There are times when the going gets tough and the road that we are trudging seems all uphill. My grandfather or ‘dadubhai’ as I fondly called him, told me an interesting incident of his life when he was amidst the hard times and had nothing but faith and fate to look up to for support. This is the incident that he narrated to me.
“I was about the age of thirty and with my father dead , I had carried the burden of an entire family which included three younger brothers, an ailing mother , a wife and a little son (who was to be your father later on) for almost ten years then. Our source of income was this very shop in the village where I am sitting now. You might scoff at the thought that how could a small shop like this support an entire family? But this village did not have too many shops during those days and competition was negligible. Now my brothers had all grown up and were ready to support themselves and start their own families. I had worked hard towards providing them with good education and two of them, Kamalakant and Dulal ,had become qualified enough to appear for a job interview at the Steel Plant located in the nearby city. Only Shivprasad, the third brother was an illiterate who had given up studies and helped me in the shop.
This incident occurred during a hot summer May afternoon. I was taking my afternoon siesta, a light nap and Shiv was busy smoking a bidi. It was that time of the day when business was slow but I was slightly restless. For the past few days, my other two brothers’ attitude had changed and I had the feeling that they had got the job. Nevertheless the results had still not been declared and I was as anxious as them for their success. Suddenly I heard some noise from outside. Shiv opened the door to see both my other brothers talking animatedly, joy and happiness clearly etched on their faces.
“We got the job,” they shouted. My joys knew no bounds. At last there seemed a way out of poverty and darkness. Both of us would handle the shop and they would go to the plant.
“This is very good news. Now I can go back to my shop and work in peace as I am confident both of you can support yourselves now,”I said ,more relieved than them.
“But the huts should also be properly distributed,” Kamala said.
“What do you mean?” I was shocked.
“Why should you get the front hut and we the huts located inside the compound?” asked Dulal, the youngest of the four of us.
“That is because only the front hut can be used as a shop and I own the shop,” I said,my voice shaking slightly due to fury.
“You might own the shop but we have as much right over the hut as you have,”said Kamala.
Our entire household had been divided into four huts and each brother had one to his name. One of the hut’s entrance opened to the road outside so it was a natural choice for a shop. The other three were built inside the compound and customers would find it too difficult to reach if any one of these huts were selected as the shop. Since I handled the shop, I had thought the front hut to be mine and since both my brothers had a job now, they should have been more than happy to let me own the shop after all that I had done for them since father’s death. But of course, my brothers had other thoughts.
A lot of discussions were held with the other elders of the village and my brothers decided to use a lottery method to allot the various huts to each of us. Since father had not mentioned anything specific about any property, it was assumed that all four brothers had equal share. So they were not committing any illegal offence.
Meanwhile I was trembling from head to foot. My chance of getting the front house was one out of four. Chances were very slim. I thought of the consequences if I picked up the wrong chit. With no shop and no degree( I was forced to quit school just before my matriculation due to my father’s sudden death), how would I feed my wife and child. I was not worried about mother as she still had three other sons but what about us? I had lots of dreams regarding my son’s education, my ancestors’ lost properties and our faded fame. All of a sudden everything appeared dark and the ground felt like giving away. My wife and mother understood my plight but they too were helpless.
Just the night before the lottery my mother came up to me and said,”Babu, you appear so tensed.”
“Ma, what if I pick the other three chits. What will I do?”
“Which is the chit that you want to pick up?” my mother asked.
I thought my mother was joking. But the look on her face showed pain and concern for her eldest son. “Of course the one with the front hut,” I said.
“You will pick that very chit tomorrow. Maa Durga is watching you .” Saying this she went back to sleep.
My mother’s confidence lifted my spirits slightly. I decided to go to the temple. As I walked through the night breeze, my mind lightened considerably. The future was dark. Why was I extinguishing even the small flicker of hope that I had even before it would actually blow off. I knelt down in front of Maa Durga in the temple and said in low whispers several times,”I am going to pick only that chit tomorrow.”This thought comforted me and I soon fell off to sleep in the temple itself.
Next day, I picked up the chit that had the front hut.