I WAS savouring a steamy ‘samosa’ on a bone-chilling cold day when a man with a little girl entered the staff room. The looks of the guests were a mix of both ‘desi’ and ‘videshi’. Lo and behold! The man introduced himself as a professor of economics, presently holding a big position in an American university. What brought an additional smile on my face was his being an alumnus of our college. Hearing this, I along with other teachers gave him a standing ovation. The teachers swarmed around the NRI professor like bees to take his autograph. A few gave him a tight hand shake and the others a bear hug. The lady teachers too did not lag behind. A lady teacher nervously rummaged through her purse only to offer a small mountain of candies to the little girl that accompanied him. Another offered her a piece of ‘dhokla’. They were also served ‘samosas’ and tea.
To feed myself with ‘intellectual diet’, I enthusiastically broached the issue of demonetisation. The discussion went on for five minutes before it abruptly came to an end. Suddenly, the little girl started weeping. On enquiry, it was found that she had experienced a bout of colic pain. Medicine was arranged for her. The professor then narrated a moving tale of his pocket being picked and how it had traumatised her. Moved, the staff gave him Rs 3000. He thanked them profusely, with a gentleman’s promise to send their money at the earliest.
Months elapsed. Neither did the staff receive any call nor money. One day, the photograph of the NRI professor appeared in the newspaper. It came to us as a rude shock to know that he was a cheat. The news of his being a swindler triggered a wave of discussion among the teachers. A few ‘praised’ him for his ‘ingenuity’. Others made fun of the victims. Being a victim, I felt disappointed. The Shakespearean advice — ‘The devil can cite scriptures for his purpose./ An evil soul producing holy witness;/ Is like a villain with a smiling cheek,/ A goodly apple rotten at heart./ O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!’ — started ringing loudly in my ears. Upset, I shared this ugly incident with my mother. Sensing my mood, she narrated a story: ‘Once a trader had a mare that was known far and wide in the town for her furious galloping pace. A physically disabled man of the town made several attempts to buy the mare but in vain. Frustrated, the man stole the mare. The trader came to know about the thief but never revealed the name. He kept saying that he had gifted his mare to a friend. The thief too heard of it. Curious, why the trader was not divulging the truth, he dashed to his home. On being asked why he was silent, the trader replied that he had a standing in the town and the people trusted his words. Making the name of the thief public would prevent the people from showing compassion to the physically challenged, and he did not want that!’
Pulling me out of a moral crisis, the story strengthened my belief that we should always extend a helping hand to those who are in distress without probing their past.
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