“The two little hands were trying to set the arrow in the bow and shoot. … Ha, it worked finally! The hands held the bow tight, pulled the arrow … farther and farther back … and let it go. The hands prevailed beautifully!”
Ganga, a young working class woman lay down on a heap of rocks. The rocks were pricking her like needles. The tiny baby curled up in her belly kicked her inside and jolted her out of it. She rolled over and lay on her back with some effort. The sunbeams hit her eyes straight through a bunch of agni flowers like burning charcoal. She covered her eyes quickly with her fore-arm. Then, she felt something else; she peaked through the crook of her arm towards the railway station gate. Porter Ganni was standing on the other side of the fence beyond the gate, smoking a beedi, and watching her with ravenous eyes, wanting to devour her.
“Cchup, rogue,” she turned away in disgust. His gaze was not new to her. “The s.o.b. has nothing else to think but that one thing,” she mumbled to herself. Ganni had tried to work on her a couple of times, got plenty of cursing from her, and settled down to be content with just watching her.
Ganga did not have even a cup of tea since daybreak. That could be the reason, the baby inside her was writhing restlessly. She slid her hand through the folds of her saree and tried to feel the baby, tried to reach the tiny foot that had kicked her inside impishly. She played with the dodging foot for a while, got tired of it and let go.
Hunger was jabbing in her belly like a wad of sharp flames. She lay down, too weak even to get up. Quick on the heels of her hunger, remorse followed and started to chew her up bit by bit. It was about the brawl she had picked up with Bodemma. Bodemma was her co-wife. Ganga married Rajayya, unaware of his previous marrital With Bodemma. That’s a different story.
Ganga regretted getting into a brawl with Bodemma. If Ganga had held back, maybe Bodemma would bawl and bawl, would have got exhausted and shut up her mouth with her two hands. What good comes out of fighting anyways?
Ganga stretched out her arm, and reached the glass plate, that was so carefully packed in a wornout saree, and tucked away in a bundle of clothes, on which her head rested. The glass plate would have been crushed into pieces as Bodemma hurled it at her. Luckily, Ganga caught it in time. Yet, a small piece on the brim had chipped. Ganga’s heart flustered.
Ganga pulled herself up feebly, and sat down leaning on the tree trunk. Her entire body felt like a raw sore. She stretched her hands forward and stared at them. The blood, caused by Bodemma’s scratching, dried up and formed into streaks. Eearlier that day, Bodemma had seized Ganga’s bushy hair, twisted it around her fist, pulled her down, and whacked her with the other fist. Ganga was nearly dead for all that beating. What a woman, she told herself, referring to Bodemma, keeps groaning like she is sick forever; wherever she’s gotten that kind of force in her hands? Ganga knew only too well the reason Bodemma had created this scene. Bodemma and the others in the area were being moved by the local municipality to another place, and she did not want Ganga to go with her.
Ganga sat there reminiscing the events of that morning, which had led to the brawl. She had been asleep at the time, when she heard Bodemma’s screams. Bodemma woke up the children lying by her side, and kept ranting like hell let loose. Ganga sat up with a jerk amidst the screams and the children crying. The horizon on the east was not lit up yet.
A month back, Rajayya had died of diarrhea. After that, Ganga had taken over the family responsibilities and become the man of the house. She had started going to the local stores and other places and earning five or six rupees a day, carrying bags and baskets. She was also taking the children with her and putting them to work. With the money thus earned, she had been buying rice grits and making broth for the family. Bodemma stayed home, curled up in her cot; she would not move a twig from one side to the other.Ask why, she’d say she was not feeling well. Well, you’ve no problem gulping down three bows of rice a day, Ganga would growl.
At first, Ganga could not figure out what was all that about for some time. She noticed that some of the dwellers were pulling down the palm leaves and gunny sheets which surved as roofs for the huts, and bundling them up in a hurry. A few others were packing pots and pans in gunny bags.
“Hey, stupid… can’t you see? Lyin’ there like a lady! Come on, up, up. Pack all yar rags ‘n things. First thing in the mornign the municipality lords will be here. They’ll throw us out; we can’t have even these rags,” Bodemma shouted from inside the hut, still lying down.
Ganga stood up with a start. She felt a pull in her left side. She was feeling worn out since she did not have enough sleep the night before. On top of it, Bodemma’s screams, burning holes in her ears.
