It was my mistake. I thought I gave her twenty rupees. But it was actually two twenty rupee notes. They got stuck against each other so closely that I thought it was just one note.
After a few minutes the woman came running towards me and returned one twenty rupee note after politely pointing out about my mistake and then went away without giving me an opportunity to thank her.
But could I thank her if she had given me the time? No, I could not because it had a shocking effect on me. Her old sari and her torn plastic-slippers were as rickety as she herself was. But she breathed a sigh of relief after returning the money.
The incident happened many years ago. But I could not forget it. Whenever I hear the story of corruption at the highest level, her face comes to my mind. This restores my faith that most of the ordinary citizens of our country are extremely honest. Indeed, their honesty has passed the test of poverty.
This is really a paradox! When most of the poor people are showing exemplary honesty, some rich people who have nothing to worry about are resorting to unscrupulous means. Tagore highlighted about it in his poem ~ “Dui Bigha Jomi” (My last piece of land). In the poem, Tagore said, ~ “e jagate hae sei beshi chae achhe jar bhuri bhuri” (“Alas, in this world those who have most want all”). The face of the lady and this poem of Tagore came to my mind again when I saw a video which was made and circulated by UK’s Telegraph newspaper. In the video, Nirav Modi was seen walking freely around on the streets of London sporting a handle bar mustache and an ostrich hide jacket. It is reported that the cost of the jacket is 10,000 pounds which is approximately Rs 9 lakh!
It also had a chilling effect on me. Here was the billionaire diamond tycoon who was accused in the Rs 13,500 crore Punjab National Bank fraud case!
Ostrich leather is one of the world’s most expensive and also the toughest leather. It is as tough as the hard truth about which Tagore wrote long ago ~ “e jagate hae sei beshi chae achhe jar bhuri bhuri” (“Alas, in this world those who have most want all”).
Sujit De, Kolkata
Ordinary citizens are extremely honest