My mother's compassion-heart

When my father retired from his job as chief inspector of the Assam-Bengal railway line, he opened up a bank. The name of the bank was “Griha Lakshmi,” which means “House of Lakshmi.” One time our bank was robbed by a cousin of mine. He was my maternal aunt’s son. His father and mother had both passed away, and so my father assumed responsibility for this nephew and his wife. They came to live with us. If ever I were to write a novel about my cousin’s life, I am sure it would get the Nobel Prize!

On this particular day, it was the Durga Puja festival. All our relatives came to our village home to observe the day. My father entrusted my cousin with the job of guarding the bank, and my cousin used the opportunity to steal a very large amount of money and other very costly things, and disappear. That was how he guarded the bank!

In those days I used to like the Chittagong court like anything. There I used to see jailbirds and lawyers. The court was on the top of a hill, and I was very fond of the hill. Two years later, with my mother’s permission, I went to the town with the servant to go to the court. I planned to spend the entire day there and come back in the evening. I was watching incorrigible rogues and thieves coming to the court for their trial.

All of a sudden, this same cousin, who was about fifteen or twenty years older than I was, came and grabbed my hand. I got the shock of my life to see him again. He had been very, very fond of me and my family.

He said, “Please tell your mother: I confess that I stole your money, but now I have spent it all. I am living only on potatoes, and my wife is still staying at your place.”

How miserable his wife had been when he robbed the bank. She cried bitterly and my parents and sisters all tried to console her. Everybody wanted my father to sue my cousin, but my father said, “He is like a son to me. He has done something wrong, it is true. But if my own son had done something wrong, would I sue him?”

When I told my mother that my cousin was living on potatoes, she was so furious. “Why did you talk to him?” she demanded. I said, “He came up to me and grabbed me and told me about his suffering.”

My mother said, “So much money he took.” She was finding it difficult to believe that the money was all gone. Then she said, “Perhaps he has squandered the money.” In a few moments, she began to shed tears for my unfortunate cousin. “My sister’s son has no money. Alas, he is living on potatoes.” That was my mother’s compassion-heart.