Debjani Mukherjee



Debjani Mukherjee


Wish List Of A Honey Jar

Wish List Of A Honey Jar

19 mins 602 19 mins 602

                           “We are Brahmins Madam ji, what to say! It is our rotten fate that today I have to wash dishes and sweep floors in other’s house. There was a time when my in-laws used to have seventy bighas of land in Kanpur but what to say all the brothers of my husband were idiots so after their father’s death their uncles cheated them and took away all their lands and ornaments. May you think Madam ji I am telling you lies but what to say in my parents’ house I was too much pampered by my uncle. My mother died when I was very small. My father never married again but you know he never used to take care of us. ‘Us’ means me and my brother. But all that deficiencies were compensated by my uncle. What to say Madam ji you may not believe if I used to demand anything in the morning I surely used to get it by the evening and now months after months I don’t even buy a blouse just for my kids Madam ji, because they are the one for whom I live now. All this hard work day and night, all for them Madam ji what to say. I just hope they complete their studies and get decent jobs in some office or something, just doesn’t want them to end up like me Madam ji.”

                       The small hand of the clock touched two. Again she got late today but this is her last house after this she will head back to home and get the chance to lay down on her bed for few hours until the evening tea time. Whatever she gets from each house almost fills her stomach and here in this house this Bengali Madam gives her almost full lunch so she need to eat no lunch at home. She likes to talk with this Bengali Madam, she is a good listener, everyone says her “Sudha Ben you talk too much and work less” but this Madam listens all her stories very attentively and moreover she keeps the AC on in her bedroom all the time. So it is very relaxing to sit there with the bucket of water and mop and chat with her for long unless it gets too late for home. This Madam also has a kind heart she often gives food and money for her kids. She is not like the others who make you work a ton before giving you a little extra money. Many times Sudha had seen their kids fussing over foods while she remembers how her Lucky, Chotu, and Satyam long for those same foods at home. Whenever they ask their father for anything they always get the answer “now I don’t have money, I will give you next month and that next month never comes”. But she can’t blame Mishra ji for that it is enough that he is spending money at least for the education of her children otherwise people of their class hardly bothers about educating their children. Though initially she had to fight a lot with her uneducated husband for convincing him to send her elder son Satyam to school. For the first seven years no one listened to her at all but she didn’t give up at all and at the age of seven she finally sends her son to school. Actually she herself read upto tenth standard she can even read easy English words. Sometimes she reads headlines of English newspaper which comes in Bengali Madams home. She feels proud of herself when she could complete a sentence without any mistakes or stopping anywhere. She noticed a smile of encouragement on Madam’s face which fills her heart with joy. She wants to see that joy on her children’s faces too. She wants them to be like the children of them where she goes to work every day. So whenever she gets a chance to gather some extra money or thing for her kids she does that. She asked all her Madams for their and their kids old clothes. Few dresses fit them perfectly few she stitch according to their size but she always makes sure that all her family members should be dressed in clean clothes. She even keeps an iron in her house and whenever any of them goes out for any special occasion she herself irons their clothes before they wear it. Though they stays in a tin roof cabin which gets heated extremely in the afternoon but yet she manages to keep her kids completely clean and odor free by making them take bath twice in a day and change to clean clothes each time after bath. No matter for maintaining this strict hygienic habit she had to wash double amount of clothes each day as she loves when people’s say her “ Sudha Ben your family never looks like you are from this poor background you all are so fair and well dressed. Looking at you all who will say you stay in a tin cabin and your husband is a watchman. Then she Sudha starts her story with utter satisfaction that how they comes from a good Brahmin background and only because of ill fate today they are suffering like this.

                      “If someday I become a rich man and buy a house of my own I will name it Dal and Rice” said Satyam who was playing with his mobile sitting on the plastic chair beside the tin door of the room. Lucky and Chotu bust out into laughter and said together “very true Bhaiya every day we eat the same thing Dal and rice mommy became very lazy she cooks nothing else. “This is the end of the month and the vegetable prices are touching the sky so she has to manage with whatever available at home but kids are kids. The next day at dinner Sudha gave Satyam fifty rupees note and told “go and bring a packet of puffed rice and hot snacks mix she will make bhelpuri for all three of them. Satyam looked at his mother with a surprise he is not small any more this year he is going to give his tenth exam, no matter what he says he knows at this time of the month even an extra expense of fifty rupees is quite a burden for his parents. Reading the question on her son’s face Sudha answered “I kept it separately not go and bring the things quickly by then I will be finished with the chopping of onions and tomatoes.

