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"Oh, what kind of disaster is this!" thought Bhoongi. "Panditji does not provide me with food. He does not come to wipe my tears. I work hard, and only then, I get to eat. But he always rides on my head just because I live on his land. Must I pay such a heavy price for this small piece of land? There are so many small pieces of land like this in the village lying barren; saffron does not grow there! Why, then, does he oppress me twenty-four hours of the day? At my smallest mistake, he threatens to dig up my oven and destroy it. If I had someone to care for me, I would not have had to bear this torture."
Bhoongi was lost in these dark thoughts when the two servants arrived and asked harshly, "Are the grains roasted?"
Bhoongi said boldly, "I am roasting; can't you see?"
"You had the whole day, but you could not roast this small amount of grains! What is this! You have spoiled the grains; they can't be made into sattu. You have ruined the grains. Just wait and see what the master does to you."
The result that followed was that the same night, the oven was dug up and destroyed, and the poor widow was left without any source of livelihood.
Bhoongi now had no means to feed herself. The villagers also suffered from the destruction of the oven; many families had to forego their afternoon meal. The villagers went to Panditji and requested him to allow the old woman to rebuild her oven, but he did not pay any heed. He could not lose sway. The old woman's well-wishers urged her to go and settle in some other village. But she could not tear herself away from the place where she had spent fifty years of her life; she had come to love every tree in the village. She had enjoyed all the happiness and suffered all the sorrows in her life in this village. How could she abandon this village in her last days? The very thought of leaving the village tortured her. The sorrows that she suffered in this village were dearer to her than all the happiness she would enjoy anywhere else.
A whole month passed in this manner. One early morning, Pandit Udaybhan set out with his servants to personally collect rent from his tenants. He did not trust his agents; he did not involve anybody else when it came to collecting gifts or compensations. When he looked inside Bhoongi's hut, he burned with rage. The old woman was rebuilding her oven. Bhoongi was busy applying layers of clay; it seemed she had started working on it before daybreak and planned to finish the work by morning. She knew she was going against the zamindar's wishes, but she could not imagine that anger could last forever. She could not believe that an honourable gentleman could nurse a grudge against an old and weak woman. No, she thought human nature is essentially good. Alas, unfortunate woman, it is the sun that has turned your hair grey, not experience!
Suddenly Udaybhan shouted at her, "On whose orders are you rebuilding it?"
Bhoongi was so busy in her work that she was not aware of anybody's presence. At this sudden outburst, she looked up and was astounded to find the zamindar standing before her.
Udaybhan again asked, "On whose orders are you rebuilding it?"
Bhoongi felt scared. "All the people said rebuild it, so I am doing it," she replied.
"I will destroy it again," Udaybhan said and kicked the oven. The clay was still wet, and the structure collapsed. Udaybhan aimed another kick, this time at the cauldron. But the old woman came in between, and the kick landed on her waist. Bhoongi got angry. While rubbing her waist, she said, "Maharaj, you may have no fear of people, but you must fear God. What will you achieve by ruining my life? Is there gold hidden under this small piece of land? I am telling you for your own good; do not take the curse of the poor. Don't bring me grief."
Some useful links for
- 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