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Odia Story: WHAT NEXT?

By Indulata Mohanty, Rabinarayan Patnaik | PUBLISHED: 16, Sep 2017, 7:51 am IST | UPDATED: 22, Oct 2017, 12:54 pm IST

Odia Story: WHAT NEXT?

In that small town the two brothers could not live together as one family after the demise of their father. They separated.

The house that was built by their grandfather and modified and renovated by their father was divided into two parts. The movable as well as the immovable property was also divided between the two brothers.

A wall was raised at the centre of the specious courtyard. The mother had preceded the father, so she was spared of being shuttled between the two sons- living with one son for a period and with the other for exactly the same period. Simply speaking the mother was not there to be divided.

It may so happen that every girl will not find a husband but it is true that there are as many houses as there are brothers. So the separation of these two brothers was nothing new.

The elder brother was not highly educated. After a couple of years in a college he understood that higher education was not for his ilk. So left the college and to earn a living started a small business.

He did not bother whether such business would earn him a place of pride in the society; for his aim was to earn enough to lead a life free from want. His philosophy was: so many avenues are now open to lead a decent life that if you have no inclination to gain knowledge it is of no use to spend so many years in the college. He initially took the agency of a few small companies and gradually worked his way through to reputed companies; took franchise from them and within a reasonably short period positioned himself on a sound financial pedestal.

The younger son was a good student. He did not have high ambition. He was satisfied with whatever he had. After getting first class in Master of Science he preferred to accept whatever job came his way than to run after uncertain future or bribe some people to get a government job.

That year in the only college in the town run by a private body, Science stream was started; why would the authority look elsewhere for teachers when eligible candidates were available in the town itself?

Thus, the unsolicited job of teaching in a college landed on his lap and he did not discard it. He considered this to be enough.

In due course the two brothers got married. Although they were separated long after the marriage of the younger brother, there was a talk in the neighbourhood that such a close knit family broke up due to the machination of the younger daughter-in-law.   

Man’s tongue is not only independent, but autocratic also. It speaks out without inhibition. Such a tongue is responsible for the traditional saying that the daughter who comes from another family is the cause of division within the family.

No one ever gives a thought as to how a girl who came into the family only recently can divide the family in a trifle whereas the son born and brought up in the house fails to prevent it! The son is a subservient to the daughter from another family!

The fact is: blame the daughter for all that is ugly. She is born tolerant- so she has the capacity to take this in her stride and shall not raise a voice of protest! 

Let it be as it is. In this case the division of the house has nothing to do with the daughter-in-law. Rather these two women lived like two sisters. Between the two, they of course had differences, they did sulk and fume at times, but on the whole their relationship was based on love and respect for each other without malice, rancour or bitterness.  

The brothers too did not have animosity of any kind towards each other from their childhood. The younger loved and adored his elder brother and the elder had love and affection for the younger brother in equal measure.

So what was the reason that both of them could not live as one family?

The elder brother, the entrepreneur that he was, Goddess Lakshmi did not budge from his shoulders. It is not years or months, every day he improved financially. With the favour of the Goddess Lakshmi on his side, greed overpowered his conscience. He thought: We are two and we have only one child, a daughter. The younger brother has three sons, they are five in number; and how much does he earn as a lecturer in a private college? Whatever I spend for the family from my hard earned money, more than half is spent on them. Is it logical that what I earn through my hard labour will be spent for another family?

So he called his younger brother one day and told him- mother has left us since long and then father followed her. So there is no one to whom we are tied up. Let us be independent of each other, let us separate.

The younger brother had nothing to say. They separated.

The portion of the house which the elder brother got as his share was demolished and a new well architected three storied building was built with latest designer fittings in the bath rooms and the kitchen. The living room and the bed rooms were decorated to resemble the house of the father of a Hindi movie’s heroine.

The garden in the front of the house was also redesigned. A horticulturist was appointed to take care of it. Throughout the year the garden looked like the Nandan Kanan of the heaven. Seasonal flowers bloomed according to the season. The leafy trees were trimmed to beautiful shape. At the centre there was a lawn- a shining green carpet.

On the whole, in that small town the elder brother’s house drew everybody’s attention. People loved to see this house and lauded it.

Next to this house was the half which the younger brother got as his share; in the same shape as it was when partition took place. Of course it did get a coat of whitewash every two, three years.

While on the other side the garden looked as beautiful as a painting, this side a few age old flower plants like oleander, yellow oleander, moon beam, tecoma and jasmine were flowering as a matter of routine. Expect being watered at times, these plants did not get any other attention and the area which once was a lawn was now a bald, barren piece of land. The three sons and their friends had made it their playground.

The interior of the house was only a reflection of the exterior. Whatever furniture were there – the cots, almirahs, tables or the sofa were all age old, made by their parents. Only the bed sheets, pillow covers, cushion covers and the curtains were being changed from time to time. Otherwise the furnishing of the house was as before. Even the bathrooms and the kitchen did not change.

The younger daughter-in –law often muses-if it would be possible for the in-laws to ever come back to earth in their physical bodies and enter the other half of the house, they would surely confuse regarding the address of the house they once owned; but if they entered from this side, they would feel at home and instinctively stretch themselves on the bed. The house looked as prehistoric from outside as antique from inside                   

Within this changelessness one room, nay, a part of the room stood out as unique. In the living room the age old sofa and the centre table could be easily discerned. On the other side of the sofa, on a carpet, no, rather a thick cotton mat- a dari, a few musical instruments like a harmonium, sitar, guitar, tabla were neatly placed. The younger son was a lover of music.

