Fifth instalment of my attempt at translation into English of poignant Hindi short story by Munshi Prem Chand, titled , ‘Maa’.
Prakash, Karuna’s child, is ten years old. He has grown into a strong, handsome and pleasant- looking boy, glowing with health. Brave and intelligent that he is, fear dared not even to touch him. A look at him brought solace to the withered heart of Karuna . People may take her to be an unfortunate wretch. But as for her, she never rued over her fate.
She sold away all her jewels, which while her husband was alive, were cherished by her like her own life.
She bought a few cows and buffaloes with the proceeds. Tending cattle was no great or new deal for her. She made it into her sole occupation now. Where can one hope to get pure , unadulterated milk these days ? No wonder she could sell off her produce like hot cakes. She toiled dawn to dusk and more too, but she was happy. Not a hint of despair or hopelessness in her face, just a glow of determination and grit. A splendid self respect exuded out of every pore or her countenance. Her eyes shone with a divine brilliance, serious, unfathomable, boundless. All her troubles, all her sorrow over the demise of he dear husband seemed to be consumed by the very depth of that splendour..
She laid all her hopes on Prakash. Her delight, her interest, her world, her pride, all were centred on him. It was no blind love for her kid, for she did not close her eyes against any mischief on his part. No, she supervised his conduct with strict severity. She was not just a mother to him, but a father too, for within her care for the kid, she blended the severity of a father’s discipline with the tenderness of a mother’s compassion.
Her husband’s last entreaties still ringed in her ears. The ebullience that danced on his face , the rosy tint of pride that enveloped his eyes,– they swirled, to this day within her own eyes. Her undying devotion towards him , kept him alive before her, and she felt his comforting presence always beside her. She had a feeling deep within her bones that his soul hovered over her always and protected her. She ardently aspired that Prakash would grow up to be a virtual replica of his father in every respect.
It is getting dark. A destitute woman approached the gate seeking alms. Karuna was watering the cows. Prakash was playing in the yard. An young fellow, you see, he thought of a prank.He went inside the house and returned with a dish filled with chaff. The woman held out her hamper. Prakash emptied the dish into her sack and clapping his hands loudly, ran away.
Looking at him furiously, the beggar cried at him , “Look at this great kid, who has set out to laugh at a wretch. This is what his parents have taught him. He will surely bring glory to his clan.”
Hearing her words of anguish , Karuna came out and enquired,” What’s the matter, mother. Whom are you scolding ?”
The woman gestured at Prakash and said, ” Isn’t he your son? He has emptied a bowl of chaff into my sack. Had a pinch of flour, poor me, even that is useless now. Will any one trouble a destitute like this? All days won’t stay the same. People ought not to be so arrogant.”
Karuna yelled angrily, “Prakash !”
Prakash was not abashed. Holding his head high he haughtily came to his mother and demanded, ” How dare she come to our door-step to beg ? Why can’t she go and do some work .”