East into Upper East: Plain Tales from New York and New Delhi

East into Upper East: Plain Tales from New York and New Delhi

by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala

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This collection features short fiction from Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, a brilliant writer whose work is compared with that of Chekhov, James, and Austen. Written over the past 20 years, these engrossing stories are domestic tapestries, threaded with the emotional lives and complex psychologies of intense lovers, quarreling married couples, weary elders, and their restless adult children.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781582430348
Publisher: Counterpoint Press
Publication date: 02/28/2000
Edition description: 1 PBK ED
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 5.76(w) x 8.42(h) x 0.78(d)

First Chapter

Chapter One


I was thirteen when he was born. He was the youngest of seven of us, of whom only I, my brother Sohan Lal, and one sister (who is married, in Kanpur) are still living. Even after he had learned to walk, I used to carry him around in my arms, because he liked it. The one thing I couldn't bear was to see him cry. If he wanted something--and he often had strong desires, as for some other child's toy or a pink sweet--I did my best to get it for him. Perhaps I would have stolen for him; I never did, but if called upon I might have done it.

    Our father had a small cloth shop in the town of P---- in Haryana, India. Today this town is known all over the world for its hand-spun cotton cloth, which is made here, but when my father was alive he could barely make a living from his shop. Now we take orders from all the rich Western countries, and our own warehouse is stocked so full of bolts of cloth that soon we shall need another one. I have built a house on the outskirts of the town, and when we have to go any distance we drive there in our white Ambassador car.

    On that day--a cold Friday in January--I stood outside the prison gates. I wore a warm grey coat. There was a crowd there waiting, and everyone looked at me. I had got used to that. For more than two years, wherever I went people had pointed and whispered, "Look. It is the eldest brother." My photograph was often in the newspapers; whenever I went in and out of the court, I had to walk past all these people with cameras, from the newspapers and from the television station. So when they took my photograph outside the prison that day, I didn't mind it. I stood and waited. My brother Sohan Lal was with me, along with some cousins and one elderly uncle. We waited and shivered in the cold. Our thoughts were only on what was going on inside. I kept reading the words that are carved over the prison entrance: "Hate the Sin but Not the Sinner."

    When they opened the gates at last, everyone rushed forward, but they would permit only me to enter. The old uncle tried to squeeze in behind me, but he was pushed back. I felt angry with him; even at that moment I had this anger against the old man, because I knew he was trying to come in not out of a feeling of love but to put himself forward and be important. They led me through the prison, which I had come to know very well, to where the body was. Everything was different that day. The courtyard and passages were empty, for whenever there is an execution they lock all the prisoners inside their cells. The officials and the doctor spoke to me in a very nice way. They stood with me while we waited for the municipal hearse, which I had ordered the night before. They had put a sheet over the face. I uncovered it to see him once more, though I knew it would not be the same face. Then I covered it again. I stood very straight and looked ahead of me. They offered me a place to sit, and I thanked them and declined. They spoke among themselves about the other body, which no one had come to claim. They would have to cremate it themselves, and they were discussing which warders should be assigned to this duty. They had neglected to place an advance order for a hearse, so they would have to wait. I didn't know where the other body was; it was not with his. They must have put it aside somewhere else.


    His name was Ram Lal, but we always called him by his pet name, Bablu. Besides being much younger than I, he was also much smaller in build. All our family, including the girls, are big; only he stayed small. I could lift him even when he was grown up. I used to do it for a joke. When I put him down again I would hug him. I often hugged him and kissed him. He knew I loved him. Before my marriage we shared a bed, and when he cried out in his sleep--he often had bad dreams--I pressed him against my chest. He was six years old when I was married. A little satin coat was stitched for him, and he sat behind me on the mare on which I rode to the bride's house, with a band playing in front and cousins and friends (they had taken opium) dancing in the street. My wife's family made a good wedding for us, and he enjoyed it all. But he never liked my wife and she never liked him. From the beginning there was this between her and me. She tried to change my feelings for him and could not succeed.

