Rahul Rai Bogiko
“Mom, I will fulfill all your wishes when I grow up!”
“I hope so, son. But how can I believe you, considering your stubbornness and wickedness? “
“Am I so stubborn, Mom?”
“You’re quite stubborn, my child.”
It’s not that her remarks didn’t hurt me. I wondered what I had done to earn that rebuke.
‘Govinda is an addict of tobacco. Her parents do not say anything. Sadhu plays will marble spheres all the time. He does not work at home; does not listen to anyone either. But no one calls them recalcitrant. I help my mother to fetch water, wash, wipe and cook in the morning and evening. Yet how did I become stubborn?’
Out of utter annoyance, I asked, “Mom! What wrong have I done? “
“Don’t talk too much. Adjust the flame and take care of the vegetable; else it be overcooked.
But the question kept running through my mind: What did I ever do to look so stubborn?
I am an eight-year-old boy. Sister Sita is five. Our elder sister works in Imphal City. Brother Dinesh was in fourth year. Suresh, another sibling, was imbecile; both his legs were paralyzed. The youngest one had just started toddling. I knew how difficult it was for a single woman to run a household when there was no reliable man in the family. There were things not imaginable for everyone.
Our mother would definitely bag the first prize if there was a contest on raising and feeding kids. But, at that time, I was too young to understand all these things then.
Our lower class family lived in a thatched house in Noonpani. The house we lived in was nothing but a small hut. I didn’t know where Dad was. Sometimes when we asked our mother, she would get angry and say, “You had gone away to earn money.”
Our farm was sloppy, that didn’t even yield maize well. However, the lattice greens grew verdantly in the kitchen garden. Everybody loved the greens, either in lieu of rice, or as complement of the main course. It is not that my mother did not work hard in the morning and in the afternoon, but out land itself was quite barren. Even if we cultivated flowers and creepers, they either wilted, of yielded nothing.
“Not only God, even the farm discriminates against the poor,” said Mom, grumbling at times. However, in the hope of fruits, we often ploughed our farm. How would we have any yield if we destroyed the juvenile fruits like that?
Being poor is not a sin. Not being able to have enough food, in spite of being being born as a human, is a great curse and irony. The well-off ones have enough of pumpkins, iskus and beans hanging verdantly from their vines; they don’t even care if they fall aground and roll everywhere. Our moon too had planted the seeds of iskus, pumpkin, beans and other vegetables, but they hardly grew at ours, even if they were richly at others’. The same corn seed produced three or four earns in others, but why did it stay sterile at ours? Such questions popping up in my young mind were bothered my mother’s ears even more.
“Mom, I want to go to the market with you today!”
“You don’t have to. Am I going to the market to roam around? I am going to buy things for the entire week. I have no money to take you along. I have borrowed five hundred rupees from my uncle at Kalimpong. I have to buy ration for the entire moth with it. If I take you, you will nag me to buy everything you on sale there. “
Arranging her shopping bag Mom further added, “Stay at home with your siblings. I will come back soon with the things. “
But this time too, Mom was defeated. My nagging won. I followed her to the market to help carry her purchase.
I knew my mother had five hundred rupees with her. For me, that was enough to buy the entire market. Even a single rupee would suffice to spend on sweets for an entire week. In that case, what a big amount five hundred was!
On the way from home to the market, such things kept occurring in my mind. I was stuck between one and five hundred rupees.
All my attractions, including big cars, new toys, colorful clothes, watches, bicycles, sweets, etc., were waiting for me in the market. Amidst the all-built houses and thousands of colorful people, I was happily carrying a bag in my mother’s hand even as my mind hovered around a myriad of things.
As we were walking around the market carrying our purchase, we into a shop nearby to have lunch. We had a bowl of thukpa each. I don’t know why Mom always wanted to buy for snacks. It was probably because, thukpa could fill our belly for a small amount of money.
Even though my stomach was full, my tongue was not, because the thukpa was quite yummy. Here the shopkeeper would not give more for free, and we didn’t have enough money to pay for another bowl. Satisfied with whatever I ate, I lifted the things and started walking behind my mother.
As I was walking around the market carrying the goods, I came across a shop. My eyes were fixed on one of the goods for sale rather than on the shop itself. I stood still for a while and watched. Mom had gone a long way ahead. She saw me standing and came back. I was startled, when she came quite close and said, “Hey, Dilip!”
Mom had to return home after a quick shopping. My mother, who had left only the little ones at home to go shopping, said, “The children may have been hungry and thirsty, or they may have fought and destroyed things, or have received beatings for messing up with neighbors’ things.” But, that was not my concern. I was stuck in the same toy in the shop.
“Why are you standing here, like a dumb gawking at sweets? It’s a marketplace, you know; one gets lost here. Come fast; we have to shop quickly and return home in time.” My mother was even more upset when she saw me standing still. “Hey Dilip,” she said, “Walk fast; else we will be late.”
“I won’t go home. I need that football.”
Mom turned pale when my words fell into her ears.
“I have no money. I spent everything in my purchase. I will buy it for you when we come here next time again,” she said.
But I did not agree. Her words did not convince me.
Mom said, “My child, do not be so stubborn. You are my wise son. The money I have is not enough to buy that ball. That doesn’t feed you anything either. Walk home, my son. “
I sat on the road saying I wouldn’t go home. The crowd in the market was watching the drama of the two of us – mother and son. My mother try to console me by saying many things, but I got stuck to one thing: ‘I need that ball.’ Soon my got tired of my wrangling and nagging. She couldn’t help but buy the ball that had attracted me.
Finally, after buying the ball for 3.50 rupees, I got up and followed my mother, smiling, and stretching my bosom with pride. Mom, on her part, walked home with a sad face, carrying the load of the things he had bought before.
Today, thirty years later—
A six-year-old boy is repeating the same drama in front of a mobile shop.
He is obsessed with a smartphone. His mother’s heart melts. A mother’s heart, after all, is softer than butter. That is why she has come to an agreement. Only now do I realize that it is not good to be stubborn. But what can we do in front of our children? I am confused.
Mother and son are waiting for my decision.
I remember the day when I was stubborn for the same ball. Yes, I miss my mother so badly.
Translation of Rahul Rai Bogiko’s Story “Amit Chhap”. Translated by Rama Adhikari