-by KParthasarathi Saturday, November 10, 2007
Blog this story
It was a small general provision store with racks of jars and tin boxes on the shelves on all the three sides of the little shop. On one side soaps, tooth pastes, hair oils, talcum powders, and other cosmetic items were on display from behind the glass doors. There were gunny bags of rice both boiled and raw, different varieties of dhalls, sugar, and gur stacked against each other. The tins of edible oils were in one corner. There was a creaking wall mounting fan over the head of the owner Dhanapalan producing more sound than breeze. There was a small boy ten years old perhaps, Pandian by name, assisting him in serving the customers. It was very hot and sultry that day with occasional customer stepping in to buy a single item or two.Dhanapalan was vacantly looking at the road while the urchin was seeing the pictures in an old film magazine, the pages of which were used for packing small items.
Dhanapalan sat up with a start when he heard a stone hitting a glass jar on the shelf. The jar broke into two pieces and the content spilled. When he and his assistant turned towards it, a young boy appeared from no where and took a bottle of soda (carbonated drink) kept on the bench on the front side. Dhanapalan on hearing the noise turned to see a boy of eight or nine running towards the opposite side of the road. He shouted to Pandian to catch the fleeing boy. The flat footed Pandian caught him eventually and dragged him before his master.Dhanapalan was more upset because of the broken glass jar and the spilt contents than the loss of a soda bottle. He slapped hard the boy even as he demanded an explanation from him for his crazy acts of breaking and stealing.
The boy who appeared poor started crying and said in remorseful tone “Sorry, Sir, I did not know what to do. The old woman over there fell down and fainted as she was walking. I tried to stop the passersby for help. None would even stand to listen let alone help. I took the soda without your permission and sprinkled a little on her face and gave the rest for her to drink”
“So you diverted my attention by breaking the jar and stole the soda, is it?”
The boy with tears flowing down his cheeks replied “It was a mistake. But the old woman was dying. Please excuse me”
When Dhanapalan went with the boy leaving Pandian behind at the store, he saw from the distance the old woman making an effort with difficulty to sit up. He rushed towards her with the boy in tow. He was shocked when he saw her and lifting her by his hands he asked “Amma (mom), what are you doing here? What happened to you? How come you are here?”
“I came by bus from your sister’s place to see you. It was very hot and I had not taken food for two days as I had diahorrea.I think that could be the reason for fainting. Thanks to this little boy, I am fine now.”
Dhanapalan was touched by the young boy’s noble deed aimed to help a total stranger even at the cost of sullying his character. He felt sad at having slapped him. He hugged the little boy, thrust a hundred rupee note in his pocket and asked for his forgiveness. He did not replace the broken jar and let it remain on the shelf reminding him of the selfless act of the boy and the great message of compassion it had for him