I looked at them, clustered in the lawyer’s office for the reading of grandfather’s will. Father had insisted that I attend. ‘You are his only grandson. Maybe he left you something.’
‘Left me something? Yeah, right?’ I’d chuckled but attended.
I was the only grandson. My uncle had produced female progenies, a fact that grandfather often referred to in contemptuous tones.
He had been an autocratic patriarch. He wore stolidity like a visor that flanked him. Stingy with money and mean as a shrew, his iron fist had swallowed the desires of our family. He controlled the family business and consequently the purse strings. Nothing moved in the house unless he decreed it so.
At every turn of my life, I had felt him dictate the terms.
‘I want to go to boarding school,’ I had said on my eleventh birthday when asked what I wanted for a gift. My best friend had been admitted to one and I was keen to escape the strict home atmosphere.
An ill masked scowl had been grandfather’s answer. How could the only male progeny be sent far away? Courtesy him, I was not allowed.
‘I want a bicycle with gears,’ I had hankered, a year later. All my friends had one; even the ones from middle class homes.
‘Kanjoos*!’ they often teased me, ‘Aren’t you from a big-shot business family? Can’t afford even a cycle or what?’
Their barbs smarted. Their snickers hurt.
Thankfully, this once father interceded. But grandfather…well, suffice to say, I did not get a bicycle. Scions of business families rode in chauffer driven cars and not bicycles.
Over the years many such wishes were shot down.
I hated my life that was shackled to grandfather’s approval. My uncle and father did too. Grandfather was a tyrant and treated his sons with derision. The facade of a happy joint family that we exhibited hid the ugly reality that our lives were controlled…by grandfather. Everyone wanted to break free. But they could not, not with grandfather controlling the finances. So, all suffered in silence, dreaming of the day when post his demise they would inherit his substantial estate.
‘I can’t live like this anymore,’ I heard father grumble one night to his brother over drinks.
Uncle agreed. ‘This is no life. We have no freedom and no money. People laugh at us…grown men grovelling to their father.’
‘It’s in our best interest if he dies,’ father spat out. ‘Only then will we get his money.’
Soon after, rather mysteriously, grandfather succumbed to a suspected heart attack.
The family heaved a sigh of relief. They threw open the shutters of their confinement and breathed in liberty.
The laminated veneer of stoicism that had camouflaged their avarice cracked when the lawyer said, ‘The entire estate is bequeathed to the only grandson.’
My uncle and father gaped, too shocked for words.
After all, I was only looking after my best interests, was I not?
Kanjoos – Miser
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