone had spoken the truth.

Before I could lay the foundation for a modern farm, create an organisation, put up a few buildings, appoint an educated manager, I felt caught unawares by this prospect of a great yield. Had the yield waited another year or two, I could have prepared myself to handle it all with an organisation at my disposal to handle the collection of nuts, ward off intruders, drive away cattle, etc. Now I entirely depended upon the goodwill of my lessee. If he continued to be good, there would be no problem. He suddenly showed signs of greed. He knew I was at his mercy. As the enthusiasm all around was great because of the success of the work sooner than expected, this issue did not occupy my mind more than as an information.

Just then my jutkawalla, who was close to my lessee, brought the news that the lessee had changed his attitude. It seemed he had told my jutkaman, "Give the garden to me on lease. Ask him to sit at home. Let him not worry. I shall give the lease honestly at the end of the season."  It came to me as a jolt. What everyone warned me against had come true for no fault of mine. Had the success waited longer, I would have been right. It was well known in the ten gardens around us that no lessee gave the owner more than half the lease amount and there was no way of collecting it from these poor people. Mine was a new situation. It was not easy to fix the lease amount as the yield expected was five to ten times. No one in the village was able to assess the yield because it was new to them. The only reasonable course would be to collect the produce and at the end of the season to reward the lessee suitably after realising the real extent of produce. If I gave in now, even if I succeeded in creating an organisation later, the lingering results of having given in to the lessee would be there. Perhaps my giving in might stand in the way of creating an organisation. The lessee seemed to be actuated by greed and the trump was in his hand. It weighed on my mind heavily. In those days, I never used to pray to Mother for any particular reward or results. When faced with a problem, I used to meditate. The weight would be lifted from the mind and the problem would melt away. In fact, in the early years of my coming to the Ashram, there were very few problems at all in my life.

This time I meditated, but the weight did not fully lift itself from the mind. I went to the Samadhi and meditated again. There was greater relief, but not full relief. This was a new experience for me and I had to solve this problem before I met the lessee again. As I was visiting the garden every day the time left was short. In those days Mother Herself was issuing passes to a few people to visit Sri Aurobindo's room. I obtained one and visited the room. I meditated and came out. Champaklal, who had attended on Sri Aurobindo for 25 years, called me and asked if there was anything important at home that made me visit the room. In trying to answer him, I recollected that I had a problem with my lessee which had gone out of my mind till then.

The next day I met my lessee. He had lost his usual smile and appeared serious. We retired to a secluded spot. I began the conversation asking him for news. Quickly he answered it was I who should bring him news. I started an explanation of what I had done in the garden and came to the harvest. I said we must settle between ourselves the terms for that year's harvest. He stopped me short and burst out, "You have spread thigh high manure in this place. You have spread knee deep currency notes here. All the money I spent with my own hands. And now when the results come, it should go entirely to you. I am not one who will ask for more than my due. Give what you please. No one will give more than you. I am not one who will lay hands on your share."  I felt he was speaking my thoughts and was moved to see tears in his eyes. I proposed a rate per bag. He readily agreed and jumped up laughing. He said, "Come, let's go. There is a lot of work to do."

book | by Dr. Radut