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A true life narrative packed with delightful anecdotes from college and hostel life in India, ‘Honesty Persists’ is the story of an important life lesson from an uneducated catering boy.
Life has unfolded in a very tactful manner before me. As youngsters, we always think, “valai ka to zamamna hi nahi raha” (goodness doesn’t persist at all). I am the only one who is good and honest enough. But then life teaches you the lesson that you aren’t alone, but that there are millions who possess goodness. Such an incident occurred in my life too, which made me to change the way I thought about people.
Post-graduation life was too cool for us, with every day being like Halloween. Resigned to the hostel life, my best friend Sandy and I turned out to stay in a “mess” (rented house), which was really messy but incarnated as one of the best memories of our lives. Now, during the starting days, both of us didn’t want to get into the contest of “kitchen–queen” since both were the worst brats in that field. So the best way out was opting for a home-delivery service. As students with tight pockets, we always looked for lower budget schemes. We found one this time too, a vendor named ‘Lucky Again.’ It was named after Lucky, the entrepreneur who happened to be a jolly Mumbaikar and who wanted to get his business settled in Kolkata also.
Prices were low and the menu was delicious –chow rice, shekhi biriyani and other such treats. What more can a student want? We jumped with the package of Rs. 2000 per person, with two more of our friends joining in to get benefited. We all were happy and content. But alas, just like a good story might have a sad end, our home food service also had to stop.
One fine morning we got a call from Lucky saying that he had opted for a job in catering services and that he would be leaving within a week. We all were asked to settle our dues. Dark clouds surrounded us and with grieved hearts we entered the kitchen to cook food that very morning. Except for tea and coffee, nothing ended up getting made. That evening, all of us went to settle our dues with Lucky. The bill was Rs. 5050. We paid Rs 6000. Alas! Our happy days were gone along with with that extra Rs.50, since Lucky didn’t have change. He therefore asked his helper, a localite named Ratul, to return the amount to us the next day.
With heavy hearts we returned to our room to get back to cooking, which we realised was to become a very important part of our lives. I am from the North East and I was happy with what we refer to as ‘boils’, or boiled food, but Sandy being a South-Indian wasn’t ready to get by with only ‘boils.’ (Again, not all North-Easterners are like me but then, boiled food is the easiest way out since I am a bit lazy with cooking.) Moreover, two more of my friends were from West-Bengal and they loved spicy cooked foods. So can you all imagine the mess that was going on in the kitchen of our mess, which was totally messed up by the second day of home-delivery stoppage? It became ‘Ambitious Cooking Day’ for all four of us. Finally, we got along with boiled rice, egg-omelets, dal without salt and fish and cauliflower slurp. Ah, the mehnath (hard work) of the whole day!
Days went by; we managed to get a randhhuni (cook) who made some good food for us, because we decided that study was more important during exams and not food.
But yeah that Rs. 50 we were to get from Lucky always stayed at the back of our minds towards the end of every month, when we didn’t have enough money to take a sip of tea at Basu’s Tea Stall, the grand adda place for gossipers like us. We used to halla bol to ‘Lucky Again’, Lucky’s old office that remained closed since the day he left. His helper Ratul never showed up again to give us that amount and we thought that he had probably had a feast with the money. What more could we expect?
But yeah that Rs. 50 we were to get from Lucky always stayed at the back of our minds towards the end of every month, when we didn’t have enough money to take a sip of tea at Basu’s Tea Stall, the grand adda place for gossipers like us.
Slowly, as time passed by, we got along with the last days of post-graduation training at different hospitals and slowly, this Rs. 50 slipped away from our minds. From gossipers, Sandy and I became competitors.
On the 21st of December in 2011, one cold evening that was covered with thick fog everywhere, Sandy and I sat in Basu’s Tea Stall, sipping our twin strong coffee (Basu named that after me and Sandy since we both always stayed together) with bakery biscuits. Our tickets were confirmed. We were returning to our home towns on the 23rd of December. Engulfed with our talks on all the moments we had spent together this two and half years, we were feeling nostalgic. Basu served us our next slot of coffee. He knew well when to serve. Probably he too was feeling nostalgic, thinking of the moments we had spent in his tea stall. He said, “Didi, won’t you all come back to visit us again?” We replied, “Yes, of course, why not?” He seemed convinced with our answer, the simple village boy that he is, and he went back to his work.
Finishing all our conversations, our gang of seven that comprised two girls (me and Sandy) and five boys, we started walking towards our mess named, which the boys called ‘Devil’s Inn’ for some reason. As I had said before, it was so foggy that we walked along together, barely conceiving the pain that these golden days were going to end forever. Relationships were going to change, although friendships would remain but these moments shall never be regained. I tried to lighten the mood and said, “Hey, since tomorrow is our last day in our mess, come let’s give a farewell party to our Devil’s Inn.” Sandy too screamed aloud, “Party, party, party!” and the wolf pack followed.
As we marched in the dimly street lighted roads a shadow approached in front of me from nowhere and shouted, “Didi!”
“What the hell? Who are you?” I asked, almost screaming.
The shadow came forward saying, “Didi it’s me, Ratul.”
I screamed, “Who Ratul?”
Our pack said, “Hey how do you know her?” They were so protective of both of us that no one really messed with the two of us.
Getting afraid, the boy stammered, “Me, Ratul, the service boy from Lucky sahab’s hotel. Remember?”
I remembered and gasped, “Oho got that! What happened?””
He handed me Rs. 50 and said, “Didi, you all owed this money to Luckyji, please take it.”
I said, “When?”
He replied, “About a year back when you went to settle the dues with him. Remember? He had asked me to give Rs.50 to you from the money that you all owed him. But sadly enough I had to move to my village the very next day because my mother got sick. I had used your money. So couldn’t give it back to you then.”
I replied, “Its okay. Leave it. Take it.” (Although somewhere within me, I knew that he wouldn’t take it.)
He said, “No, no. Please take the money. You all owe it. This Rs. 50 had helped me to go to my village when I needed to the most. I got back to work last month after a long break. Today I received my first salary and have come back to give you what I owe you.”
We all stood dumb founded. This uneducated boy was giving us the most important lessons of our life which even thousand formal educations could not have given us, that “honesty persists.”
This uneducated boy was giving us the most important lessons of our life which even thousand formal educations could not have given us.
We fumbled to get the right words out. “Please take the money from our side. It’s a request.” Our educated egos persisted. He replied with generosity, “It’s very kind of you all that you didn’t ask any interest against the money that I had indirectly borrowed from you all. I survive on my income. Please don’t make me ashamed by giving me the tip. Please take this money”.
We stood there, took the money from him and watched him blurring back within the foggy road, riding away his bicycle.
Lost with words, life taught me a very important lesson that day. “Never underestimate other people, for you never know the other side of the story unless and until it’s unfolded to you.”
I might never meet the guy again but the very important lesson he had taught me shall never be forgotten. Thank you again, my Riding Star.
Image via Shutterstock.
Cancer Stem Cell Researcher , loves to write about various experiences experienced in life.
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It’s a life long lesson and wisdom, that many of us would believe he would nicely forget. The guy may not be armed with academics but he is education and honest, a quality which is rare in today’s world. Thanks you wrote about it.
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