Punyasloke Bose



Punyasloke Bose


The Mortgage

The Mortgage

8 mins

" A mortgage casts a shadow on the sunniest field" - Robert G. Ingersoll

It all began when there was a drought for continuous two years. Benimadhab or Beni for short was a big farmer with large chunks of farming land in the village of Gouripur. A lot of daily wagers and landless laborers worked in the fields of Beni. Because Beni was a good benevolent employer who looked after the holistic health and finances of all his employees. His employees looked up to Beni as God. Also Beni had a big farmhouse inherited from his ancestors of three-four generations. Every year there was celebrated a Durga Puja and the whole village of Gouripur participated. This celebration was continuing for almost a century now. As a result, Beni had a big overhead expenditure.

Almost a decade had passed when Beni had taken up the responsibility of his father. Never before had he faced any dearth of money because every year his harvest was bountiful and his earnings from the milk from his cows were good to meet all his sundry expenses round the year? In fact there was a surplus every year even after considering the expenses for the Puja.

Only the drought for those two years in the sequence had put Beni's finances in jeopardy. There was little recourse left than to borrow. Gouripur village was small with few households. All the households were average in comparison to Beni's. But there was one ambitious farmer turned trader called Kalipada or Kali. Previously Kali was a small farmer who sometimes worked for Beni. But Kali was smart, intelligent, and hard-working. With his sheer industriousness and grit Kali rose from a small farmer to a trader dealing with agricultural implements. He knew that to escape from the mercy of the weather God, Kali had to shift from farming to some other trade which was independent of the weather. As a result Kali had left behind the vagaries of weather and became free with around the year demanding business. He would supply all the implements like seed, fertilizer, pesticide, etc. to small farmers with limited means. Gradually Kali became liquid with cash.

On hearing the plight of Beni due to the drought, Kali offered to help his erstwhile employer. Beni had no other option but to borrow. Because so many farm laborers were dependent on him and also Beni had burgeoning expenses of his own household. Also there was the expense of the Durga Puja. So Beni sought help from Kali.

Kali, being the smart guy offered help with the condition. The condition was that Beni gives his farmhouse documents to Kali as a security for the loan till the final repayment is done. For Beni it was a Hobson's choice and there was no alternative than to agree. In his mind he was firm to the idea that within a few good years of finances Beni would repay the loan and take back the property papers.

It was a rudimentary form of mortgage practiced in villages and in specific cases like this one. In front of the village Panchayat the terms of the loan and mortgage were laid. Both Beni and Kali were in the governing body of the panchayat. Besides them there were other executive members of the board. When the general body meeting was called all the villagers were present. At this meeting the property papers and finances were exchanged with other terms and conditions. It was decided to pay interest every month in the panchayat meeting in front of everyone and in the final payment the reverse exchange of the property papers would take place. Kali was very smart and knew that ultimately at some point in time in his life this property would be his.

Beni's dream of early repayment of the loan remained a distant dream. Although he had good harvests every year then on but his expenses were always on the rise. He now had the additional expense of his two school-going twins. So Beni kept on servicing the interest and principal without being able to fully clear the loan. Quietly Kali used to pocket the money he received every month from Beni at the Panchayat meeting.

Beni had a pair of twins a girl named Parineeta or Pari and a boy named Rajat. Whereas Kali had a son Gobindo of the same age as Pari and Rajat. Kali had also one audacious idea that when the kids had reached marriageable age then he would talk Beni with the idea of marriage between Pari and Gobindo and keep the mortgaged farmhouse as dowry.

Time passed. The mortgage continued and kids grew older and moved on to college. There was no college in Gouripur village and one had to go to the neighboring village of Haripur where there was one.

At one of the panchayat meetings Kali had obliquely raised the question of the settlement of the mortgage through a marriage relationship. Beni first did not get across the point. But later when he became aware he never could dream of such a union. Gobindo the son of Kali was by no means a ' jamai' or son in law material in the eyes of Beni. Plus, Beni had brought up his daughter Pari in a different manner with a lot of love and independence. Pari was aspirational and definitely had an opinion of her own regarding the selection of her life partner. So, Beni remained worried and anxious. Kali knew this and was playing cat and mouse games with Beni.

