(This is a feeble translation of "Vimata", a story by Munshi Premchand. You may find a summary of the story on the last page.)

To remarry only three months after the wife's death is doing grave injustice to the departed soul. The act is condemnable; it is unpardonable. Perhaps my claim that our child needed a mother might not be accepted as true. But my conscience is clear, and I hope heaven will not disapprove of this act of mine. Yes, I remarried.

Telling a newly-married bride about motherly duties may sound jarring to her. I told Amba on the very first day that I had married her so that she would be a mother to my innocent child and erase the grief of his mother's death from his heart.

Two months passed. Every evening, I took Munnu for a walk for a breath of fresh air. While returning home, I would meet with my friends. Munnu enjoyed these meetings very much. I met my friends, not for amusement but to show off Munnu's extraordinary intelligence. My heart leaped with joy when the friends petted Munnu and praised his cleverness.

One day, I visited the house of Babu Jwala Singh. Babu Jwala Singh was my best friend. But, that did not mean we discussed our weaknesses, domestic problems, or financial difficulties. No, we maintained our dignity and never spoke about our troubles. We never revealed our failings. Our unity had its soft spots, and our friendship had its limits.

During the conversation, Babu Jwala Singh asked Munnu, "Does your mother love you very much?"

I looked at Munnu fondly; I was sure what his reply would be. His mother loved him dearly.

But I was surprised when Munnu used his eyes, instead of his mouth, to answer the question. Tears started streaming down his eyes. I wanted to hide my face in shame. Munnu's tears smudged the beautiful picture of Amba I had painted in my mind.

Jwala Singh looked suspiciously at Munnu and asked, "Why are you crying, son?"

Munnu said, "I am not crying; I have dust in my eyes."

It was natural for Jwala Singh to doubt a woman's love for her stepson, but the seed of doubt was sown in my mind as well. Amba, about whom I never tired of praising as a deity of gentleness and affection, was not really what I had imagined her to be. When I stepped out of Jwala Singh's house, my heart ached, and my head hung in shame.

I walked homewards, thinking about how I should express my anger. I will lie on the bed with my head covered, I thought. When Amba begged to know the reason, I shall tell her rudely that I had a headache and not to disturb me. When she calls me for dinner, I will shout at her. Amba will certainly realize that something had made me angry. She will come and clutch my feet. Then, I will pierce her heart with my cutting remarks. I will make her cry.

No, I realized I was not capable of doing this. Amba's smiling face, affectionate glance, sweet words, and merry banter would shatter my stony anger within no time. I felt exasperated at my soft-heartedness. How could my mind waver so easily! Only moments ago, I was sure I could stay unruffled under a storm of Amba's sweet talk and the deluge of my own caustic sarcasm; now, even a gentle breeze could stagger me. Such thoughts steeled my heart, but my anger began to subside with every step I took. So, I feigned anger and decided to unleash it upon Amba the moment I reached home. If I delayed, even the pretended anger would evaporate!

But as soon as we reached home, Amba hurried to welcome us and lifted Munnu into her arms. "Where have you been all this while?" she asked him tenderly. "Come, I have made tasty snacks for you."

My artificial anger died out instantly. No, it would be a grave wrong to shout at this goddess. Munnu is only a child; it is quite likely he may have burst into tears recalling his real mother. It was not Amba's fault.


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