The road we take this morning leads past, on the right, an enormous grain warehouse. Only there is no warehouse. There are just hundreds and thousands of sacks of grain, stacked into high piles, lying in the open. Some piles have a tarp on top, flapping in the breeze. Most do not. It's dry now, but I wonder, as I wondered the last few times I wandered past here, what happens in the rains. Or for that matter, what happens even now, are there not nefarious rodents and insects who have designs on these piles of rodent- and insect-food? The last few times I wandered past were a year ago, and there's been absolutely no change since then. The sacks are in the open just as they were then.
I mean, less than a kilometre down the road, on the left this time, an enormous CRPF camp is under construction. Any number of barracks and other buildings, with a long wall all around. When I was last in these parts, a year ago, there was only a large open expanse here. Good the camp has made so much progress. But how can I avoid thinking, if they can so diligently build this camp, why is there absolutely no move to build some kind of shelter for those sacks of grain?
Another ten minutes and we turn into the health clinic. Speaking of rodents, a rat has died in one of the rooms and the stench is something fierce. Takes a while to locate the corpse and get rid of it.
Soon after, a young man and his grandfather bring a whimpering young boy, black shorts and orange shirt, into the OPD section. The family went to work in their field. While they worked, the boy played, and stumbled on a discarded 1-litre can of pesticide. He opened it and licked the inside of the lid. He vomited a bit. Panicked, the young man, the grandpa and the boy got on the young man's motorbike, gathered the leaflet that came with the can, and drove the 11 km to the clinic.
Luckily he had actually ingested only a little bit of the chemical. Luckily too, it was Koranda 505 (Chlorpyriphos), not one of the more potent pesticides. The boy soon gave up his whimpering and began traipsing happily all around the clinic. Meanwhile, the grandfather took off his glasses and showed me his left eye: watering and smaller than the right. This has been going on for 15 years, he told me. I had to go to Bhilai for treatment, he told me, and none of my sons helped me with the payments.
As often seems to happen, the old man seemed just to want someone to listen. So I listened. After a while he fell silent. Then got up and went searching for his grandson.
It's a slow day, being the day after Holi. Not because there were fewer potential patients on Holi, but because in this state, there's no public transport and all the private buses took yesterday and this morning off from running services. So most potential patients could not actually make their way here.
So it goes. Driving back, we pass the sacks of grain again. I think of rodents. And pesticide.