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The Tribute

The Tribute-->


As I reached my desk in the office, my eyes stopped over a letter. It contained that familiar petite handwriting of my elder brother. After a very long time he had written to me. I shrank within for not writing letters back home, all these days.

In my student days, it was almost s routine affair. I used to go home to that distant village on a rickety bus, caring nothing for the strain of the journey. My home-my village-they used to pull me away from the moribund city life. Now things have changed and I too have changed, a great deal at that! A lot of cobwebs have settled around me. I am swept by that invisible tide of time, and business. I was studying at Bhubaneshwar, where I got my job and now for these two years, I have thought of home not even once. Many a time my mother has written letters complaining about my negligence in writing to her. She has even reminded me of those pre-marriage days of mine.

Yet I have been able to break those strands of complacency which have coiled around me. I have kept quiet to prove that I am busy and preoccupied. Now she does not complain. Probably, she understands my position.

Usually my elder bother does not write to me. He does not need from me. He has never sought a token from me in lieu of his concern for me as an elder brother. In those days when I was a student, the only thing that he enquired about was my well-being. During my stay at home, he would catch fish for me from the pond behind our house and would ask his wife to prepare a good dish, for I loved fish. When the fish was scanty, the dish would be prepared exclusively for me. He would say to his wife: "You must make the dish as delicious as possible, using mustard paste for Babuli." Even now, he is the same man with the same tone of love and compassion. Nothing has changed him- his seven children, father, mother, cattle, fields, household responsibilities. He is the same- my elder brother.

I handled the letter carefully. He had asked me to come home. Some feud had cropped up. The two sisters-in-law had quarreled. Our paddy fields, the cottage and all the movables and immovables were to be divided into three parts amongst us. My presence was indispensable.

It was my second brother who was so particular and adamant about the division. He wanted it at any cost.

I finished reading the letter. A cold sweat drenched me. I felt helpless, orphaned. A sort of despair haunted me for a long time. Quite relentlessly, I tried to drive them away, yawning helplessly in a chair.

In the evening when I told my wife about the partition that is to take place, I found her totally unperturbed. She just asked me: "When?" as if she was all prepared and waiting for this event to take place! "In a week's time," I said.

In bed that night my wife asked me all sorts of questions. What would be our share and how much would it fetch us on selling it? I said nothing for a while but in order to satisfy

her, at last guessed that it should be around twenty thousand rupees. She came closer to me and said, "We don't need any land in the village. What shall we do with it? Let's sell it and take the money. Remember, when you sell it, hand over to me the entire twenty thousand. I will make proper use of it. We need a fridge, you know. Summer is approaching. You need not go to the office riding a bicycle. You must have a scooter. And the rest we will put in a bank. There is no use keeping land in the village. We can't look after it, and why should others draw benefits out of our land?

I listened to all this like an innocent lamb looking into darkness. I felt as if the butcher is sharpening his knife, humming a tune and waiting to tear me into large chunks of meat and consoling me saying that there is a better life after death.

Gone are those days; gone are those feelings, when the word "Home" filled my heart with emotion. And that affectionate word "Brother" what feeling it had! How it used to make my heart pound with love! Recollecting all these things, I felt weak, pathetic.

Where is the heart gone? Where are those days? Where is that spontaneity of feeling gone? I just can't understand how a stranger could all of a sudden become so intimate, only sharing a little warmth by giving a silent promise of keeping close.

But I became my normal self in two days. I grew used to what had been a shock. Later on, in the market place, keeping pace with my wife, I enquired about the prices of different things she wanted to buy. Buying a fridge was almost certain. A second hand scooter, a stereo set and some gold ornaments. I prepared a list of prices. She kept reminding me about her intentions, and was showing lot of impatience.

It was Saturday afternoon. I left for my village. The same bus was there, inspiring in me the old familiar feeling. I rushed to occupy the seat just behind the driver, my favourite seat. In my hurry I bruised my knee against the door. It hurt me. The brief case fell off and the little packet containing the Prasad of Lord Lingraj, meant for my dear mother, was scattered over the ground. I felt as if the entire bus was screeching aloud the question: "After how many years? You have not bothered in the least to retain that tender love you had in your heart for your home! Instead you have sold it to the butcher to help yourself become a city Baboo!! Curses be on you!"

