by Shobha Diwakar
They lived in a dense city heavily populated surrounded with enormous number of shops and people; everybody knew them and they knew everybody. They had lived in that congested alley for a long, long time. Time passed on as it always does and over the years, the little shop they had never did yield any good so they remained tight on their daily needs. It so happened that gradually their finances dwindled and all they could afford was to eat once a day. The trend continued for unending days with the result they became a bit reserved in their attitude and most of the time remained secluded in their tiny nest they had probably inherited from some relative.
The father was a simpleton and hardly had a word to put in their small family. Reason was his simplicity brought ruin upon them. Since he had lost his wife after a long sickness, the lonely man having to take care of two small kids spent time looking after them and could spare little time to take care of his meager business. The result was his so called ‘friends’ who promised to ‘take care’ of his trade, cheated him so harshly that there were times they had no money in their pockets to buy their food and so went hungry many times until an old relative offered them breakfast and one meal.
Time flew like a bird in flight and gradually their finances completely frittered away. The one- time kids were now grown up and so decided to take matters in their own hands. The younger of the two, Manish was smarter than the older son Manu was; the bond of strong love and compassion bound them tightly together; they were inseparable. Severe strain on their pockets had tied the knot of hunger and poverty. Gradually Manish managed to settle down and started earning to keep body and soul together. In fact, he even managed to scrape a few expenses for his personal use of which Manu was totally unaware. As the clock moved forward, Manu decided he no longer wished to be tied- up in chains of the past and so prepared for engineering entrance exam; passed out in flying colors and left his hometown in search of new pastures. It was unfortunate that he was blissfully oblivious of the fact that the failed business had picked up in the clever hands of Manish and now the family could be labeled as being well off in finances. They no longer needed help from others, enjoyed two meals a day of which they had been deprived for long.
However, Manu still struggled. He shared a room with a friend he had recently made; borrowed books from the library as well as from friends, ate one square meal of tea and eggs sometimes adding a toast to it. For long, he survived on monkey nuts to fill up his growling tummy. Since he could not afford to pay the electricity bill, the lamp- post outside served the purpose. Manu passed all his exams in one attempt and soon found a job as a supervisor. Although the pay was not sufficient, yet he managed to send some of his earning to his ‘starving’ family. He was completely unacquainted with the fact that Manish was doing pretty well; the family was no longer hard up for money, they now enjoyed two square meals a day along with a good breakfast of the traditional ‘poha, jalebi;’ all this, while Manu lived scantily saving every penny for them.
In the brainy hands of Manish the business flourished as never before. The once small shop had now grown bigger in size and in his masterly hands had captured most of the market. Manu still remained blissfully naive about the good fortune of his kith and kept struggling hard to bring the family out of their ‘still claimed poverty.’ Manu struggled; Manish reaped the benefits secretively. Not once did he make it known to Manu that he no longer needed help and that he should stop sending MO, rather he should not deprive himself of anything. Manish pretended he did not know how Manu was living in strained circumstances and so the game continued for years together. Whenever Manu returned home for a short visit, Manish grumbled about lack of funds for business and narrated how much they were strained because of it. As was his habit Manish promptly wrote out a check, which Manish gleefully pocketed and Manu was again made the scapegoat for his (Manish’s) luxury.
Manu soon found better prospects in a renowned company and decided to join it in another city further away from home although his heart lingered in his hometown. The prospects were good, the benefits prosperous and so the paycheck back home grew a bit more than before much to Manish’s delight who greedily pocketed it. By now, he had a neat bank balance still unknown to Manu. Since Manu was now well –settled his father decided it was time for him to get married and so began a hunt for a smart homely girl who could take care of the house… one who could cook, sew, knit and do all other household chores including being a daily maid for cleaning, sweeping, swabbing. As luck would have it, they soon found one and lo! Wedding bells claimed the bride who coyly took over charge. So far so good, until the bride realized that her handsome hubby was being slyly taken for a ride. Her gold disappeared, so did her finery and all that she had brought as dowry. She whispered into her husband’s ears daringly about it to no effect; the game continued for unending years…until even after Manish decided to get married at Manu’s expense.
Long after the wedding bells rang the new bride smarter than her smart hubby pooled in to loot. “I am good at crafts,” she slyly whispered into her newfound joy, “buy me a sewing machine and I will supplement the income.” The idea clicked. The next time Manu returned home the proposal was placed before him and pronto a Singer machine was brought home…later it was rumored that the machine was bestowed upon a distant relative who was soon to get married as a ‘big’ gift. The game did not end. Time and distance made no difference until one fine day Manu broke his fascination and finally realized how much he had been cheated for those weary long years. The delicate bond snapped rudely sending Manu into shock that lasted lifelong. Now grown old and helpless he was ignored and neglected by his loving Manish who had no time to even call him up and enquire about his well being. Manu counted days and months Manish did not call and ultimately one fine morning he silently passed away. Manish came running on hearing the news but the lonely brother was lost with no regrets. The final rights over and gradually a year passed. The family waited to hear a word of sympathy a word of prayer for the departed soul, Manish had forgotten his ‘lonely’ brother pining for him, pining to hear a word from him on his death bed… even on his death anniversary.
Rightly said, …Out of sight out of mind…
This is a work of fiction, resemblance to any person living or dead is a mere coincidence.
About the Authors:
Dr. Shobha Diwakar lives in Jabalpur, India and retired as the head of English department at C.P. Mahila Mahavidhyalaya, Jabalpur. She has published many research papers, stories, poems and essays in national, international and online journals. She contributes regularly to writerslifeline and Indian Periodical.