-by KParthasarathi Monday, November 05, 2007
Raja became an orphan all of a sudden when his parents died in a boat mishap. His uncle took him along with him to the city. He was a gardener working part time in several houses. He had already a large family. Raja’s aunt took a dislike for the young boy from day one. She made him work in the house all day long and did not feed him too well. His uncle was aware of the plight of the hapless boy but could not be of much help against his vile wife. He took Raja along with him to Naren’s house where he tended the vast garden He pleaded with Naren’s dad that he had already too many mouths to feed and that his wife considered the boy a burden.. He requested that Raja be kept in their house to do all errands and be fed. With no other demands, the master was moved by the pitiable condition of the boy and agreed to keep him to the great relief of the uncle.
Raja became a part of the family over a period of time. He endeared himself to one and all by his pleasant disposition and unstinted service. The lady of the house made no distinction from her own children. He was admitted to a nearby school where he studied well.Naren older than Raja by three years was friendly with him. Life was smooth for Raja and he was grateful to his uncle for making this possible.
Naren fell into bad company and frequently cut classes to go to movies with friends. He spent money taking friends to fast food restaurants and came home late. He was always pressing his mom to give him money. His parents were under the impression that he was regular in the school. Raja knew all these but never talked about it. When Naren fared poorly in the examinations, his dad was annoyed and scolded him pointing out that Raja after doing all the work in the house did better. His mother also refused to give him money thereafter. This hurt him much. Naren for the first time hated Raja.
It was about a fortnight later there was a huge commotion in the house. A costly watch of the master was missing. It was on the table in the living room. No outsiders came till the loss of watch was noticed. Everyone pleaded ignorance about its whereabouts. When Naren’s dad asked Naren whether he saw it, he showed his irritability in his denial and added that the question should be addressed to outsiders in the house. Raja was summoned. He came trembling when he saw the master angry. When he said he had not seen the watch, Naren asked where it could go on its own. His dad asked him to keep quiet and told Raja no outsiders came since he left the watch on the table. The search in the entire house had not yielded result. It is better Raja found it out and hand over the watch. The implied insinuation was not lost on the poor boy. He started sobbing. The master said there is little point in crying and hoped he would redeem himself by getting the watch back before the end of the day.
The drawing master who doubled as PT instructor had a soft corner for the boy knowing him to be an orphan. When he asked Raja the reason for his troubled look, the boy unable to suppress his hurt in being suspected narrated him the incident. The teacher asked him not to worry and would find out in his own way how the watch mysteriously vanished. By the evening he told Raja that he found out talking to Naren’s friends the watch was pledged by Naren with the pawn broker.
In the evening all family members assembled again when Raja pleaded again his ignorance about the whereabouts of the watch. The master in uncontrollable rage called him an ungrateful wretch and caned the boy mercilessly and repeatedly. The boy cried in pain but did not reveal the information. It was then there was a bell in the front door. When the door was opened, the pawn broker entered. He said he came to know thro the teacher that the poor orphan boy was being suspected and considered his moral duty to save the child from ignominy by bringing the watch pledged for Rs.200 by Naren and give it to his dad. There was a shocked silence in the hall and sense of shame in all faces. Naren was seen crying. His dad’s anger was turned on him and he caned him endlessly till others snatched the cane from him. He lifted Raja in his hands and showered kisses on him cringing at the same time for his pardon. The magnanimity of the boy in not exposing Naren even in pain was not lost sight of by one and all and Naren in particular.