The river Kopili, a tributary of the mighty river Brahmaputra, flows by the side of the sleepy village Barkuloi in the district of Morigaon. On the bank of the river, one can see a small hut made of mud plastered wall with a thatched roof under a big neem tree. But no one lives there. The empty hut is, however, well maintained. In the evening, one can see an earthen lamp burning under a tulsi plant. To human mind, it may look like a haunted house. No, it’s not. The hut has a pathetic past linked with the tragedy of an old man who dedicated his life for the cause of truth and humanity.
The sleepy village Barkuloi is mostly inhabitated by poor cultivators. They are happy with no high ambitions in life. Their philosophy of life is that human life and the course of river are predetermined. But Ghanakanta, the wealthy person of the village, had a different view of life. According to him, destiny can be shaped by hard work. Was he right? Wait. We are coming to this point shortly.
Ghanakanta started his daily life when others in the village were still in deep slumber. He loved to visit his paddy field and the jute cultivation in the early morning. A deeply religious person, Ghanakanta led a simple life. He earned quite a lot of money from jute cultivation. His wife expired long back leaving behind her a male child. Ghanakanta found it very difficult in bringing up his son but refused to marry again. He was afraid – the step-mother might not take care of the child in a proper way.
He loved his son so much. For the welfare of his son, he sacrificed his life. In return, guess what the estranged son did. Gopal, his name, was rusticated by school authority for molesting a girl student and that was the end of his educational life. Ghanakanta was totally upset and conveyed his displeasure to his son who in return rebuked him with filthy words.
Years rolled on and the little Gopal turned to be a ‘man’, an ugly man with ugly thought.
It was a cold November night. Ghanakanta was eagerly waiting for his son to dine with him. But he was nowhere to be seen.
Electricity had not reached the village. The villagers took their meals by the light of kerosene lamps and to save kerosene, they went to bed as early as possible.
The entire village was under deep slumber. The narrow village lane was deserted except a stray dog barking in the eastern side. An owl hooted nearby. Ghanakanta came out of his room but could see nothing. A cold chill crept up his spine, raising the hair on the back of his neck.
The entire village was covered in a thick blanket of fog. No trace of his son. He was about to return to his room when suddenly he heard the horn of a taxi. The old taxi stopped in front of the bamboo gate.
Gopal stepped down from the taxi followed by a girl dressed in bridal attire. Ghanakanta was speechless.
After six months, to prove the authenticity of the universal saying-‘politics is the last refuge of the scoundrel,’ Gopal joined the ruling political party of the State and managed to be elected as the President of the village Panchayat only to earn money by corrupt means. Honest and kind, Ghanakanta refused to support his son and there ensued a bitter relationship between the two.
It was a rain-drenched morning. As usual, the honest youth of the village and a good neighbour Dipak went to the field to look after his cultivations. He was totally ignorant of the fact that someone stealthily followed him. The paddy field was near the woods far away from the village. As soon as he reached the paddy field, he was attacked by the man who followed him all the way. Dipak fell to the ground with head injury and shouted for help. But the man fled away.
The rain had stopped by then and Dipak came to the house of Ghanakanta to report the incident.
When asked about the identity of the assailant, Dipak said, “Couldn’t recognise the man as his face was covered with a gamocha but found this ring lying on the ground near the place of occurrence.”
Ghanakanta closely examined the ring and said, “It’s my son Gopal. Go to the police station and lodge a complaint against him.”
Dipak stared in astonishment for a while and then slowly drifted away. He decided not to lodge any complaint against Gopal.
But Ghanakanta had to pay dearly for his honesty.
The day passed off in a gloomy environment. Darkness had already descended.
Ghanakanta was hungry as he had to skip lunch. He enquired about dinner when his daughter-in law rebuked him for taking side with Dipak. Ghanakanta tried to defend himself when his enraged son Gopal drove him out forever.
Ghanakanta with a heavy heart left the village unnoticed by the villagers who were in deep slumber by the time.
Dark was the night and cold was the wind. Sad and depressed, Ghanakanta proceeded towards the river bank.
Outside the village, on the bank of the river Kopili, there stood a hut under a neem tree which was earlier used by one sanyasi for a brief period. He left for Haridwar and never returned.
Ghanakanta decided to take shelter in the hut for the night to beat the winter blues. As he entered, a stray dog came out of the hut expressing his utter displeasure. He felt guilty for the dog who had no home to stay.
Next morning. Ghanakanta decided to stay in the hut with the hope that things would be normal as usual. Dipak offered him shelter in his house which was politely refused.
Dipak and the other villagers decided to provide the honest man of the village with food items. Time passed on.
One fine morning. The old man was busy in peeling a banana when he noticed a fat monkey on the branch of the neem tree. He offered the banana and the monkey accepted it graciously. The monkey after finishing his tasty breakfast left the place. Next day also, the monkey arrived in time for breakfast with the old man. Slowly and steadily, there developed a friendship between the old man and the monkey. For the major part of the day, the monkey used to pass time with the old man. In the afternoon, he left the place only to return next morning. The old man thought- Perhaps the monkey is also driven out from his family like him. But he was proved wrong. Next morning, he saw the family members of the monkey. He was delighted to see the vibrant family of his friend. The little ones even dared to enter the hut. And what about his own family! His wife left him long back. His only son whom he loved from the core of his heart kicked him out. Now he is leading a solitary life away from the comforts of modern life. What a tragedy! Perhaps the animal kingdom is better placed in this respect. The old man thought.
And quiet flows the river Kopili. Years rolled on as usual. The neem tree grew taller and bigger.
The old man turned 75. He observed his 75th birth day attended by the monkey and his lovely family members. His son could have wished him but alas, he had no time for his old father.
The day passed off as usual. In the afternoon, his friend the fat monkey and his family members left him. After their departure, the 75 year-old-man wanted to take rest. He was a bit tired.
He went inside the hut to take a short nap without knowing that- that was his last day of his life.
The good villagers assembled to pay their last respectful homage to the honest man of the village.
Man cannot control his own destiny. Destiny is something to which a man is destined. He is guided by prefixed destiny. There is a divinity that shapes our ends, said the village Headman.