Shishir and I drove down to Ranipur on a cloudy afternoon through the wetlands of Purulia. We were there to discuss the fate of the Ranipur mansion, which belonged to Probir uncle and his brother, who was no more. They were the zamindars (landlords) of Purulia and the mansion in question was converted by Aniket into a highly successful boutique hotel. Shishir and Aniket, the nephews of Probir uncle and his son Anik, were heirs to all the properties of the two brothers. Aniket had come back from Austria after the demise of his father and had taken up the refurbishment work of this mansion with the blessings of his uncle. As planned, he then turned it into a boutique hotel.
We cousins had spent much of our childhood in the summer vacations in this mansion. Rani mansion was an opulent place, full of gardens, flowers, small animals, birds and of course a battery of people who maintained the infrastructure. It was a getaway place for me as there was nobody to rein me in and I did whatever I wanted to do in those three weeks, when time was no deterrent. Probir uncle, Anik’s father, used to be around at the time, and I spent substantial hours hovering around him and listening to his interesting cruise experiences.
The boutique hotel was doing extremely well. In fact, it was the ‘in’ place for the rich and the famous. Shortly after the business picked up, Anik staked his claim of 50% share in the property. His lawyers had informed Aniket and his elder brother Shishir.
Since Probir uncle did not oppose this entire claim, and called all of us to Ranipur, it was presumed that this meeting would dictate the final outcome of the property division. Shishir and Aniket were very clear that they would not even stake their claim. Whatever Probir uncle wanted would be done, including writing away their share of the mansion to Anik. But in all probability steps would be taken to divide the property.
After lunch, we were in the sit out overlooking the side lawns, as usual, which led up to a small river. As dusk fell, the place was quiet with a slight chill coming up and no one had spoken a word yet. Probir uncle called out for his Solicitor. My heart sank when I saw that his Solicitor was the one dealing with Shishir and Aniket.
As the tea was served, Solicitor Mukherji informed us, a trifle diffidently, that his client, Probir Banerji, had decided to transfer his share of the Ranipur mansion to Aniket and Shishir. And he would give his sprawling bungalow on the banks of the river Ganges to his son Anik. His client retained his right to stay on both the properties, whenever he wished. A few rooms of his choice would be reserved and maintained for him, on both the properties. He could also invite guests, as and when he wished. After his demise, any of six nephews and nieces could visit the properties and use his rooms without any hindrance.
This was totally unexpected! I burst into tears and hugged Probir uncle, as Shishir, Anik and Aniket looked on. Probir uncle smiled, hugged me back, then got up, wrapped his shawl around him casually, nodded to all of us and briskly walked away. All done in a matter of minutes.
The entire evening was spent on the paper work. Solicitor Mukherji and the three inheritors were burning the midnight oil. I went up to Solicitor Mukherji to find out about what Anik had thought of the decision. Anik had no choice he said. It was this or nothing. But it was a very fair deal he opined. I agreed. The recently acquired bungalow, right on the banks of the river Ganges, was sprawling and plush.
As we drove back, I mulled over the equanimity with which Probir uncle had given away the mansion and the bungalow. The mansion was so cherished by the two brothers.
I remembered what my father, Shishir and Aniket’s father and Probir uncle had always said. Life throws challenges at us. If we accept them head on, objectively, without fear, we find solutions. It will never be to everyone’s liking, including ours, but that is the natural course of justice. It is good for all in the long run. It brings long lasting peace and happiness. That day Probir uncle made me realise the potency of such a thought process. Because life has no rewind.