“Ya’re lyin’ in the doorway, your legs stritch’d out. What can I do? First you git up and come out” Ganga shouted back.
The people in the huts were packing up their pots and pans, and running around in a hurry. Blind man Surayya was fumbling with the sticks; tried to burn out all the sticks but without success. A few children seized the half-burned sticks and started playing with them. Lights from the station on one side and the Kalakendram yard on the other made the area bright; it looked almost like daytime. People were getting off the train and walking away slovenly.
On the previous day, the municipality men had come and noted down the names of all the people living by Sarangadhara area. They had told them (dwellers) that the municipality had assigned lots by the quarry to them to put up their own huts; the entitlements would be handed to them the following day.
For a few months now, the municipality officials had been anxious to revamp the town for the pushakaraalu festivities. They had been mending the filthy localities, temporarily, one at a time, which looked like revolting gashes on the town’s body. And then, they decided to rip off the “inhabited huts, which were like abscesses” (the wording came from the newspaper reporters, not from the author) of the poor. From their past experience with the poor, the municipal authorities were fully aware that the folks thus uprooted from their huts would turn up at another location like blisters. Therefore, they (the municipality), allotted tactically four square feet of land per person, far away from town and in the middle of rocky hills. None of the dwellers raised the question, “A man needs six feet of land when he is dead; how can we, with our women and children, live on a strip only four feet long?” They would not ask such questions, since they would not really be living in the huts; the huts would be there for namesake only. They all – men, women, and children – would be out somewhere working. The old, the sick, and the kids under five would be seated at a railway station, or in front of a temple or on a mosque yard with empty tins. At night, on their way back, they all would buy a morsel of food with their day’s earnings, eat and return to their huts. The stoves in those huts would not be lit, unless somebody felt like eating fish soup or something.
Unmarried young men usually sleep on the railway platform. For the married couples, however, the huts were the only panacea. A word about the huts – the huts were so small that if one had stuck one’s head in, the legs were pushed out; and if the legs were in, the head popped out. Yet, the couples somehow were carrying on their conjugal pleasures openly under some dirty sheet, knowing full well that their movements were conspicuous to the people outside.
That had been their life in those hutments. Now, they all were to a new place and they were excited about it. They spent all night telling each other stories about the government’s generosity, about the deeds each of them would be receiving. However, a few old men, especially those who were worried about the distance they would be walking, tried to show the light of day to the younger folks. They said, “Are you crazy? What’s wrong with ya kids? Are we their cousins or heirs or what? Why do ya think they’d giv’us the lan’ freely? Not only that. Pushkaraalu is aroun’ the corn’r, what’s the point of goin’ so far away now? Isn’t that the time we see a litt’l change? Ya idiots, are ya gonna take the land with ya when ya’r gone. What’d we need the lots for? All we need is a bite to eat, not the houses and land, right? We’re ‘ere today; god only knows where we’ll be ‘morrow. That’s why, you idiots, don’t throw away that’s in yar hand, thinkin’ o’ the honey those folks holdin’ out on their elbow. Here’s what we do. If they tell us to move, we go to the other side o’ the station; and ag’n they tell’s to move from there, we come back ‘ere, that’s all.”
Esobu, a young janitor, was standing next to the wall and smoking a beedi. He spit out the beedi butt and commented, “You’re all stupid, if ya ask me. Ya thinkin’ this’s all to jazz up our town? This’s all puskaraalu bash. I heard som’un talkin’; he says the municipal fellows goin’ to dazzle yar eyes. That’s all. You won’t have even rags or jute bags afte’ that. Listen to me. Ya go away nicely now, I’m tellin’ ye. After the gala’s gone, ya gonna cum back ‘ere anyways. And those folks are gonna pretend they’d not seen nothing.”
The crowd appreciated his advice. Maalacchi was a woman who used to winnow dirt at the swamps. She approached Esobu and begged him, “Hey, Esobu, my boy, me and me boys’ll be ‘ere the mornin’ after puskaraalu. Please, keep an eye on my piece. I’ll pay yor debt as yer child in my next life.” She pulled out a scrunched and dirty one-rupee bill from her saree folds at the waist, and stuffed it in his palm. Esobu acted high and mighty for a while, and then, agreed to her proposal graciously after squeezing out one more rupee and some change from her.
