Short Story with Moral Lesson – I-CON TWO
It was about seven o’ clock in the evening on a hot summer day in Nagpur. I was watching Chitrahar on Doordarshan TV with my wife and our two daughters. The dining table was already set and we would have our dinner at half past seven, as usual. While my wife and daughters were enjoying the song and dance sequences from Hindi movies, I was constantly grumbling and criticising the program, which I found inane.
There was a knock on the door. I got up and opened and found a well-dressed young man standing outside.
“Whom do you want please?” I asked politely.
Without much introduction he plunged into narrating his story.
“I am travelling to Hyderabad from New Delhi, where I went to attend an interview. Someone picked my pocket. I lost my wallet and all cash in it along with my train ticket. The Travelling Ticket Examiner in the sleeper coach chucked me out as I didn’t have a ticket. I explained my predicament and pleaded with him but he wouldn’t budge. He threatened that he could hand me over to the Police but wasn’t doing so as he took pity on me.”
“Why are you telling us all this? What have we got to do with it?” I asked. My wife and daughters were looking on anxiously.
“Sir, I am roaming around the streets of Nagpur and came to this area. When I inquired around I was told that yours was the only Telugu-speaking family around here. I am from Andhra, Hyderabad. I need your help to get back.”
“Look, mister. We are in no position to help you. Please excuse us.”
“Sir, please don’t say that. I can leave my watch with you; also I have a floppy disk. I don’t have anything else. Please help me.”
He sounded sincere and serious. But so does every conman. He looked decent. He was well dressed; pants and full-sleeve shirt tucked in and shoes. He was speaking good English. But a lingering doubt was nagging me.
I pondered for a few minutes. I tried to put myself in his situation. What would I do, if such a situation were to befall me and my family? How would I react if the person whose help I am seeking, suspects that I am conning him and refuses to help? Wouldn’t he be justified, in those days of chicanery? If I refuse to help him wouldn’t it be an inner defeat for me? What if he is really conning? And what if he isn’t? Horns of dilemma were never more impaling. In my heart of hearts I knew that he was conning me. But I didn’t want that to become an excuse for me to kill the humanity, the humaneness in me. If he was really cheating then it was his problem, not mine, for I was genuine. I came to a decision.
“Please bring one hundred rupees,” I told my wife. She didn’t question my judgement. She went in and returned in a minute with a hundred-rupee note. I took the note from her and held it in my hand for a few moments while I spoke to the guy.
“Look, mister. I do not know if your predicament is real or if you are conning us…” I was interrupted by him in all eagerness.
“No, sir. It is all true. Please believe me.”
“I am doing this out of humanity; not because I am rolling in money. If you are cheating me, conning me, then my loss will be minimal; only one hundred rupees. The real loser will be humanity, charity and humaneness. If I ever come to know that I have been conned by you, then it will be difficult for me and people like me to believe even in genuinely needy people. Please remember that.” Saying this I handed the note to him.
“Sir, the watch and the floppy?”
“No. I don’t need them. Only, remember what I told you.”
“Yes, Sir.” He got up and left.
I followed him into the veranda. He went outside our compound, closed the gate and walked away. He didn’t go into any other house in our street.
I shut the door and turned and looked at my wife and daughters. I found a smile on their faces.