    It was not just weddings he was fond of but all festivals where special food is cooked and good clothes are worn. He didn't like anything that was old or ugly. He didn't like our home--two rooms in an old house in Kabir Galli, where we had to share a bathroom with eight other families. He was also unhappy sitting in the shop with me, because the bazaar is so crowded and smelly. At that time, the whole town was in a bad state, with all the old houses falling down and with dirty water from the gutters overflowing in the streets. In the old parts, it is still like that--in Kabir Galli, for instance, and in the bazaar where my father's shop used to be--but now there are also completely new areas, with bungalows and the temples that people have donated out of their black-market money. When we were children, all these areas were fields and open ground where we could play. He spent many hours there alone in those days. He sat by the canal or lay under a tree--whole days sometimes.

    I expected him to be a good student when he grew older, because although he was so quiet, his mind was always busy. Even at night he was alive with those bad dreams he had, while the rest of us, heavy with food and the day's work, lay asleep like stones. But it turned out he wasn't fond of studying, and whenever possible he stayed away from school. By this time, with the growing market for our cloth, I began to get free of the debts by which our family had been bound hand and foot since my grandfather's time. There was nothing to spare yet, but when he wanted some little sum he could ask me and I was in a position to give it. He was fond of going to the cinema, and if it was a good film he would see it six or seven times. Like everyone else, he knew all the film songs, though he didn't sing them out loud. He never sang and he didn't speak much, either; he was always very shy and alone, even when he was enjoying himself in the cinema or at a wedding. His face was always serious. It was unusual, almost strange, to see him smile. That may have been because his teeth were so odd--very small and pointed with spaces in between. When he did smile, his gums showed, like a girl's, and when he grew up and became very fond of chewing betel they were always red and so were his lips and tongue.

    Now I must record a small incident that I have never liked to remember. It was not just one incident, in fact, but several. The first time it happened, he was about nine years old. One day when I came home, my wife told me that she had seen Bablu taking money out of the metal box that I used to keep under my bed. Her eyes shone as she told me this, as if she were happy that it had happened, so I frowned and told her he had taken this money at my instruction. She didn't believe me. "Then why did he say he was looking for his slippers under the bed?" she said, challenging me. She said that he had tried to run away but that she had caught him and given him one or two slaps. When she told me that, I became angry, and said, "How many times have I told you never to raise your hand to this boy?" For she had done it before--she is a strong woman, with a strong temper--and he had come to me crying bitterly and didn't stop until I had rebuked her. But when she slapped him because of the metal box he never mentioned the incident to me.

    From then on, she was like a spy with him. She would watch his movements, and more than once she reported to me that she had awakened at night and seen him searching through our clothes. I wouldn't believe her; I told her to keep her mouth shut. She became cunning, and one night she whispered in my ear, "Wake up and see." I didn't open my eyes. I didn't want to see what she wanted me to, so I turned around on my other side and pretended to be angry with her for waking me. Next day, when he came to bring me my food in the shop, I said, "Bablu, do you want money?" He said yes, so I gave him three rupees and said, "Whenever you need money, I'm always here." He was silent, but he looked at me as if he were saying "Why are you telling me this? I know all that very well." His eyes had remained as I remembered them when he was a baby. All small children have this very serious look--as if they know things their elders have forgotten--but with him it remained till the end.


    People say that you can learn a lot from a person's eyes. The moment I saw that one--the other one, the one whose body no one wanted to claim--I noticed his eyes. Although he was dark-complexioned, his eyes were very light--like a Kashmiri's or a European's, or even lighter, for they had no color at all, so that at first it looked as if he had no vision but had lost it because of disease. I hated and feared him from the beginning. We all did, yet we had to tolerate his presence in our house. I even had to be grateful to him, because it was he who had brought Bablu back after he was lost to us for over two years.

