In Between

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
The society filled with plenteous odd as well as obsolete dogmas blames girls as unnecessary stuffs for they are incapable to bring emancipation for his father. Only sons, what the religion states, can do that easily. But for the protagonist his girl-child is not less than a gift to him from God - Almighty. He knows nothing about emancipation. That's why he shows no hesitation to oppose everyone before him - to his mother - to his better half - and finally to the society.

Submitted: January 01, 2014

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Submitted: January 01, 2014

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I, all of sudden, got a shock when my better-half placed her head on my shoulder and asked me in a semi-ecstatic tone:

“Darling, can we plan, now, for a son? We can’t defy the society, can we?”

At the time, I, along with her, was really waiting for the train to Allahabad to fulfill the only wish of my mother, who passed away a few weeks before. Evening was just about to approaching and our train was yet to arrive.

Puzzled, I looked at her with a great curiosity as if I had been chanced upon an alien. The day flashed through my memory when my mother had ordered me at the dead end of that medical corridor: ‘Plan for a boy. Otherwise who will bring you Mokshya?’And surprisingly, my wife is now repeating the same, just in a different tone? Strange!

I let out a deep sigh and commenced bethinking.

My mother had a wish to take her to Puri on a pilgrimage at least once before she leaves her last breath. I was, so well, aware of that. Of course, it didn’t matter to me much as I had already got settled in Bhubaneswar. In fact, I joined duty in the capital city as an accounting officer in a well-established shopping hub. Besides, there were not a very long distance between Puri and Bhubaneswar, which I needed to be worried about. If I had wished, I could have fulfilled her wish, in a split second.

But, that didn’t happen practically. I had, somehow, missed carrying her desire out. More frankly, it will be of my finest explanation if I say that, my God-fearing mother’s wish, kept no significance for me. Our society, as you know, is preoccupied with a number of strange and obsolete ideas as well. Of those I can bet one is ‘Emancipation’ – Or, which you may call Mokshya.

People say, quoting various ancient texts and scriptures like Vedas, Upanishads and Purans, written, what they believe, quite thousands of million years before we born that human life is immensely precious to be enlightened. It is rarely achieved. To find the human form, Jiva – the eternal soul has to complete eighty-four lakh births, successfully in the process of reincarnation. The cycle of rebirth continues to revolve until salvation is attained. Jiva releases from the rebirth system forever only when it gets liberation. Therefore, as per their views, the utmost goal of this hardly gifted human life is to achieve emancipation, which ultimately paves the path to the Almighty – God. And, that only avails to him who keeps his feet on the holy soil of a sacred place like Puri.

Verily, this idea has enveloped our society since the creation of human civilization. No hesitation, I would like to acknowledge here that my mother was one of the zealot followers of this primitive doctrine. Right from my childhood, I used to listen to her saying that a day will come when she will definitely get an opportunity to go to Puri and wash her sins away. None, but her son will make her dream come true – fruitful. If, by mistake, anyone else except her son takes such a step ever, she would be deprived of getting piety and lose her chance to meet the supreme soul, she warns.

Interestingly, for me this is also another fun to be amazed at, that only a son has the right to bring Moksha for his parents; which is why, perhaps, sons are still considered the most virtuous gifts in our society. They uphold the family values and ensure its continuity. A person without a male-kid is branded as accursed. Economically, socially and spiritually, a son is worth-deserving whereas a girl child is considered a burden from various perspectives. And, tragically for most people, these are nothing; but core values of their religion! What they state, there is a hell by name Punnama Narak specified for the people having no sons to their credit. And, it is widely believed that only a son can save them successfully from that underworld.

For these reasons, I think, perhaps my mother got perplexed for a while when she listened that I had been bestowed with a girl child after two years of my marriage. She, then grabbed my arm in her tight grip and pulled me forcibly out to the dead end of the medical corridor and whispered in the way that wouldn’t be audible to anyone else except me:

“Raja (what she calls me in short), my child! Plan for a boy as quick as posible. Otherwise, who will bring you Mokshya?

Taken aback I looked at her. What struck me more was her quivering voice drenched in dejection. She merely awaited an answer of her liking. Disappointedly, she buried her head down.

My exultation had turned into frustration, by then; but still I was overwhelmed with the joy of a child. I was really in a gleeful mood and felt proud of being a father of a newborn girl-child. It was hard to decide for my part which step I must take to turn the situation to normal.

I smiled wherefore I didn’t know. Perhaps all my steps implied the basic truth to make her relax, at first. On top of all this, she was my mother. I closed at her and embraced her tightly with a great relish.

“Relax, Ma. This is the moment, especially for you, to celebrate. You have had a lovely granddaughter,” I told patting her back affectionately. But all of sudden she burst, “I was really expecting a grandson, my child; not a granddaughter. My dream turned into a nightmare. I am fearing for you, my son. You are so unlucky,” she said mournfully drawling the word ‘so’ in her last sentence.

“What are you telling, Ma.” I objected a bit loud. “I don’t have such perceptions inside me. Mokshya! What the heck is that?”

