• Pritima Vats

GIVE AND TAKE

At a time when people used to be named after the gods and goddesses, when the little girl was born after five sons, her parents lovingly named her Nirupama. Slowly, Nirupama (niru) grew up into a beautiful girl. Her parents started searching for a suitable boy for her to marry. Her father, Ram Sunder Mitra, looked everywhere, but was not satisfied with the kind of proposals he was getting. Ultimately, he found a prospective groom for her daughter. The only son of a Rai Bahadur. Although his property and wealth had depleted quite a lot, yet, it was a renowned family. The groom’s side asked for Rs 10,000 and all the things required in a household. Without thinking, Ram Sunder agreed to all their conditions- after all, he did not want to lose this prospect.

To meet their demands, he sold off a lot many things, mortgaged some, borrowed from here and there, but all he managed to collect was about Rs 4,000. That left about Rs 6,000 more to be collected. And the day for the wedding was closing in. Someone had promised to give the amount at a very high rate of interest, but, at the time, he was not available. On the day of the wedding, Ram Sunder spoke to Rai Bahadur and pleaded to carry on with the wedding and promised to give rest of the money as soon as possible. There was quite a hullabaloo at the wedding. Then finally, Rai Bahadur said that until he gets, the money in hand, the bridegroom shall not sit for the wedding.

There was a hue and cry everywhere, but the bride, sitting inside, nicely dressed up, trying to calm down the rising question in her mind whether she would be able to devote herself towards her in-laws. Just then the groom, in a manner of disobedience got up and said to his father, “I do not understand all these things about buying and selling, I have come to marry and shall therefore, do the same.”

The father was so disappointed at his son’s behavior that he went around telling all and sundry, “See the behavior of today’s youth “. Some agreed with him though the marriage, however, took place without any hurdle.

Before going to her in-laws place, Nirupama hugged her father, who was unable to hold back his tears, and said, “Will they not let me come here again, father?”

“Why won’t they?” said Ram Sunder, “I shall bring you.” Ram Sunder often used to go to visit his daughter, but he was not treated well –even the servants would look down upon him. He would generally meet his daughter only for five minutes in the outside room and sometimes, had to come back without meeting her. He could not bear this insult anymore, so he decided to pay the money anyhow as he was already shouldering the burden of a lot of credit. He had a tough time making both ends meet. He started avoiding his creditors.

The in-laws, on the other hand, continued to treat his daughter badly and used to pass scornful remarks. As she could not tolerate the criticism of her family, she used to lock herself up in her room and cry her heart out. When someone commented on her beauty, her mother-in-law would say, “She looks as good or bad as her family is.”

Probably, the disrespect and insult that the daughter had to suffer, reached the ears of the father. So, Ram Sunder decided to try and sell off the ancestral house. But, it did not strike him then, that he would be depriving is sons of their home. He had decided that he’d sell the house but retain it on rent- in such a manner that his sons would not get to know of the sale before his death. But, the sons came to know about it. They all came and started crying-especially the first three who were married and had children. Their objections and protests became so stern that Ram Sunder postponed the sale of his house and started collection small sums at high rates.

Niru could understand everything by simply looking at her father’s appearance-his hair greyed, his face was shriveled and showed signs of his poverty and tension. It was difficult for a father to hide his guilt. In order to console her father, Niru longed to go home for a few days. So, one day she told her father to take her away. Ram Sunder agreed but he felt he did not have the right to do so till he had paid the balance amount. Yet, he could not disregard his daughter’s request.

So, with a lot of humility, he somehow collected Rs 3,000 tied them up in a handkerchief and went to meet Rai Bahadur. He talked about the weather, gossiped about the neighborhood and then said, “I know I still have to give you the money. I do pick it up and then, get so involved in some work, that I forget it. After this, no one could talk about the proposal of taking the girl home. Then thinking that this hesitation was not called for, Ram Sunder whispered the request. Without giving any excuses, Rai Bahadur said, “It will not happen now,” and walked out. Ram Sunder picked up the sheet in which he had tied the bundle of notes and muttering, that till such time that he is not able to pay the entire amount, he’ll not come to this house, he went out.

Several days passed. Practically every day, Niru would send one person after another, but her father did not come. Finally, humiliated, she stopped sending people home. This hurt her Father, yet, he went.

It was October. Ram Sunder decided that he would definitely get ‘the Mother’ (goddess) home this time, or else…………….

On the fifth or the sixth day, Ram Sunder once again tied the notes and proceeded towards his daughter’s house. As he was leaving, his 5-year old grandson came and said, “Grandfather, are you going to buy a car for me?” Just then, his 6-year old granddaughter came and said that she did not have any dress fit enough to be worn to a party. All Ram Sunder did was contemplate while chewing tobacco, for he was already aware of all this. He heaved a sigh as he thought of the kind of saris and ordinary jewelry his wife and daughters-in-law would wear if invited to Rai Bahadur’s house.

He entered Rai Bahadur’s house. Now, he felt a little more confident. He did not have any destination. He was told that Rai Bahadur was not at home and that he would have to wait for some time. So, he went to meet his daughter. Tears of joy could not be held back any longer, both the father and the daughter cried. Neither of them could speak. After some time, Ram Sunder said, “I’ll take you there this time. Now there’s no problem.”

Just then, his eldest son suddenly entered with his two sons and said, “Does that mean, father, that now, you have rendered us homeless?” Ram Sunder was stunned. He said, “Will you people not let me do as I please and fulfil my commitments?” He was irritated that despite all his efforts, his sons had come to know that he had sold off the house. His two grandsons clung on to his knees and said, “Dado (grandfather), you did not buy me a car.” Not getting a reply from their grandfather, the children went to their aunt and said, “Pishima (father’s sister), will you buy me a car?”

Nirupama understood everything. She said, “Baba (father), if you give even a paisa to my father-in-law, then, you’ll never again be able to see your daughter, I swear by you.”

Ram Sunder said, “Stop it! Don’t talk like that. If I can’t give this money then it’ll be an insult to both us.

Niru said, “If you give the money it’s an insult! Doesn’t your daughter have any prestige? Am I a money bag- that I have value only so long as I have money? No Baba, please do not insult me by giving this money. Besides, my husband has not asked for this money.”

“In that case, they won’t let you go,” said Ram Sunder.

Nirupama said, “What can you do in that case? You also don’t have permission to take me.”

Ram Sunder picker up the roll of money and went back home hesitatingly.

However, the fact that Ram Sunder had brought the money, and at the insistence of his daughter, he had taken it back, could not be kept a secret. The maid told all about it to Niru’s mother-in-law, It became a living hell for Nirupama and meeting with any member of her family was banned.

One day, Nirupama suffered an intense pain. Not that her mother-in-law was totally responsible for it, but even Nirupama had stopped caring for her health, She’d go around without warm clothes in winters too and wouldn’t eat properly either.

When she became really ill, she told her mother-in-law that she desired to meet her father and her brothers. The mother-in-law reacted by saying that this was only an excuse to go to her father’s house. Day-by-day Niru’s condition deteriorated. And the doctor came to see her only on the day when she breathed her last.

The eldest daughter-in-law of the house had died. All the rites and rituals were followed- everyone praised them for the way things were done- even sandalwood was used for her cremation. It was difficult to console the father.

However, Rai Bahadur again married off his son and this time demanded Rs 20,000 as dowry.

…………………………………..

WRITER- RABINDRANATH TAGORE.

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