Editor’s Choice: Family Short Story – Confession of an Indian
Hello! Let me introduce myself. I am Arjun Ghosh. I was born in a hamlet in the remote corner of Odisha, where my father was working as the branch manager in a bank. I was only child of my father and almost my entire family lavished its affection on me. As a child, often I would cry for eating the best Rasgoolla, which was my favorite sweet among other sweet items. My grandfather waited almost with bated breath for my return from the school. When I stepped inside our house, he would uncover his face from the sheets of newspaper and showed his toothless smile-
“Arjun, I have brought your favorite thing. Your mother has kept it inside the refrigerator. No one would eat unless you take”.
My mother would bring the earthen pot out from the refrigerator and hold it before me. I would count and choose the biggest one from the shining, rotund figures of India’s most desired sweet item.
“Don’t eat it in one go. Why don’t you bite it and eat slowly? Why do you gulp everything down without chewing?’
The entire family would gather throwing curious glances at me. My mother would thrust water in my mouth while granny ran her hand on my back.
I avoided sleeping during the day and sneaked out of my mother’s room. As I caught my grandparents snoring in the afternoon nap, my mind would turn into the devil’s workshop instantly. I would poke my face, pulling at the door of the refrigerator and dashing it carelessly. I ran my hand over the eatables mindlessly changing their places. I would run to the kitchen and make a mess of the utensils leaving the water tap open. Slowly I would tip-toe inside the room of grandparents and open the drawers where they stored their medicine. I pulled all the objects that had my attention.
In the evening, when my misdeeds were discovered, a visibly livid father would drag me to the center of our drawing room and there to escape the beating, I would feign weeping. My sobs were louder and harsh enough to draw the attention of grandparents. They would invariably snatch me out of my father’s hands, while soothing the aftereffects of a slap or two. I would break free from the arms of my grandparents, wailing and throw my body on the bed with a thud. I would not listen to anyone’s voice and pretend sleeping.
Hands would tug me when there was dinner time. I refused to listen to the requests of taking food. Then my parents and grandparents would coax me with various offers. Chocolates and toys were the few things that came first. I woke from the supine position and kept my face grave. My hands only could accept the best gifts from my family members. Then they would pick me up in their arms to feed me sumptuously.
I grew up as a tenacious brat. But my family always failed to give vent to their pent-up anger because of my brilliance. I scored off my critics with the excellent grades in all subjects of study. My grandparents would hug me and ask-
“Arjun, what would you take as the prize for your performance”?
“Rasgoolla, give me at least ten”- I would prattle like a baby.
As time passed, I topped the high-school examination and joined the Science stream of the college. The days of adolescence had brought the carnal desires. Our maid-servant was the first lay. She was seventeen while I was a sophomore in the Science stream of the junior college. She agreed to my proposal only after getting a hundred rupee note. She was not ungrateful as she bartered many occasions of physical pleasure with me.
I would not stop with her and in course of time excel as a master in the art of Cupid. At length, when the news of fructification of my seeds in the womb of a girl reached the ears of my family, they were shell-shocked. My grandfather dashed his head on the wall as my granny wailed while beating her forehead. My father had a heart attack and my mother was confined to the bed for more than one year. My relatives rushed to the astrologer with my horoscope. There was a period of Rahu for which various worships were performed. My family bid its time in the consternation of its only scion getting entangled in the affectation of a malefic planet in the horoscope.
But then I surprised everyone with the result of the entrance examination of the Engineering. It was a clean bolt from the blue when I stood first in it. My family had found solace in believing that I was by no means a black sheep and it was only a matter of bad time. They found that the maid-servant and the girls were equally at fault and I had just fallen prey to their temptations. My parents vent their fury on the maid-servant. She writhed in pain when she was slapped and kicked. My father dragged her by her hair and she was thrown out of our home on the accusation that she only made me familiar with the carnal pleasures of the body.
“A tiger would of course be a man-eater if it is given to drink the human blood”- My granny shouted in her face.
“A prince grows like a flame of the lamp while the insects just die to breath their last in his arms”- My grandfather consoled everyone by quoting this from an unknown author. After all, I was the prince of their little kingdom.
During my study in the best Engineering College of our place, I had the insatiable greed for money. I would apply every trick in the book to grab each penny from the pocket of my grandfather.
“Grandma, my friends have so good clothes and I have nothing. Today, I need to buy one shirt. Give me a five hundred rupee”
She would helplessly listen to my rigidity for money. My grandfather would sit hunched in agonizing silence while I looted every pie from his meager pension. He was reluctant to complain to my parents against the extravagance of his prince. He wore torn clothes and moved on the streets like a lunatic.
I received a first class with distinction in the Engineering course and made up my mind to go for a Post-graduate degree. My family was almost half dead when I got my Masters in this because of the consistent pressure for money.
Oh, at length there was the much anticipated occasion when I got the letter from a university of America that my application for a doctoral degree had been granted. It was sad to watch the faces of my family members. I promised them that I would come back after four years; that was the usual duration for research and doctoral thesis. They were all in tears when I took the plane for U.S.A.
Oh, I am so sorry that I failed to keep my promise. I finished my doctoral thesis and got a nice job. I married one of my female American research scholars that paved my way for receiving the Green card from the U.S government.
I have spent twenty years in the U.S. without finding the rationale for going back to India. The dusty lanes, by-lanes and the hands that fed me Rasgoolla were not reasons enough to send me back to my motherland.
My grandparents had cried a lot for me while they breathed their last.
“Arjun….my dear boy, come soon. I have brought Rasgoolla for you. I will give you everything that you want”
These were the words of my grandpa in his last days. He was plumb off his head without minding to wear clothes and move fully naked. My parents would confine him to a room and lock the doors from outside. He would take my name uninterruptedly. Finally when one day the doors were unlatched, he was lying unconscious in a pool of urine and defecation from his own body. When the doctor was called in, he cast a glance at the lifeless body and declared without touching-
My grandma was in a coma in the next room. Sometimes, she would come to her senses and wail-
“Arjun, just listen my dear. I will give you what you want. Why are you angry?”
She expired after a year.
Time passed so fast. My septuagenarian father succumbed to the second stroke of heart. My mother sold her ornaments as well as our house. She was alone but had the spirit to deny my invitation to come to the States and live her last days. She braved to live her life in the company of memories of the bygones.
Now-a-days, she refuses to speak whenever I ring her up. She lives in an old-age home and avoids my calls on the pretexts that she is busy.
“She has gone to the temple. She will be there up to late night. Call back tomorrow”-
This is the usual answer that I receive when I ring up the number of the old-age home.
Let me explain that America has growing number of generations of princes from India. The princes -who once upon a time used to be the light of the eyes of their family members, have to stay back in this foreign land because their nation cannot stand in comparison to the material life that this distant land can bestow on them. They fear that they will forever be struck up in quagmire of corruption, nepotism and stagnation if they stage a comeback to their motherland and make a career.
“Nope darling, India is not the place we can think of living”- Says my American spouse.