    When Bablu was sixteen, he wasn't like other boys--nothing like the way Sohan Lal had been at that age, when we had to find a bride and marry him off before he became too troublesome. Bablu was no trouble at all in that way--or in any other way. He never even smoked or drank anything. He was fond of nice clothes made of terylene, and modern shoes with pointed toes. He also grew his hair long, and to keep it in place used a costly brand of oil, with a very sweet smell. But it is common for young boys to be careful of their appearance. Sohan Lal also dressed up and sat with his friends outside the Peshawar Cafe, and they talked among themselves the way boys do, and when girls walked past they shouted. This behavior is to be expected before natural satisfaction is obtained in marriage.

    Bablu, though he dressed so nicely, never sat with friends in the Peshawar Cafe. He was always by himself. Never once did I see him with a friend. He didn't care to come and help us in the shop or with the rest of the business, which was just starting to do well. Most of the time he stayed at home. We were still in our house in Kabir Galli, it was a very small place, but during the day the children were at school and Sohan Lal's wife liked to go to neighbors' homes to talk. So usually there was only my wife at home with Bablu. She didn't like it; she kept asking me to send him to the shop or find some other work for him, but I said let him be. Although he never did anything or had anything to read except some film magazines, I could see that he was thinking all the time. I had respect for him for being such a thoughtful person and not at all like Sohan Lal and me, who were always busy and had no inclination for thinking at all.

    One night when I came home, my wife called to me from the other room--the one where our beds were put out at night, and also where I kept a metal safe I had bought when the business began to progress. When I went in, she wouldn't let me put on the light, but I saw at once that the safe was open; the bundles of money I'd had in it were gone, though the jewelry was intact. My wife was sitting on the floor. "Quickly," she said. "Help me." I squatted down beside her, and she put one hand over my mouth to stifle my cry. I saw that she had tied up her arm with a bundle of cloth, but already this cloth was soaked in blood. Neither of us spoke. I threw a shawl round her and, hurrying through the other room where the family were all sitting, I took her out into the street and put her in a cycle rickshaw, and we went to the hospital. There she explained that the knife had slipped while she was cutting up a chicken that she was preparing for a feast.

    We didn't see him again for two years. At first I was glad he was gone, and I told a lie to everyone about how I had sent him to Ludhiana to look after a new business I was starting there. I even told this lie to Sohan Lal, and he kept quiet, knowing there was something it was better for him not to know. If only I, too, could have remained as ignorant! But my peace was gone, even my sleep was gone. Every night my wife lay beside me, and she too was awake, and I knew she was seeing again what she had described to me--the expression on his face when he turned round to her from the safe. He had raised his hand, and though she didn't see the knife in it she quickly put her arm over her chest--and what if she had not done so! Even in the dark, I covered my eyes so as not to see such a thing. I thought also of how he had taken the key of the safe out of my pocket and had had it copied in a shop, and of how he had thought all this out while he sat with me at meals, so quiet and sweet-natured, and while he had stood before the mirror and combed his hair up into a wave, his eyes serious and pure like a child's.

    So at first I was glad he was gone. Then I began to miss him. I thought of the bundles of money he had taken with him and of how unsafe it was for anyone, let alone a young boy, to travel with so much cash. Secretly, I arranged to put out a search for him. I changed my story and I told everyone, even relatives, that he had run away--probably to be in films in Bombay, like so many other boys. I inserted advertisements in many newspapers all over India, in English and in Hindi, with his photograph and, printed underneath, "Bablu, come home. All is forgiven." The advertisements offered a reward of two thousand rupees. There was no result.

    During all this time only my wife knew the true story. She kept quiet--even with her own family, her own brothers. She told them only what I had instructed her to say: first, that he had gone to Ludhiana, then that he had probably run away to Bombay, where the film studios are. Her arm healed slowly; she was often in pain, but no one knew what had happened except me. Up to this time we had enjoyed frequent marital intercourse; now we only lay silently side by side. I thought not of her but of him--not of his turning around from the safe with his arm raised but of his traveling alone with the money and of what could have happened to him. She knew what I was thinking, and to calm me she made those sweet noises at me she makes at our children when they are sick or crying.


