Once in a Lifetime


When I read the short story “Once in a lifetime” by Jhumpa Lahiri, I became nostalgic. I lost myself in the past. I can reminisce about the time that had been elapsed 11 years ago, when I was eight years old and so were you, and when we both were missing our teeth. Once in a sunny day, your mother came to rent our house, and I was surprised seeing your mother driving a motorcycle. She liked our house and decided to come the following day. Next day, I first saw you in front of your mother on the motorcycle. Your mother worked in a NGO all day long. She was a very serious looking woman, and I never saw her to laugh. It seemed absurd to us that your mother never told us anything about your father. Once she just said to my mother that your father had lived in Saudi Arabia, and he would come after two years. My mother didn’t ask her anymore. I can reminisce, every month your mother delayed to pay house-rent. My lenient mother never said her anything, but I heard my father always argued, “Why doesn’t she search for a cheap house?” You know, my father was not an affluent man, and he had to maintain our family with that house-rent money. And I can also reminisce the day when you revealed the saddest truth to me. You came to our house to play with me. You showed me your toy-gun, and said, “I need it to kill that man,” I asked you “who?” and I became puzzled hearing your reply, I couldn’t believe my own ears when you replied calmly, “My father, he was a drunkard, and he used to beat my mother every night.” “What! Your father! Doesn’t he live in Saudi Arabia?” I cried out. You replied quietly, “No, my mother has divorced him.” Then you requested me not to tell the truth anyone. I promised you, and of course I kept my promise. I can reminisce that terrible day when you disappeared under water while we were taking bath in our pond. You were senseless when my elder sister pulled your body from water. Still I can hear your mother- mourning for his son and blaming to the sadistic God. That day nothing happened to you, you became cured by the next day, but your mother decided to leave our house. It was me- a little girl of eight requested your mother not to leave. “Please, don’t leave. I promise, I’ll take care of your son,” I tried to assure her for your safety, but she couldn’t rely on that little girl, and I couldn’t refrain her from going. The next month, your mother shifted to Khulna and I lost you- my best friend- forever.

Response to “Once in a Lifetime”

“Once in a Lifetime” written by Jhumpa Lihiri is a story about the relationship between Hema’s and Kaushik’s family. After Kaushik revealed the secret that his mother was facing the death because of her cancer, Hema felt both upset and scared. The part of the story reminds me of the unhappy day when I was with you before the day your cousin sister passed away. Although she was in the hospital in a big city, and you couldn’t know about the condition of her health, your presentiment told you that there was something bad in your mind, you poured out. You had been my classmate, but we hadn’t been best friends of each other’s, even we hadn’t been very intimate. However, since you had disclosed your secret to me, we had been closer and closer. On that night, you came to my home; we were on the swing talking about our homework. I knew you hadn’t been in a good mood to do anything, but you pretended to be fine. After saying continuously, your eyes started to return red, and your tears dropped. I was by your side embracing you in my arm and said nothing. I was not good at pacifying others, yet I could give you my shoulder with the hope that your sorrow was brought down. It was a windy night, and the moon was lighting. Seeing you crying, I couldn’t absolutely understand your feelings because I hadn’t passed through the pain that you were tolerating. I was just sad because you were being sorrowful; I cried because you were sobbing. Maybe I felt something called sympathy, but you mustn’t have known my secret. I twitted you with your desperation. I soothed you that there was nothing bad would happen, and you had to keep your hope. You continued to cry regardless of what I said. You saw me. Then both of us were in tears. The event changed my mind that sharing was also a good way to relieve one’s grief. There were many things I hadn’t talked to you because I was not a person who could disclose my feelings to others. I was sure that you agnized my characteristics, but you still trusted me by sharing yours. That made me very happy. You told me about the time when you had been with your sister. You described elaborately your experience as if it had just happened the previous day. You remembered all the words she said, the meals she cooked and the pieces of advice she gave you before she was sent to the hospital. I listened. Actually I didn’t know what to say; I thought you understood me. And we spent the time together like this.

suicide or death !

The story Once in a Life Time by Jhumpa Lahiri is very interesting and I liked the way the author has written it.  When the story was written in first person’s point of view it took more credit for my interest in reading it. In the end of the story, the cause of Kaushik’s death is not mentioned clearly. Of course, it is assumed that he got drowned in the water and he died (which is also possible and is likely to be that way) but there is no prove of it.  Lately, we were questioned in the class about the death of Kaushik – whether it was a suicide or accidental death? So this question makes it possible that his death can be either a suicide or death.

A few of us said that he must have committed suicide while others said it was an accidental death. Some of my friends in the class said that Kaushik committed suicide because he couldn’t live alone and he missed Hema. He could not bear to be alone anymore. Some added that since he had finally found Hema and losing her so soon might have caused him to commit the suicide. On the other hand, to Kaushik, his mother’s death should have been even worse than losing Hema but his mother’s death didn’t cause him a big deal. He and his father didn’t even cry like Kaushik’s grandparents did.  And on part of being alone and missing Hema, Kaushik was alone since his teenage and he didn’t speak much. He was most of the time on his own, doing things that he was interested in. For example, taking pictures and moving from one place to another. It is true that he missed Hema but I feel that the bond between them is not strong. It’s just that they have met after so long and that’s when they get into the situation where they felt that they are destined for each other. But actually, the feeling that they felt was something that one feels for the first time when they meet someone that they like to be with and knew one other before.

So his death might have been an accidental death rather than a suicide. It’s the flood that occurred and his lack of swimming ability that he probably had drowned to death.

My Response to “Once In a Lifetime”

While reading “Once in a Lifetime” by Jhumpa Lahiri, I reminisce many of my childhood incidents. Mostly it reminds me about some experiences I went through with my mother, as the way Hema went through with her mother. My mother always forced me to wear my cousin’s dresses as the way Hema’s mother forced her to wear Kaushik’s clothes. I was the youngest among all of my cousins, and that’s why I always had been offered their small clothes to wear. In spite of knowing that I do not like to wear those, my mother always forced me to wear them whenever I used to go outside. Therefore, this thing always had been a matter of argument between me and my mother. However, now I have grown up, and fortunately I do not have to wear my cousin’s dresses anymore. The other thing that reminds me about my childhood is the way Hema left her room for guests. When I was 13 years old, one of my aunties came to visit us from Sweden; therefore, I had been told by my parents to leave my room for my cousins. My room is always like a small world for me and I always like to spend most of my time in my room. Thus, the idea of changing my room ridiculed me. Nevertheless, I complied with my parents in order to show my obedience as the way Hema did. For me, the concept of changing room for a while was not any less than changing my house for a while. Those days were the most awkward days of my life, when I live in my own house like a stranger. Although I did not say anything, my mother understood my disturbance and never asked me to do that again. However, this thing doesn’t bother me much now. As i am living in AUW, i have to change my room every year; so i think that single change in my childhood  is really helping now me to get use to with all this. I am really thankful to my parents for making me capable of faceing and adapting any sudden change of life.