‘The Tribute’ is a short story widely popular in the Indian schools. Ironically, the author of this great story is anonymous.
The relevance of this story never chugs out of time; it is a fit story for all times, as it shuttles between the strong themes, like redemption and sacrifice. Babuli, the protagonist of the story, often remembers his schooldays and the contribution of his elder brother in shaping his life. Subsequently, he is settled in a city and living a happy married life.
However, a sense of contrition never leaves him because he has not written a letter to his mother and the elder brother, who live in the village, for almost two years. He is settled in a city, have a job and a wife, i.e. life. Probably, for this reason, he feels not so much concerned about his family that lives in the village in not so good status.
One day, he receives a letter from his elder brother. The letter is about the partition of the ancestral land, home, and everything that was heaped by their parents in their lifetime.
By all calculations, Babuli's share stands up to twenty thousand rupees. It is a hefty amount for his wife, who keeps pestering him for an active participation in the ancestral property. She also suggests that from that money they will be able to buy a scooter, washing machine, jewelry and other things. She is full of materialism, as she says, “What is the use of village land for us? On the other hand, Babuli begins resenting his ungratefulness towards his family. He has a hunch that he has forgotten the people who had helped him to shape his future.
The interesting point of conflict is that the wife of Babuli is not concerned about Babuli and his family. She just wants her share to enjoy life. The morality of a woman can decline for the sake of hedonistic gains is something evident in the Indian societies. But Babuli is hesitant to take up a stance against her materialistic aspirations.
After the death of his father, it was his elder brother who got in the fatherly role to support his education and there was one event of financial stress where he mortgaged his favourite watch to arrange the fees for Babuli.
While going to his village on a bus, he is lost in the reminiscences of his childhood days, and his mind and heart are flooded with the memories of old days when he was a school-going kid.
He remembers how his brother would carry his bag when he returns from the school, carry him on his shoulders while crossing the fields, and one night when Babuli was shivering under a thin blanket the elder brother had put his blanket over him and left for the field early in the morning.
It is the middle brother of the family who wants the partition on the behest of his wife. He is ready to buy Babuli's share for the sum of twenty thousand rupees. When Babuli reaches the village, he finds an unusual silence gnawing the ambiance of the house; the elder brother and mother are extremely silent.
Babuli is shying away to meet gaze with any of them. He is shamefaced for his actions - that he remained aloof to them for long after getting a job and everything. He did not even bother to attend their problems nor helped them monetarily. In all senses, it is becoming clear that Babuli is a selfish man.