It was a hot summer afternoon. The sun was blazing and weather was oppressive with not a leaf moving. There was the scheduled power cut for an hour. Akila had kept the front door open for some breeze and light. She wanted to get an inverter soon to escape this daily ordeal. It was then she heard the loud voice “Water melon, water melon” at a distance in her building complex.Akila knew the fruit seller would come soon come to her. She decided to buy two fruits, have them cut to small pieces and keep them in the fridge. This sweet and succulent fruit is a great thirst quencher that she loved.
The fruit seller Roja is a slightly built woman of about 35 years with three kids studying in a school. She toiled hard in the hot sun to supplement the meager income of her husband. She kept changing the fruits depending on the season.Akila liked to buy from her for three reasons. She always brought good stuff from the whole sale market. She sold at reasonable prices keeping a small margin for her .Her prices were fixed and uniform for all and she never allowed the buyers to negotiate the price Lastly Akila has been buying from her for the last three years and had taken a liking for her. She gave away her old clothes to her periodically.
When Roja came perspiring heavily,Akila rushed to get her a glass of cool water.Akila then chose a big water melon and asked her “How much for this?”.She weighed the fruit and said 95 rupees.
“It is costly .I will pay only 80 rupees” said Akila
“Amma, you know my prices are fixed. If you want a fruit at lower price, choose a smaller size. Take this and you need to pay only 75 rupees” she replied with certain brusqueness in her voice.
“No, I will not pay more than 85 rupees for the fruit I have chosen. You cannot always have the way you want it” said Akila
“Amma, I am sorry. I am in a hurry. I need to go to different houses and cannot waste my time bargaining with you. My price is fixed. Take it or leave it” Roja said with finality.
Akila got angry at the tone of Roja’s voice and felt she was insensitive to the kindness shown to her. As it was dark with power cut,she fished out with difficulty a one hundred rupee note from her bag and gave the money without one word. The woman returned the balance saying” please do not get upset. I am poor and cannot afford to lose the small amount I am earning.”
Akila closed the door abruptly and went inside without answering her. She was still seething in anger. The power cut only aggravated her bad mood. She thought though pettily to herself why should she give all her old clothes only to this woman. She could as well give to other needy people. If she can be strict with me, I can also be. How can she forget that on many days she had given the poor woman food? If she were a bit grateful, she could have at least explained softly her inability to reduce the price instead of being curt.Akila decided that she would henceforth go and get her fruit requirements from the big departmental stores.
It was 7pm in the evening and she was watching TV. She heard someone calling “Amma, amma”.When she opened the door, she found Roja standing. A thought struck Akila’s mind immediately that she had come to express her regret for the rudeness exhibited in the afternoon.
“You bargained hard for five rupees but handed over 500 rupee note mistakenly for 100 rupee note. Lucky that I kept the money you gave in my small purse that I keep within my blouse. The money that I got from others I kept in a big bag that I keep in my hip. Take this five hundred rupee note and give me 100 rupees” Roja said with a smile on her face.
Akila was rendered speechless at the honesty and fair-mindedness of this poor woman who could have as well retained the money. But it is not in her character. Honesty, Akila realized, is not dependent on one’s station in life but on the values imbedded.Akila felt humbled and ashamed when she thought of her own petty thoughts.Roja in her mind stood tall compared to her. Akila gave her 150 rupees saying that she should not refuse and that this was a small token of her appreciation for her honesty.