Startled, she looked at me with two spreading eyes as if she came across an apparition in the form of me. My denial, as though, was beyond her presumption; which is why, trying hard, perhaps she couldn’t fish the sources out of my unusual behavior.

Her son – only son –, which is me – will refuse – nay, defy her so openly! How is this possible?

She sat down on the floor in dismay putting her hands on her head. Her face clouded over with defeat, dissatisfaction and disgruntlement. As if somebody has betrayed her bitterly. I couldn’t understand what to do for I knew my mother as an ‘adamant personality’ from my childhood. It was, many a time in the past, not even an ever-easy-task for my late father to distract her from the way she had already started to walk on.

I heaved a sigh, hopelessly. “No; I’ll have to do something.” I said to myself and knelt submissively down at her feet. But, she didn’t stare at me with at least a single blink; instead kept focusing, albeit non-attentively, on the horizon. Her breathing was aloud enough to make the matter discernible to those passing by and roaming hitherly at least a few yards away from us.

“Ma, as you know, I don’t have a bit respect for such orthodoxy. Death, for me is quite usual – the ultimate truth as everybody – we, the humans, animals, and insects are adorned with a perishable physical structure. So they say, we are mortals. We will have to quit this carapace one-day to put on a new. This is life. Anything, apart from that means to me nothing; but the outcomes of the sheer ignorance. Who knows what happens to him when he takes his final gasp? Thus, why will I be liable to carry them on? It is 21st century. We are galloping fast with the progressive pace of life. So no possibilities to look back. Mokshya – what does it mean, now? Ma, get away from those bizarre conventions and throw these past baggages away out of your mind.”

“Shut up – you just shut up!” she roared throwing her bag onto the ground. “Who the hell are you to prompt me to relinquish my ancestral custom? Who taught you to call my customs bizarre – traditions as strange and obsolete? Have you burnt your conscience to ashes? How dare you to teach me?”

I got up, all at once and stood still like a statue in Madame tussaud’s wax museum. I was completely depressed. Depressed, not because she insulted me in a overcrowded public place with people from all walks of life; but she had the arguments to assert herself the most in an useless manner. What really struck me was her fallacy. How could I accept it at ease that my mother was still cleaved to the old ways of thinking?

 “No intention I have exactly to teach you, Ma,” I replied. “But how can you despise my nearly-born child for the sake of some baseless and irrelevant customs bequeathed to you by your society? After all, what is her fault?”

“She is a girl. But, I need a son to propel my clan ahead,” she growled.

“What – being a girl is a flaw to be blamed?” I felt like laughing; but restrained it by force and told mockingly striving to make her mum, “Tell me then, in which form did you come out from your mother’s womb?”

“You are trying to school your mother; ain’t you?” she yelled. Her eyes were ablaze with anger. She often stroked her forehead by her right fist. I smiled faintly at her – scratched my head – rubbed my nose in quite despair.

“Man is without any doubt the most interesting fool there is,” well satired Mark Twain in his posthumously published novel Letters from the Earth. Going beyond the society for them is nothing but a sin. The only pleasure they ever enjoy while carrying the customs out blindly which foist upon them by their fathers, fore fathers and ancestors. No guts they have had to breach the track and find a new for themselves no one before them walked on. If anyone takes a step forward is blamed as a ghost, blasphemy – anti-social. Strange! How the society has imposed all these fraudulently on mankind irrespective of generations?

“Ma,” I said in an attempt to make her convinced- “these are mere societal hypocrisies – not less than a moral threat upon humanity. Not a vague line of difference I find between a son and a girl. Instead, I think girls are boons as well as blessings for a society. Just think a while, how would I have been here, Ma, if you hadn’t? Moreover, wherein God says the girls have no role to run the society up what the sons really have? If God says ever this, I swear I won’t be a bit reluctant to cast him out of my life.”

She got perturbed hearing my vow against God and looked, swirling her two panic-ridden eyes, around. Her breathing was rasply heavy. She looked up at the sky, raised her hands up in sheer devotion, in a gesture of begging pardon from any unforeseen entity only visible to her. Perhaps she could not find the way out of convincing me that I have already been placed my feets on the evil path. Bewitched by an atrociously wicked devil, I am stepping ahead to commit a mistake for which God may reward me the rigorous punishment – the yam-lok.

“Let God forgive you, my son. Perhaps the devil casts its spell on you,” she said with a sob. Tear drops rolled down her wrinkled cheeks. Her wispy, white unfurled hair blew in the breeze coming in from south. She sat crumpled resting her chin on her knees. Curiously people gazed at us on their way out of the hospital and into it. Their inquisitive looks pierced me like sharp bullets. I had already been exhausted in disgust. Her most unsubstantiated face-off had made me mad. I wished to keep myself out from that unpleasant situation in anyway. Thus no more seconds I took to display my fuss and burst out harshly:

 “Then, go – live with your belief. I need nothing for me, myself. No heaven – no God – even as you for a little moment more. Yes, the devil casts its spell on me. And let me carry the devil on my shoulder for the rest of my life.”