On the morning they were supposed to move out, Bodemma slithered out of the hut, feet first. Her four children were still sleeping. She whacked them and woke them up. Ganga went in through the same hole Bodemma came out. She spread an old saree and started to pack the few pots and pans she could call her own. In the meantime, Bodemma pulled off the jute sheets, which served as roof for the hut, and told the children to pull out carefully the bamboo surround which served as walls for the hut. The children started to pull out the bamboo surround. That’s when the trouble started.
The glass plate that was set against it fell on the floor as soon as the children pulled the surround. Ganga jumped on her feet and caught hold of it in time. Nevertheless, a tiny bit on the rim chipped away. That glass plate was the heart and soul of Ganga.That was the only item she had gotten from her natal home, and she had been safeguarding it like the apple of her eye. When she saw the crack on the plate’s rim, she felt a stab in her heart. She could not contain herself. She seized the boy, who caused it to fall, and whacked him.
Bodemma saw that; and it made her blood boil. She took on the Kali avatar and shouted, “You, b… , whatever’s gott’n into ya? How could ya beat’m up like that?”
“Beat’m? I wanna kill the rogue. See what’s he done to my glass plate…”
Bodemma cut in even before Ganga had finished the sentence. “Ha, … glass pate my foot … got from mom’s, wah … what a big gift, ha! mind ya, … I’ll throw it on groun’ ‘n break it into one hunr’d piec’s. Watch out.” Then she threw the plate at Ganga.
“Yeah, lemme see, not a hundr’d, make two pieces, and yar head’ll crack into two too,” Ganga picked up a stick which was lying on the ground.
Bodemma saw the stick in Ganga’s hand and started screaming, sending echoes through the street, “Oh, my, oh my, this bitch … this impish wom’n … got my man, gutted my home …mauled my man … and now she wanna kill me. Oh, my … oh, my …” she went on rattling, beating her own forehead and remembering her dead husband. Ganga, stunned by this act, dropped the stick.
She dropped the stick all right but could not control her rising rancor. “Go away, you sickly bag o’ bones. He took me in ’cause you’re a a wast’d dummy,” she retorted; glad that she had hit Bodemma in the right spot with great precision. But her glee did not last long. Bodemma jumped at her like a wounded lion and caught hold of Ganga’s hair. She twisted it around her fist, pulled her down, and clobbered on her back a few times. All that time, Ganga was thinking of only one thing – that of protecting the baby inside her from getting hurt. Finally, the brawl came to an end. Bodemma was tired of beating and Ganga was tired of taking the beatings. Ganga wished that that incident had not happened. But what’s the point of worrying about it now?
By six in the morning, everybody was ready to leave with their bags. Ganga managed somehow to get up, wrap the glass plate carefully in rags and was set to leave. Within a few minutes there was nothing along the walls of Kalakendram except the signs of uprooted huts.
By seven, the municipality people arrived and told them where to go. As they called out their names. They called Bodemma’s name but not Ganga’s. Four days ago, when the municipality people had come to take the names down, Ganga had not given her name, assuming that she belonged wherever Bodemma and her kids went. She had taken things in stride. In her mind, such things had happened on several occasions; Bodemma has been lazy all her life; who would feed her if not me ?
The dwellers gathered outside and and waiting for the municipal folks.
A boy came with his tea can selling tea. The dwellers filled their stomachs with tea. Ganga wanted to have tea. She groped at her waist for the half-rupee coin she had tucked in earlier but could not find it. Hum, probably it was lost during her fight with Bodemma earlier. But the hope would not die so quickly; Ganga searched for the coin once again. No, it was nowhere to be found. She looked around, hoping somebody would say, “Here, have some tea.” Nobody said that. The tea vendor did not offer to give her tea on credit. “Ya’re goin’ away from ‘ere, ya know,” he argued. With that, Bodemma jumped into a fray again. “Where’s she gonna go, the bitch ‘sn’t invited like a spec’l gu’st she’s, nobody says to’er here’s your piece o’ land. I’m the rightful wife and so the governm’nt given me and my childr’n the land. He’s no fool to give away land to the likes o’ her.”
