Scene 2


“Coming, Mother.”

“Come quickly. Let me do your hair.”

“No, Mother. I don’t want it to be done today.”

“Chanda, I have to comb your hair. It looks like a jungle.”

“In that case you have to tell me a story.”

“I am not in the mood to tell a story today.”

“Why not, Mother? You know thousands of stories. Just tell me one.”

“I find it difficult today to get in a cheerful enough frame of mind.”

“What is wrong with your mind?”

“Ten years ago …”

“What happened ten years ago that you cannot forget even now?”

“I shall not be able to forget it ever in this life.”

“Then you have to tell me that story.”

“No, I won’t ever be able to tell you.”

“All right. I don’t really want to hear it. Just tell me any excellent story.”

“No, I really can’t do it today. Chanda, do you know that today is the Kali Puja?”

“Mother, let us go to the Kali Ghat.”

“Not today. Some other day.”

“Mother, are you really mentally upset today?”

“Not exactly.”

“Well, since you cannot tell me a story, I shall tell you about a funny incident that took place at our school.”

“Tell me.”

“An old teacher came to teach us. I do not know his name. His hair and beard are all as white as milk, even his eyebrows. He is a staunch follower of Gandhi. He was wearing a Gandhi cap and homespun clothes.”

“What did he teach you?”

“He didn’t teach us. He asked us a question right at the very beginning.”

“What was the question?”

“Guess, Mother.”

“I can’t guess. I am not feeling well.”

“Mother, if I knew a mantra, I would cure your mental disease right away.”

“Tell me, for Heaven’s sake, what did the teacher ask you?”

“Oh, it is a common question. He asked us what we would like to be when we grow up. Gayatri said that she would need some time to answer this question. Snigda was sitting beside her, and she immediately said that she would like to be a doctor. Do you know what Tapati said? She said that she would like to participate in the next Olympics. This year no Indian girls went to Europe to compete, and the European girls joked that poor India is not blessed with any women.”

“What did Badal say?”

“Mother, this is a serious injustice on your part. You always prefer boys to girls. You didn’t even ask me what I said.”

“I like that boy very much.”

“I shall tell you his answer last. Now I will tell you a funny answer. Bhola pinched Gita and Gita was about to give him a good slap. But Gita’s movement caught the teacher’s attention and he got furious. He said, ‘Stand up on the bench.’ Poor Gita had to stand up on the bench and give her answer. She was beside herself with anger, and she said she would like to be the goddess Kali and stand on Bholanath’s chest. The teacher was satisfied with her answer and he let her sit down. Durga was sitting beside me. I asked her if she would like to be the goddess Durga and fight against the undivine forces while riding on a lion. Durga said, ‘I laugh at that kind of fighting. I would like to be involved in modern warfare — flying planes and dropping atom bombs.’ Gopal said that he would like be a pure devotee of Mahatma Gandhi. He is ready to give his life in offering good wishes to the Muslims.”

“Was there no admirer of Lenin in your class?”

“You mean a communist? We are all communists. Do you know, Mother, why I am angry with your Badal? He stole my grand ideas. I do not know how he did it. All that I wanted to say he told the teacher before I got my chance, so I was compelled to say something quite insignificant.”

“What did you say?”

“Well, I was going to say that I would like to be a poet, an artist, an ideal member of society. But Badal said all that before me. What could I do? I just prayed to God inwardly and told the teacher that I would be searching for a special power by which I could put an end to untold suffering and death. I said I wanted to be the dearest daughter of the divine Mother. The teacher just gave me a smile, but made no remark. But the boys and girls in the class were about to kill me, as if I had committed a serious crime. Right to my face, one of them said, ‘You have learned all this nonsense from your aunt.’ I didn’t understand what he meant. Mother, is it true that you are actually my aunt?”

“What is wrong if an aunt becomes a mother?”

“There is nothing wrong, but why do you have to be my aunt and not my real mother? I always took you for my real mother.”

“Ten years ago I became your mother.”

“But Mother, I am eleven years old.”

“True. Your mother left you with me ten years ago.”

“That means I have another mother.”

“You did have. Your mother and I used to study together. We were most intimate friends.”

“Is it true that my father was a great doctor?”

“Yes, he was. But at the time of your mother’s passing, your father, who is my dearest brother, took to sannyasa. To my wide surprise, your father left the country telling me exactly what you said to your teacher today. Now you see, Badal stole your ideas, and you have stolen your father’s ideas.”

“Mother, I am so delighted that I have inherited my father’s sublime ideals. In that case, I don’t blame Badal at all. I see that two persons can easily think alike.”

“Certainly. It is quite possible.”