Eerily, she shook her head when I finished my dialogue – kept beholding me for a more while. Tears were welled up again in her eyes and were about to roll down any moment. But she didn’t let that happen and wiped them quickly using her veil. Deeply sighed and then grimaced enigmatically at me. Her mysterious behavior was enough to made me afraid.

Why does she act like this? I felt frightened. Is there anything wrong for my part that has hit her hard? She is a cardiac patient, I know well, with high blood pressure symptoms. Physicians cautioned me often just before a fortnight not to give any sort of psycho-shock which may cost her life. What if that really happens to her?

More and more panic inside me ensued. I shivered in fright and started instantly regretting for my barbed words to her. No, I had to make myself restrain. I wagged my head as a sign of repentance. “Yes, I should beg her pardon. And I’ll do that. What’ll be wrong doing that as she is my mother.”

I was all set to throw my head beneath her feet; but before I moved a step forward to implement my thoughts she changed all the permutations of my planning.

“Everything now fell into my place, Raja,” she told in a tune choked with emotion. “I was wrong – a damn fool. I used to think of you throughout my life as the only focal point to fulfill my long cherished dream to go to Puri. Except that I didn’t have a single expectation from you. But I was really wrong – a damn fool. Perhaps this is the result of my wrongfulness that I couldn’t afford you the proper education with ethical values. I’m not a good mother, am I? If, today your father had...?”

She gagged her mouth with both her palms what kept her dialogue unfinished. That stunned me to no end. She kept weeping and commenced to reprimand her in silence.

 “Can I ever think her as a careless mother even when I’m in the state of unconscious mind just for a micro-second?”

Sweat puddled over my forehead. Flow of a cold wave darted through my entire body – top to toe, as if I had been fallen into a deep quandary. My heart beated fast sans my sense.

I was just ten or might be some more months old at the time when my father had unexpectedly died of Pneumonia. As a dedicated mother, she sacrificed everything – her enjoyment, likings, happiness – everything – just to give me a good upbringing. The whole day and the whole night she used to spend with me – plan for me – think of me. She didn’t even let me a bit chance to feel the absence of a father. It was then my pleasure to be called as a mama’s boy. But now she thinks, she is not a good mother. Surprise! How and where could I able to find a loving and caring mother like her?

I got puzzled and felt a pang of strain on my head around. As if wasps had started me sting. I set once again down beneath her feet, caught hold of her hands and beseeched:

“Ma, let me...”

She threw my hands away and growled- “Don’t call me Ma, again. I can’t be a mother of an atheist. What might be the worst woe for a mother noticing her son as a blasphemy? Aaaaargh, My ill-fate!!”

And she stalked out in anger glancing at me significantly. Striving hard, I couldn’t utter a word as though my lips were forcefully stapled. Being spellbound, I just kept myself witnessing her disappearance with two tear-laden eyes. I became really as dumb as a statue. How things were getting bitter?

Till her last breath, she managed to keep herself detached from me and my family. She chose a monastery for herself in the vicinity of my paternal village and led a solitary life thereafter. I had, of course, longed a lot to make her convinced and returned home back; but she didn’t even let me a chance to meet her or, apologize in person. She kept herself aloof and abandoned me forever as an attempt to chastise and even had requested her inmates not to let me allow to her crimatorial process.

Of course, the kind-hearted monk of the monastery, my mother stayed in, called me back after her demise casting all her promises aside. However, by the time I reached crimation rituals had been over. He held out an earthenware pot with a saffron cloth wrapped around it, and said:

“This is your mother’s cremains. Let it immerse in the holy river Ganga and satiate her sole desire. You are the only son of hers and by religion, sons are obliged to do it. And yes, don’t regard her as an unaffectionate mother.”  

“Attention please... the Howra-Puri express... ...”

The announcement over the loudspeaker interrupted me to think ahead. I had been submerged deeply in my own world. The entire environment appeared me cloudy. I took my daughter away from my wife, but couldn’t look at her straightway. I felt as if something burnt me inside.

I can excuse my mother for the sake of an old fashioned lady. But how can I ever excuse my better-half – my well educated wife who intends to give birth a son, just to fulfill the social law?

I hold my daughter tight and said, however, striving hard to cool myself down:

“I need no sons for myself. My daughter will do everything for me – she will prepare my funeral pyre – she will also give me the last fire. I am the proudest father in this world. I hate that bloody belief – Mokshya! I hate your society, too.”

“Then why are you doing this farce?” she winked at me mockingly and shouted a bit loud as if my denial had made her insulted. “Why are you waiting for the train for Allahabad? Why don’t you throw this ‘crimens pot’ away meant for Mokshya for your mother? Why?”

I smiled, faintly and replied: Because I’m a son. And, being a son it’s an atonement I need to do. But as a father, nothing is precious than my girl – my child.


© Copyright 2019 Rajendra Roul. All rights reserved.

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