I boarded the bus, collecting the brief-case and the content of the soiled packet, wearing a shameless smile for the cleaner and the conductor of the bus.

It was five in the evening when I got down; I had written beforehand. My elder brother was there to meet at the bus-stop. He appeared a little tired and worn out. "Give that brief-case to me. That must be heavy." He almost snatched it away from me. I forgot even to touch his feet. This had never happened earlier. He was walking in front of me.

We were walking on the village road, dusty and ever the same. I remembered my childhood days.

I was usually crossing the street alone to go to a teacher in the evening for tuition. It was generally late and dark when I returned from my studies. Unfailingly my elder brother would be there to escort me back home lest I should be frightened. He would carry the lantern, my bag of books and notes. I had to follow him to do so. If I lagged behind, he would ask, "Why! You are perhaps tired. Come, hold my hand and walk with me." He sometimes used to carry me on his shoulders while going to the fields for a stroll.

The bus-stop was some distance from the village. I had fallen behind him. He stopped and asked the same old question he used to ask. I just could not speak.

The past was sprouting up in me. The childhood days and the days now! Time has coagulated for me. I have changed. But my elder brother? Time could not bring upon him any change. As in those days, he was still walking in front of me, carrying my bag. I felt so small!!

Hesitatingly I said, "Brother! Give me that brief-case. Let me carry it for a while."

"Don't you worry," he said, "It is heavy, and you are tired. Let us quicken our steps. You must be feeling hungry. It is time for the evening meal." I followed him in silence.

We reached home. It was already dark, the time for lighting the wicks before the sacred Tulsi plant. Unlike those days, none of my nephews rushed towards me howling, "Here's uncle." My sister-in-law did not run from the kitchen to receive me. It was all quiet and calm. Only my mother came and stood near me. The second brother and his wife were nowhere to be seen. In the entire house, there was an air of unusualness- rather the stillness of the graveyard. As if the house was preparing for its ultimate collapse!

I tried to be normal with everyone. But there was that abominable lull all around. My second brother and his wife, in spite of their presence at home, showed no emotion. They were all set for the partition and they cared for nothing else. I could not sleep all night. And the following morning passed quite uneventfully.

It was mid-day. Seven or eight people had gathered in our courtyard to supervise the division. We three brothers were present. Mother was not to be seen anywhere in the vicinity.

We were waiting for the final separation, as if ready to slice out the flesh of the domestic body which our parents had nourished since the day of their marriage. And then we would run away in three different directions clutching a piece each.

All the household articles were heaped in the family courtyard. These were to be divided into three parts; all the small things in the house, almost everything movable starting from the ladles made out of coconut shells and bamboo to the little box, where father used to keep his betels. The axe and the old radio set too had been produced. A long list of all the items was made. Nothing was spared, neither the dhinki (wooden-rice-crusher) nor the little figures of the family idols.

I saw my elder brother rise. He stopped for a moment near the pile of things and unfastened the strap of his wristwatch and placed it on the heap with other things. Perhaps a tear trickled down his cheek. With a heavy sigh he left the place.

I had often heard him say that father had bought him that wristwatch when he was in the eleventh class. But I also remember well- in my M.A. final year he had mortgaged that watch to send me money to go to Delhi for an interview. He had sent me an amount of one hundred and fifty rupees- I remember clearly. No one knows whether the wristwatch would come back to him or not. His action seemed symbolic of all his snapping all his attachment with the past.

I was silent. My elder sister-in-law was in the backyard. My second brother was often whispering things into wife's ear and was there taking his place with us. It was like the butcher's knife going to the stone to sharpen itself. The elder brother was calm and composed. Like a perfect gentleman he was looking at the proceedings dispassionately, exactly as he had gone on the day of the sacred thread ceremony of his son and on the day of my marriage. It was the same preoccupied and grave manner, attending sincerely to his duty. While discussing anything with my second brother, he had that same calm and composed voice. Not a sign of distrust and regret.

