The Suicide—Relations between Parents and Children in India.
The day before we left Datiya our cook had a violent dispute with his mother, a thing of almost daily occurrence; for though a very fat and handsome old lady, she was a very violent one. He was a quiet man, but, unable to bear any longer the abuse she was heaping upon him, he first took up a pitcher of water and flung it at her head. It missed her, and he then snatched up a stick, and, for the first time in his life, struck her. He was her only son. She quietly took up all her things, and, walking off towards a temple, said she would leave him for ever; and he, having passed the Rubicon, declared that he was resolved no longer to submit to the parental tyranny which she had hitherto exercised over him. My water carrier, however, prevailed upon her with much difficulty to return, and take up her quarters with him and his wife and five children in a small tent we had given them. Maddened at the thought of a blow from her son, the old lady about sunset swallowed a large quantity of opium; and before the circumstance was discovered, it was too late to apply a remedy. We were told of it about eight o’clock at night, and found her lying in her son’s arms—tried every remedy at hand, but without success, and about midnight she died. She loved her son, and he respected her; and yet not a day passed without their having some desperate quarrel, generally about the orphan daughter of her brother, who lived with them, and was to be married, as soon as the cook could save out of his pay enough money to defray the expenses of the ceremonies. The old woman was always reproaching him for not saving money fast enough. This little cousin had now stolen some of the cook’s tobacco for his young assistant; and the old lady thought it right to admonish her. The cook likewise thought it right to add his admonitions to those of his mother; but the old lady would have her niece abused by nobody but herself, and she flew into a violent passion at his presuming to interfere. This led to the son’s outrage, and the mother’s suicide. The son is a mild, good-tempered young man, who bears an excellent character among his equals, and is a very good servant. Had he been less mild it had perhaps been better; for his mother would by degrees have given up that despotic sway over her child, which in infancy is necessary, in youth useful, but in manhood becomes intolerable. ’God defend us from the anger of the mild in spirit’, said an excellent judge of human nature, Muhammad, the founder of this cook’s religion; and certainly the mildest tempers are those which become the most ungovernable when roused beyond a certain degree; and the proud spirit of the old woman could not brook the outrage which her son, so roused, had been guilty of. From the time that she was discovered to have taken poison till she breathed her last she lay in the arms of the poor man, who besought her to live, that her only son might atone for his crime, and not be a parricide.