    So two years passed, and in that time our new house was built. The house was also intended for Sohan Lal and his family, but because his wife does not get on with mine--it is the usual story with sisters-in-law--they all stayed behind in Kabir Galli. Of course, I was sad to see our joint family split in this way, but secretly I hoped that Bablu would come back one day and then I would find a wife for him and they would live with us in our precious new home. And then he did come back, and he did live with us--not with a wife but with that one, the other one, Sachu, he called himself.

    Although the things Sachu had done and the way he lived only came out afterward in court, he seemed to carry them around with him, so that wherever he was the air became foul. He was small and thin, like Bablu, and except for his colorless eyes there was nothing to notice. He wore a dirty, torn pajama, and a dirty, torn shirt over it. Bablu, too, was in rags. All the money must have gone long ago and they were destitute. They were hungry, too. When I saw my brother fall like a starving dog on the food we gave him, I said, "If you had written one word, I would have sent whatever you needed." Sachu said, "Don't worry, I've brought him home now." Neither of them ever said much, but when there was an answer to be given it was Sachu who spoke. And it was he who said, "Don't forget the reward--two thousand rupees." He laughed, so I thought he was joking. It was always difficult to know what he meant, because his eyes were always blank like glass.

    Our new house was built in such a way that the room where visitors are received is separate from where the family lives. This room is at the front of the house and is much larger than the rooms crowded together at the back, where we keep our cots and cooking vessels and other very simple furniture. For the front room we have bought a sofa and matching chairs and a table with a glass top, and there is a glass cabinet in which my wife keeps pretty dolls and other ornaments. Here we also have a television set and a radio. This room was now given over to Bablu and his friend, and they made themselves comfortable there. It was hard to see Sachu putting his dirty feet on the blue velvet sofa, but it was better than to have him in the back of the house with the family. So I kept quiet, and my wife also kept quiet. She had to--the same way she had to about the wound in her arm. We didn't even speak out our fear to each other.

    When Sachu asked me again for the two-thousand-rupee reward, I gave it to him. After all, it was his right. And when he asked me, "Aren't you grateful I brought him home to you?" I said yes. It was true. Now at least I knew where Bablu was--in the front of my own house--and I did not have to imagine what his fate might be. He was alive and well!--and now that he ate good food and slept comfortably he was very well! I had never seen him so happy before. I have mentioned how rarely he smiled and looked glad, but now he did it all the time, showing his little pointed teeth and his gums stained red with betel. For the first time, he had a friend whom he loved. They were together all the time. They sat side by side on the low wall around our house, swinging their feet and holding hands, the way friends do. They both liked playing the radio and watching television. Once I saw them dancing together, holding each other the way English people dance. I had to smile then, because it was a strange sight and also nice for me to see Bablu enjoying himself. I began to think that my fears were foolish and that it was good for him to have Sachu as a friend. I can't say they were any trouble to us. My wife also had no complaints on that score. They were never disrespectful, and they behaved decently. They didn't mix very much with us but kept themselves apart in the front room. They even ate their meals there, brought to them by the servant boy we kept in the house.


    Although he has nothing to do with what happened later, I must say something about this servant boy. Before he came to us he was working in a tea stall, serving customers and washing cups and plates in a bucket in the back. He also slept there at night. He had no other home and no family; no one knew where he came from. He was about twelve or thirteen years old. He couldn't read or write, but he was a willing worker. When Sachu and Bablu came, this boy changed completely. Now all he wanted was to be near them. He would sit in the doorway of the front room, waiting for them to send him out for betel or cool drinks, or to take their clothes to the washerman. They had good clothes now and were very careful to have them always nicely washed and pressed. I have seen this boy arranging their clothes and touching the fine cloth as if he were touching a woman. When my wife called him he pretended not to hear; perhaps he really didn't hear her, because all his attention was focused on those two. He tried to comb his hair up in a wave like theirs, and he begged my wife to buy him bell-bottom pants instead of the khaki shorts she had given him. Later, after the two were no longer with us, this boy became worse and worse. He mixed with bad characters and hung around the bazaar and cinema with them. He stayed out all night and could never be found for work, until at last my wife dismissed him. He got a job as a servant in another house but soon disappeared from there with money and valuables. A report was lodged with the police, but he never was found. Probably he got on a train and went to some other town. There are millions like him, and no one can tell one from the other. They eat where they can, sleep where they can, and if they get into trouble in one place they move on to another. They may end up in jail on some case that never comes up for trial, they may die of some disease, or they may live a few years longer. No one cares where they are or what happens to them. There are too many of them.

