Everyman once faces a day in his life which turns his world upside down, sometimes for good and sometimes to devastation. I just happened to meet such a day.
It was the morning of that day and my four years old was trying to get a hold of the rice inside the bowl of Pakhala (a staple food in the eastern part of India), just like searching for fish in a big pond. It’s an art you need to learn if you are poor, too poor. There was a spark in his eye, every time he was getting some rice in his hand. But I don’t think as a father I helped him much in this regard.
My wife, his mother, was quietly sobbing there, her eyes were squeezed into his eye socket, hair was dried without oil. Her bones were so distinguished that you could have studied anatomy by seeing her, the saree she wore was even older than the decade-old super cyclone. In front of her was my one-year little girl, crawling on the muddy floor of the hut of mine.
We had a neighbour who was earning more than me. When her wife bought a new piece of saree, she came and performed a catwalk in front of my wife just to make her jealous, to make her cry. But my wife didn’t care, why would she? She had a mountain of grief to cross, couldn’t waste time there.
Then came his son, holding a lollipop in his hand, licking it deliberately in front of my son. Then my neighbour came and said, “hide your chocolate, don’t show it to his son; he will snatch it.” My son was drooling over the chocolate and finally ran towards him, request him for the chocolate as politely as he can but alas!
He started crying, her mother pulled him back, hugged him so tightly that he can’t leave, but that time the chocolate was winning the war over the love of a mother. Finally, she can’t hold, tears didn’t stop, a heart-piercing cry I could hear, she said, “Kid like you, whose father is dead, don’t have the right to demand .” The one-year-old girl could not understand anything, but she started crying too, starring her mother.
“Father died, who will be our side if you die too”, the son said to her mother.
I was sleeping in the veranda; I could not hold on the tears this time. The wife ran towards me, consoling me not to cry while suppressing her own. That time I did realise what a sinister I was. I was not earning much, and in addition to that I was an alcoholic, I drank whatever available, by the end of the day I came home empty-handed, fell on the veranda and sleep, it was every day.
I never listened to anyone, the sister of my wife once requested me in wet eyes to let live her sister, to quit smoking. But I decided not to respect his request, after all, it was my money, I could do what I liked, and I liked those bottles and the liquid inside it. But this time there was more to the scene than meets the eye. I was feeling the pain, the deep agony.
The next day I woke up, went to the landlord’s farm, worked as a bullock, got the wage and was returning home. My body was aching, the liquor shop was on the way, and as a loyal customer, he could give me some credit. But I crossed the shop without gazing at it. The three hundred rupees of the wage was secure in my hand. My body wanted to relax a bit, wanted that old habit, but my heart was so liberating that I didn’t need any of it on that day, or the day after that day.
-Influenced by the story by Bichitra Biswal (Odia)
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