Editor’s Choice: Dasain’s Bonus – Social Issue Short Story
Dusshera or Dasain, as we call it. The most celebrated and joyous festival of all. There is a special aura about it. The clear blue sky with a tinge of white clouds spattered over. Warm sun basking all day long. Smell and colour of fresh marigold undulating across the atmosphere. Little children overjoyed with their favourite flavor of ice-creams. Dressed up in their newly bought clothing yet, wiping all flavours. Adults?? Busy slaughtering and chopping meat while some engaged in spirits along with a deck of card. Ofcourse, not entirely. Anyways it’s a time for sharing and enjoying happiness among each other.
So, Dasain was in the air. Local market was engulfed by the sheer excitement of all, but Bire was still not able to arrange any money for the festivity that lied ahead. New clothes had to be bought for his two little daughters and his wife. Now the only hope was “Dasain’s Bonus”. Which he had received early morning, but that too had to be paid straight away for the money he had lend at the time his wife had gone pregnant. So….
“ All year long after working day in and day out in scorching heat wearing down to the extreme, tea workers (bagane) was never acquitted off their misery. On the sound of a siren they hurl towards their daily labour, with a mouthful of ration rice. Such was the misery.”
Today is Dasain Bazar. Market is flooded with loitering and scampering people. In the midst of all poor Bire too was walking carrying an empty polythene bag in his hand, bare foot. Rich were all motioned in their self motive and plans with utmost vigor and audacity. But Bire was lost in all these and was just roaming along with the crowd.
“Hey! Bire, When did you come?” Chyangba, a guy from his village yells out.
“Just now”, Bire replies.
“Me too. Bought anything?,” says Chyangba.
“No”, replies Bire.
“Let’s go to our place”, says Chyangba and catches Bire by his arms and forces him to walk along.
“I have to buy meat for the dinner. It’ll be over”, says Bire resisting Chyagnba’s proposal and unlocking his hand from his arms.
“I too haven’t bought it. I’ll get you too, so don’t worry”, says Chyangba and consoles Bire. They headed out to their usual place, a little bamboo hut with full of 90’s filmstars hanging on its wall; situated in the middle of the market alongside samosawalas, mithaiwalas with oddly shaped laddoos and barfis and spicy channawalas.
“Gives us one-one, kaki,” says Chyangba slamming himself onto the old weakened wooden chair. He wasn’t the first or even the last one who had sat there with that same precise intention.
“You haven’t paid for the last time too Chyangba,” an old lady yells out wiping her both palms on her clothing which had gone darkish by now.
“Ufff this Kaki, I’ll pay today. But first gives us some na,” replies Chyangba grinning at her wiping off his nose. Then without buying anything both of them started drinking, that locally made white spirit. Bire had never before drunk this early noon. And to top it he was in the company of guile and drunkard Chyangba.
Chyangba then pays off his previous credit and asks Bire to buy the next round.
“No,” says Bire. “I’m already drunk. Not anymore and I have to go buy ration and clothes for my children and wife too. So No,” he adds further twisting his tongue and jerking his face.
“C’mon Bire. Ok last one one,” insists Chyangba.
Then one turned to two; two to three until Bire was totally drunk. He had started to dribble and was walking zig-zaggily. Chyangba on the other hand was as sober as a nun. Bire took out his money which he had from his worn out pants’ pockets and paid the bill. He then headed towards the slaughter-house. But alas! No one was to be seen. He then returned empty handed and bought a kilo of potato and onion to go with. Children’s and wife’s new clothes were totally out of the scenario now as he had little money left.
Meanwhile Chyangba was still lingering outside that little hut. He again calls out Bire and laughs. Aye! “Where are you going? Look Bire is in mood today,” says Chyangba calling out two girls from inside.
“Who’s going? If Bire daju is here then how can we go,” says one of the girls in a very thin and falsettic tone.
“So, what do you want to have?” says Bire with a big smile.
