Tale from Bangladesh
Affection Flows Downward
This is a popular story from the rural parts of Bangladesh that has travelled from one place to another and from generation to generation through oral recounting. The writer heard this story when she was a child from her grandmother who had hundreds of such folk stories in her stock. Almost all the stories gave some insight into human nature and relationships. Unfortunately most of the stories were lost with the passing away of the grandmother.
It was a small village, like thousands of villages of Bangladesh. It was a small family unlike most families of the village. It comprised of an old mother, his young son of about twenty-five or so, his daughter-in-law, and their baby boy, hardly two years old. The harvesting was over. There was no work in the field. But, the young man had mastered the art of repairing thatched roofs. Today, he was busy mending the damaged roof of their own cottage. It was a time-consuming work. It needed patience and skill. He had to carefully remove the damaged patches, weave into the gaps new sections of fresh dry straw and make the whole thing strong and sturdy.
It was nearly midday. The young man had got up on the roof more than three hours ago and had been working non-stop since then. The sun blazed over his head like a red ball of fire. Streams of sweat flowed along his chest and back. Sometimes a drop or two fell into his eyes, too. He, however, seemed to notice or feel nothing.
The old mother had asked her son several times to get down and stop working in this sweltering heat. She kept calling him every five to ten minutes, imploring him to come down and have his midday meal and some rest. "Come down baba, you shouldn't work in this scorching heat. Come and have some food. It's past midday. "Just a little while more, ma. I'll be done soon”, said the son. But another half an hour was gone and there was no sign of the son coming down. When the old woman persisted in her entreaties the son suddenly got very annoyed. With a scowling face he looked at his mother and shouted angrily, "Will you stop bothering me? The work will be finished soon and then I'll come down and have my food and take rest." But there was no sign of his stopping the work, the old mother who sat on the verandah of the kitchen -- in one corner of the courtyard stitching a quilt, looked up at his son who appeared to be nearly baked by the heat of the sun. But she knew that if she made any further request, her son would ignore it like the earlier ones. This time, instead of asking him to cease work and come down, she quietly went into the hut and brought her eighteen moths old grandson out.
She placed a mat on a spot in the courtyard where sun's rays fell directly on it. She then sat the child down on it with some toys. After a minute or so, as the child started to gurgle and make sounds loudly playing with his toys, the young father looked down from the roof and was horrified to see his child sitting in the sun. Already the child had turned red in the face & had started whimpering. From the rooftop the young man shouted at his mother, "Ma, have you gone crazy? Take him inside right now. Can't you see that the heat is unbearable?" The old woman kept working with her needles and just said, "In a minute, son. Let me finish this line of stitching.” The son, after two or three minutes, shouted down agitatedly, "Old woman, what are you doing? Do you want to kill my son? Take him into the shade at once. Ma -- do you hear me?" The mother without moving said, "Yes, son. I'm going to take him in the moment I finish this."
The young man, angry and upset, stopped his work and came hurriedly down. He quickly picked up the child in his arms and blurted out to his mother, "Old woman you've really lost all your senses." With a tiny smile curling around her withered lips the old mother said, "Son, if your heart melts at the sight of your baby's suffering, don't you think that I , too, suffer when I see you, my boy, getting roasted by the burning sun?"
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