It had been a long wait. Sardar Fateh Singh was finally leaving for his heavenly abode. The clan was in throes of gluttony outside the ICU, their masks beginning to slip. The patriarch’s estate attorney had spoken of his having left a legal Will. “What is he leaving Zorawar, that favourite grandson of his?” they were beside themselves with envious dread. “His ancestral farm, the fixed deposits or his wife’s gold he has refused to disburse in family weddings?” there was no abating the feverish fertility of speculative minds.
While the tribe carved out their imaginary entitlements, Capt. Zorawar Singh Brar patrolled a far flung sector in Zakhama, Nagaland. It would be days before he returned to a digitally accessible zone.
Fateh Singh’s last rites were performed as per the affidavit of cremation produced by his lawyer. All that was left to do now was to await Zorawar, he had been found to have been named as the Testator’s Executor. Not only would he review the Will, he would have the power to settle the estate. “He is going to give himself a fat compensation for this fiduciary nonsense” the young cousins fretted over not being given copies of the Will right away. While Zorawar stomped the Naga Hills on the line of control, the Brar Mansion thrummed with fears of an ugly family contest.
An eminent eco-scientist, Fateh Singh was a nominee to the United Nations’ Champions of the Earth award. But for his Alma mater, the Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana not many knew of what he did for a living in the USA. To most, he was merely another rich NRI, made wealthier by his agricultural legacy back home.
On a dusty July noon, Fateh Singh’s biological band gathered around Zorawar who was finally home on annual leave from his regiment. The taut air in the main hall slackened in tandem with settling of the shares as the grieving grandson went down the list in a sombre voice. Suspense over the Executor’s share however, shot up as he reached the end of the document. He had been left a shoe box sized carton! That is all. An unadorned, decrepit, harmless looking taped container.
Incredulous faces urged Zorawar to slit the binding and fling open the lid. Dirt! Ugh, a pile of ordinary, everyday, regular earth?! The ceiling shook with rambunctious laughter as the relieved descendants left in a self-congratulatory cloud of prosperity. What were they thinking? There clearly was a lot less love lost between the two than what the family feared. How truly deceptive could appearances be!
They had missed the hand written note he was pulling out from under the clumps. “Go on! Feel this turf brought over from your 1000 acres farmland in the Sonoran, Arizona. It is live soil, the endangered dirt called cryptobiotic crust. NASA is studying the patches for greenhouse farming on Mars! You will never want for anything. Make me proud. I will watch over you from above.”