I remember, the year father died, we had to live under a great financial strain. It was winter. The chill was at its height. We had a limited number of blankets. The cold was biting, particularly at midnight, that one blanket was not enough for one.

That night, I was sleeping in the passage room. When I woke up in the morning I found my elder brother's blanket on me, added to mine. Early at dawn he had left for the fields without a blanket on his shoulders. If he had been asked why, he would have surely said in his usual manner, that he did not feel the cold. Now I have a comfortable income. Yet it had never occurred to me to think of buying any warm cloth for my elder brother. He is still satisfied and happy with that tattered blanket that he had covered me with twice. The same blanket was there before me, with all the other things.

I shivered with the cold, and my own ingratitude. The process of division was finally over. Whatever the second brother demanded,

my elder brother agreed to it with a smile.

My second brother proposed to buy the share of land that was given to me and offered eighteen thousand rupees as the price.

In the evening, my elder brother took me along with him to show me the paddy fields that were to be mine. I quietly followed him. We moved from boundary to boundary. Everywhere, I could feel the imprints of his feet, his palm and his fingers. On the bosom of the paddy fields sparked the pearls of my elder brother sweat. He was showing me the fields, as a father would introduce a stranger to family members.

In the morning, I was to leave for Bhubaneshwar. I had no courage to meet my elder brother. Before leaving for the bus-stop, I handed over the same slip of paper to my elder sister-in-law, which had the details about my share. Writing on the blankside of that slip, I had asked her to deliver it my elder brother and stealthily slipped out of our house. I had written:

Brother,

What shall I do with the lands? You are my land from where I could harvest everything in life. I need nothing save you. Accept this, please. If you deny, I shall never show my face to you again.

Babuli.

Objective: To understand, appreciate and enjoy the lesson, its similes and metaphors. To appreciate and understand the three main characters of the story realizing thereby how materialism has brutalised and dehumanised even the most intimate and sensitive relationships.

Overview: This is a heart-rending story by an author who is not known. He has contrasted the three main characters to bring out the theme of the story. It is an intense story of dehumanising and brutalising intimate and tender relationship. Some of the phrases are very effective.

The author contrasts three main characters - the author, Babuli, his wife and his elder brother.

Contrast is a very effective technique used by novelists and short story writers. It intensifies the impact on the reader. That is the reason for our great liking for the elder brother. Indisputably he is the hero of the story. Babuli's wife is the villain of the piece. Babuli is sensitive and honest. He has a remarkable ability for introspection - he brilliantly analyses his emotions, ideas and actions.

Let us closely look at the main characters. First of all the elder brother. He is an epitome of goodness. There isn't a single word against him. His love for Babuli is the highest form of Christian love agape. He sacrifices everything for Babuli - 'in my MA final year he had mortgaged that watch to send me money to go to Delhi for an interview' and after their father's death they were under great financial strain - 'we had a limited number of blankets…. When I woke up in the morning I found my elder brother's blanket on me. Early at dawn he had left for the fields without a blanket'. The story is full of his intense and selfless love for Babuli - 'unfailingly my elder brother would be there to escort me…he would carry the lantern, my bag of books and notes…hold my hand…used to carry me on his shoulders'. He told his wife 'you must make the dish as delicious as possible, using mustard paste, for Babuli'. This intense, selfless love full of sacrifice is the highest form of love - agape. He never thinks of his own needs and comforts. Babuli's needs and comforts are always uppermost in his mind.

'He has never sought a token from me in lieu of his concern for me as an elder brother', says Babuli.

He was a gentleman par excellence - 'looking at the proceedings dispassionately…It was the same preoccupied and grave manner; attending sincerely to his duty… he had the same calm and composed voice. Not a sign of disgust or regret'.

He has not changed at all in contrast with Babuli who has changed completely. Babuli says ' I have changed. But my elder brother? Time could not bring upon him any change. As in those days, he was still walking in front of me, carrying my bag. I felt so small.

