Poor Madhav was in dire straits; his expenses were much higher than his income. But, although his heart wept, he forced his lips to smile if only to put up a pretense of dignity. He had four sons and four daughters. How could one manage such a large house-hold on meagre means? The boys could get married, but what about the girls? At the time of his first daughter's marriage, he had to sell off a portion of his land. Even on that occasion, the groom's party was dissatisfied with the quality of food served. Another portion of the land had to be sold during the second daughter's marriage. A year later, the third daughter was married off and Madhav was left with nothing.

The third daughter was yet to leave the paternal home to reside with her husband when Madhav received a notice requiring him to pay up the arrears in land tax which he had not paid for two years. The third daughter's jewellery was mortgaged and Madhav breathed free. Champa seized upon this opportunity to humiliate Madhav; she immediately informed the new relatives about the deed: "You folks are unaware of what is happening here! All the jewellery is disappearing!" The very next day three intermediaries - a barber and two priests - reached Madhav's home and refused to budge until the jewellery was restored. Poor Madhav felt a noose tightening around his neck; where could he get the money? He had no land, no property, and no orchard; he had even lost the faith people had in him! All he was left with were two rooms in which he had spent his entire life; but there were no buyers for the rooms. If he delayed restoring the jewellery, he stood to lose face. As a last resort he approached Kedar and pleaded tearfully, "Brother, please help me."

Kedar replied, "Maddhu, in truth, I too am facing hard times."

Champa said peremptorily, "Are we in such a tight situation that we cannot help them! Just because we cook separately, does that imply that the family honour too has been cut apart!"

Kedar looked at his wife from the corners of his eyes and said, "No, no. I didn't mean that. So what if we don't have money, we can certainly arrange for something."

Champa turned to Madhav and asked, "How much do you have to pay to recover the ornaments?"

"It will be around 125 rupees including the interest," Madhav replied.

Kedar had been reading the Ramayana before Madhav's arrival; he resumed reading the revered text. Champa veered the discussion towards the essential facts, "That's a lot of money. If we had that much money we would have willingly lent it; but we don't have. The amount will have to be borrowed from a money-lender; but money-lenders lend only against mortgages."

Madhav thought to himself, "Why should I have come to you if I had anything to mortgage? Were the other money-lenders dead?" But he kept the thought to himself and said, "I own nothing; the only property I have is this house."

Kedar and Champa exchanged meaningful glances; there was a single thought in both their minds: will today indeed fulfill all their sweet desires? But they suppressed their exhilaration in Madhav's presence, and Champa said putting on a grave expression, "No money-lender would accept a house as a mortgage. Had we been living in a city we might have managed to rent out the house and earn some money; but who wants to live in a rented house in a village? Besides, the house is a joint property after all."

Kedar was afraid that Champa's unrelenting attitude might spoil the game; so he hurriedly butted in, "I know of a money-lender who might agree to lend."

Champa nodded her head in approval of the plan and said, "But, you can't expect to get more than 40-60 rupees."

Kedar, playing his cards, said, "He might lend 80 rupees if we press hard enough."

Champa now looked at Kedar piercingly and said, "Money-lenders are not blind."

Madhav could, to some extent, understand the cryptic language in which his brother and sister-in-law were speaking. He was amazed at their artifice. He said, "From where will I get the rest of the money?"

"Try to get the rest of the money from somewhere else; no one is going to give you 125 rupees for these two rooms. If you want 80 rupees, that can be arranged from a money-lender after the necessary paper-work," Champa said irritably.

The cryptic language heightened Madhav's suspicion, and he began to fear that his brother and sister-in-law were indeed playing a dirty game. He decided to assert himself and said, "Where else can I try for the remaining amount? If I had any jewellery left to mortgage I would have brought them out; but I don't have even a piece of cloth. It is alright if I can save my face after selling the house; but, I will certainly not sell the house if after doing so I still cannot preserve my honour. And, to tell you the truth, I really don't care about my honour - no one knows me anyway; people will only laugh and jeer at brother!"


Some useful links for
your career:

  • Union Public Service Commission - www.upsc.gov.in
  • IIT-Kharagpur - www.iitkgp.ac.in
  • Indian Statistical Institute - www.isical.ac.in
  • Indian Institute of Technology Madras - www.iitm.ac.in
  • Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad - www.iimahd.ernet.in
  • Indian Institute of Mass Commission - www.iimc.nic.in
  • IIT Bombay - www.iitb.ac.in
  • Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad - www.ismdhanbad.ac.in
  • Birla Institute of Technology, Ranchi - www.bitmesra.ac.in
  • Central Institute of Fisheries Nautical and Engineering Training - www.cifnet.nic.in
  • Indian Institute of Information Technology, Allahabad (Deemed University) - www.iiita.ac.in
  • Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Kochi - www.cmfri.com
  • Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai - www.tiss.edu