“Anything bought by you Bire daju,” the girl replies with a cynical smile on her face.
“Ok. But don’t call me Bire daju na….. Bire sounds fine,” replies Bire noddingly.
Then Bire goes to the nearby sweet shop and orders audaciously sweets, samosas, namkeens etc… and even a glass of lassi for them.
“Daju is slightly boozed today? Oh sorry Bire,” one of the girls speaks out holding lassi on one hand and chutney dipped samosa on the other.
“Ofcourse. What is there not to be of? Its Dasain,” replies Bire in a very loud tone.
But most of the tea workers are in the same state today. Not just Bire. This is the irony.
It is dusk. Market has considerably thinned out. But cabs to their village are still crowded. More people were hanging or on top of the roof then on the inside. People fighting and quarrelling all over. Great after affect of that white spirit. But this is the usual sight on a Dasain Bazar.
Bire is full drunk. He heads onto his home walking sluggishly controlling his steps. He curses the tea-garden’s manager.
“Kale jerk! I won’t leave him. He halved my Bonus too. Jerk!” All the way he cursed him.
It was about dark. But Bire hadn’t arrived home. Two little daughters were sitting on the footsteps with their hand on their chin waiting for their father. Rubbing their eyes but occasionally standing and peeking upon the way to a little sound that was made. A little later Bire arrives with a small little polythene bag in his hand, mudded up. Seeing their father two kids rejoices and jumps a little clapping their hands. But Bire ignoring the kids storms into the house slamming onto the door and walls of the inside uncontrollably.
He yells out to them and stands staring at the floor with head titled downwards and body pendulumming involuntarily. Seeing Bire’s state his wife drops out a tear rolling onto her cheeks.
“Keep this,” says Bire giving away an relatively empty bag.
Wiping away her tears with one hand and carrying a 6 month old baby on another,“I hope you have brought clothes for this little two,” says his wife.
“Just shut up.” Yells out loud Bire and slams the polythene bag onto the floor.
The remaining potatoes after a muddy fall of Bire on the way, rolls out of the bag and onto the floor of the house. The older daughter runs after it and starts collecting. But the little one still stares at the empty bag with utmost hope.
His wife catches her little daughter by her arms and calls out the other and goes towards the bed still tearing. Mother consoles her little kid that she would be getting a new dress tomorrow morning. She forces her to sleep, but the older one grabs her by her arms and hides herself upon her mother and sleeps, quietly weeping.
Bire on the other hand sat himself on the chair outside staring idly, rocking his and his families world. Soon he feel asleep.
Next morning he wakes upto a heavy headache. Catching his forehead, everything flashes him of yesternight. He straight away heads towards the kitchen. Hearth was cold. Rice’s container and ofcourse, most it was empty. There lay a muddy bag with some squashed up potatoes beside it. He went and looked at his kids and his wife. They were asleep. But they hadn’t had their dinner last night.
Then neighbors’ children comes running in on to their garden, all dressed up in their new fancy dresses. “Maya! Maya! Look at our new pink frock,” one of the kid shouts out. Hearing her friend’s voice, Maya and her sister wakes up and straight away rushes outside.
Wearing a torn, antiqued and dirty dress Maya and her sister stood their staring at their friend’s new wonderful pink frock with despair. Seeing this Bire went in. He was ransacked. Looking at his children’s and wife’s old torn out dress and a sari, Bire cries. He couldn’t control himself from not letting that drop of tear to come out. He looks at the beautiful clear blue sky outside and hides himself in his palm and cries. But what can be done? Yesterday’s white spirit had snatched everything away and had robbed happiness and joy from his family. Dasain’s aura and festivity couldn’t reach Bire’s doorsteps. Dasain became a curse for him.
He could not swallow this painful and bitter anguish he faced. So he headed outside in search to lend more money; for his children; for his wife; for his family; for Dasain…………………………..
So will he be able to get that money?