The Most Expensive Car
by Tukumoni Mahanta
Mrs Baruah silently peeped from behind the curtains of her bedroom door. The expensive Vincenzo World Map wall clock showed midnight. Her husband with their two sons Barnam and Bandit were still surfing the web to find information about the latest models of car in the market. Barnam is eight years old and Bandit is just four. Yet they find pleasure in such worldly objects.
“What is the approximate cost of the top model of the Endeavor, deuta (father)?” Barnam asked his father.
“Almost twenty five lakhs including all other necessary accessories.”
“Can we buy this deuta (father)?” asked little Bandit. Arnab Boruah smiled and told him that he was planning to buy that car by the end of December. Mrs Baruah came back to the study room and sat motionlessly on the armchair. Her eyes fell on the huge painting of Leonardo’s Monalisa hung on the decorative wall panel in front of her. Monalisa’s smile looked more mysterious in the twilight effect created by the ornamental LED halogen bulbs.
Mrs Aparajita Baruah the director of “Resonance Academy” always puts human values above anything else in her entire life. She also wants to impart value education in the society as well as in her own children. But it is as if values are changing with metamorphosis of time.
Born and brought up in a lower middle class family, Aparajita’s main assets were honesty, dedication and mutual care. Her parental home which formed the groundwork of her ideology was a joint family with the grandmother as the head. Oh! What a joyful moments were those! The big ‘ashram’ like Assam type house was a storehouse of happiness. The heart of every person was enriched with love and serenity. Her father who was the elder son of the family had a firm principle of life and he could influence the family members with honesty, dedication and love. Aparajita can still remember an incident which left a deep impact in her mind. At that time, she was reading in the ninth standard.
One day her father was teaching her in the veranda when a man came. The man told that he had come to discuss some issues regarding the tender of a bazar in the Panchayat and Rural Development office where her father worked as an Upper Division Assistant (UDA). In the meantime, her mother brought betel nut and leaf (tamul paan) in a bota (a manufactured bell metal product smaller than the xorai and also the symbol of Assamese Culture). He added that since he was in charge of preparing the list, he could easily omit the strong tenderers name from the list. He also placed five thousand rupees in the ‘bota'. Her father became red with anger and told the person………
“Sir, you had knocked the wrong door. I have remained honest to my service and by accepting bribe from you, I cannot allow a blemish in my career. Moreover, what would my children learn if I do such sin? So, please take leave.”
From that day onwards, Aparajita believes that hush money can do no good. Therefore, she decided to remain self-employed after her Masters in English Literature.
However, a girl’s life never remains the same. Her marriage with the city’s most successful businessman became a turning point in her life. The true values she had worshiped before were replaced by sophistication and vanity of earthly richness. Since marriage she has not experienced the lack of anything. In fact, she became the labeled owner of so many things- the tea estate, Arnab’s construction business and her own school. She even has become the mother of two sons. But a deep sense of lack lurks inside her heart. What if she could not nurture true values in her children.
“Come on ma, we are feeling sleepy” – Barnam, the elder son shouted.
Aparajita returned to her bedroom and laid by the side of her younger son Bandit. “Ma please tell a story” Bandit demanded. She developed the habit of caressing her children’s hair and singing lullabies and sometimes telling bedtime
stories to them. She went on,
“Once upon a time, there was a cap seller. He used to go for selling caps by his old bicycle…………..”
“Ma stop, this is such a boring story! Tell us something about a racing car.” Said Barnam the elder one.
“Your deuta (father) has expertise in that topic. So, ask him for such a tale next time But now its time to sleep. Don’t prolong your sleep in the morning. Remember you have school tomorrow.”
In the morning while she was decorating the breakfast table with dishes made from bell-metal and filling them with chira, doi and pithas (flat rice, curd and cookies prepared at home with rice floor), her sister-in-law who had come to spend a few days with them announced in an irritating tone –
“Our Duke and Barbie won’t eat these dishes as they are habituated to Pazta, hakka noodles etc. I knew that those would not be available here and therefore I have brought some packets with me. Let me prepare for them.”
Barbie came near the dining table and grimaced as if Aparajita had offered her a cup of poison –
“Eww mami (maternal aunt) I cann’t bear with Doi Chira. Ma can you prepare pazta for me and Duke?”
“Jethai (father’s elder sister) we will also have pazta. I have never tasted it before. Bandit will you also have pazzta?” – Barnam asked and Bandit nodded his head to give his consent.
They always looked up to their cousins as they were made to believe that they possessed the best life style. It was because they lived in Newyork. Aparajita’s parent-in-laws always advised Barnam and Bandit to be engineers like their Jethu (father’s elder sister’s husband and Aparajita’s brother-in-law) so that in future they could also establish themselves abroad.
Aparajita remains silent whenever such discussions go on. She feels to be a perfect failure in moulding her children’s ideology of life. She always wanted them to be good human beings and be abstemious in material possession. She wanted them to be rooted to their own culture and also to seek happiness in small achievements.
Coming back from school Aparajita had her lunch and sat on a garden chair for sometimes to enjoy the beauty of her garden. The poincianas and laburnum trees were blooming. She breathed the red and yellow colours as if they were the genuine colours of her life. She returned to the living room where Barnam and Bandit were watching cartoon in the mobile with their cousins. Suddenly, Barbie told her mother that their father had sent the photo of their newly booked Marcedeez via Whats app. Duke proudly explained the features of their new car and told Barnam and Bandit that he would never allow them to go for outing in their new car. Moni Baideo (Aparajita’s sister-in-law) never prevented Duke from showing pride in their possessions. She rather added –
“Now we are superior amongst all our relatives and friends.”
Aparajita did not want her children to stay there and listen to such futile discussions. So, she said –
“Barnam and Bandit, lets go to the studyroom and finish your homework. You will talk to Duke dada and Barie ba (brother and sister) later on.”
She brought them to the study room and opened the academic diaries and checked for their homework.
“Bandit you are asked to write the capital letters ‘A’ to ‘Z’. You start writing and this is your copy. Barnam, you are given to write ten lines on your most cherished dream. So, first tell me what is your most cherished dream?”
“Umm, my most cherished dream is to own the most expensive car,” Barnam said looking straight into her eyes.
Aparajita felt as if her spirit to teach him disappeared. She stood up and came near the armchair and sat their reluctantly.
Her eyes again went to the large painting of Monalisa. The enigmatic smile turned into a blue melody which took her back to her ancestral paddy fields and to the courtyard of her old big Parental home. ***