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Fortunes change in a moment. Joys became sorrows and situations become miseries. More than two years had passed. Datta had not repaid the amount. There were still sixty people in his home and one more son had been added to his family. What is more he had realised that Shivshankar was actually a front for his brother-in-law. And they had forged the house in his sister’s name. And so about six months back Datta had filed a court case. And it seemed as if he would win the case. Anna mused the events of the past two years when,‘Anna’, someone called, he looked up to find his sister. She fell at his feet, ‘Anna, please forgive me, I became greedy, please forgive me, forgive me for old times sake’. Datta remembered the old times wherein he had pampered his sister and she in turn had served him. ‘It is alright get up’, he said. ‘Anna come home, I have made your favourite channa dal payasam, please come’, said she. Datta went with her.
An hour later Datta returned whistling a happy tune, crossing the paddy fields. When suddenly he felt bile rise in his mouth and he fell. It was late in the night when Rukmini along with her two elder sons went in search for her husband. They covered the town but could not find him. Until someone told them of a body lying in the paddy fields.
Radha measured the rice. It would just be enough for two or so. So today also she would have to remain hungry. Again…… It had been about six months since her father had left them. Some said it was suicide, but no, she didn’t think so. Her father was not one of those who would quit and run away. No doubt it was murder and she knew who had done that to him. It was the same person who had thrown them out of their own home. The numerous people who lived under their roof had fled on hearing about her father’s demise. Her mother was left alone with the six of them. The youngest not even a year old. And then that woman had come and kicked them out of their house, and here they were living in a shed. Her other sister had been lucky enough to live with one of her mother’s sister. The brother next to her was working as a helper in a shop. Another was working in a beedi factory. But it was Kittu who was a problem. He was the only one who went to school now. And his teacher was quite happy with his progress at school. But Kittu though intelligent had a fiery temper. And it was difficult to control it.
Their mother now worked as a house-help. Even if a single person spoke a bit harshly to their mother, Kittu would be up with daggers drawn and because of this their mother had lost her job in two places. The other problem was that Kittu could not understand that they could not afford rich foods anymore. He did not understand that whatever little they had, had to be shared. Often were the days when Kittu would demand that ‘something nice’ be made for him. Almost all the days she and her mother would tie a wet cloth around their waist misleading the stomach to give a false sense of fullness.
‘Amma’, she called as she saw her mother hurrying in, Amma the rice will not be enough for all’. ‘See, what I got’ and Rukmini opened a box to show some curry, ‘Today I hope Kittu will be happy’.
But no, Kittu was not satisfied. ‘I want some more of that curry and what is this, just this much rice?’ Raghav, the eldest of the boys tired from the work of the day was irritated and blurted out. ‘Be happy that at least you got that much’. Kittu, the fiery one, rose up and said, ‘What do you mean?’ ‘Do you know that most of the days, Amma and Radha akka sleep with empty stomachs with a wet cloth tied to their stomach? Be happy, that it is them and not you.’ Kittu was shocked and he looked at his mother and sister. Both averted their gaze. (to be continued)