The daughter of the other side of the house goes to the only English medium  School of the town in  a chauffeur driven car where as the boys of this side of the house study in the Government School.  They avail the School bus to reach the School and comeback home.

The inmates of the other side house wear designer’s dresses to suit the occasion and the changing times, but there has been no deviation from the age old practice in this side of the house. On birth days or on festivals new dresses are sure purchased, but rather in the traditional way.

For the daughter-in-law of the house at the other side gold had lost its shine. She considered it common as anybody worth the name wears it. She always purchased jewellery studded with diamond and other precious stones.

But the daughter-in-law of this side of the house still wears her bridal ornaments. Although theses look worn out and out of fashion there was no way theses could be exchanged for newer ones. The price of gold has hit the sky.

On many occasions, in the evening shouting and revelry could be heard from the other side house where as one can hear the melodious songs to the accompaniment of musical instruments in this side of the house almost every evening.

The two parts of the house not only maintained their separate identity, but they stuck to their way of life with its resplendent majesty.

On a day the younger daughter-in-law suggested to her husband – you teach physics, many students are looking for private tuition in the subject, why don’t you start a coaching centre?

The younger son was amused. With a Monalisa like smile on his lips he asked- what do I get from that?

- You will get more money....

- Is not my salary enough? We have a house to live in, we have enough to eat and we meet our other expenses, don’t we?

- That is right, but we can be better off with more money.....

-how?

- You are now riding a bike. You can have a car, pre owned though it might be.

 -Then what?

- When the boys will pass out from the School they can go to good colleges in bigger cities.

- And then?

The younger daughter-in-law blushed. With eyes fixed on the ground she said, “All my jewellery are now pretty old and worn out. When I go to a social gathering I wear the same old dress and same old jewellery. I haven’t purchased a good sari even”.

The dancing eyes of the younger son became still. The Monalisa like smile slipped off and the lips clasped in wilfulness. He pulled her closed to him, raised her face with his palms and looking at her eyes said, “Well Minu, if you get these things will you never desire for anything else?”

Minu probably failed to grasp the real meaning of the question of her husband. She simply kept looking at him in her look of innocence.

The younger son drew her closer still and said, “Look Minu, you are thinking of these things because you don’t possess them as of now. You long to have them. When you get these, you will still hanker for those items which you don’t have. If you have them, next you will like to have something more. There will be no end to the ‘next’. That is in the womb of future. So don’t you try to go to the ‘future’. Stay here, at the ‘present’. Don’t lose the present thinking of the future. Look at it from another angle. You have something. Many people even don’t have so much. They must be hankering for the jewellery that you have. He released his wife from his embrace and said, “Did not the Buddha say that misery ends when desire ends? Surely, you have read this. But have you ever tried to ruminate it? There is no end to desire, Minu. You start riding the rungs of the ladder of desire; it just goes up and up and up. There is no end of these steps.”

That day a special meeting was organised in the town hall. A sage from the Himalayas was to give a talk based on spirituality.

The elder sister-in-law asked her younger counterpart to accompany her to that meeting. Whenever any function was organised in the town hall she used to ask the younger sister-in-law to accompany her. If she was free, Minu, her younger sister-in-law at times accompanied her.

Those who attend the functions organised in the town hall are normally well known to the elder daughter-in-law. They are her friends. But this spiritual thing and the sadhu was something new to her. So, she was hell bent not to accept a ‘no’ from her younger sister-in-law.

The sadhu began his speech in time. His talk centred round the theme that man himself is God. The ‘jivatma’in man is in reality the ‘paramtma’. But while in human body it forgets its real nature and identifies with the human being.

To be free from this body man has to possess some good qualities and shun some bad ones.

The foremost task is to control the six senses. These senses are not anywhere outside, but in the man himself. They are the desire, anger, greed, infatuation, ego and jealousy.

The sadhu explained that desire has to controlled first. Desire is the root cause of all kinds of worldly shackles. Don’t hanker after ‘more’. Be satisfied with what you have. If you can do that  you can master over your senses.

He explained in detail how this can be achieved. The congregation was listening to him in rapt attention. To elaborate the point and to lighten the prevailing solemn atmosphere; to be satisfied with whatever one has and thereby to live with happiness and contentment the sadhu told a story.

Reclining in the shed of a tree on the bank a man was watching the ripples in the pond created by the wind. His glowing face indicated his contentment.

A visitor from a distant place happened to pass by that pond. He did not like the young man so full of energy and strength to while away his time like this instead of working to earn. So he asked,

            - Why are you wasting your time instead of working?

              -What sort of work should I do?-the young man asked.

               -There are plenty of fish in the pond. Why don’t you catch them?

              -What do I do with the fish?

               -Well, you can sell them- suggested the visitor.

                -Then what?

                 -You will get good amount of money, replied the visitor.

                 -Then what?

                 -You can buy a good house, may be a car later.

                  -Then what?   

 

The visitor lost his patience and got annoyed. This lazy fellow was unable to visualise the good life he was talking about. Fellow must be an idiot. Yet keeping his cool and his thought to himself he said

                 Then, you will live in a good house, you will ride a car, you will lead a happy and contented life.

The man who was enjoying the ripples in the pond did not like the interruption. He stretched  himself and said, “What do you think I am doing here under the shed of the tree?  I am enjoying the same happiness, contentment and peace that you are talking about”.   

After hearing this Minu remembered what her husband had told her.  She thought- why did I come all the way to hear the sadhu’s lecture? At home my husband in reality leads a life  the sadhu is sermonising about.                                      

   # Originally written in Odia by Smt. Indulata Mohanty.

   # Translated by Sri Rabinarayan Patnaik