Chelladurai has been ailing from an acute heart ailment and was not expected to live long. Past 75 he has been staying in this poor home for the last ten years. He was discarded by his children. Although life was not comfortable in the home with its Spartan meals and dormitory type of accommodation, Chelladurai was grateful for the shelter and food the home provided with no other alternative available for him. He had no place to visit nor had any visitors.
Some kindly people used to visit the home on festive occasions to distribute sweets and dresses for the inmates. Some used to give small amount to each to them. One regular visitor who was thoughtful and considerate brought with him betel leaves and areca nuts, snuff, tobacco,candies for a few who had a weakness for such stuff.
Chelladurai had bought recently for the first time in his life a lottery ticket for Rs10 on the persuasion of another friendly inmate and kept it in his diary. He never indulged in speculative activity but bought it only to please his friend. He never thought about it though his friend would often come up with various suggestions how the winnings could be utilized in case his ticket won the prize. This was an enjoyable past time in the evenings.
Ramu was a young orphan working in the home for a paltry salary. Chelladurai had taken a liking for him as he was gentle in his words and kind by disposition unlike the others who were generally rude and irritable most of the time and went about ordering the poor inmates. Ramu also liked Chelladurai and used to spend his leisure hours chatting with him and seeking his advice and guidance on his personal problems. Chelladurai had a great trust in Ramu.
It so happened that Chelladurai’s friend who goaded him to buy the lottery ticket passed away suddenly. In the grief Chelladurai had forgotten about the lottery ticket for two months. One afternoon when Ramu and Chelladurai were talking, the latter saw the ticket protruding from his diary. He asked Ramu to keep the ticket with him and check the results
Ramu jokingly asked Chelladurai what would be his share if his ticket won. Chelladurai instantly without hesitating said “The share would be fifty-fifty”
Surprised Ramu said”Sir, I was only joking. I don’t need any money. I have one request however. If you win huge amount, can you please expand this home, provide more facilities, give better food and clothes to the inmates and increase our salaries.”
Chelladurai replied “Don’t build castles in the air. We are destined to this lot in this birth. If per chance we get a few thousands, we can buy new mats and pillows and if there is money left bed sheets for all. They are dirty and in tatters.” Ramu was touched by his generous thought and concern for others.
That night Chelladurai unexpectedly suffered a massive heart attack and died even before he could be taken to an hospital. The entire home was enveloped in sorrow at the passing away of the kindly soul. Ramu could not control his tears at the demise of Chelladurai whom he regarded as a father figure. The vacant mat in the hall brought him sad memories. He did not care to check the lottery results for fifteen days.
On the sixteenth day Ramu was in for the biggest surprise in his life when he saw from the lottery results that Chelladurai’s ticket had won one crore rupees. He made doubly sure about the correctness of the number without telling anyone and went straight to the manager of the bank that the home dealt with and narrated truthfully the happenings.
The good natured manager asked him “Since you possess the ticket, you are the rightful owner of the entire winnings. I will get the money and have it credited initially in your name by opening an account. Tell me how you wish to deal with it. In the first instance please sign at the back of the ticket your name and write the address.”
Ramu replied “Chelladurai had expressed his desire that if he won some small amount, it should be utilized to improve the living conditions of the inmates and provide basic facilities in the home without the inmates having to sleep on the floor on torn mats in cramped manner. I would request you to spend the entire fortune in expanding the home into a large building with several halls to accommodate more poor people with facilities like big kitchen and dining hall, many bathrooms and toilets, common hall with TV. Please also ensure that the inmates get good food, clothing, and their basic needs. That alone would please the departed soul. I do not want even one rupee for myself as the ticket was purchased by him with his money.”
The bank manager stood up and embraced Ramu telling “Frankly I do not know who is more praiseworthy-the humane Chelladurai or the honest you. I think I will set apart 90% of the net proceeds after tax for building, modernizing the home with extra facilities and a corpus with you as trustee. I will put 10% for you in your name. That alone according to me would meet the ends of justice. If you wish I can make it 80 and 20 percent also.”
Ramu reluctantly agreed for 10% and left the details to be worked out by the bank manager who made a written record with proper signatures.
It is hard to answer as to which character among the three including the bank manager in this story wins our admiration most.