                    This year the summer is hotter than ever. Even the water of the new earthen water pot is not keeping the water cool anymore. The Sindhi Madam of flat number 306 is buying a new fridge. She asked Sudha if she would like to buy her old fridge or not? Even the price was not at all high only 1500. Moreover Madam was ready to take the money in installments from her salary. Sudha was so sure to buy it that she even learnt the recipe of making kulfi from Madam ji. She dreamt the smiling face of Lucky and Chotu when she will serve the cool cool kulfis to them. But Mishra ji her husband has to create problem in everything good happening in her life. According to him fridge will consume too much current which their Master may object to, as Mishra ji is a watchman and stays for free in the society allotted room for the watchman which saves his money of house rent, electric bill, and water bill all at a time. So the secretary of the society may object to the extra electricity bill of a luxury like fridge. Sudha knows what he is saying is true but when she sees those children in those big houses sitting on the chair tables eating ice creams with spoons her heart wrenches with pain. All she wants is to give her kids a life like them at least whatever she herself could manage in her power. Two more years she calculates in her mind then Satyam will be ready with his twelfth certificate. Mishra ji’s friend is a labour agent in the Relience Factory in Hazira. He promised he will give Satyam a job of junior supervisor in the factory with a salary of fifteen to twenty thousand, but before that he have to learn the computers. Satyam was saying it will cost thirty thousand for a year to learn everything. She knows it is a huge amount of money for them but she will manage she has two heavy silver anklets given by her Uncle at the time of her marriage which she somehow still managed to keep unsold in this poverty. For Satyam’s studies she will keep that mortgage and take lone against them which will easily bring her eight to ten thousand and the rest she will manage from her Madams as advance but she won’t let Satyam suffer a bit regarding his education. Mishra Ji keeps on preaching her to make him work after the tenth as a labor in the company. He says they will pay 12 thousand a month and one time food free. But another two years will give him an office work and a life where people will respect him, a life they could never give him.

                            Bengali Madam was searching for her son’s blue pant today. She searched every nook and corner of her cupboards but couldn’t find it. Sudha also helped her little to find but she has to go back to her home also after all she can’t spend the whole day here. She said bye to Madam and started walking towards to her home. Bengali Madam doesn’t have a suspicious mind otherwise in case of missing something people first suspect the maid. Anyway today she will go to the market Lucky’s sleepers are tore she was wearing it by pinning it with a safety pin. But day before yesterday it got open while walking and her feet got nailed with its sharp end. As usual Mishra ji’s answer was “will buy one next month.” so today she will buy one herself for her daughter.

                              It is four o clock in the morning a little girl of twelve gets up from bed and takes bath in the cold water from the well then carries three big brass buckets full water to the second floor where the kitchen is. She lights the stove and cooks rice, dal, sabji , chapati for all the males of the house specially her beloved uncle who will be going to work in the morning. This is her duty every morning. No matter it is bone jittering cold or sky falling rainy season Sudha will get up at four o clock, cook for the males of the houses while all the others will sleep in peace in their cozy bed. But she doesn’t mind she is a child without mother staying in others family so this much she have to do she knows. And moreover uncle loves her very much as much as a real father. He fulfils her every demand. Last month she asked for a disco dress, the one which shines too much. He brought it especially from a big shop of Kanpur just for her. All the ladies sitting together to eat sharing the remaining milk of the pet cows and eating food from brass plates with two three vegetables chapatis rice dal and talking and laughing among themselves with joyful faces. “Sudha O Sudha get up won’t you make tea today?” The dream got over as she woke up with the irritating voice of Mishra ji and she remembered that the biscuits were all finished yesterday and there is nothing at home to give the children with tea.