Ganga was ticked off. “Go away, I’m na gonna die, if I don’t have no tea. Go away,” she yelled at the tea-vendor, turning away to the other side. She sat there smugly until all the others were gone, leaving her alone behind. She watched them all go util they had disappeared round the corner. She was hoping that at least the youngest child, whom she had been rising as her own, would say, “You come too, Chinnamma.” That did not happen. Tears sprang to her eyes, gushing forth like river Godavari. Out of nowhere, clouds gathered densely in the sky. Water drops started falling slowly.
Ganga returned to the present and looked up. Probably some train pulled into the Godavari station, people were bustling around. She pulled herself up with some effort, picked up her baggage, and wondered for a second whether she should go to the railway station or Kalakendram premises. From where she was standing, the latter appeared to be closer. Not only that. If she went to the station, she would have to face the annoyance of Ganni too. She went around the Kalakendram building, and went up the stairs; she was tired.
She sat down, leaning on to a pillar. She remembered the first time she had come to this town, Rajahmundry, and the times she had had with Rajayya. He, Rajayya, had come to her village as a blacksmith – repairing holes in used aluminium pans. He was forty at the time. He stayed at Ganga’s place for a month. All around her village, it was just woods and hills. Most of the people there earned their living by crushing rocks to make grits. They had no other pastime except breaking stones and eating broth.
Ganga was sixteen at the time. That was the only life she had known ever since she had come of age. Her father and Rajayya used to sit around at night chugging pots of brew, while Rajayya recanted the Rajamundry stories. Ganga listened to those stories, completely mesmerized. The temples and structures by the river Godavari, the bridge over the river, and the unfinished pillars on the third bridge, movie theaters, coffee hotels — every bit of Rajahmundry was a piece of heaven for Ganga. By the end of the month, the friendship between Rajayya and Ganga’s father escalated way past the liquor pots. Rajayya proposed to Ganga, if that was okay with her father. Her father accepted it at once. Ganga’s mother called Ganga to a side and chided her, “Haven’t you noticed the difference in age between you and him? He is of your dad’s age. How can you marry him and be happy? you stupid. Tell him that you won’t marry him.”
Ganga did not listen to her mother. She was happy to get out of that life of rocks. If she were to let go of this chance, the parents would marry her to some fellow crushing rocks, and she would never get a chance again to see another part of the world; her life would have ended up right there amidst those rocks.
Ganga let Rajayya tie the tali around her neck and went away with him to Rajahmundry. Rajayya had not asked for dowry. On top of it, he even bought a saree for his mother-in-law and a dhoti for his father-in-law, and thus turned out to be a god for the old couple. That night he threw a liquor party for all folks in the neighborhood and then he became god for them too. Ganga’s parents were not in a position even to buy a simple saree for her.
The only thing Ganga had brought with her to Rajahmundry was the glass plate, which she had bought in her childhood days, and which had beautiful designs of ducks and vines painted on it. She had bought it with the money she had earned by crushing rocks. The first time she boarded the train, Rajayya looked like the hero in the movies he had narrated to her.
Ganga returned to the present and looked at the sky. On that fateful day also there were showers just like today. She had gotten off at the Godavari station, alighted on thin air and into another world.
It did not take long before she had fallen flat on her face. When Ganga walked in behind Rajayyaa, Bodemma was washing dishes in the front yard. As soon as she saw Rajayya, she bombarded him with a volley of cursing, “Who’s that gal behin’ ya? She’s wearin’ a new thali in her neck. Oh my god, oh holy mothe’, … he’s slit my throat, oh holy mothe’. … The sissy idiot’s got a whore, oh my, oh my.” She went on ranting as if she was hit by a tornado. And then, she turned to Ganga, “He has no shame, what about ya? Say, he’s a crackpot; whative’ happin’d to yar brain?” She shoved her fist in Ganga’s face. For the first time, Ganga had understood that Rajayya had been married and had had children too; and that Rajayya had not been a hero but a kitten in Bodemma’s presence.
Ganga understood there was no question of going back now. She stood there, totally confused for a while, and then, she came to a decision. She tucked her saree frills at the waist, and grabbed the dirty dishes from Bodemma to wash. In a few minutes, she cleaned up the entire hut and put designs, and made it look spic and span. In the evening, she washed the three older kids at the tap by the station, mended their pants and put them on. She heated up water using dried palm leaves and gave the baby a warm bath, wrapped him up in clean clothes, and put him to bed. After she was finished cooking, she massaged Bodemma’s legs, who had been angry and lying in bed ever since Ganga set foot in her house.
