Is This All I Get?
by Sanjoy Dutt
I was named Ramanuj, but grandma always called me Ramu. After the sudden death of my parents, grandma had me and I was the most loving element in her life.
Our village had no universities so after high school, I had to go to college in the city. Grandma sparkled with joy and made my favorite recipes when I returned home on holidays.
I was home after my exams at University. My Grandma announced, "Ramu, it is time for you to get married."
"But I want to study further and teach in a university," I opposed.
"I have spent enough time alone, I need a companion to talk to and help me around the house. You study, your wife will stay here with me," she declared.
I preferred the progressive city girls and I knew grandma would match me with a country girl.
"Is this all there is?" I thought to myself.
Then I remembered she had always put me ahead of herself. I could say nothing.
It was not long before I married Mina, the girl of grandmas’ choice. Mina was an intelligent girl who had to stop her education after high-school. She had great interest for books and education.
Initially, I was not attracted to her. I got a job teaching in a city college and returned home only on the weekends. Mina stayed with grandma in our country home.
One night Mina asked, "Did grandma compel you to marry me?"
"Why?" I asked.
She spoke softly, "You have no interest in me. If you have a lover in the city, please don't hide it. I assure you, I will not object."
Her words made me speechless.
It is not every day you fall in love with the most unexpected character at the most surprising moment. My admiration for Mina grew like that of an old wine. It became stronger with age. She was loving, always put others first and never withdrew from completing her duties. My fondness for her became deep seated and long lasting. The love opened the gates to our happiness. I learned happiness is not dreaming of what I did not have; it's in recognizing what I have. I began enjoying my weekend’s home. In a year our son Jeet was born. The newborn took all of our time and attention.
After my grandma's
death, we moved to the city. We did not return to the village often so we leased out the farmland. Mina wanted to start a college in the village so that more children could get a college education.
Life was smooth and happy, but I was to learn happiness is fleeting. Mina became ill and doctors diagnosed her with an advanced stage of cancer. I sought all to heal her, but each day her struggle worsened.
One night Mina said, "Promise you won't let Jeet feel my absence."
Her words pained my heart, "Don't talk of leaving me."
"And a college in the village," she whispered.
It was painful to watch her slowly fade.
I did not remarry and decided to be happy with what I have. Jeet grew up into an excellent young man and married the lady of his choice, Rekha. I retired from work and my life was around Jeet, Rekha, and their six-year-old daughter Mili.
One day Jeet's father in law, a developer, called me, "What have you decided to do with your country property?"
"The new interstate has appreciated the land price of the area fifty times."
I cut short the conversation by saying, "I haven't decided yet."
A few days later Jeet said, "Dad, Rekha's father was inquiring about our country property. I was hoping Rekha and I could study abroad with that money."
"What about Mili?" I asked.
"She will go with us."
"You have made all your future plans based on my ancestral property?" I wore a sad smile.
This is all there is left for me? I was deeply hurt. After many years I felt so lonely in this world. Wished Mina was beside me today to give me strength and company.
A few days later I called Jeet and told him, "Jeet I have given my life for your comfort and education. It is time for you to stand on your own feet and go create your own future."
"I don't understand," he sounded surprised.
"I have sold my ancestral property. Part of the money will go to make a college because that was your mother's wish. A part Mili will receive when she is eighteen. The rest I will use to travel."
"What are you leaving for me?" he was frustrated.
"This is what you get!" I exclaimed. ***