“Mother, please tell me where Father is.”

“I do not know where he is. He has accepted the life of a religious mendicant. Only once a year he writes to me. His letter begins and ends with this pithy message: ‘On this Kali Puja day.’”

“Why does he write only that?”

“Because on this Kali Puja day ten years ago your mother left the body.”

“Why did my mother die on that particular day?”

“Who can answer this question, my child?”

“Mother, quite a few times I have dreamt of a world in which I see no suffering, no poverty, no death, but only joy, pure joy, endless joy. Very often I visit that place in my dreams.”

“Do you think of me when you are in that world?”

“I do think of you, but I do not see you there.”

“Is there any way that one can transform this ordinary world into your dream world?”

“I am sure one can, but I do not know how, Mother. You were telling me about my mother. Please tell me her name.”

“Your mother, who was my sister-in-law, had the name Uma. From now on I am your Aunt Mukti.”

“No, that can’t be. You will always remain my mother. If Uma was my mother, why did she leave me?”

“She did not leave you of her own accord. She was compelled to go.”

“Who compelled her?”


“I shall put up a brave fight against death. The other day you told me the story of Satyavan and Savitri. You told me how Savitri brought back her husband from death. I shall not allow death to enter into this world any more.”

“Nobody has been able to do that so far.”

“That doesn’t mean that nobody will ever be able to do it. I shall do it. In my dreamland there is no death. There is only Peace, Light and Delight.”

“If your father knew about your dreams he would be exceedingly glad. This time when I receive a letter from him I shall show it to you. It is my most earnest desire that someday you will see your father.”

“I am sure that Father will not be able to recognise me. But I shall be able to recognise him, because you will let me know beforehand. Will it not be real fun, Mother?”

“On the eve of his departure, your father told me that he might come to see you in twelve years if such was the Will of God.”

“Why should it be God’s Will in twelve years? Why can’t it be now? How long have I to wait?”

“Only two years.”

“Mother, let us go and see him before he comes here.”

“I do not know where he is, Chanda. Yesterday I received a letter from my eldest sister’s husband. He has invited us to come and visit the family. He says that Tandra always speaks about you with great admiration. Do you want to go?”

“Certainly, Mother. I love Tandra very much. Tandra calls me Phuli, which means flower. Nobody shows me any respect except Tandra. I am really fond of her.”

“It seems that you like to be respected and admired as happens when you become the elder sister.”

“It is not exactly that. But when somebody admires me and loves me, I want to give everything away to that person. Besides, I don’t have any younger brothers or sisters. I am the only child in my family.”

“Who told you so? You have a number of younger brothers and sisters. The young children in the neighbourhood are all your sisters and brothers. I have no younger sister or brother. I am the youngest in my family, but look how many children call me Didi [elder sister] with such love and admiration.”

“Mother, just because you teach at the college your students call you Didi. What do you teach?”

“I teach history.”

“I have already completed the history book. How is it that those big boys and girls have not yet completed their history? Are they all fools? Have they no brains?”

“My child, your history book and their history book are not the same.”

“Mother, I shall teach history in college when I grow up. Everybody will love me and respect me as they do you. Will it not be fun, Mother?”

“By the way, did you know that Prashanta has broken his arm? He is getting better, though.”

“Prashanta-da has broken his arm! He loves me so dearly. He loves me even more than he loves his youngest sister, Tandra. Also, he tells me that I have more intelligence than Vidyut.”

“Don’t call her Vidyut. You must call her Vidyut-di. She is much older than you. If you don’t show her respect, how do you expect the young ones to respect you?”

“Mother, when shall we go to Tandra’s?”

“During the Christmas vacation.”

“I must take some beautiful gifts for Tandra.”

“By the way, do you want to see a picture of your mother and father?”

“Oh, yes!”

Mukti went to get the picture.

“Look how beautiful they are. Bow down to them.”

“Mother, what is the use of bowing down to a picture?”

“Who told you that it is just a picture? With what care and love I have preserved it. Today is the Kali Puja. Therefore I have placed flowers before the picture to offer them my love and respect.”

“Mother, today I shall not go out to play. Like you, I shall worship Mother Kali today.”

“What boon will you ask her to grant you?”

“Why, a very simple boon. I shall pray to her to return my parents.”

“When your mother comes back, will you not forget me totally? I am sure you will not call me Mother then. Shall I not feel miserable?”

“No, never! I shall call you my mother and I shall call her my mother. Everyone else has one mother, but I shall have two mothers. I shall really and truly be happy then.”

“Then don’t forget to tell Mother Kali all this, and also don’t forget to tell her about your dream.”