The Last Tears
Smt. Saktiprava Mishra
Ananya was visibly worried about Dikshyanta’s studies. But he never cared for it, whiling away all the time with his friends, computers and facebook. Diku – as she fondly called him- being the only child, Ananya took all possible care for his studies- put him in a good school, arranged for good private tuition, provided for all his hobbies and pleasures and met all his demands. But Alas! He was the least serious for either his studies or any extracurricular activities. He did whatever he liked at the moment ….. Never thinking of tomorrow.
Ananya hadn’t given up. Being the traditional Hindu woman she is, she tried with various Pujas, kept fast, and made religious offering… all that she thought was required to invoke divine blessings. But even the Divine didn’t respond. Diku could barely manage to pass his 9th final with an ignominious 43 percent of marks. She tried to encourage him for a better show next time. But she herself was broken from within.
Somewhere something must have gone wrong. Or else, how would she explain this failure? She knew (perhaps like all mothers think they do) that Dikshyanta was intelligent. How come, then, all her hopes and dreams for him would just burst out like a bubble. She fancied that someday things will go right, Diku will be changed and the dark clouds will melt away from her skies.
Ananya closed her eyes. She wanted to cry her heart out before Maa Durga –the family deity before whom she always shared her anguish in times of crises. But lo! She is unable to visualize the deity’s face. Whenever she thought of Maa Durga her mother-in-law’s face came prominently before her. In her face, she could see two drops of tears rolling down her cheeks. Some events which were lost long ago in the darkness of the past came fresh before her.
Ananya had gone to her in-law’s village to observe Sudasha Brata (a ritual worshiping Maa Laxmi which a married woman observes for prosperity of her family). She was to come back immediately after the function as she had to get her son admitted to a good Convent school at Cuttack. Meanwhile, she got the news that Shreekant, her husband who was a doctor by profession, is transferred to a hospital near her in-law’s village.
Her mother-in-law danced with joy. This was a god sent opportunity. She could now have her son, daughter-in-law and her cute grandson with her. She would get to play and spend time with her grandson whenever she liked. She said to Ananya, “at last Maa Durga has answered my prayers. How much I wanted to have you all with me! Now it will be a complete home…with all my people..you, Shreekant and Diku… what else I want ?”
She touched Ananya affectionately and said,” Ours may be a village but we have all the facilities here. There are two English medium schools in nearby town. 10-15 children from the village go there every day by school bus. Never mind the village; we have doctors, engineers all over here. Neither Diku nor you will have any problem.” She was so excited that she failed to notice the gloom in Ananya’s face. She looked at her and asked, “Aren’t you happy Ananya?”
Her heart missed a bit. Her tone became a little heavy. She continued, “After your father-in-law passed away I have been tied to this house looking after the lands, the mango grooves and all the property he left behind. I have become a tired old woman. Shree (as she called her son Shreekant) survived after two of my children met infancy death. He is the apple of my eye. Paddy, dal, mango, jackfruit—lot of produces come every year. Who will consume these? I sell something but distribute the rest among villagers. You are all away. Shree is busy with his work and here your own property nobody is there to take care of. If Shree were here he would have taken care of all these. Property is Laxmi, one should never neglect her. You too are my GrihaLaxmi. Once you all start realizing this responsibility you too will enjoy its benefit. Above all, if you,Shree and Diku are here it will be a complete family. I want nothing more” she told it almost in a single breath.
“If you want a complete family why don’t you leave this village, come and stay with us in Cuttack” Ananya said disparagingly. “And all this landed property, this mango and jackfruit orchards and the house?Do you think that for some land produce, some mango and jackfruit we will come and stay here? Sell off all these, buy a big house in Cuttack, Diku will have a good school, good coaching classes. If he stays here his future will be doomed. I cannot allow this to happen.” Ananya’s voice was hardening towards the end.
Mother-in-law took a long breath; the heaviness was difficult to hide.
“I have spent half a century with your father-in-law in this house. Decades of memories are entrenched here. I can’t leave it behind within five years of his death. You may sell this off or do whatever you like after I pass away, but not now”. Her eyes became moist when she spoke.
Shreekant was overhearing all this. He came forward, fondly touched his mother and told - “a mother’s tears are never good for us Ananya, I am a government doctor, how long I get to stay at any place - maximum two to three years—even if we come here on transfer I will try for Cuttack for my next posting. I can manage that after a rural posting here. Diku’s education will not suffer much”. He sounded almost pleading towards the end.
Ananya lost her cool. Raising her pitch a bit she said, “you are worried only for your mother’s sentiment; your mother is keen to have her son with her but nobody seems to be worried about my son. In such a competitive world he has to have a strong base. Mangos and jackfruits will not strengthen that base. He needs a good school and a good place”
Mother made her last ditch effort to convince Ananya, “Shree also studied here. We have good schools. It is a matter of two three years only”
Ananya could take it no longer. She almost burst out, “If your son wants to join here, let him. I cannot take such a risk for Diku. I will have a rented house at Cuttack and stay with my son”, she told this in a tone of rude finality.
That was it. It settled the matter once and for all. When Ananya was coming out of the house the next day with Diku and Shreekant she could see the forlorn looks of her mother-in-law standing at the doorway with two drops of tears helplessly rolling down her cheeks.
Next time Ananya went to the village after hearing the death news of her mother-in-law. It was all over. They sold off the property, the ancestral house and came back to Cuttack permanently. They purchased a good house and finally settled down there. Shreekant left his Government job and started his private practice.
Today when she was looking at Maa Durga she actually saw her mother-in-law’s face there. She also recollected what Shreekant told her then “Ananya, parents’ tears do us no good. Even God’s blessings get neutralized with parental dissatisfaction”
Lots of questions now raise their ugly head within her. Is what Shreekant told seven years back coming true now? Is that tear of helplessness her mother-in-law shed that day undoing all that she does for her son? Is it working like a curse? Things were slowly slipping out of her hands now and she is plunging into that ever growing pit of helplessness which she had seen in her mother-in-law’s eyes years ago.
Would she never be able to come out of those last tears, would it wash away all that is dear to her?
Ananya was too depressed to answer.
Translated from Odia to English by
Ramesh Chandra Khadanga