Shortly before he was born, there had been another quarrel between Mr Biswas’ mother Bipti and his father Raghu, and Bipti had taken her three children and walked all the way in the hot sun to the village where her mother Bissoondaye lived. There, Bipti had cried and told the old story of Raghu’s miserliness: how he kept a check on every cent he gave her, counted everybiscuitinthetin,andhow he would walk 10 miles rather than pay a cart a penny.
Bipti’s father, futile with asthma, propped himself up on his string bed and said, as he always did on unhappy occasions, ‘Fate. There is nothing we can do about it.’ No one paid him any attention. Fate had brought him from India to the sugar estate, aged him quickly and left him to die in a crumbling mud hut in the swamplands; yet, he spoke of Fate…as though, merely by surviving, he had been particularly favoured.
While the old man talked on, Bissoondaye sent for the midwife, made a meal for Bipti’s children and prepared beds for them. When the midwife came, the children were asleep. Some time later, they were awakened by the screams of Mr Biswas and the shrieks of the midwife. ‘What is it?’ the old man asked. ‘Boy or girl?’
‘Boy, boy,’ the midwife cried. ‘But what sort of boy? Six-fingered, and born in the wrong way.’ The old man groaned and Bissoondaye said, ‘I knew it. There is no luck for me.’ At once, though it was night and the way was lonely, she left and walked to the next village, where there was a hedge of cactus.…
From “A House for Mr Biswas”