A poor family is not welcome, especially in the village, where neighborhood is closely knit. When Suma and her husband rented a hut and came to our next door, my wife was plainly upset. I tried to console her. ‘We are quite well financially. I know you are worried that they will borrow money. Don’t bother.’
They bought a cow. Naturally, we started buying the milk. Suma’s husband was lame and so he was not very helpful in looking after the cow, the whole burden falling on the poor woman. They had a daughter studying in the college. She was not beautiful, but was well endowed with brains, always coming up first in exams.
She used to seek my help in her studies and I gladly assisted her. When she needed money, I actually encouraged her to borrow money from us, but my wife kept proper account of it, even though I treated it as grant-in-aid.
Our son was a brilliant student aspiring to become a doctor. Whenever he came home, the two used to meet. I think my wife did not like it.
The girl liked to dress well, but I did not encourage her in this. Books are more important than looks, I used to say.
Once, when we went on a picnic, my son insisted that we take our neighbors with us. As we had no daughters (we are one; we need one, was her motto), I actually liked her company. If only she had better charms!
Once, the lame duck had to be hospitalized and kept in ICU for days. We paid the bill, though I cursed him heartily. I think Suma’s parents had no choice, being poorly off.
Days and months passed and their debt mounted. (Stop going to the jewellery shop, was my response to my wife). I suggested that Suma should buy another cow. Somehow, it did not receive any response.
One day, we noticed some strangers coming to see Suma. Is it not too early to think of marriage for her daughter, I wondered. My wife differed. Daughters are to be married off as early as possible, she commented.
But it was a different story, altogether.
Long ago, when lame duck was a small child, his grandmother was very much concerned about his future. When her husband expired, she secretly called a lawyer and made a will,
bequeathing the whole property to the lame duck alone. She too passed away and none knew about it, except the lawyers. When the family wanted to sell off a part of the property, they were told about the will. Then they realized the gravity of the situation and had come to obtain the consent of lame duck, who became a millionaire overnight, as the sole owner of tens of acres of landed property. All this was told to me by my wife.
Is she now willing to take Suma as a future sambandhi (husband of daughter-in-law), as they say in Hindi?