This story is a part of the efforts to portray Indian culture accurately, but with the help of fiction. All characters and plot in the story are imaginary, but inspired from real people and events.
Raju was the only son of Harilal Patel. Harilal Patel was only son of Sukhnandan. Sukhnandan was one of the two sons of Bechanlal. Bechanlal owned 80 beegha land. Bechanlal divided his land between his two sons equally when he was on his deathbed. By this arrangement, Harilal received 40 beegha land from his forefathers. That makes Raju potentially owner of 40 beegha land.
In a village like Rampur, which was barely 5 miles from the city of Banaras, 40 beegha land can be easily valued at billions of rupees. However, Harilal did not much cared of this fact. He was a typical farmer of his generation. A hardworking man who concerned only about his crops and cattle. Selling up even a piece of the land was nearly sin to him. Not only land is regarded as mother by older generations of farmers, but also selling up land is seen as something dishonourable.
Harilal lived in a large house that was built by his grandfather. Despite being rich if you look at of bank balance and property, Harilal’s home lacked devices of modern comfort such has refrigerator, gas cooking stove, so on. This way of life is quite common in India.
Raju also exhibited this trait of simplicity of his father in his early life. He was confined to his village and the neighbouring villages till his early teen-age days. Only-child must remain in front of eyes– this his parents thought. Raju was a nice boy.
After completing the 12th class (the last class of school in Indian systems) at a school that was located in a neighbouring village, it was necessary to go out to the city for higher education. And the new college life changed his life.
At first, Raju rode his old bicycle to the college. But soon he was made to realise by his new classmates that bicycle was not up to the status of a man like him. He asked his father for a motorcycle and was refused. However, by the efforts of his mother, Raju soon began riding a shining red motorcycle with roaring engine.
Once touched by the city life, village felt juiceless. Raju hated his ancient house more than ever.
“Father, we should get this old house demolished and build a new one.” Raju said to his father one evening, “These ruins are on the verge of collapsing anyway.”
Harilal looked at his son with upset eyes. The old house was forefathers’ memory to him. He asked, “Is there any problem with this house?” He shook his own head and continued, “This house is memento of our respected fathers. And it is still strong enough to last a century.”
Looking at a portion of wall that was abandoned by plaster, Raju explained, “Who cares of old style houses nowadays? Look at the new house of Atmaram! What a posh house he has got built. Where do they stand before us if you look at money and property? But ever since his house was built, people think he is the richest man in the village.”
Hearing this, Harilal’s face turned red with anger. But he never showed anger towards his son. This tradition he continued that evening as well. However, he showed a good deal of anger towards his wife later. Ramdei did not say a word to him. But truth was that her heart burnt ever since Atmaram’s new house was complete.
Raju kept ‘suffering’ from his father’s simplicity next three years and completed BA meanwhile. The suffering continued afterwards too, while he began MA in the same college. Two years later he was holding his MA certificate feeling proud, despite the fact that he didn’t attend a single class during whole programme. And the credit to pass the exams went to the classmates sitting next to him in the examination halls.
Then Harilal and Ramdei decided that time for marriage of their son had come. Although Raju was already among the most eligible bachelors in his caste in the area, everyone waited for green signal from the parents. Once the green signal was up, there were trains after trains stopping at the station. Fathers and brothers of to-be-brides rallied to Harilal’s house frequently.
In this part of the world, arranged marriage is the norm. In the system of arranged marriage, usually to-be-bride’s parents approach parents of the to-be-groom. Once they approve the to-be-groom, it’s the turn of the to-be-groom’s side to see the to-be-bride.
So, many parties interested in Raju visited, but Harilal desired particularly respected families. Finally he liked family of a Ghanshyam Singh. He talked to Ramdei about it.
“Raju wants an educated girl. At least BA. But Ghanshyam’s daughter didn’t go to school after 8th class.” said Ramdei.
Harilal was astonished, “BA? Does he want his wife to get job?” He continued, “A girl who would live peacefully, respect everyone, and take care of household is enough.”
Then Ramdei had to clarify, “See, the time has changed. Our boy is educated. He sits with good people. Let us do what he wishes.”
Harilal did not like this idea at all. But there was nothing he could do to change it, so he announced the new requirements with half heart. An year passed. Not a single suitable girl in the same caste was found in the area. Some girls seemed suitable, but Harilal rejected even before consulting Raju and Ramdei. “Girls from the west side of Ganga are not trustworthy” he believed in this old and absurd belief.
Raju was keen to get married for long. He wanted a good looking and educated wife. And he was disappointed. He believed that no one from an educated family would like to see their daughter in his ancient ruin adorned with mudded cows and buffaloes in the front-yard. Gradually Raju reached 30 and no suitable match was found. Harilal and Ramdei were then exceedingly worried.
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