Frail little Sonya sat sobbing in the corner of the room.
She was hungry. Her mother Tapashya sat near her, saying soothingly, “Do not cry. Don’t you know it is dusk? This is the time when God visits homes of people to know their misery. If you keep crying, God will be annoyed.”
Her mother’s words stopped the little girl’s crying. She closed her eyes in prayer. “Oh, God! Please bring some cookies to our house. I’m so hungry. And father is dead. We don’t have a morsel of food in the kitchen. Please come, please, please.”
Tapashya heard hurried footsteps. She wondered who would come at this hour.
She came out of her house and saw a tall figure standing in the doorway, silhouetted against the evening light. She could not immediately recognize him.
“I’m Deben Mandal,” said the person. “Here, take this bag. I have brought some food.”
Tapashya carried the bag to the small kitchen attached to the bedroom. Sonya followed her. Pretty soon she returned to invite the person in.
“Sir, come in and please be seated,” said Tapashya, pointing to the ordinary wooden chair.
Well, Deben Mandal. Mandal was not his surname. It was the official designation of a petty revenue officer. But this Deben Mandal was an influential figure. He was almost on the verge of retirement, but was still in fine health. In the morning he chants ‘Om’ 21 times and practises some easy yogic asanas and pranayams.
“Sorry I couldn’t attend your husband’s funeral. I was away from my area for some time. Death is a part of life. We cannot escape death. I know you have money problems. Don’t worry. I’ll help you out. Think about the education of your lovely daughter. Porag wanted her to be a doctor. She must go to school.”
Tapashya stood motionless like a statue. Her husband Porag had died of cancer. A Brahmin by caste, Porag had married her against the wish of his orthodox parents. His father later disowned him for marrying a low caste girl.
Porag started a grocery shop near the village Naamghar. Everything passed on happily for about five years. Meanwhile, a new member came to their family, Sonya, a lovely daughter. Parag was very happy. He wanted to see her as a doctor.
But man proposes, God disposes.
It was a rainy Saturday morning when Porag was proceeding to his shop. He suddenly fell unconscious on the road. A village boy came rushing to Tapashya to inform her of the incident.
With the help of a few good villagers, he was immediately rushed to the nearby town hospital. The senior doctor of the hospital, after some preliminary examinations, suspected cancer and referred him to a cancer hospital at Guwahati for treatment. He was accordingly rushed to Guwahati for treatment.
Porag was diagnosed with secondary growth of cancer cells, a matter of serious concern for Tapashya. Cancer care and treatment was beyond her means.
After twenty days in the hospital, Porag was discharged at his own request. With the help of some benevolent employees of the hospital, an ambulance was arranged to bring Porag to his home. He knew he was going to die in a week.
Tapashya became penniless.
“What’re you thinking, Tapashya?” Deben Mandal asked.
“Nothing,” she said, tears trickling down her cheeks.
The Mandal gently touched her left hand and dragged her to his lap.
She did not object. What she could do? She was hungry. Her little daughter was hungry. She must live for her daughter. She surrendered her body to him. After some moments of ecstasy, Deben Mandal departed.
There she stood in the doorway, looking fresh. The night was dark. Deben Mandal disappeared from her vision.
“But Deben Mandal will be coming tomorrow again… day after tomorrow…again and again,” Tapashya said to herself.
“So, God has visited our home after all,” said Sonya.
Tapashya only smiled in the darkness.