Thursday, September 17, 2009

The value of trust

I was transferred to Kolkata (Calcutta those days) all of a sudden sometime in September in early Seventies. My first priority was to find a flat around LakeMarket area that South Indians generally preferred. It was very difficult to get one in the middle of the year. I was losing patience as a week went by with little progress. Luckily the broker rang up the next day asking me to meet immediately the land lady of a certain house near the market.
The Bengali lady in her early sixties, short and plump, chewing pan, with a prominent red bindi on her forehead and with a smile on her charming face evoked instant respect. Wife of a Zamindar, she knew only Bengali and a little of Hindi. After ascertaining that I am a Madrasi with a small family, she was willing to give me the flat. I told her that I could not afford more than Rs.300 against Rs.350 she demanded with one month’s advance. I pleaded with her to reduce the rent as I had some family commitments. She said many were willing to pay more than the amount she demanded from me and asked me to confirm my willingness latest by next day.
The other tenants in the building whom I met told me that she was a difficult woman. Abusive and loud mouthed she would shout if she saw litter on the stair case. She would also keep asking for increase in rent. Though the picture portrayed was a bit scary I decided to finalize the flat on her terms.
When I went the next evening and said that I was agreeable to her demand, she broke into a laughter. She told me another Madrasi had come seeking the flat at a higher rent and that she refused telling that she had already given her word to me. She said that she valued the promises she made and that mutual trust was very important for her. I was touched by her gesture and gave her Rs. 700 towards a month’s rent and advance...She smiled again and said that I seemed a simple person with a scared look. She wanted me to see the flat first and tell her whether I wished some additional facilities. She promised to have the flat painted within two days and readily agreed for some minor improvements.

When I asked her about lease agreement, she said that my word was good enough for her and that she didn't need any. Flabbergasted I was hesitant to ask for a receipt for the amount paid by me. When I stood up to take leave of her, she thrust a hundred rupee note into my pocket saying that since I had mentioned about some family it was enough for me pay Rs.300 now and when I got a raise in salary I can pay her more. She said that she was particular about a good tenant and money was secondary to her. She found me to be a soft and good natured person and that she decided in my favour the previous day itself but wanted to make sure that I was keen on the flat.
How different she was from the picture painted by the other tenants who I subsequently learnt were paying a paltry rents for years but fighting frequently with her on some petty issues... She became very close to my wife and never failed to drop in for a few minutes daily bringing often rasagollas and sandesh for the children. A very pious and orthodox lady, she would not eat anything in our house. I heard that she neither went to her village nor talked to her husband for years as she could not forgive him for his liaison with a woman of another caste. When I was transferred after eight years, she was very unhappy and cried.
When we returned to Kolkata after three years, we went to pay our respects to her. Her son received us and said that his mom was no more. Soon after we left Kolkata, his papa had come from village wishing to patch up the differences with her. She would have nothing of it. Trust is one quality she valued most and could never reconcile to his betrayal. His dad went back heart broken and soon passed away. His mom though angry with him could not bear the loss. She too followed him in a few months. Till her last days, he said, she used to be talking frequently about us all.


  1. How good we feel when we have such relations in our life... Sometimes I feel that such relations are better than our blood relations.


  2. hey nice post..collect your award frm my blog.take care

  3. dear,
    "she used to be talking frequently about us all."...a great way of showing think and talk about the loved ones...nice
    with love joe

  4. it feels great to be at this place again.. and wow.. what a story to read.. rightly said sir, trust once broken, can be forgotton but never forgiven :)

  5. somehow made be feel like a real incident rather than a story!!
    me wants more stories!!

  6. Yes one must never judge a person with what other people talk about him or her. Its a blessing to meet good people in life and u sure were blessed:)

  7. Dear Partha,
    very nice story on precious bonds.often we come across strangers in life later who become the part n parcel of our daily lives.
    which landlord /lady will say no to u,partha?:)you are simply amazing with polite n loving value the relations n make a real difference in the lives you touch.:)kudos,friend.
    hey,big red bindi is beautiful,but pan in mouth?hey,no way to demand respect.
    you know partha,i love the way these bengali ladies wear the sarees with the bunch of keys at the pallu,making the tinkling sound.the saree sellers from Kolkatta used to come all the way here n i simply love those cotton sarees!
    about broken trust,i don't want to comment right now as i'm in real mood.:)
    wishing you a safe n happy journey.enjoy your stay in the capital n do write wonderful storeis at your comfort.
    always getting refreshed at your space...........

  8. Whoever said blood is thicker than water?? Nice story!!

  9. was this a story? It seemed very real,sometimes what perception we have of some ppl change instantly when we meet them in person, it has happened very recently to me.

  10. Nice story... It reminds me and the readers that everyone has a good side in her and it is up to us to get the best out of people. Also, that life is so uncertain...

  11. Wow.......Beautiful :) :) Attitude of Gratitude :)

  12. Was that a real incident? Something from your life?
    It did seem very real.
    Keep up the good work! :)