Ordering some snacks and fried fish, father and son sat on the verandah sipping their drinks contentedly. After having downed a few glasses rapidly, Ghisu said, "What use is a shroud? It would have burned anyway; 'Bahu (daughter-in-law)' would not have taken it along with her."
Looking up heavenwards, as though invoking gods to be witnesses to his innocence, Madhav said, "That is the way of the world, else why do people give away thousands of rupees to the brahmins? Who has seen what one receives in the afterworld?"
"Rich people have money to waste, let them spend. What do we have?"
"But, what will you tell the people? Won't they ask about the shroud?"
Ghisu laughed at Madhav's naivety. "We will say we lost the money; dropped it somewhere and could not find it although we searched everywhere. They will not believe, but will give us more money.
Madhav also laughed at this unexpected turn of fortunes. He said, "Poor woman, she was very good! Even in her death she provided a good feast for us."
The two had emptied half the bottle. There was a restaurant in front of the liqour shop, and on Ghisu's instructions, Madhav dashed to the eatery and came back with pickles, sauce and chopped liver. It cost them one-and-half rupees; very little money was now left with them.
Both were eating their food in a grand manner just as a tiger would devour its prey in the jungle - they had neither any fear of accountability nor any worries about condemnation. The two had conquered all such emotions long ago.
Ghisu said with the air of a philosopher, "Won't she win god's grace for gratifying our spirits?"
Madhav bowed his head in reverence and said, "Of course! Of course she will earn god's blessings. God you are omniscient, please carry her to heaven. Both of us bless her from our hearts. We never before had such a meal that we enjoyed today."
A moment later a doubt crept into his mind. He said, "Why Dada, we also have to go there someday?"
Ghisu did not reply to the innocent question. He did not wish to spoil their enjoyment by speaking about the afterworld.
"When we go there, she is sure to ask why we had not bought her a shroud. What do we tell her then?"
"But she is sure to ask."
"How do you know she will not get a shroud? Do you think I am an ass? Haven't I learned anything in these 60 years of my life? She will get a shroud, and a very good one at that."
Madhav was still disbelieving. "Who will give? You have spent all the money. It is I who will have to answer her - it is I who had smeared vermilion on the parting of her hair."
Ghisu was angry. "I tell you she will get a shroud. Why don't you believe me?"
"Why don't you tell who will give?"
"The very same people will give who had given earlier. Yes, this time around they will not hand over the money to us."
As it grew darker and the brightness of the stars intensified, the liqour shop's grandeur also heightened. Someone was singing; someone was narrating tales of bravado; there were others who hugged their friends affectionately; and quite a few had even taken it upon themselves to press the glass to the lips of their chums.
The environment was soaked in drunkenness, the air was intoxicated. Many people who came to the liqour shop reached a drunken high after downing just one glass; more than the liqour it was the air here which had an intoxicating effect. Their sorrows in life drew the people to the shop, and for a brief while they forgot whether they lived or were dead. Or to put it differently, here they neither lived nor did they die.
The father and son were still enjoying their drinks. Every eye in the bar rested on them; they were so lucky - they had a whole bottle between the two of them.
Madhav had eaten his fill, and could not eat anymore. He wrapped up the remaining "poorees" and gave them away to a beggar, who had been watching them with hungry eyes. Madhav experienced the joy of giving for the first time in his life.
Ghisu said addressing the beggar, "Take it, eat to your heart's content, and bless us. It is through his wife's earnings; she has died. But your blessings will reach her. Bless her from every pore; it was hard-earned money!"
Madhav once again raised his eyes heavenwards and said, "She will go to paradise, Dada. She will be a queen there."
Ghisu stood up and as though wading through waves of happiness, said, "Yes son, she will go to paradise. She never troubled anyone in her life. Even in her death she fulfilled our greatest desire. If she does not go to paradise, then who will? These pot-bellied people who loot the poor, and then dip in the Ganges and offer holy water in temples to wash off their sins?"
But faith gave way to sorrow immediately. That is the oddity of drunkenness; it makes one unstable. After a phase of happiness and joy, Madhav was visited by a feeling of sorrow and grief. "But Dada, the unfortunate woman had suffered a lot in life. She had a miserable life." He covered his eyes with his hands and wailed at the top of his voice.
Ghisu consoled him, "Why are you crying, son? You must feel happy that she has escaped this illusory world. She was fortunate to break away the bonds of deceptions and temptations so early."
Both, father and son, raised themselves on their feet and began singing, "Enticer, why do you flash your eyes so! Enticer .......!"
All eyes in the bar were fixed on them but the two, oblivious to the outside world, sang on merrily. Then they started dancing - they jumped and leaped, fell, hurt themselves, performed a pantomime, and, finally, dropped down thoroughly inebriated.