At college Pari and her brother Rajat had a lot of friends. As the two villages, Gouripur and Haripur were close by the team of common friends would visit each other at their homes and sometimes even stayed back with a sleepover. Rajat had one very close friend Amitabha or Amit.

Amit was a regular visitor to the Beni household. Amit belonged to a rich family. His father, Taraknath or Tarak, had a big business dealing in agricultural implements and commodities. Recently, Tarak had taken up a dealership of selling tractors. Tarak and his son Amit managed the showroom. Also as Tarak was a big businessman, he was a man of means. He had good connections and lobbying and hob-knobbing with government officials in the agricultural department. Anyone from his village approached him for any help Tarak was always a willing soul. As a result he had become a go-to man for any problem of anyone.

Therefore Amit was a very welcome guest in the Beni household. Beni's kids had grown up with the knowledge of their mortgage and now it was their resolve to clear the loan and free their house from the accursed mortgage. As Amit now was a frequent visitor as Rajat's friend he also developed a nearness to Pari. Slowly an emotional bonding developed between the two. As there was a lot of talk about the Mortgage, Amit also became familiar with it.

As already said, Kali was an ambitious person. Although his son Gobindo did not get his qualities. So Kali was doubting if he could get across the idea of a marriage of his son Gobindo to Pari. Because Kali knew Pari was an intelligent girl and would not settle for Gobindo as she was being seen together with Amit, the son of the rich Tarak.

So, Kali knew that he must grow big wealth wise. He hit upon the idea of getting a government dealership of fertilizers. But this was easier said than done. A lot of lobbying is needed with bags full of money. Top to bottom down the line many officials had to be kept happy and satisfied.

Kali thought of seeking help from Tarak both for monetary support and government lobby. In the meanwhile, Tarak had been posted with the knowledge of the mortgage. He also knew that his son Amit was cozy with Pari and wanted their relationship to go to the next level. Pari was also the first choice of Amit's mother.

So when Kali came to Tarak with his proposal, Tarak was fully prepared. The thorough businessman he was, he made it into a big prestigious business deal.

Tarak appeared in front of Kali as a man eager to help but with his own set of conditions. Kali would get the license very soon and the money required to shell out would be borne by Tarak. Instead, Kali would have to hand over the mortgage to Tarak. The money owed by Beni would be borne by Tarak and the property papers had to be handed over to Tarak in front of the Panchayat.

Hearing the conditions, Kali was taken aback. His lifelong secret wish was to take over the farmhouse of Beni. Now he would have to part with this idea.

Few days passed and the smart businessman Kali soon got over his emotions. He reasoned that with the growth of his business he could build a farmhouse of his own and with money under his belt he could get a rich bride for his son Gobindo.

Now it was just a formality. After many years of struggle Beni got back the papers to his ancestral house curtesy the help of Pari, Rajat, and last but not the least Amit. Beni was beside himself with glee on reacquiring the papers to his cherished property. He could not thank enough Tarak and the kids. Tarak seized the opportunity and asked Beni for the marriage of his daughter Pari with his son Amit. For Beni this was a dream match made in heaven. It was a double whammy for Beni. He was simply overjoyed and thanked God and his stars. Getting a good match for one's daughter is the ultimate dream and wish for all fathers.

Soon Amit and Pari were married in a traditional ceremony with the full attendance of the villages of Gouripur and Haripur. That year Durga Puja was celebrated with a lot of gusto and joy. The Goddess 's face was more glowing than the other years. Benimadhab was simply overjoyed and after many years read the whole book of Chandi, holy scripture and a ritual at such a time, at one sitting.

Epilogue - The author humbly rests on the wisdom of the reader to not go into the details of financial and legal formalities of the mortgage with that depicted in this story. Here the term is loosely used to convey the meaning in the rural settings of the story.

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