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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 away 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 us with a nice feast."

The two had emptied half the bottle. Ghisu ordered puris, pickles, sauce, and chopped liver from the shop that stood in front of the liqour shop. Madhav dashed to the eatery and came back with the things on two leaf-plates. 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 like a tiger devouring 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 souls?"

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 the bottom of our hearts. We have never before enjoyed such a meal like this."

A moment later a doubt crept into Madhav's 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 did not buy her a shroud. What do we tell her then?"

"Rubbish!"

"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 not convincd. "Who will give? You have spent all the money. She will ask me; it is I who had applied vermilion in 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 same people will give who had given earlier. But, this time they will not give us the money directly."

As it grew darker and the stars became brighter, the liqour shop's charm also increased. Someone sang; someone narrated tales of bravado; there were others who hugged their friends affectionately; and quite a few even pressed 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 atmosphere here, which had an intoxicating effect. The sorrows and struggles in life drew the people to the shop, and for a brief period they forgot whether they were alive or dead; Or whether they were neither alive nor dead.

The two, 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 puris and gave them away to a beggar who was watching them with hungry eyes. Madhav experienced the joy of giving for the first time in his life.

Ghisu told the beggar, "Take it; eat to your heart's content, and bless her whose earnings these are. She has died, but your blessings will reach her. Bless her from every pore of your body; it was hard-earned money!"

Madhav once again raised his eyes heavenwards and said, "She will go to Heaven, Dada. She will be a queen there."

Ghisu stood up and, as though wading through waves of ecstasy, said, "Yes son, she will go to Heaven. She never troubled anyone in her life. Even in her death she fulfilled our greatest desire. If she does not go to Heaven, then will these pot-bellied people go who loot the poor with both hands and then take a 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 suffered a lot in life. She suffered a painful death." 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.

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