Hesitatingly I said, "Brother give me that briefcase. Let me carry it for a while."

"Don't you worry", he said. "It is heavy, and you are tired - You must be feeling hungry."

So such is the hero - an incarnation of goodness, an angel.

Now let us have a close look at the villain of the piece - Babuli's wife.

Babuli has changed completely. His wife is solely responsible for this change. Babuli says, "Now things have changed and I too have changed, a great deal at that!"

'Gone are those days, gone are those feelings, when the work "Home" filled my heart with emotion…."Brother"… How it used to make my heart pound with love'.

"Where is the heart gone? Where are those days? Where has that spontaneity of feeling gone? I just can't understand how a stranger could all of a sudden become so intimate, only sharing a little warmth by giving a silent promise of keeping close".

This stranger referred to is Babuli's wife.

After reading his brother's letter about division of village property Babuli says, "A cold sweat drenched me. I felt helpless, orphaned. A sort of despair haunted me for a long time."

In utter contrast is his wife's reaction on hearing about the division.

'I found her totally unperturbed. She just asked me: "When?" as if she was all prepared and waiting for this event to take place…. She came closer to me and said, "We don't need any land in the village. What shall we do with it? Let's sell it and take the money. Remember, when you sell it, hand over to me the entire twenty thousand ."

Babuli's wife has no feelings for the village and Babuli's mother, brother and sister-in-law. She is 'totally unperturbed' at the partition in the village property. In fact she is very happy. She wants the entire money.

Babuli is a sensitive and honest person who can objectively analyse his behaviour, feelings and ideas. He realises that he is caught in a vicious circle in his city life. His wife has managed to have a strong hold over him. He is all the time busy in his daily routine life and cannot get out of it.

Babuli feels guilty for neglecting his brother, mother and the village. He also feels very ungrateful for completely forgetting his brother and mother. He has changed a great deal - 'Now things have changed and I too have changed, a great deal at that! …I have thought of home not even once. She (mother) has even reminded me of those pre-marriage days of mine'.

Babuli and his mother think that this change in Babuli is primarily due to his marriage. Babuli thinks 'And that affectionate word' "Brother", what feeling it had! How it used to make my heart pound with love! Recollecting all these things, I feel weak, pathetic'.

'Where is the heart gone? Where are those days? Where has that spontaneity of feeling gone? I just can't understand how a stranger could all of a sudden become so intimate, only sharing a little warmth by giving a silent promise of keeping close'.

Babuli himself confesses that the reason for change of heart is his wife -- a stranger….

Babuli feels guilty and ungrateful for not reciprocating the highest form of Christian love - agape - which his brother has always for him. He remembers how his sister-in-law prepared fish exclusively for him, how his brother mortgaged his watch to send him money, how he covered him with his blanket and himself shivered in the cold outside. He is keenly aware of his brother's selfless intense love for him. In contrast he has neglected his brother - 'Now I have a comfortable income. Yet it had never occurred to me to think of buying any warm cloth for my elder brother. He is still satisfied and happy with the old tattered blanket that he had covered me with once…I shivered with cold, and my own ingratitude'.

Again - 'The past was sprouting up in me. The childhood days and the days now! Time has coagulated for me. I have changed. But my elder brother? --- As in those days, he was still walking in front of me, carrying my bag. I felt so small'.

Finally, Babuli changes after having realised his ingratitude and feeling small.

He cannot even face his brother after the partition. 'I … stealthily slipped out of the house' after giving his entire share to his brother.

The author has several times repeated the imagery of a butcher killing a lamb. This is a very effective and intense way of conveying his feelings - how people have been brutalised and desensitised by the growing materialism in the modern society. People do not appreciate selfless love, which makes sacrifices for the person he loves - his own elder brother's love for him.
The title of the story is appropriate. Babuli, in the end realises his ingratitude, feels small and pays tribute to his elder brother by giving his share of property and material things to his brother.

Answers to the questions in the text book

Q.3:

The narrator of the story is a man called Babuli. Answer these questions briefly.

(a)

Why did Babuli have to visit his family village?

