- Maila Sahu wasn’t the jolliest person, but you wouldn’t call him sad. He had always been content with his life—at least until recently
Maila Sahu still wakes up every day and goes to the ghaat, walks around the tole and comes back home to start off the day. He does try to start his work at his workshop but hardly works for an hour before he stops. The body gives up at this age
Aug 13, 2017-
For fourty years, Maila Sahu had had more or less the same daily schedule. He woke up at six in the morning, went to the ghaat beside Shwet Barahi Temple to freshen up, said his prayers, went around the tole and came back home to start his day. He worked till few hours past noon in his own ‘Maila Furniture Workshop’ and then went to ‘Kanchhimayako Khaja Ghar’ for his khaja, where he spent rest of the day either gambling or watching others gamble away. He’d never gone bankrupt because of his gambling tendency. He indulged in the vice, but he also knew the limits. He was not going to throw his life away. He wasn’t the jolliest person, but you wouldn’t call him sad. He had always been content with his life—at least until recently.
Sahu was getting old by the time his youngest son was born. Already distant from his first three children, he could never really be a good father, let alone a good mentor to Sujeet. Sujeet’s three older brothers were never around to see him grow up either. That explains why he is a khalaasi today. It was only last week that Sahu got onto a bus and handed the money to his son, the bus conductor. That night he came home and cried himself to sleep.
Sahu blames circumstance for his son’s fate. This is not so much his son’s failure, as much as it is his own. More so, because Sujeet was still the best among the lot.
Unlike his other sons, who earn four folds more than the youngest, Sujeet still manages to hand his father a few thousand rupees every month. Sujeet still cares. Sahu wishes his other sons were as conscientious, as thoughtful.
Ashok, his third son, had always been a hopeless case. Selfish, stubborn, and stupid; he never had a mind of his own. Eight years ago, Ashok had sheepishly followed his elder brother, Rabi, to the Middle East and never looked back. He had never was the kind who could take care of himself or his family, and he didn’t disappoint. When Sahu didn’t hear from Ashok after the earthquake, he knew that he had lost not just his house but also one of his sons. While Sahu knows that Ashok is still alive, he has no idea where or how he is. He doesn’t want to know.
Sahu had always had hopes for Rabi—the smartest of the four siblings, the one who he hoped would make him proud. Amicable, capable, and ambitious, Rabi gave more than just one reason for Sahu to trust him blindfolded. Perhaps that is why Sahu even fought with his kin to let Rabi marry the love of his life, a girl from a different caste. He believed that love was above everything else. He believed that love is what would keep his family together. Neither love, nor family mattered as much to his son. All Rabi wanted in life was to become rich, in contrast to what his father was. All he wanted was to lead a much better quality of life than what was ever offered to him growing up. So 10 years ago, he left for Qatar. He has only come back once. He keeps sending money to his wife but nothing to his father. He would rather invest the money in his children who have a whole life ahead of them, than on his father who has already lived his life in the best, or the worst, possible way. Sahu understands. He is happy for his son’s family but wistful that his son’s family is no longer his.
Sahu’s eldest son, Asharam, whose name literally translates into ‘the Lord of Hopes’ has been everything but. He dropped out of school at an early age, accompanied his father to the workshop, and eventually followed his father to Kanchhimaya’s Khaja Ghar. Never really a hard worker, he was always eager to spend more than what he earned. Worried about this one’s future, Sahu had arranged for a marriage. Asharam was never into the young girl he was getting married to, but Sahu hoped this girl would change his son’s life. It backfired. Asharam stopped showing up at home. He earned a little, drank a lot and disappeared for days. Within months of his marriage, Asharam was already starting his day with alcohol and ending it with some more. The habit eventually took its toll over the years. Instead of setting examples for his little brothers, he became the reason the family fell apart.
Asharam’s deteriorating physical and mental health has made Sahu’s house a hell. Every word Asharam utters makes the house feel foul. The father-son can never sit through a conversation without swearing. Sahu is angry, less at his son, more at himself. Sahu is full of remorse and regret, he keeps wondering where he went wrong. He knows exactly where he went wrong. He should have been there when he could have been there. He should have cut down on the visits to Kanchhimaya’s place. He should have never introduced Kanchhimaya to his son. He should have done the eldest one right, so that the ones after him could follow the path. He blames it on circumstance—everything that has become of his sons.
He had the epiphany when he was on his way to the hospital last week. His two sons were far, far away in lands they could never call their own, yet held closer to their hearts than their own family. His eldest son was bed-ridden and probably paralysed for the rest of his life after falling off a roof. And his youngest boy was in the same bus as him, not as Sahu’s son but as a Khalaasi asking him for his bus fare.
Maila Sahu still wakes up every day and goes to the ghaat, walks around the tole and comes back home to start off the day. He does try to start his work at his workshop but hardly works for an hour before he stops. The body gives up at this age.
He then climbs the tin roof of his now single storeyed—post the earthquake—residence and listens to old melancholic melodies on his radio, reflecting on his life, his children, his long-lost aspirations and his regrets.
He wasn’t the jolliest person, but you wouldn’t call him sad. He had always been content with his life—at least until few years ago. Today he is anything but.
Published: 13-08-2017 09:23
- Spilled milk