Ramu Sastrigal was well known in the circle of purohits(priests).Being well versed in the practice of his profession and being proficient in Vedas, he had a large clientele of well to do people and was much sought after. His house was full of aspiring assistants and trainees. He was a kind hearted and noble person helping many indigent boys find their feet. He was a strong disciplinarian and expected high standards of probity and commitment to the job. His disciples were afraid of him and spoke to him with their hands folded and covering their mouths.
He took a liking for one poor boy who hailed from his village and the son of his friend who died suddenly. Taking pity on the boy, he took him under his shelter and trained him to become a purohit.The boy, Sundaram, too was sharp and learnt quickly the mantras by rote getting up very early in the mornings. Ramu Sastrigal invariably took him along wherever he went to conduct functions like marriages or other rituals.
Sastrigal had a beautiful daughter Lakshmi studying in class 12.She was a studious student, well behaved and obedient to parents. She took a liking for the handsome and well-built Sundaram with his curly hair. Sundaram too loved her and always cast furtive glances at her whenever Sastrigal was not around. The house being full of people did not provide him an opportunity to talk to her and reveal his fascination and love for her.
It so happened one day as he was returning from an errand on his cycle, he saw her at the bus stand waiting for the bus. He stopped by her side and said ” Waiting for the bus, is it? I am not able to see you alone to exchange a few words. We are always surrounded by people. Do you know that I like you very much?”
She did not answer him but kept scratching the ground with her toe nail. She looked at him slightly a couple of times with a trace of smile on her lips. When she saw the bus approaching she said “Oh Oh, the bus is coming. I will take leave of you.”
He replied “Come early daily. I will manage to meet you as often as possible. I love you very much.” She threw a smile at him and boarded the bus.
These secret meetings for a few minutes at the bus stand went on for a long time though they did not graduate to even clasping of hands or touching her. When she was in the final year, Sastrigal started looking for suitable alliances. It was then after much hesitation and trepidation, Sundaram summoned his courage when he and Sastrigal were alone to seek the hand of his daughter.
He spoke hesitantly”Mama, forgive me if I am wrong. But I love Lakshmi very much. I think she also likes me. I would request you to give her in marriage to me. I will prove myself worthy of being your son-in-law” he said.
Sastrigal exploded in anger”How dare you make such a demand? How long has this affair been going on? From this instant you make your own arrangements to stay elsewhere. Although I would like to dismiss you, I will still allow you for the sake of your father to assist me but you are not welcome in this house anymore.”
It was a month later when Sastrigal finished a betrothal function at a rich man’s house, there was a commotion that a big silver bowl that contained sugar was missing. It was a function where only close relatives and friends were present. The rich man’s brother-in-law a police officer ordered a search. To the great shock of everyone, the bowl was found in Sastrigal’s bag.
The police officer caught the upper garment of Sastrigal and shook him asking” how come with your pious image you stoop to such low act?”
The rich man shouted at his brother in law “Take off your dirty hands. How dare you touch him? It was me who put the bowl in his bag as a surprise gift for him. He has been my guru for three decades.”
He fell at Satrigal’s feet and sought his forgiveness for this unfortunate incident.Sastrigal who stood bewildered trembling with shame for a while, put his angavastram on his mouth and sobbed. He emptied his bag in everybody’s presence and left without uttering a word and without listening to the pleas of rich man.
He did not eat his food that day and did not sleep. He was dazed wondering how the bowl came to his bag. He did not believe what the rich man had said. His wife and daughter were pleading and begging him to have at least a glass of buttermilk.
It was then Sundaram entered and fell headlong at his feet and clasping his feet cried”Mama, forgive this wretch. In anger at your refusal to give Lakshmi in marriage to me whom I love ardently, I did this treacherous act. I had already confessed to the crowd in the hall of my misdeed and got severely beaten. Until you forgive me, I will not get up.”
It was then Lakshmi in a rage unseen ever before screamed at Sundaram “I hate you from the bottom of my heart. I detest standing on the same ground where you are. You have no sense of gratitude to your benefactor and no devotion to your father like teacher. You are a scum of the earth. Get lost before I kill you.”
Sundaram knew that he had totally forfeited her trust and love and left quietly never looking back.