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The very next morning, a sleep-deprived Hemanta rushed like a mad person to Pyarishankar Ghoshal's house.
"What is the matter?" Pyarishankar asked.
Hemanta burst out like a ball of fire and said in a voice choking with anger, "You have destroyed our caste; you have ruined us. You will have to suffer punishment for this."
Pyarishankar smiled slightly and said, "And your folks have preserved my caste, prevented my ostracization from the community, and caressed my back to console me! Your folks have showered their love and affection on me!"
Hemanta felt an extreme urge to burn Pyarishankar into ashes, but it was only he who continued to burn in the fire. Pyarishankar sat calm and relaxed.
"What harm did I cause you?" Hemanta asked in a voice trembling with emotion.
Pyarishankar said, "My daughter is my only child. I ask you, what harm did she do to your father? Let me tell you something; you would not know about it because you were only a little boy when the incident occurred. It is an interesting story, so listen carefully."
"When my son-in-law, Nabakanta, stole my daughter's ornaments and went abroad, you were only a child. Nabakanta returned to the country five years later after becoming a barrister. His return caused quite a stir in the neighbourhood. Perhaps, you remember about it, or maybe you don't because you were studying in a Kolkata school at that time.
"Your father assumed the role of a leader of the villagers and told me that if I wished to send my daughter to her husband's home, I must renounce her. I begged him to forgive me. I pleaded with him not to ostracize my son-in-law. I said I will make my son-in-law eat cow dung to atone for his sin of going abroad, but your father refused to listen. I also could not renounce my only daughter. What was the result? I was expelled from the community and had to leave my native land.
"I came and settled in Kolkata. But, here too, my troubles did not end. I had made all arrangements for my nephew's wedding, but your father filled the ears of the girl's family against us and broke the marriage. At that time, I pledged that if I did not take revenge, I would not deserve to be called a Brahmin's son. You must have realized by now why I did what I did. But wait, let me tell you the whole story. You will enjoy it; it is interesting.
"Bipradas Chatterjee lived in the house next to yours when you were studying in college; the poor man is now dead. Chatterjee had provided shelter to an orphan girl called Kusum; she was a child widow and a Kayastha by caste. The girl was very beautiful, and the old Brahmin was always worried about how to protect her from the amorous glances of the college boys. But it is easy for a girl to hoodwink an old man. She often went to the rooftop to hang clothes for drying, and you also, perhaps, could not study well unless you went to the rooftop of your own house. Only the two of you can tell whether you spoke to each other on such occasions or not. But the old man grew suspicious from the girl's behaviour; she had started making mistakes in her household work and, like ascetic Goddess Parvati, she went without food and sleep. Sometimes, she broke down sobbing in front of the old man for no reason at all.
"Eventually, the old man discovered the secret meetings between the two of you. You had developed such a great love for studying all alone on the rooftop that you even bunked college and sat at one corner with a book in hand. Bipradas came to consult me, and I told him, 'Uncle, you have been thinking of going on a pilgrimage to Kashi. Go then and leave the girl with me; I will take care of her.'
"Bipradas left on a pilgrimage. I arranged for the girl's accommodation at Shripati Chatterji's house and told everyone that he was her father. You know everything about what happened next. I enjoyed telling you this; it is a good story. I wish to publish this story as a book, but I can't write. I have heard that my nephew does a little bit of writing; maybe, he could write the book for me. But it would be better still if you and he were to write the book jointly because I don't know exactly how the story has ended."
Hemanta did not pay much attention to Pyarishankar's desire to publish a book. He asked, "Didn't Kusum object to this marriage?"
Pyarishankar said, "It is difficult to say whether or not she had any objection to the marriage. A woman's mind is not easy to read; when women say "no", they actually mean "yes". The first few days after moving into the new house, she went almost crazy because she missed you. In the meanwhile, you too had discovered her whereabouts somehow. I often saw you loitering around Shripati's house with books in hand, searching for something; it seemed as if you had lost your way while going to college.But from the way you looked at the window of the house, it didn't seem you were trying to find your way to the Presidency College; only flies and hearts of nutty young men try to find their way through the windows of a gentleman's house. I felt sad when I saw you neglecting your studies, and the girl was also miserable.
"One day, I called Kusum to my side and said, 'Dear, I am an old man; You don't have to feel shy before me. I know whom you worship at heart; that boy is also hopelessly in love with you and is ruining himself. I wish the two of you should unite.' Hearing this, Kusum broke down into a flood of tears and rushed out. After that, I often visited Shripati's house in the evenings and talked with Kusum about you to break her shyness. Eventually, after daily discussions with Kusum, I convinced her that marriage was the only solution. Kusum asked me how that was possible. 'I will pass you off as a high-caste girl,' I told her. She would not agree to this and said I must get to know your views on the matter. I said, the boy is on the brink of losing his mind; there is no need to add to his confusion with all this talk. It will be good for everybody if the matter got settled without any hassles; there was no way this secret would ever come out, so why make the poor fellow unhappy for life?
"I can't say whether or not Kusum understood my reasoning; sometimes she wept, and sometimes she spoke not a word. Finally, when I said 'then, let's forget the whole thing', she became very restless. Under such a situation, I deputed Shripati to visit your house with a marriage proposal. You consented without a moment's delay, and the marriage was settled.
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