On the other hand, Mala is a ‘good’ girl too but she is little cleverer so nobody can cheat her that easily. Who will like you if you are clever? She is brave too; doesn't fear anything – anyone. Nobody can come and make a fool out of her when they have no pastime as they do with her sister Nila. So, the jobless women who generally play around with Nila try to save their faces by not getting on the wrong side of her with Mala. She has enough egos and more than enough pride. Like the salt in pickle! She strongly believes that 'no salt… no use!'. She has never regretted not being as popular as her elder sister. She has only felt bad for her sister. At times, only ‘at times’, even her elder sister has felt helpless for not being able to be like her younger sister though it is the same blood that runs in her veins. Whenever the self-respect takes a beating, she thinks 'I don't want to rule the world by being like her but I can at least live with some self-respect!'. Mala gets all the respect that people of her types generally get. If the price that Nila paid for her modesty is disrespect, what Mala got back for her bluntness is a lot of unwanted problems, difficulties and inconveniences. Life after marriage was not that great. The primary problem is the financial problem. Ladies-in-law aggravated it.
"When your sister milks so much from your brothers, what is your problem?" is the perennial question that Mala's mother-in-law has been asking from day one. She never seemed to tone down her demands. Rather, it was getting more and more by the day. Mala was very adamant – "I would even die here starving but won't ask for a penny from my brothers!". "Once I got married, I have no business with my parents or brothers. If I go to them for money, it's nothing but an insult to my husband's manliness!" is her view. The elder one goes to them for everything and the younger one doesn’t want to go for anything. Every now and then, the elder one keeps going to her brothers asking for money for different reasons – in the name of ‘loan’ to grow husband's business (business never grew; only the loans grew!)… with ‘no name’ for children's education... clothes and dress materials for every festival... and so on. She was making use of her brothers in every possible way. She never missed an opportunity to milk them. ‘Unbelievably good sisters-in-law’ who never question anything that their husbands do to their sisters was the added advantage. Only the crying child gets what it wants, right? Mala never cried so never got anything. She was so unlucky that her mother-in-law was alive even after she herself became granny so her mother-in-law’s cribbing episodes comparing her with her sister continued for unusually longer time.
Although this problem haunted her throughout her life and she also stayed steadfast with her principles, there were difficult times when she had to face the wrath of some other people as well for the same trait of hers. When others also started blaming her, she felt hurt. The toughest of them was when she was ill. The doctors said it would cost a few lakhs for the surgery. Where would she go for so much money? All her brothers visited her in the hospital. They also asked her if she had enough money. As usual, she said, “yes” when it was actually “no”. She stuck to her stand and said, "Let's manage with whatever money we have!". Her mother-in-law was fuming. "You didn't want to ask for my son... OK. You didn't want to ask for children's education... OK. Now you are going to die... What's your problem in asking now?" is her question. As if she realized all her previous demands were wrong! "I have never seen a woman like this. She wants her brothers to be happy and rich; and her family to come to streets. Horrible woman!", she was cursing to everyone that came to the hospital. Mala felt all the more horrible hearing this broken record umpteen times a day. Those days, she had no stamina to fight back but she had no patience as well to listen to all the crap day in and out. "If you die like this, my son will waste all his money and come to streets. Ill-fated woman!", she kept complaining. For Mala, life has been like this from day one but this seemed to be the toughest phase. Even those who praised her earlier for her resolute started criticizing her – "Why is she complicating things by being unnecessarily adamant?". "If it continues like this for some time, she will die. Then, what will she do with this good-for-nothing ego?!", they started the count-down. Even then it didn't look like she would come down. Her condition didn't improve but nothing serious happened to her in the end. Luckily!
