Death knocked on the door of the biggest house in the village. The Zamindar, a benevolent middle-aged man, passed away.
Hundreds of villagers gathered in the house to pay their last respects. They assisted the family in organising the last rites. It was a fitting tribute, for the Zamindar held a very special place in the hearts of people. He had used his wealth to help those in need and had spent his whole life trying to improve the general standard of living in the village. It was no wonder then that the loss of such a good man hung over the village like a dark, heavy cloud.
But no one in the entire village was as shattered by the Zamindar’s death as Sivagami, his wife. Sivagami and the Zamindar had fallen in love as teenagers. She had eloped with him when she was barely out of school. They had sold her jewellery to start a business which eventually brought them riches in the later years of their lives. The struggle they had gone through as a young couple had made them empathetic to the plight of the villagers. They had offered employment, loans and aids to those who needed them.
Decades had passed and their hair had greyed. Yet, Sivagami and the Zamindar had loved each other like a pair of teenagers. They had walked the streets hand in hand every morning, much to the admiration of the youth in the village. Theirs was a relationship everyone had envied and looked to emulate.
But now, with him gone, there was a hole in the centre of Sivagami’s universe.
Weeks passed. An eerie silence filled the empty house. Sivagami sat on the floor of her living room, her back against a pillar. Her heart felt so heavy with grief, she couldn’t move. Streams of tears dried on her cheeks. What am I supposed to do now, she wondered. Just then, she heard someone call her.
“Amma! Zamindar amma!”
Sivagami pulled herself up with great effort and walked slowly towards the door. A woman stood there with her son.
“Amma, my son is hoping to start college in the city next week. Zamindar ayya had promised us a small loan for his education…” the woman said.
Sivagami stood there, looking at the pair of them for a moment.
“Amma?” the woman said, now in a more hesitant voice. “I am sorry, we can come back later.”
“Wait!” Sivagami called, as the woman and her son turned to leave. “Come inside! Let me get the book and the cash you need.”
The Zamindar amma gathered her long hair and tied it into a bun. Taking a deep breath, she squared her shoulders and held the door open for them. She had work to do. A legacy to fulfil.