Sarangan reclined in the easy chair was reading the morning paper. His wife Rukmini squatting on the floor was cutting vegetables for dinner. Their two kids were watching some song and dance sequence on the TV.
“Keep the volume low or I will switch off the TV” shouted Sarangan at his children.
“Sorry daddy. The programme is over and we have closed the TV. It showed Marina beach in the dance sequence. It is beautiful. We have never seen a beach in real. Won’t you take us to Chennai and show us the beach? Many of our classmates have seen. Please daddy” the two children said in chorus.
“I agree with children. My sister is also inviting us for a long time. The beach is very close to their house. We can offer prayers at Sri Parthasarathi temple also. We can go for three days in the weekend. We have never gone out for years,” said Rukmini in support of the children.
“Have you gone mad or what? We are unable to manage even a single month our household needs within my meager salary and I keep borrowing frequently from friends at month end. Forget beach or temple. We cannot afford any outing now” Sarangan replied angrily.
The children’s faces fell and they left the hall quietly to their room. Rukmini also silently went to the kitchen. Sarangan felt sorry for them but his financial position did not permit him to indulge in a family trip to Chennai. He said in assuaging tone”Rukmini, I am aware I haven’t taken you people anywhere. I felt bad to say no but am helpless. May be next year we can all go. Please explain to the kids suitably”
Three days later Sarangan received a letter from his cousin in US along with a draft for about Rs25, 000.
Every year during the ten day annual festival at the Kothandaramar temple, we bear the expenses for a day’s puja and also offer in superior quality a silk sari with Zari for the goddess and a pair of veshti (dhoti) with zari for the God along with flowers, fruits, etc. As my mother is with me here this year, I need your help to arrange for this. I enclose a draft for US$400.I think this would cover the expenses. If any balance is remaining please give some to the priest and drop the rest if any in the hundi.I hope it would not be inconvenient for you.
Convey my regards to Rukmini and love to children
Sarangan got Rs.24,800 on encashment of the draft. Once the money was in his hand, wicked thoughts crowded his mind. He thought this a godsend opportunity to fulfill the desires of Rukmini and children. He remembered with regret the disappointment writ large on their faces when he refused their plea for a Chennai visit.
“Rukmini, my cousin has sent Rs 15,000 towards his share of puja at the annual festival in the temple. We have to pay Rs7,500 to temple in cash for the day’s puja.Out of the remaining, we should buy a silk sari, a pair of dhotis with Zari border, and fruits, garlands, flowers etc.We may also have to pay some small amount to the priest. Please get the sari and pair of Dhotis for Rs.5000 tomorrow itself as their puja day is three days hence” he told her.
“Even for a very ordinary silk sari with imitation Zari and a pair of dhotis with false zari Rs.5000 is hardly adequate. Why is your cousin so miserly even when it relates to temple and when he is earning huge salary? My conscience will not permit me to buy such cheap stuff for the festival. You go and buy whatever you wish and hand over to the priest. Please do not call me to the temple. I will die of shame with such flimsy stuff” she said curtly.
Sarangan ignored her taunt and bought some cheap silk sari with imitation zari and a pair of dhotis with zari border not in superior count for about Rs 5000. As his conscience pricked, he ordered for Sakkarai pongal (sweet rice) as an extra offering. He bought the rest of puja materials on the puja day. As Rukmini refused to accompany him, he took the two children with him to the temple. The day’s puja including the temple fees, offering in the hundi and dakshina for the priest was well within his budgeted amount of Rs.15000.
He later counted the cash with him and found to his great satisfaction that he had Rs.10140.Next day he told his wife and children “Get ready for a Chennai trip this weekend. I have taken two days leave and booked tickets by bus on Friday night. Rukmini, inform your sister. I hope all of you are now happy. We can see beach, temple, malls and whatever you wish to.”
“You told me only three days back that we cannot afford the trip. How come you are now asking us to be ready?”asked Rukmini.
“I got some unexpected arrears from office” bluffed Sarangan. The children jumped in joy and hugged their dad.
It was Thursday morning. When Sarangan went to bathroom in a hurry for a shower, he slipped and fell down. He could not get up. He called Rukmini thrice before she with the help of neighbours broke the door open to find him sprawled on the floor unable to get up. He had got hurt on the leg and hand. Luckily there was no injury on the head. He was rushed to hospital. His leg and hand had sustained big fracture with displacement in leg. He had to be operated upon, kept in ICU for a day and was discharged after three days.
The children who were greatly disappointed at the turn of events did not utter a word about Chennai.
While he lay in the bed with big bandages in leg and hand, he asked Rukmini where from she got the money and how much she had paid to the hospital.
“I paid from the arrears you had kept in your purse. I don’t remember the amount. Let me get the bill,” she said
When she gave the bill, Sarangan found it was for Rs 10,140.It hit like a sledgehammer that the bill was exactly for the amount he had misappropriated from his cousin and deceived the God.