                            “Lucky is not well Madam since yesterday. Is suffering from fever, headache and coughing was not ready to leave me at all that’s way couldn’t come to work. Yesterday evening we took her to the doctor, he told to do blood test and then gave expensive medicines. What to say Madam to much expenses this month, a whole 500 rupees note got away yesterday itself and on top of that at the end of this month it’s Chotu’s birthday. That little fellow my mine waits for months only for that very special day, when he gets to wear new clothes and cut cake like his other friends in school. That day I cook whatever he wishes to eat. But Madam for all these we have to spend more than 1000 ₹. God knows Madam from where will I manage this time! Will you please give me a little advance, then you may cut it month by month? “ Sudha asked the Bengali Madam as she mopped the last corner of her bedroom and God bless Bengali Madam Shudra went home back with a smiling face with a thousand rupee in her blouse as advance.

                             The blood test showed Lucky got dengue. It made Sudha’s world almost upside down. Though the doctor said it’s just the starting so there is absolutely nothing to worry but yet the name dengue is enough to cut a mother’s heart out. It is now four days Lucky now admitted in the hospital today evening they will give discharge if the doctor feels so. Sudha couldn’t go to work for a single day . Lucky didn’t leave her for a moment. The advance she took from Bengali Madam has all gone apart from that more money has been spent too. Mishra ji told her to admit Lucky into the government hospital but Sudha had been there several times . At the time of the birth of her children she always went to a government hospital where she hardly got a bed to sleep on and the floors where she had to adjust with other many patients mostly used to be so dirty that she felt like vomiting all the time and doctors hardly used to come on rounds mostly the nurses used to be incharge who never used to talk politely with anybody. She could never think of sending her little daughter to a hell like that. So she fought with her husband as hard as she can and brought Lucky here and after four days she is taking back her kid back to her home healthy and safe.

                                    Two days are remaining to Chotu’s birthday. This year her seven years old is absolutely quite. Generally by this time he would have announced hundred times what flavoured cake he will cut this time, what special dish Sudha have to cook this year which new dress he wants. But this year it’s all silent he knows due to lucky’s sickness all their money had gone and his parents could give him nothing this year. So this year he will get no cake to taste that soft sweet cream will not melt inside his mouth, no one will clap and sing happy birthday to you. Mom won’t cook anything special. Chotu thought this year he will asking her to make chole puri. Mom makes it too good he loves seeing when he pokes his little finger on the top of the big white phulka and the hot air comes out hushhh. But this year nothing like that will happen this year it will be just another day like today and tomorrow.

                 “What! What are you doing there Sudha? What is there that you are hiding?” The Bengali Madam shouted standing in front of the tittle store room door.

     Sudha stood up at once her whole body was shivering like a dry leave “ nothing Madam nothing the tiffin box fell down and I was trying to assemble the things back, I did nothing Madam trust me”.

     Bengal madam pushed her back and came near the bucket of the mopping water and saw what Sudha tried to hide with all her efforts. The fifty and hundred rupees notes were now floating on the white phenyl mixed water. “What is this Sudha ? How dare you ? After all I did for you how could you did this to me?”

        Bengali Madam words were almost like acid to her ears. She has no answer, her each word is so true! She did a lot for her. Whenever she asked for anything or was in any distress Madam helped her without fail. Right at this moment standing in front of Madam she is feeling like she is the dirtiest insect of the drain. But before taking the money from the hidden tiffin box of Madam she was only thinking about Chotu. His little depressed face was killing her from days. She just wanted to arrange that much money by which she can buy him a small cake and nothing else. She had seem Madam keeping little amount of money in that tiffin box many times , some she saw the notes piled up so much that they are almost about to fall out from the box. These people have so much she was just going to take a very little amount so little that Madam might not even notice, they actually never notice that old vest of Sindhi sir’s which she took away while washing when Satyam needed one immediately for wearing inside his school white shirt, that fifty rupees which she took from the tv table of Gujarati Madam’s when she made bhelpuri for her kids, that blue pant of Bengali Madam’s son which she gave Satyam before he was going out on one day school tour and had nothing presentable to wear, and all those little ten and twenty rupees which helped her to meet the emergency needs of her kids like broken sleepers or tore undergarments or notebooks or a mere crave of ice cream they simply never noticed. She knows they don’t even care for little amounts like those. They keep coins piled up in a box on the kitchen table or a bowl or something at the corner of the showcase of their house and forget for months if that bowl or the box will reduce a little they won’t even notice because then have so much that they don’t even care but if they see Sudha taking a coin then the trouble will begin.

