A year had passed since Nita rejected Hinduism for Christianity and announced she was going to attend the mission school to study nursing. Her family could not understand, nor would they accept it. Her karma chose Hinduism for her; to them this was blasphemy. She was told to gather her things and leave. She was now dead.
Daya’s heart broke at the news. Nita had been her best friend all their lives and now she was gone.
“Hello Daya.” Nita’s cheerful voice startled Daya causing her to nearly drop her market goods. Daya’s attention was drawn to Nita’s eyes, which sparkled in a way Daya had never seen before. Her throat constricted making speech difficult. This sudden appearance of Nita threw Daya’s emotions into a whirlwind. She longed to throw her arms around Nita’s neck in the sweet embrace of friendship, but she restrained herself. She knew she should turn and walk away; but something in Nita tugged at Daya, coaxing her to stay.
“THOMAR SHATAY KHOTHA BOHLBO-NA.” Daya tore her gaze away from Nita and cast her eyes to the ground.
“You are right not to talk to me. I am dead to my family and to yours. Please indulge me in one thing…” Slipping into Bengali she asked, “AMMAR AMMA AR AHBBU CAM-OHN AHSAY?” A gentleness flowing from Nita drew Daya’s gaze up once again. The light from her eyes pierced through Daya; a sweetness filling her heart, wooing her, loving her. She averted her gaze, reminding herself she must leave; but her heart told her that Nita was more alive than ever.
Rooted where she stood, Daya responded, “THOMAR OHU BHALO AHSAY.”
The two women fell into a polite conversation between strangers. Daya’s heart ached with every moment; torn between walking away or finding out how this woman could look so content although everyone she loves considered her dead.
“You sound as though you have found Moksha.” Daya blurted before thinking about her words.
Nita laughed, “Yes, I suppose you could say that.” Then in a whisper, “If you would like to find the true Moksha, I will help you.”
It sounded so tempting, but Daya feared going against Brahman. Her karma chose for her poverty, probably because of rebellion in her past life. She dared not risk a life of absolute hunger and starvation in her next life. “I will remain true to Brahman. Perhaps my next life will bring me closer to Moksha.”
“Daya, do you not know what your name means?” Nita frowned.
“I do; it means mercy, kindness and pity.” Daya clung to those promises in her name. They gave her the only hope she could grasp of being liberated from the rebirth.
“Do you know what mercy means?” Nita pressed, but she did not wait for an answer. “Mercy means to pardon, to render unto someone less than they deserve.
“What if the Christians are right?” Nita continued. “What if we can never earn our way to ultimate bliss...?”
“Stop, I will not listen!” Daya could take no more blasphemy. She turned away from her life-long friend clapping hands over her ears. “You must never speak to me of this blasphemy again!” She was shouting through tears of sadness. “MY FRIEND IS DEAD!”
“I’m sorry I upset you Daya…” Nita’s voice cracked, drawing Daya’s attention. She looked full into the face of her former friend. Her eyes had become pools of sorrow brimming over into Daya’s heart. “I will always be here for you, if ever you want to talk.” Nita promised. She reached up to wipe tears from her eyes as she turned and walked out of Daya’s life.
Months passed, and two questions persisted in Daya’s heart regardless of her attempts to put them out. “What if the Christians are right? What if mercy was the only way to Moksha?”
Brahman: the name of the Hindu god.
Moksha: Ultimate bliss, when the soul is liberated from the rebirth process ruled by karma. I believe the Hindu belief in Moksha (ultimate bliss) is pretty close to what Christians believe to be heaven.
THOMAR SHATAY KHOTHA BOHLBO-NA: I’m not going to talk to you.
AMMAR AMMA AR AHBBU CAM-OHN AHSAY: How are my parents?
THOMAR OHU BHALO AHSAY: Your parents are good.
Translations provided by Allison Egley’s roommate
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