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NO DEVOTION, NO SALVATION
Ashapurna Devi
       QUITE unexpectedly did my friend come over to our house. As soon as he stepped in, he thrust his hand into his pocket and whisked out of it two cinema tickets.
       'Get ready at once', he said, handing the tickets over to me. 'I purchased the tickets in advance for this Saturday's night show. They've been advertising the film for a good many days on end. Lest they should be discarded, I've come a long way down here to give them to you.'
       My friend was addicted to luxury and spent much money on it.
       'Why didn't you go yourselves?' I asked, puzzled. 'What prevented you!'
       A pale smile flitted across his face.
       'Fate!' he said. 'News came-it didn't find another day to come-that my grandmaa's on verge of death. It's doubtful, the news said, whether she would survive this night.'
       'Your grandmaa!' I exclaimed, nonplussed and bewildered. 'We got invited that day to our grandmaa's shradha, didn't we?'
       'That was of my own grandmaa,' he said. 'I'm talking about my wife's grandmaa. Had she been my own grandmaa, the programme wouldn't have been changed.'
       He paused and made a wry face.
       'Now I'm off, he said. 'If the old woman, God forbidding, dies before we reach her house, my wife will never keep me at peace. She had worn a Dhakai sari. She doffed the Dhakai sari and donned a mill-made one. In the brief space between her doffing the Dhakai sari and donning the mill-made sari, I have come running over to you. You two go, see the film and give my soul rest.'
       In the twinkling of an eye the two-seater disappeared from before the gate. He was really living in happiness. Despite the control in petrol, he was roaming throughout the length and breadth of Calcutta, marking the body of the car with 'ARP'. I could not deny being pleased at being given the tickets free. My wife was mad for cinema. Besides, I had heard that the film boasted of all the star-actors and actresses. I was sure she would jump at the idea of going to the film. And we would together pass a happy Saturday evening enjoying the film. I never knew how my holidays passed. I spent the spare time in searching for rice, wheat, sugar and such rare things as coal.
       Let it be. I could list many other familial problems. They won't end. They would, instead, agitate the ocean of grief. Besides, who had the patience to listen to the recital of sorrows? Everybody was 'drinking water' in his store, though my wife often said, 'Everybody but you is getting everything they need.' I did not mind her saying this, though. I was habituated, the truth to tell, to different doses of such rigmarole. Now at this moment I started imagining about what my wife would say to my plan to go to the cinema together this night. Bubbling over with happiness I walked over to the store-room to peep in. I saw a padlock on the door of the store-room. I hurried into our main room only to find her engaged in getting dressed. I smiled, for she had eavesdropped on our conversation.
                                       

    

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