    That was Sachu's defense for his crime: no one cared for him, so he cared for no one. The time of the trial and afterward, after the sentence, was Sachu's great hour. He became a big man and gave interviews to journalists and made them listen to his philosophy. He boasted of all the crimes he committed before he came to our town. He had been in jail many times, he said, but he had never been convicted of any of the other murders to which he now admitted. He said he would kill anyone if he wanted something they had, even if it was only a ring that he liked. He said that human beings were not born to be poor, otherwise why should the earth be so full of riches, with mines full of gold and precious gems, and with pearls scattered in the ocean? His father had pulled a handcart for a living and had had nine children. Probably those who had survived were all pulling handcarts now--all except him, Sachu. He had wanted something else, and if it had brought him death on the gallows, all right, he was ready. He had always been different from his family; he had run away from them at the age of ten, when he had overheard his father and elder brothers planning to break his leg in order to make him change his bad ways. Since that day he had been on his own.


    My prayer to be relieved of their crime has been answered, so that it is no longer before my eyes day and night. Now it is as if it were locked away in a heavy steel trunk; this weight may be taken from me at my last hour, but until then I carry it inside myself, where only God and I know of its constant presence. After a while there is nothing more you can do or suffer. I have also prayed on behalf of the father of the victim--that the man's suffering may be made bearable for him, if such a thing were possible. Day after day I was with this man in the courtroom, but I can say nothing of his appearance, because not once in all that time did I dare to raise my eyes and look at him.

    The famous Parsi lawyer I engaged for Bablu's defense believed that they never intended to kill the boy but meant to release him, after collecting the ransom money. Very likely this is true. It is certainly true that while they were living in my house they made their plan to kidnap him. At that time there was a popular film playing about a dacoit who kidnapped a high-born girl for money, but then he fell in love with her and she reformed his ways. It was one of those stupid Bombay films that people like, including my wife, who made me take her to see it because her favorite actor was in it. A mother with three children, but still she has a favorite actor! Sachu and Bablu went four or five times, and they knew all the songs and dialogue by heart. So the idea of kidnap must have gotten into their heads. There were enough rich people in our town--many of them like myself, who a few years ago were only humble shopkeepers and were caught up in the big boom in cotton cloth. Such people spent a lot of money on themselves and their children and lived like millionaires; some of them already were millionaires. However, it was not one of their children who was chosen.

    P---- is a cantonment town, and we have always had a regiment stationed here. The cantonment area is quite separate. It has wide roads and brick barracks, and the officers live in bungalows with gardens. Everything is very clean and very well kept up. The soldiers are healthy and sturdy and look quite different from the townspeople. The officers and their families are like higher beings; they are well-built, with light complexions, and they are educated gentry, speaking English with each other. Some of them even speak Hindi with an English accent, like foreigners--like sahibs. They also live like sahibs in their big bungalows, and drink whisky-and-soda, and their cooks prepare English-style food for them, with roast meat. The boy's father was the commanding officer--he had the rank of colonel--and his memsahib, the boy's mother, was from one of the princely families who have lost their title but still have houses and land. (She has since passed away.) The boy was their only child, and they had sent him to a boarding school in the hills to get a good education. The reason he was in the cantonment at that time was that there had been a measles epidemic in the school; all the unaffected children had been sent home as a precaution, to safeguard their health.

    Everyone knows what the boy looked like. His photograph has been in the newspapers as often as Bablu's and Sachu's. Sometimes all three photos were on the same page, and even though they were not clear in the newsprint it was evident that the boy was of a different type from the other two--as if he came from some different stock or species of human being. In Sachu's interviews with the newspaper reporters, he sounded as if he hated the boy, because the boy was plump, with big eyes and a light complexion, and wore a very good blue coat, with the badge of his school on the pocket. And because he had roller skates. No one had heard of roller skates in our town till the boy was seen with them. His parents had brought them as a present for him from abroad, and the boy loved them so much that he went on them everywhere, as with wings under his feet.