                         “Come out Sudha of your house police is here”. Sudha saw Bengali Madam and Sir came to her house with two police. She felt she was almost going to faint. Satyam hold her from behind and said with absolute panic in his voice “what did you do Maa what did you do?”

                  Sudha walked slowly towards the police jeep while Mishra ji was trying to convince the police officers and the Bengali couple that there must have been any mistake. Sudha is a good woman she can do theft in others house. The jeep locked her in its back and took her to the police station she could see Mishra Ji and Satyam following the jeep on their cycle. Sudha knew the sky fell on her head and she had no way to escape other that admitting what she did. At the police station she sat on the floor like a stone statue unless everyone settled and the police man started asking her questions. She said it was her son’s birthday and she couldn’t stop herself from taking the money as she had absolutely no money at home because of her daughter’s sickness to even cook something good for him that day.” The police inspector was about to go soft but at that moment the Bengali Madam said “but before also many times I noticed money falling short in my box and now I am sure she only did it”. Sudha knew what she is saying is true but she never expected that these rich people also might be counting their money so carefully all the time but on face she denied and said I didn’t do anything before sir please trust me. It’s just Madam’s assumption but the inspector shouted so loudly that it felt like the earth shook. Sudha never heard a voice as loud as that, she stated crying. She could hear Mishra ji saying from outside “Tell Sudha tell the truth otherwise they will lock you up in the prison.”

                    The inspector told tell the truth you lady otherwise we won’t let you go and we have many ways to make you talk inside the prison and think of your kids if you won’t be back at home who will look after them ? Who will cook food for them? So speak up lady then we might do something for you.

               Sudha understood she can’t do anything now but to speak the truth so she confessed about all the amount of money she took from the cash box of Bengali Madam which all together came out an amount of eight hundred and fifty rupees which Mishra Ji promised to give back by tomorrow along with the thousand she too as advance at the beginning of this month plus they won’t be asking for this month’s salary as punishment though she worked for the whole month. On this condition and a written confession of not doing such crime next time they finally got discharged from the police station at twelve o clock at night.

                     Mishra Ji kept cursing Sudha the whole road while coming home as this is going to cost all of them. Satyam didn’t say a word with his mother the whole road he kept mum. They knew this news will spread like fire and Sudha is going to lose all his works by tomorrow. Mishra Ji said “tomorrow you will give me your silver anklets I will sell them as we will need the money for running the family unless you arrange any other house for work. There are two months remaining in Satyam’s tenth exam so before that things will go like this after those measures will be taken according to the situation.”

                    Lucky Chotu understood little about what happened and preferred not to comment about it at all. They ate dinner silently and went to bed without uttering a word. Chotu didn’t even remember tomorrow is his birthday. After every one slept Sudha came out of her tin cabin and filled her mouth with the end of the sari and started crying as much as she can pressing her face between her palms. She ruined everything. All her plans with her kids are now gone. Now her kids will also be roaming on street in dirty clothes and God knows may they have to leave their education also. Who will give her work in their house after what she did! Oh God she is the worst mother of this world who destroyed her children’s future by her own hands. Tomorrow Mishra ji will sell the anklet and with that the dream of giving Satyam computer education also will be gone forever. She fell on the ground and crunched her body to her stomach she could think no more she wish she could die.

                But then she could feel Satyam slowly holding her up and cuddling her inside his arms tightly. She didn’t know when he came out of the room and stood behind her. Sudha broke into pieces inside her son’s arms she thought he will be hating her forever. Falling from her children’s eyes was her greatest fear but now she may stand again may fight the battle once more. She heard Satyam saying “I know what you did was may wrong but you did that for us and we can’t give up on you. I promise you I will pass my exams with good marks and join a job.” Sudha was about to protest but Satyam stopped her and said don’t worry I won’t leave my studies I will do job after school hours and read in the late evenings. That way I can help papa in family expenses and also save for my computer course. You just don’t worry Maa. You did a lot all your life, kept giving us as much sweetness as you could like a honey jar but now it’s my turn to help and one more thing you don’t have to try so hard all the time to give us everything let us learn to fight for our own wishes that way we will learn to make you proud of us too. Sudha didn’t know when her little Satyam grew so big that he could support her in her weakest time. She just rest her head on his chest and closed her eyes in peace. She felt Lucky Chotu silently hugging her from the back.

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