Monday, September 21, 2015

AN EXTRA TEN RUPEES





Pic.: Chetna Shetty

No matter how inspiring I sound to be in my daily posts, and no matter how much I talk about ‘values’ in my writings… let me tell you this straight: I am no Satya Harishchandra!

Yes, I have in me the same devil who tempts me to sin, cheat, lie and take short-cuts, now and then… here and there… Maybe, I am not a big-time thief, a professional con-man or a chronic liar or whatever that is…

I still lie, still show greed, and still try to be selfish and self-centered…

Well, am I telling all this for effect?

There is no need for me to do it, sir…

I remember I was in third standard. It was one afternoon, back home in Mangalore, my village. I was walking along a road with one of my older cousins when I sighted a wallet on the road. I instantly grabbed it and opened it… Inside, there was a ten-rupee note and some papers. I quickly plucked the note and tucked in one of my pockets and tucked the wallet with rest of the papers in the other pocket. We had barely walked some distance, when I saw a middle-aged man rushing towards us in a bicycle. “Did you find any wallet on the road?” he asked panting for breath.

I pulled the wallet and handed over it to the man.

When the man opened it, his face lit-up with joy. “These are very important papers,” he said, “thank-you so much.”

The next moment, my cousin pulled from my pocket the ten-rupee note and handed it over to the man.

“I was not worried about money,” the man, once again, asserted, “I was worried about these papers.”

I got an earful, that afternoon, both from my cousin along the rest of our way home, and at home, from my mom…“Son, never do it, again,” she said, anguished.

Five years later, when I was in eight-standard, one of my uncles got married. Ours was a hand-to-mouth household. On the wedding day, we were returning from the bride’s place. One of bride’s relatives, who carried with him the suitcase with gold, sarees and cash, had taken an auto rickshaw to come to our place. It was only after reaching our home, he realized that he had left the suitcase in the rickshaw! There was a sudden gloom at home… particularly on the faces of bride’s family members. No one knew who the auto-driver was… and the effort to trace him went futile… Three hours had passed by… There was panic and worry at the wedding place!

Then, in evening, the miracle happened… The rickshaw driver appeared with the suitcase! “I found it in the dickey of my auto,” he said, “Please check if everything is in place.”

My dad, who was the elder brother of my uncle, folded hands before the auto-driver and I heard him say repeatedly, “Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you.”

When my dad handed him small cash as a token of appreciation, the auto-driver gently refused it. “Give me a glass of water, sir… that’s enough,” he said.

I was old-enough to understand what was happening before my eyes… “Son, never do it, again,” I remembered my mom’s words!

And, today morning, after forty-three years since this second episode, a very mundane incident revived the memories of these episodes…

I had taken an auto to reach my bank. The fare was Rs.20. I had given a hundred-rupee note to the auto-driver. He returned the balance all in ten-rupee notes. As I was counting, the auto went off. I had found an extra ten-rupee note. I counted once again, and yes, there was an extra ten-rupee note….

I immediately remembered the ten-rupee note I had tried to ‘pocket’ when I was in third-standard… I, also, remembered my mom’s gentle reminder… “Son, never do it, again.”

So, here I was… running behind the autos… searching for the man who I had returned to me an extra ten-rupee note…

Luckily, a few yards away, I found his auto being parked. “Thank God,” I cried my heart out.

“What happened sir?” he was concerned.

“How much money did you return to me?” I handed over the notes to him.

When the driver counted the notes, his face lit-up with gratitude. “Thank-you sir,” he said with his hands folded.

I remembered my dad’s folded hands on my uncle’s wedding day… He had folded it before an auto-driver, that day…

And, today, what had come around had gone around!

Yes, I walked back to my bank, as though I was the richest man on this planet!


GERALD D’CUNHA

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