One side, Nila was getting every help she wanted with no hesitation and lead her life peacefully. Her kids grew up and started earning on their own. Her family’s overall financial condition also improved. She and her children had a lot of gratitude for her brothers. Her brothers were satisfied too because all their helps didn’t go waste. Nila and her sons paid back whatever was possible in installments. A timely help that changed someone’s life can never be considered as paid back even if it was paid back with interest. So, it’s not the amount but the time and deed that matter. Even after paying back everything, something will remain as bad debt in the name of gratitude. Even if it is paid back in different forms by doing bigger helps, people would still remind you of the timely help you took to reach to that place. It will always keep your success incomplete. Some people might have roughly understood that this is why Mala is refusing to take any help from her brother but it didn’t look like everyone understood this very well. People didn’t know whether she thought about all these and refused or it is just that her basic nature is to refuse any help that comes her way – even from the closest ones. But, the question right now is, is it such a great virtue that one could pay a life as price for it? Isn’t it just a law of the nature that helping one another when possible and getting reciprocated later when required? Then what is the point in living with so many billion people together on this planet? Otherwise, wouldn’t it be like each individual living on a different planet?
The next test came when Mala’s son was in need of money for higher education. Thanks to her brothers, all her sister’s children are well-off now. Now that there is a case study to prove that only those who don’t hesitate to ask get help, what is she waiting for? Even then she was very adamant that she wouldn’t take anyone’s help. She just has to say, “I need this!”. There are people to give her whatever she wants. But, she doesn’t want all that. Some of her brothers also thought, ‘Let her ask, we will do!”. This time, her mother-in-law’s lyrics changed – “You didn’t want to ask for my son… OK. You didn’t want to ask for your life… OK. Now your son’s life itself is in question. What’s your problem now? Spoiling a young boy’s future is a sin. You are committing it. You will suffer for it!”, she cursed. Now, Mala has slowly started getting worried. She thought what if her children would ever ask a difficult question like this – “When your ‘not-so-intelligent’ sister could educate all her children with zero pennies in hand, why did you an intelligent person spoil our lives like this?”. The very thought about it was disturbing.
She started thinking differently now – ‘People take loans from banks for education. It’s just like that. How is it different from that? I am going to ask for a particular reason that too with a plan to pay back, so there is nothing wrong!’, she decided. For the first time, she thought like others the averages – “To take it from my own brother is in no way worse than taking it from a bank!”. ‘Is what I called self-respect all these days a different name that I gave for adamance, arrogance and unwanted ego? Have I got addicted to the name and fame that I get for this trait of mine at the cost of even other lives? My ego is going to kill my children! Not just that, it’s a trait that might even affect the lives of their children and their children. Have to arrange for so much money in fifteen days else making my son an Engineer will become an old dream. I would become another unable woman who could just dream about her children’s future. I don’t want to be remembered as a mother who stayed adamant till the end and killed her children because of that. Instead, why shouldn’t I try to become a mother who even gave up her self-respect for the sake of her children’s future, like my sister? I shouldn’t be worried about anything. Anything means… anything! How to start – speak – ask – take… nothing! Should leave this night, reach brother’s house, have a good peaceful sleep, wake up in the morning and just initiate the discussion with him… it’s enough, he wouldn’t wait till I complete. He would just give me more than what I want. There is nothing more to think as of now!’, she decided. There is another bonus in this – She can shut her mother-in-law’s motor mouth for sometime. She (MiL) also would have to look for a new problem. How long will she manage the show with the same issue like our local politicians?
Once the sun set, she started feeling giddy. As it became darker, her eyes went blurry too. She got restless when she started thinking about starting the conversation with her brother. ‘Shall I go alone or take my son with me? If I take him with me, it would be easy for them to understand the message. The need and importance of my going there would be felt stronger. It would stress why they should help as well. My son also would understand later what all I went through for his well-being. On the other hand, if I go alone, only I would be indebted. If I take him with me, even he would have to carry the burden of gratitude throughout his life. He might even think that I needn’t have done all this help to him. He may have to bow in front of my brother’s children out of inferiority forever. They also shouldn’t feel superior to my son looking at all these. That would continue for generations. I shouldn’t end up sowing such a weed by taking my son with me!’, she was worried too much about everything. A passing thought in between – ‘Would my sister have thought of all these every time she went with her children to collect money?’. ‘She wouldn’t have made her children Engineers if she had thought about all these so much!’ was the reply from her inner voice.
