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Friday, June 25, 2010

Daridrayam (Impoverishment)

Original in Telugu by:
Tripuraneni Gopichand

Translator: GRK Murty

There is a tiled house adjacent to ours. It is a small house. Within that, its owner has rented out the front two rooms to another family.

The tenant earns a monthly salary of fifty rupees. It is of course not known what kind of job he does or where does he work, but well before 8 o’clock in the morning he used to finish his lunch and set out. Again after dusk he used to return home.

I have, of course, never seen him coming home. But the moment he enters the house, I used to know that he has come.

Almost everyday after coming from the office he used to beat his wife. She used to cry loudly. That’s how I used to know that he has come home.

He has three children—two sons and a daughter. Both the boys are younger. The girl is the eldest. She crossed her puberty some four years back. She is not yet married.

As soon as he comes home, his wife would ask him, “Will you perform her marriage or not?”

He would say, “How am I to perform?”

“Just as all others are doing”, the wife would say. 

“There is not even a pie in hand”, the husband would say.

The wife would say, “What is that you want me to do for it”.

 “I say, there is no money”, the husband would say.

The wife would repeat, “Perform marriage”.

“Then, wait, I will perform”, saying, he would beat her with a stick.

She would cry loudly.

I have come to know about all these happenings. Suddenly, I feel pity for the unmarried girl.

There is a two-story building opposite to their house. It belongs to an income tax officer. He gets a monthly salary of rupees one thousand. He lives in pomp with four servants, a car, a wife, and a son. They are good neighbors. They do not indulge in anything except mind their own affair. 

The income tax officer returns home from the office at 5 o’clock in the evening. His wife, well dressed up, used to keep herself ready by the time he returns home. They would go out for a stroll with the kid.

It was quite a pleasure for me to watch the boy. He roams hither and thither on the road by driving a toy car one day, another day by riding a tricycle. He will not let go any vendor—oranges, pomegranates, ice-fruit, including the candy floss fellow—without calling him.
Both the parents pamper him enormously. Wherever they go they used to take him with them. They kept him spick and span by clothing him with good dresses. They gave him money whenever he asked for. I have never seen them ever scolding him or spanking him.

Because of the boy, a quarrel arose.

One day, as I came out of my house, the income tax officer’s wife stood in the balcony of their first floor. The lady from my neighboring house stood in her front door along with her three children. Both of them were quarreling.

“Shouldn’t you have at least that much wisdom?” questioned the lady of the neighboring house.

“How much?” questioned the officer’s wife.

Our neighboring lady explained how much they should have.

“Intruding into the house, see how your son had damaged the cooking vessel,” said the neighboring lady.

“Is it, babu[1]?” enquired the officer’s wife with his son.

“No amma[2]. Today I haven’t even gone to their house”, said her son.

“Are you listening?” asked the officer’s wife.

The neighboring lady accused her: “Supporting your son?” She went on to say, “Now, I have to purchase a new pot, means, have to spend an anna[3].”

“Take one anna and keep quiet”, said the officer’s wife.

“How arrogant!” said my neighboring lady.

Then her unmarried daughter said, “It’s the pride of her husband’s earnings”.

It is watching this girl that I feel pity!

“So what, if she is rich she would enjoy?” said our neighboring lady.

Both the mother and daughter continued bad mouthing her. Not being able to put up with their abuses, the officer’s wife asked them with a pale face, “What then do you want me to do?”

“Make your son behave”, said our neighboring lady.

“When I asked him to let me board the car, he refused!” said the son of neighboring lady.

“Bashing him, will you prevent him from coming to our courtyard or not?” asked our neighboring lady.

“No, I can’t beat him”, said the officer’s wife.

“What do you say then you would do?” asked our neighboring lady.

“I will see that he will not come to your house”, said the officer’s wife. Saying so, she goes inside along with her child.

“If he steps into our yard, I shall crush his bones. If he speaks to our child, I shall tear open his stomach”, said my neighboring lady.

“He is spoiling every child in the street”, said her unmarried daughter.

“When I asked him to share a little of his candy floss with me, he didn’t”, said her son.

“Great lady, would she allow it?” said the neighboring lady.

“Insolence, for her husband is earning a lot”, said the unmarried girl.

It is watching this girl that I feel pity!

Listening to this quarrel, I am surprised. I have a doubt that my neighboring lady is clamoring to somehow pick up a quarrel. However deeply I may think, I am not able to get the reason for such quarrel.

Feeling restless, after a while, I came out to go downtown. The officer’s house is bolted from inside. But my neighboring lady is still at the front door with her three children. The neighboring women too assembled around her.

“You have made her come to her senses,” said a lady.

“What else, shouldn’t there be a limit? Filling the pocket with money and buying everything that comes on the road. Seeing him, my children too are learning afresh; pestering me for buying”, said our neighboring lady.

“My son is pestering me to buy him a silk shirt, like the one her son had put on”, said another lady.

“You know, my son is pestering for a similar car”, said yet another lady.

“Simply because there is lot of money, would anyone give money to children like that? After all he is not even five years old and see how many attires? This way how are we to run our families?” said our neighboring lady.

“You have given her enough today”, said a lady.

“Not yet; unless I drive them out of our street, I will not get sleep”, said our neighboring lady.

“That’s it, that’s it”, said the assembled ladies.

“What then, shouldn’t she think of others too, besides her son?” said our neighboring lady.

“Sheer arrogance, for her husband is earning a lot”, said the unmarried girl.

It is watching this girl that I feel pity!

Night came. My neighboring lady’s husband has come home. No sooner than he entered, she asked, “Will you perform her marriage or not?”

“How am I to perform?” said the husband.

“Just as all others are doing”, said the wife.

“Not even a paisa in the hand”, said the husband.

“What am I to do for it?” said the wife.

“I say there is no money”, said the husband.

“I say perform the marriage”, said the wife.

Saying, “Wait then, I will perform”, he beats her with a stick.

She cries loudly.

* * * * *

[1] Babu—affectionate way of calling a son.
[2] Amma—mother.
[3]Anna—  one-sixteenth of a rupee.

                                                                                                                                               - GRK Murty  


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