    It was because of these roller skates that Bablu and Sachu were discovered very quickly. It was also all they got from their crime, for although the father had put the ransom money in the place they had indicated, they did not dare collect it after killing the boy. They had so little cash that they had to sneak on to a train as ticketless travelers. When an inspector came, they had to jump off. This was in a town less than two hundred miles from ours. They took a room in a hotel in a bad part of town, and they never came out except at night, when one of them went to buy gram, which was all the food they could afford. Their room was very small, with only one bed and an old fan, but here Sachu tried to learn to roller-skate. This made the whole house shake, as if it were in an earthquake, and everyone in the hotel wondered what was happening. They also heard the noise of someone falling, and then the two young men laughing in enjoyment, so they tapped on the door of their room to inquire. Sachu let them come in and look, because he was so proud of learning to roller-skate. Everyone smiled and enjoyed his feat, but when there was news everywhere of a boy killed and of his missing roller skates the police were informed at once.

    Up to that time, the two of them had been lucky, even though their crime had not been well-planned. They had stolen a car from outside the interstate bus depot, and had waited near the cantonment for the boy to pass on his roller skates. They had no difficulty getting into conversation with him; he was frank and open in his manner--everyone said so later--and was always glad to talk to people and to make friends. They got him into the car and drove him to the place they had chosen for their hideout. Here they tied him up with chains, and Sachu--Bablu couldn't drive--took the car to the other side of town and abandoned it there. It was found by the police the same day, though they found the boy only when he was dead.

    There are many places where a person can hide around our town. Important battles have been fought here, and it has been destroyed and built up again many times. Ruins are all around--the foundation of beautiful cities, with the remains of tombs, mosques, and bathing tanks. Since it is a very dry area, very little vegetation has grown, and there are only mounds of rubble and dust, where jackals live and can be heard howling at night. The two took the boy down into a bathing tank, which had been dug so deep into the earth that there were forty steps descending into it. All round the tank were arched niches like rooms. In olden days, it must have been a beautiful, cool place for royal people to bathe and rest and take enjoyment. Now the tank is empty and dry. They kept the boy in one of the niches and stayed with him there for four days, all of them living on milk sweets.


    After they were arrested, Sachu talked freely. It was as if he had waited all his life for people to listen to what he had to say. He was a person of no education, and could not express himself, yet words and thoughts always seemed to boil up in him and come gushing out freely. One thing he could never bear was to be contradicted or interrupted; he wanted to be the only one to talk, and others were there to listen. After his arrest, if any journalist challenged him or talked back to him, he went into a rage. Sometimes he seemed to fly into the same rage when talking about the boy; he spoke as if the boy were still alive and challenging what he was saying. Then anger filled his empty eyes.

    The Parsi lawyer wanted to present the case in such a way as to show that Sachu had stabbed the boy with his knife during an argument between them. It was soon established that the boy didn't sit quietly and whine for mercy while he was being kept prisoner. He was a fearless boy and also a first-class debater who had competed for an inter-school trophy. He liked talking and arguing as much as Sachu did, and although he was seven years younger (he was thirteen), he was much better educated. When Sachu spoke to the boy about society and astrology and what is man's fate--the same way he later talked to the reporters--the boy could answer him and argue with him, and he could even quote from books he had read at school. The Parsi lawyer said that when Sachu was defeated by the boy over and over again in argument he became so enraged that he killed him. Sachu alone did it, and Bablu was innocent. And Sachu said yes, that was the way it happened, and then he boasted of the other murders he had committed, which no one had ever discovered.