After all confusions, she came to a strong conclusion. ‘Looks like this is my problem as everyone says – making things murkier by thinking too much about everything unnecessarily. If one thinks beyond a limit, woman or man, they would only lose their hairs, not gain anything in their lives. Is it only the unable lazybones talk and think too much like me? OK. Let me not think too much. Let me take my son also with me. It’s miraculous that having someone with you, irrespective of who it is, is always a great strength. Even if it is a day-old child! Especially, it’s better to keep someone with you when you are doing something wrong for the first time!'.
The lights are on and it’s night now. She hasn’t left for her brother’s place as planned. She told her son in a tone that she herself could not hear, “Tomorrow morning, we will leave for uncle’s house!”. Now the travel is postponed to next morning. Like the goats that return home from pasture, she finished all her housework unconsciously for the day. The day passed. A day she took one of the most important decisions in her life! The 'decision days' will pass very fast. Only the implementation days will keep getting postponed. Throughout the night, she couldn’t sleep. She was just turning this side and that side but no use. Only her dirty blanket was tired; she was tirelessly thinking about the same thing in sixteen directions. Is there no way to get out of this complication???
This is the first time she has got into such a complication. It’s a mentally draining thing. She is wasting her whole night losing sleep on something that would be done within a minute if she doesn’t think too much. She believed that this restlessness was an indication of the good news on the way. That’s how we have been taught to believe, right? If the ride is painful the destination will be gainful and if the ride is smooth the destination will be painful. All those who enjoy their life happily go to hell and those who sacrifice everything to lead a life full of miseries go to heaven.
Before the sun rose, an idea dawned on her. It will be Tuesday when it dawns. It would be all the more great if it doesn’t dawn at all. Luckily, it is not going to be Wednesday. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have got a reason to postpone it by another day. Yeah, another decision made before the sun woke up! As Wednesday is considered to be a more auspicious day than Tuesday, she would meet her brother tomorrow - another tomorrow. Now, she doesn’t like herself for postponing this simple thing so many times. Once and for all, she postponed it to Sunday. Reason? Holiday is holier than all working days! Working day? For whom? Yeah, for her son, it would be a working day after the college opens but it has not happened yet. For her husband, it is a working day but how does it matter to her?! For her brother? No, he has his own business so he is the owner of his business and his time. So, he neither goes to office on working days nor does he stay at home on holidays. For herself? She has no other major work than washing, bathing, cooking, eating and sleeping on these days. She doesn’t have the work of going to work. Anyway, it’s yet another postponement. That’s it. She didn’t know that she was being cheated by her own mind.
Is she thinking that the Sunday will never come? She's wrong. That also came. Again, head rolls… aches… pains. How to escape??? She has acceptable justifications for everything that she is going to do but there is something itching there... She knows that her son’s education is more important than anything else but something is stopping her from going ahead with the plan. “Is the bank loan worse than brother’s loan?”, suddenly the question is reversed now! ‘Why not check with the bank before going to brother’s house?!’. The Sunday passed slower than usual and faster than expected this week.
The next morning, she went to the bank with her son. After a week of running from pillar to post in the same town, they got everything they wanted. More importantly, they didn’t get anything they didn’t want. The pain of running from pillar to post back and forth was not as painful as what she went through in the last one week.
The next scene… fast forward to 15 years later… ‘Not-so-intelligent’ Nila’s both sons married unknown girls and are not even able to show their faces to their uncles for not marrying their daughters. ‘Not-so-innocent’ Mala’s son has married… yes, an unknown girl only… but is still a respected guest in his uncle’s place despite not having married their daughters.