Sunday, 20 January 2013

Honesty is the best policy

Honesty is the best policy

It was 1957 or so and I was tennish. In those days the metric system had not been introduced and measurements were made in the British system of pound- foot-sec and the paisa-anna –rupee system  reigned supreme. (Why do they use the short-form lbs for pound)
We then had a cow which was fed on grass and straw. In addition everyday it was also given a protein supplement of a pound of oilcake soaked in water left over from cooking the rice. It was my chore to buy the oil-cake every day and at the time it cost 6 anna for a pound of oil-cake (and so did one pound of rice) Everyday I was given 6 annas and I would go to the shop and return with the cake and other purchases if needed. And then ..
One evening I was given 6 annas and told to fetch the pound of oil cake and the shop-keeper told me that the price of the oilcake had gone down to 5 annas a pound. I bought the oil cake and took it home and kept the one anna to myself without telling anyone that the price had gone down. This went on for days and weeks. I do not remember how I spent the money, but it must have been in some innocuous way for nobody noticed that I was spending more.
Then one day there was the temple festival and like boys of my age I was wandering around temple premises in the evening gawking at the toys and sweets on display and indulging myself with some of my ill-gotten “wealth”. Since all of us children were at the temple festival father took on himself the task of shopping for the oil-cake and that was my undoing. Father learned that I had been ‘stealing’ an anna a day for quite some time from right under his nose.
I was then studying in the 5th standard in a convent school which accommodated boys at the primary level. I was also the class leader and as the class leader I was put in charge of collecting money from my classmates for some charity. Whatever money I collected I entrusted with my father. The sum I entrusted with my father must have totted up to  5 rupees or so when the oil-cake scam broke. Father refused to return the charity funds I had entrusted with him to compensate for the money I had embezzled. When the class teacher nun asked me for the funds entrusted with me I told her that my father was not giving up the funds I had entrusted with him. I felt miserable about it. I asked father repeatedly to return the funds. But he refused. Thus In the short span of a week or so the exemplary class leader had become an embezzler at home and at school. But for some strange reason the nuns did not pursue the matter.
I bore a hard feeling against my father for making me look bad in class. He died when I was 20, however the ill-feeling against him lingered on in my heart. However I also kept thinking all these years as to why the sisters had not pursued the matter which was quite unlike them. And yesterday I had my drink and my dinner and as I lay down to sleep somehow this incident popped into my thoughts along with  the puzzle as to why the sisters had not pursued the matter. Then the solution to the puzzle dawned on me after 55 years or so – father must have settled the matter with the sisters without letting me know of it. I felt a feeling of remorse welling up in me for the hard feeling I bore my father all these years.


Xavier William - tours to Kerala and Lakshadweep
(God gave us reason; not religion - World Union of Deists)