In spite of all her efforts to win Bodemma’s goodwill, Bodemma was not pacified for over a week. After that, Bodemma took the queen’s position and Ganga that of a maid.
Rajayya had not the guts to lift his eyelids in front of Bodemma, let alone open his mouth. He would not even touch Ganga, if Bodemma were around; the only time he would was when Bodemma had gone to a movie or something, and that did not happen very often. Once or twice, he had asked Bodemma to send Ganga with him when he went to the neighborhood villages for repairing pots; she could cook for him, he said. Bodemma shot up like a storm. After that, he never raised the question again.
As for Ganga, that little hut surround made her heavens and the Godavari waters the heavenly nectar. She got used to finishing the chores and going to a movie with the money she had earned on the day. Chiranjivi, the top-ranking movie star, was his prince charming. She also got used to watch the dances and other cultural events at the Kalakendram, standing on a tin-box and peeking from behind the compound wall. She would not move from there until Bodemma saw her and gave her an earful. Ganga never understood the phrase “life’s hardships.” Her eyes noticed only the colors in the world.
Eventually she became pregnant, a piece of news that nobody cared about. Strangely, Ganga recalled her mother for the first time. She thought it was time she must be with her mother,and told Rajayya so. He rejoined, “Are you crazy? Any idea how much money you’d need to travel that far?”, and added, “What’s there in that jungle for you? You stay here. I’ll get a lady doctor to deliver your baby.” Ganga understood soon enough that that was not going to happen, Rajayya could not keep his word.
Rajayya had never been a man she could count on. Whatever little he had earned, he would spend it on liquor. It became Ganga’s job to support the entire family. She trained the kids also to work, which brought additional cash. Ganga was in her third trimester when Rajayya died. Even then, she was not frightened. It was enough if there were people around her; she could take care of herself, her own muscle was her strenth. At the time of her husband’s death, she was the one to comfort Bodemma and her children. She went around and brought rice grits and fed Bodemma and the kids.
She had always been that kind of woman. Now for the first time she felt lonely and crushed under the pressure. For all the four years she had been living here, the place felt strange now; felt like she did not know even a single person in this town.
The rain gradually became big. The laborers who were building a Venkateswara temple across from Kalakendram, rushed to take shelter on the Kalakendram porch. It went on raining until evening.
Ganga saw them and saw a ray of hope. She went to the contractor and asked him if she could work for him.
The contractor threw skeptical looks at her, head to toe, and said, “This’s not the kind of work you can do. Go away, just go.” And then he added, “Anyways, This rain is not going to stop anytime soon. I heard it on the radio this morning.”
The workers on the Kalakshetram porch left, soaking wet in the rain. Ganga felt lonely again. The same thing had happened on the previous day at the market. They said she was not fit to carry heavy stuff, and that she was walking fast enough. The contractor said, eyeballing her stomach, “Why kill us like this? Why don’t you come back after unloading that burden?”
Ganga looked at her own stomach tenderly and thought, “That no-good rogue may rattle anyway he pleased. How can this be a burd’n for me? This’s my baby, my blood. He’s my life ‘n soul. … I’m gonnafeed’m off of my glass plate when he’s ol’ enough to eat. He’s not gonna eat from an aluminum plate like all those kids.”
She looked around. The sky was overcast densely; it was hard to tell the time but felt like the sun was down. The baby inside tired of wiggling and stopped. Ganga felt tight at her waist. Hunger was pulling her down; she was feeling feeble, was about to faint. The pangs of baby’s hunger were wrenching her more than the pangs of her own hunger. She desperately wanted to feed the baby a little warm broth and revive him. She shook as she remembered the words, a neighbor had told her. The woman said, “If the baby inside stops moving, it means trouble.” Ganga wondered if somebody would offer her a bite to eat, if she had begged. But there was not a house in sight anywhere in the vicinity.
All the rooms at the Apsara Lodge were sluggish, but were lit up as the night approached. Ganga smelled a fine aroma from a hotel nearby, and her mouth watered. She knew the watchman would not let her stay there on the Kalakshetram porch once the night had set in. In that pouring rain, she held her bundle of clothes tightly to her chest, and walked down the steps. Usually, she would see push-carts in front of Kalakendram, but they were all gone now.
