60. Yathartha Ghosh and the Mother
I shall try to give here an illustration to show how very dreadful the Mother considered the burdens and responsibilities of a householder to be. The well-known village, Desra, is situated to the north of Jayrambati beyond the river Amodar. There lived a well-to-do householder by the name of Yathartha Ghosh. In his early life he was for some time a compounder assisting a flourishing medical practitioner. Then he came Backto his own village and established himself as a full-fledged doctor, During those days, when malaria ravaged the villages, if there was a person who knew how and when to administer a quinine mixture, a purgative or a tonic, or how to manage a burn or a wound, he would be taken as a great doctor. Yathartha Babu had actually earned a great deal by his practice. He had amassed much property, including considerable extent of cultivable land. Besides this, he had a good earning by making a special hand-made paper used for printing maps, an art known in that part of the country. As he had no son of his own, his wife brought up a nephew of hers as their own son. This youngster grew up into a fine young man and took complete charge of the whole household and managed it well. Yathartha Babu and his wife treated this young man as their own begotten son, and he, too, on his part looked upon them verily as his own father and mother. Placing the management of his affairs in the hands of this able foster son of his, Yathartha Babu was having a fine time of ease and comfort. In spite of advancing years, he was quite healthy and strong, and used to go long distances on foot. He often visited the Mother’s house. The Mother too loved him. According to the villagers’ notions of relationship, he was the ‘maternal uncle’ (Mama) of the Mother, and hence to the Mother’s sons, he was their ‘grandfather’. So the ‘grandpa’ always came to have a nice time with his grandchildren. After saluting the Mother and enquiring about her welfare, the grandpa would take to his hubble-bubble, and while enjoying the smoke, would be busy gossiping with the grandchildren for quite a long time. He had no worries of the household to disturb him, and so his job was only to eat, drink and make merry, and sometimes perhaps practise a little medicine. He had a great virtue: If the patient required a medicine, he would take it to him, buying it himself from the pharmacy. If, owing to poverty, a patient could not pay him at once, it would be sufficient if he paid him later. Thus the doctor was spending his last days free from care.
Once it was noticed that he did not make his appearance for a few days. Then suddenly he came at dawn one day, and entering the house, went straight towards the Mother’s room She had just then roused the Master from his bed and placed him on his throne and had started sweeping and dusting the place. The Mother was in the habit of sweeping her own room every morning, not because there was not anybody to help her, but because she loved to do her own work herself. She would also help as much as she could in the daily chores of the household. Watching her do all these, especially kneading the dough slowly for a long time every evening, a son of hers prayed to her not to work so much in her old age. She, however, told him affectionately, “My son, it is good to work. Please pray for me that I can do so till the last day of my life!”
So the mother was sweeping the room as usual, when her Yathartha-Mama suddenly bowed before her in front of her door and burst out into loud lamentation: “Alas! he died the day before yesterday!” At this sudden outburst, the broom dropped from the hand of the Mother and she just sat down at that very place on the ground unmindful of her dress, her eyes full of tears, her countenance depicting extreme sorrow, and her voice choked up in her throat.
The old man, with tears streaming down his eyes, narrated all that had happened and thus relieved himself of the pang of sorrow in his heart. The Mother, too, was listening to everything attentively; only now and then the great feeling of sorrow in her heart came out of her in loud lamentations. The old man said: “My wife has turned virtually mad with sorrow. She had no child of her own, brought up this nephew of hers, pouring on him all her pent up love – got him married – built up a household of joy and comfort – how much was her expectation! The boy also had grown up into a fine young man, had got all the affairs of the house in his grip and was managing it all beautifully. I too had been entirely depending upon him for everything, and was spending my days in happiness and ease. I had not the slightest of worries, when all of a sudden the healthy young man gets sick and dies! Now the full responsibility of the whole household has come Backon my shoulders.”
After thus relieving himself a little of the gnawing pain in his heart, the old man started again, “That is why I came running to you, Mother. I thought that as soon I come to you, I shall be comforted, and get Backmy equanimity of mind.” It was actually found that the old man’s heart became lighter, as if the Mother had drawn to herself the flame of his sorrow. The Mother said in the tone of one suffering from a great bereavement: “Yes, you were indeed well-off, you had no worries and were spending your days in great peace and joy. Now, alas, all these responsibilities have again come Backon your shoulders.” The old man answered, his words punctuated now and then with lamentations, “We have on one side my wife mad with grief, and on the other, the young widow with her little offspring, and over and above this, the full responsibility of the whole household, the movable and immovable properties, the cattle and the cultivation – all these are now for me too look after – these things which I had given up and of which I had thus freed myself!” The Mother also suffered with him, and showing him great sympathy said, “Yes, indeed! The whole household has again got on to your shoulders at this late period in your life!”
The great pain in Yathartha’s heart abated considerably under the soothing influence of the Mother’s sympathy. He now made Pranam to the Mother and took his leave in a much lighter spirit. But the Mother continued sitting on the bare ground, her eyes staring fixedly, the broomstick lying by her side and the cloth on her head fallen off. Her legs were stretched in front of her. Her body leaned on her left arm, the palm of which
was on the floor. Her head leaned towards her left shoulder and her right palm rested on her lap. She was immersed in deep thought. What was it that was passing through her mind? After some time, a deep sigh escaped from her and the following words came out of her lips: “So Yathartha has again to accept the burden of the household.” A son of hers was by her side. Looking at him, she repeated at intervals a couple of times: “Alas! the burden of the
household has again fallen on the shoulders of old Yathartha!” Seeing the Mother’s attitude of apprehension and disgust towards the burden of the household and the great sympathy she felt for the old man, the question arose in the mind of the son: “Is the burden of the household more difficult to bear than the bereavement suffered at the death of the son?” This son was of a tender age. He had no idea about how heavy the burden of the household is. Even then, seeing this great worry and sympathy of the Mother, he had the conviction that it was indeed terrible!