“Weather is clear now after a drizzling month , now finally we could see the sun.” Shyam, a moneylender said to Gomke.
Gomke was a local zamindar / landlord of Bengal province of British India; he was one of the direct beneficiaries of Robert Clive’s Permanent Settlement system. As per that system landlords got the inheritance rights over the land & the culture of private property had been first introduced in Hindustan. But they had to pay land revenue on time to British East India Company or else they could be evicted. This clause made some zamidars oppressive towards farmers during time of shortage, famine, drought, and other disaster time. But despite occasional oppression zamindar enjoyed good reputation, good hold over their men, over their farmers, tillers and local people.
Gomke was still young, just under 30, though he had not attended any formal education but common sense and communicating with other people had broadened his mental horizon.
“Yes Shyam, it’s autumn now” he replied.
Gomke had come to market place to buy a gift for his mother as it was a day of Jitiya fast. During Jitiya, mother kept fast for the well being of her children. He already bought gold bangles and a gold chain for her. Then he stopped at Shyam’s place, who was one of his good friends. Shyam’s father had helped Gomke’s late father to pay tax to British on time when there was a serious drought. Both families had good relations since then, though both belong to different castes. Gomke was a Rajput and Shyam was a Bania, a trading class.
“Hey Shyam, It’s getting dark, I will leave now. Mother has asked me to come early” Gomke said.
“Ok Bhai(brother), shall I come outside” Shyam replied.
“Not required you carry on with your paperwork, work always come first. Bye” Gomke said and came out of his place. Gomke’s white horse was at the left corner of campus, he untied his rope and after walking for sometime in market he sat on his horse and started journey towards his mansion which was some 5 km from the market.
When he was a kid, he was too frightened to ride a horse; he had broken his bones thrice. His father always encouraged him to overcome any kind of fear and as Gomke matured he almost controlled all his fears and with that victory he attained a determination to take charge of any situation with complete mental balance. He was managing his estates better than his father after his expiration. He was ablest of zamindar in Bengal province.
He patted his horse and horse increased his speed. His horse name was Angad, both of them communicate with each other in a subtle manner. Gomke knew when Angad felt hungry and Angad knew what his master expect from him. Journey was going smooth and by this speed Gomke could have reached his home in 30 min.
Suddenly Angad stopped. Gomke patted him once again but he didn’t move an inch. Angad’s eyes were frozen, his body was frozen, he became totally still.
An old lady’s voice came from back, “Gomke won’t you help an old lady?”
Gomke turned back and saw an old lady was sitting near a banyan tree. She had all white hair, wrinkle all over her dark face, chewing bettlenut, wearing a stained white sari. On her front there was a basket, full with bangles of all colors, red, blue, yellow, orange, green, purple and others.
Then she said, “Gomke you didn’t answer my question”
He said, “What do you want?”
She said, “Its getting dark, I need to reach my home too, would you drop me at nearby village.”
He looked at her once again and after thinking for sometime asked her, ” Ok, come sit backside!”
She started laughing and said “You must be joking, I am an old lady, I hardly manage to walk then how can I climb a horse. You need to help me. You should come down and help me to put my basket and myself at back of your horse”
He nodded and pulled his left leg to come down. Suddenly Angad neighed with his head high, then moving his head in all direction. Angad was unendingly making sounds. And Gomke stopped.
“You come by yourself, I am not coming down” he said
“How cruel you are, don’t you have any respect for old age, you too will become old one day. I haven’t expected such unruly, unkind behavior from a man of your class. You always help everyone, your all farmers, tillers, servants etc talked about your kindness. Now I believe you forced them to speak those words “An old lady replied.
“Whatever, but I won’t come down, you have to come by yourself if you want to go or forget” Gomke said to her.
“Forget?” She laughed and continued “I never forget anything.”
Angad again started neighing and tried all his energy to move but he couldn’t.
Suddenly dust along the road started rising and it looked like a dust cloud, sun was not visible anymore. Gomke couldn’t see the banyan tree, an old lady or road. And then from the dusty cloud, an image came out, it was same old lady. She was walking towards Gomke. Her feet were twisted back, just above the ground and when she was walking it looked like that she was swimming in air.
She said, “You win, I lose.” And she continued, “Your wish is granted, I am coming.”
Gomke started patting Angad with his full strength; Angad too was trying to come of this state. An old lady was about to grab Gomke left foot with her disproportionate left hand which had long but loose and wrinkled nails.
And Angad reared up & started running as if something came and brought him back from frozen state. Gomke looked back and an old lady was now far away.
She said, ” Your mother saved you, her Jitiya fast saved you, but for how long? I will come back.”