Grasshopper Chronicle : Chapter 16

Grasshopper Chronicle Chapter 16

Royal Fancy Store

Jyotirmoy Prodhani

My uncle came home and said to my aunt, “I am planning to rent out our house in front since we do not use that house, better to give it to someone who would keep the house alive.”

Uncle tried to justify his decision with such logical opinions. But my aunt was happy that the house would fetch some cash now. But soon it turned out to be a dampener when our grandmother intervened.

Grandmother overheard it and remarked, “What’s the need to rent out a house? We never did such a thing ever, how can you put people in the house and take money for that? What would people say? Are we short of our meals? Are we going without food that you want to rent out a house? Have we come to that pass? Our farms still produce enough rice to sustain us for the whole year and beyond. Better use the house as the reading rooms of our kids”

Uncle tried to convince her, “No, no, it is not like that. We are not renting the house like that, you see. In fact, the person is a friend of mine from Satrasal. From a very good family. He and his family are planning to come to Golakganj to start a new business and needs a house to stay, that too for a few days only. Eventually, they will buy a plot of land and build their own house.”

“If he is a friend of yours, and from a good family, why give the house on rent? Let them stay here for free till their house is complete.”

Aunt was pissed off at such weird generosity. She also knew that her logic would not stand in front of her. She fumed and went inside the kitchen.

Later aunt made it quite clear and plain. That uncle must not let his friend from Satrasal stay in that house for free, no matter whatever good family he might have had come from. She made a pragmatic argument, “What the old woman thinks? That the rice that comes from the farm is enough? Don’t we have other needs? Every time during Durga Puja, if it happens to be early in the month Kati, there is hardly any rice to sell to get the cloth for the kids,  the only option is to get the cloth on credit from Kamala Marwaris shop. Besides, there are so many other things we need. After marriage what kind of life could you give to me? A life of constant needs. Do you remember the last time you bought me a proper sari? It was ages ago.”

Uncle wanted to say something, but aunt was in real form. She continued without allowing an opportunity for uncle to utter a word, “And what about those people, who go on a vacation every year and flaunt those photographs to show me as if to tell me ‘Look at these pictures, the places you can’t go, so be satisfied with the pictures only.’ Damn it.”

She took a break and resumed. “By the way, why did you have to tell this to your mother? Don’t you know whenever she appears all good things disappear?”

Now she became quite analytical. “Do have any idea how am I running the house? Do you think we live on just feeding on rice and nothing else? Ask Sombaru, every haat he would sell rice and come back with a lesser amount and utter the same refrain that price had gone down, and there were no takers for our rice. None even said a price for our rice to go for a bargain, so he had to desperately sell the rice at a throw away price. But apart from our rice everything else would become costlier with every passing day.”

She was standing in front of the dressing table so far. This time she sat on the bed and resumed. “I have hardly been able to get something good for the kids to eat. Only small, small fishes from the pond and duck eggs. Whenever they feel like eating meat, I could only offer pigeons. The other day Sombaru bought mutton. He could barely bring a kilo by selling rice in the haat. When price of rice would never go above twenty-five a mound, the mutton price would increase every week. On the last haat, muton  was sixteen rupees and this haat he bought it for eighteen rupees a kilo. Poor kids, I could hardly feed them well, with just a kilo of mutton how much meat is there to put on their plates?”

Against such elaborate explanations, uncle had hardly a point to counter. He quietly came out of the room and saw his kids along us playing ludo with grandma. He said something, and before we could make out anything, he smiled and went towards the house he was planning to rent out.

A few days later, on one of the afternoons, when we went out to play, we saw two small brothers and their big sister playing in front of our uncle’s house. They were the children of the new tenant. Uncle’s friend from Satrasal. They were a Bengali family and the owner the most attractive shop at Golakganj—Royal Fancy Store.

Jyotirmoy Pradhani

Jyotirmoy Prodhani

Professor, Dept of English
NEHU, Shillong