With the demise of my grandmother, my mother took charge of a difficult situation. There was worldwide recession in the thirties. At that time, my father had more liabilities than assets. His shop had been sold and my father had no work while his health was failing. The house was already mortgaged. The loan shark was threatening arrest for non payment which was perfectly legal those days.

My father was a wheat flour merchant. His wholesale flour shop in Lahore sold the flour he received from the water-powered flour mills he leased from the government. The surrounding villages brought and sold their wheat to my father or the villagers brought their produce to be turned into flour for their domestic consumption. The fees charged were in kind and they paid in wheat and not in cash. The old barter system still prevailed.

None of my brothers were earning then with the exception of the eldest, Tirlochan, who was working for an Insurance Company at Rs. 40 a month which was a pretty good sum those days. He had recently been married to a pretty if plump girl from a neighbouring street. Soon after marriage, she found it convenient to move out to a rental house, at rent of Rs. 3 a month and hired a servant at Rs. 3 a month. As she saw it, why should they feed an army of children of my mother while living in a house which was ready to be auctioned. “My share in the house will be a broken door”, she declared to the assembled neighbours gleefully listening to her story. My sister-in-law was a very bold and loud woman. She never believed in whispered tones.

My mother, who was considered to be a woman of great tact and wisdom, failed to change her mind. My newly married brother gave in to the ways of his wife. Till then our Mohalla, did not know or had forgotten that Mother was the step-mother of two eldest Seth sons. We had always presented such a united front if any of our neighbours slighted our family or challenged us.

My second brother, Roshan, was not married but mother had started looking for a girl for him. He was khadi-clad, hockey playing, healthy and handsome young man, had studied for his B.A. at Formen Christian College. He failed to get a degree as he was intensely involved in the Freedom Movement. He worked for some magazines and newspapers in fits and starts but did not bring much money home. Roshan’s unemployment or under employment was making it difficult to find a match from within the local fraternity. However, his national fervour, hard work and sincerity impressed the veteran Congressman Lala Jagat Narain. Lalaji offered to marry his niece to my brother. He told our family that she was a simple looking girl. My mother readily agreed as my brother seemed to have already accepted the offer directly made to him by the girl's uncle. No meeting of the boy and the girl was arranged. The marriage took place in Multan-three hundred miles from Lahore where girls' parents lived.

My new sister-in-law was the first 'educated' woman in the family. She had done her Matriculation. She also had the higher qualification of Hindi Bhushan which was the equivalent of B.A. in the Hindi language from Punjab University. She could also speak English! This non-Lahoria Chopra Hindu girl, brought a change to our family outlook and style. My brother and sister-in-law at times conversed in English while the rest of the family members wondered what they were talking about. They went out together for walks, walking side by side with each other which was unheard of then. To the shock of our neighbours, she did not cover her face when her father-in-law passed her by from the opposite direction one morning. Not intentionally, of course. She did not recognize her father-in-law as during the marriage she kept her face covered with a veil. However, in a Mohalla where women walked respectfully behind their husbands, covering their face while walking through the street to show 'respect' for the elders of the Mohalla, this was a blasphemous act and a serious matter. It was a scandal, which had to be discussed in hush-hush tones.

When face-to-face with the critics in the area, especially the ladies, my mother defended her daughter-in-law on the grounds of her high education and ignorance of the norms and customs of Lahorias. She assured everyone that her new daughter-in-law would soon understand the ground rules. The neighbouring old women were silenced temporarily. My mother showered all her affection and love on the newly wedded couple and they lived happily for a year or two. By this time, Roshan had acquired a regular job in a bank and needed more space. Other family members needed space too. My mother’s dilemma was how to keep everyone together in our small house.

My third brother, Sohan, was now 21, had started running the family business and was thus ready for a wife. Mother started planning the wedding of the third son, her first-born. He was a Matriculate and took over our father's business, successfully dealing in wheat or grain forward trading, known to us as the 'satta' where the price of wheat was set in transactions three to six months in advance of the actual delivery of wheat. In the meantime, if the price went up, you earned some profit by verbally selling your stock and if the price went down and sold, you incurred losses.

Sohan was young, educated, articulate and well informed on the prospect of crops and became known in the market for his expertise. And soon, a bride too came his way. One of the traders who came to his shop for business offered his daughter in marriage to him. They too were Khatri Abrols, although not Lahorias. They lived in Shahdara - a suburb of Lahore located across the river Ravi, My new sister-in-law was not highly educated – but educated enough to read Hindi newspapers and write letters to her husband. My brother had to learn Hindi to read her letters. He was educated in an Urdu medium missionary school!

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