(b)

Why had he not been to his village for a long time?

(c)

When Babuli told his wife that the family land had to be divided, how did she react?

(d)

When Babuli arrived at the family home, what changes did he notice? What was the reason for these changes?

(e)

Who wanted to buy Babuli's share of the family's lands?

(f)

What did Babuli do with his share?

 

 

A. 3: (a)

The movable and immovable property shared by the three brothers in Babuli's parental village had to be divided among them. Therefore, his brother had asked him to come.

(b)

Ever since he got a job and married 'I have thought of home not even once.' He has been too busy in his routine office work and his married life - 'never been able to break those strands of complacency, which have coiled around me.'

(c)

She was totally unperturbed. 'She just asked me:" When?" as if she was all prepared and waiting for this event to take place!'

(d)

In the past his nephews used to run to him howling "Here's uncle" It was all quiet and calm. Only my mother came and stood near me. 'There stillness of the graveyard.' As if the house was preparing for its ultimate collapse.'

(e)

His second brother.

(f)

Babuli gave it to his eldest brother.

 

 

Q.4:

You will remember the two literary devices often used by authors for purposes of comparison, i.e.

  • Metaphor, e.g. He was a lion in the battle. (The comparison is implied)

  • Simile, e.g. He fought like a lion. (One person or thing is compared with another by means of like or as)

Do the following extracts contain a metaphor or a simile? For each, explain its meaning.

(a)

A lot of cobwebs have settled around me.

(b)

I listened to all this like an innocent lamb looking into the darkness.

(c)

The past was sprouting up in me. The childhood days and the days now! Time has coagulated for me.

(d)

We moved from boundary to boundary. Everywhere I could feel the imprints of his feet, his palm and his fingers. On the bosom of the paddy fields sparkled the pearls of my eldest brother's sweat.

 

 

A.4: (a)

Metaphor. Babuli has been trapped in his own trap. A spider makes cobweb to trap insects which it eats. But Babuli has been trapped in the cobweb of his office routine and married life. He cannot get out of this trap. He imagines that it is the same old childhood period for him.

(b)

Simile. Babuli did not contradict his wife's proposals and plans. But he felt that he was like an innocent lamb and his wife was the butcher with a knife. She was concerned only with her material gains totally ignoring the intense emotional shock which Babuli was feeling.

(c)

Metaphor. Sprout means to grow, to produce. The past was growing in his memory now. He is utterly shocked to contrast the past - when he loved his brother, parents and the village - with the present - when he even did not think of his brother, mother and the village.
Metaphor-Time has coagulated for me. Coagulated means to change from a fluid to a semi-solid or solid state. Time stands still. He is transported to his childhood days. Time hasn't changed at all. He imagines that it is the same old childhood period for him.

(d)

Metaphor 'Imprints of his feet, his palm and his fingers' means result of his hard work. The paddy crop has been the result of his elder brother's sweat - hard work. The paddy crop is shining like pearls of his brother's sweat.

 

 

A.6: (a)

His elder brother's intense love for Babuli and his sacrifice for Babuli.

(b)

He did not buy any woollen clothing or blanket for his brother although he had a comfortable income. He did not even visit his village to find out how his brother was.

(c)

His brother has been compared to the land. Just as land gives agricultural yield- paddy similarly his brother had supported him through his hard work in the field (harvest). I owe everything in life to you.

 

 

A.8

She said, "How much did your share of land sell for? Give me all the money."

Babuli: I am very tired and sleepy. I will tell you everything after sometime.
Wife: Tell me the amount. I want the entire amount so that we can buy a scooter, a fridge and other necessities of life and live comfortably.
Babuli: I am going to sleep. I am very tired and sleepy. Please wait for sometime.
Wife: No, I can't wait. Give me the entire amount.
Babuli: There is no money. I have given my share of the land and property to my brother. Whatever I am today is entirely because of my brother's love and sacrifice. I couldn't be ungrateful to him. He needs these things - the land, the property - much more than I need them. I am very happy indeed that I have done something for him. I owe everything in life to the love and sacrifice of my brother.

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