    But Bablu said no to the Parsi lawyer, that was not the way it happened. Bablu said, "I did it--not Sachu." Then the lawyer appointed to defend Sachu wanted to make a case that Bablu had killed the boy out of jealousy, because he saw that his friend was paying a lot of attention to the boy and spent many hours talking and arguing with him. The lawyer said that the boy was not only educated and cultured but also very handsome--soft-skinned and wheat-complexioned. (The medical report had established the fact that sodomy had taken place.) Bablu was ready to confirm what the lawyer said and to admit that he had killed the boy because he could not bear to watch what Sachu did with him. He confessed this in a very quiet voice and without raising his eyes--not out of shame, it seemed, but because he felt shy about talking of this matter.

    All this time, Bablu never changed. Unlike Sachu, he hardly spoke to anyone but appeared so sunk in his own thoughts that one didn't like to disturb him. As before, his face was very serious, and his expression altered only when he read the newspaper reports of the interviews that Sachu had given. Bablu eagerly waited for me to bring him these newspapers, and when he read them he smiled--that smile, with his little pointed teeth and betel-red gums, which always gave me a shock to see. It didn't seem to belong on his face--any more than that other expression my wife had once described to me, when he had turned from the safe and raised his hand with the knife.

    Since each of them was ready to plead guilty to save the other, their lawyers got together and tried to prove that they had never met the boy--that someone else had killed him and they had only stolen the roller skates. It was a very weak case, and no one believed it. In the end, both were found guilty, and both were hanged. The burden of what was done has remained with us who are living. My brother Sohan Lal and his family have emigrated to Canada, and at first I, too, intended to leave this place where our name is known. But in the end I stayed. We are still living in the same house, though at first I had intended to sell it. For a long time we kept the front room locked and lived only in the back--no one even went in there to clean--but slowly we have got used to going in there again. At first, only the children went, to look at TV if there was a good program on, but now my wife and I also sit there sometimes, and it is becoming like an ordinary room where nothing has happened.

    After the final appeal was dismissed and there was only one week left, they allowed me to visit the prison every day. I always brought his food with me. All this time, I had been providing his meals at the jail. At first, I brought his food from a cooking stall and sent it to him in the little mud pots covered with a leaf that they give you in the bazaar. But after a time, and without anything being said, my wife cooked his food herself, and it was carried to him in dishes from our house. I was glad to be able to provide this home-cooked food, which he liked and was used to. But soon I discovered that he ate only a part of it, and had the rest taken away to Sachu, for whom no one sent anything, of course. When I mentioned this to my wife, she began to send more food, and after a time there were always two dishes of everything.

    On the last day, when he asked me to see Sachu and say goodbye to him, I said I would but I didn't do it. So it was that my last word to him was a lie. He asked, "Did you see him?" and I said, "Yes." But next day I did something I hadn't expected. When the hearse arrived to take Bablu, I told the prison officials that I would take the other one, too. They agreed and were glad to be relieved of this charge. So I took both of them to the electric crematorium, and there I performed for both the ceremonies and prayers due to a brother. Sohan Lal and the rest of my family blamed me for this and said I had polluted the last rites. They were all angry and refused to participate in the final ceremony, when the ashes are committed to the river. I didn't care and prepared to do it on my own.

    I bought two silver urns and returned to the crematorium to collect the ashes. I had determined to go to Allahabad, to the most holy and purifying place of all, where the three great rivers meet and mingle, but a lot of business came up during the next few days and I could not leave at once. I placed the two urns in the front room, and when I was ready to leave I packed them in a cardboard box I had brought from the warehouse for this purpose. The night before, I told my wife to wake me early so that I could be in time for the plane. She said, "I will come with you," and in the morning she was ready in new white clothes. We drove to Delhi to go to the airport there. They allowed us to take the box on board with us. My wife had never been on a plane before and was very excited, though she pretended not to be. She kept looking out of the window to see the clouds and whatever else you see. Once, she turned to me and said, "Bablu has never been on a plane before." I didn't answer her but I thought, Yes, it is true; it is the first time for all three of them. The two others would have enjoyed it too and would have been as excited as she was. In Allahabad we took a boat, and a priest went with us, and there was a beautiful ceremony as the ashes were committed at the confluence of those very holy rivers--the Ganges, the Jumna, and the Saraswati.

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