She stood there by the gate, drenched, and nowhere to go. She thought of begging for a bite at the old police quarters. She took a few steps toward the agni tree and stopped; she was too weak to move her feet.
The streets were deserted, not a sign of people anywhere. Nobody would believe if you say people had been living in the area until the day before. The entire place looked more like a place after an cattle show had ended. It was hopelessly grubby, strewn with leftover rags, pieces of broken pots, and shit. The blind man’s clay stove was partly submerged in water, and looked like a yogi in meditation.
Ganga changed her mind and turned toward the station. As she took each step, she felt a pull in the right side of her stomach. She knew that was hunger pains; she was quite used to starve but it was getting unbearable now. The fact that the baby was not moving had been crushing her heart. She stepped into the newly renovated station; her eyes wandered around, looking for Ganni. She dragged her feet from one end of the platform to the other but did not find him. Maybe he was on the other platform, she thought but she had no strength left in her to go up the bridge.
The place suddenly became noisy, some train was pulling in. Ganga kept wandering around amidst the crowd like a crazy woman. In between, she was stopping under the shade of a tree and trying to feel the baby inside her. No, there was no movement. Her maternal instinct bk was in a turmoil. Her heart was longing for the baby, who had not yet been delivered, whose form she had not yet known. She had reached a point where she was prepared to do anything to save the baby.
She tried to extend her hand once or twice in front of a couple of travelers but pulled it back quickly. she had never done that before and could not bring herself to do it now. Nobody paid attention to Ganga; they all were in a hurry to catch the train.
Ganga asked a couple porters if they had seen Ganni anywhere. They said they had not seen him since that evening. But the idiot from Annoram winked and whispered with a crooked laugh, “How’s goin’?” Ganga stood there disoriented; tears filled her eyes and then she collapsed on the floor in shade. The rain was tapering off. It should be close to nine or ten, she thought.
The train slid down the old bridge like a caterpillar and came to a stop, screeching. Ganni got off the train carrying two suitcases on his head. Gange saw him and knew that he went home, ate and came back to the station. She envisioned the cooked rice gleaming like white jasmine flowers he must have had. Pangs of hunger doubled in her stomach.
After the train had left, Ganni walked up to Ganga, sitting next to a pillar in the dark. He said, squinting, “Been lookin’ fo’me; what’s up?” He was standing under a lamppost; his eyes were filled with red streaks, and glimmering like cheetah’s, obviously he was high.
“Talk, come on, what’s up,” he yelled again, annoyed. The desdaining looks she had given him that morning were still fresh in his mind.
Ganga struggled to sound polite as she said pitiably, “Nothin’ much; just’unger, … I’m hungry. I’m thinkin’ maybe you’ll buy me a bun ‘n tea.”
Ganni understood her condition. He knew only too well what hunger would feel like.
“Okay, supp’se, I’ll buy ya tea. What’s in there fo’ me?” he asked sourly.
Ganga was quiet for a minute. And then she said, “What’er ya wanna take.” She choked as she spoke.
“Okay then, come with me,” Ganni said, rejoicing at the prospect.
Ganga stood up and followed him. She saw him walking into the dark hole. it was an underground pathway under construction.
Ganga stopped. “Wait. Not yet. I need to eat first.”
Ganni turned around and spit out the beedi, which was hanging from his mouth. “No way. My hunger first, then only yours.” He ogled at her, your choice.
Ganga felt the doggedness in his tone. Helplessly, she moved forward.
Ganni waded through the knee-deep, murky waters and, with all the vengeance he had been nursing for the past four years, jumped on her like a tiger.
Ganga crushed under his weight, fell on her back like a tree trunk chopped at the roots. She heard a crack next to her spine on her back.
The glass plate, which she had been saving so carefully was broken into a thousand pieces.
Translated by Nidadavolu Malathi and published on thulika.net, January 2006.
[The Telugu original, gaaju paLLem, was first published in Andhrajyoti, February 28, 1992.]
 A holy occasion. Gods and holy men are supposed to take dip at the time a zodiac sign moves from one house to another, and the river waters receive their blessings. It happens once in twelve years and thousands of people gather at the specific river to take a holy dip during that time.
 A proverb in Telugu cacci nee kaDupuna puDataanu, meaning ‘I will be born to you in my next life’, refers to the Hindu belief in rebirth, based on what one owed to another, and as a result of the other person’s good deeds.