Every year during Dassera (Indian festival), Santehalli (village name) conducted a Fun-Fair. Sellers from nearby villages would come and set up their stalls and sell their wares. Santehalli was around 20 km from the place where “Encorage School” was located. Encorage School was where Laira studied. Laira was a pretty little teenager studying in standard VIII and Encorage School was very proud to have her as a student. The reason was Laira, though hailing from a rich family, also looking lovely and beautiful from outside, yet… amongst all the other school students Laira was the “richest” and “most beautiful” from “inside” too if you understand what I mean.
“She has a heart of pure Gold like an Angel” as Ma’am Joseph would often tell other teachers and students about Laira. Everyone loved Laira. She spoke sweetly with one and all, was ever ready to offer a helping hand, and her deeds were “just amazing” and “truly touching.” But with all the praise did it make Laira proud and hot-headed?? .. you can bet “NO!!” it did not!!!.. and you would surely win on that. For Laira was such a girl… very modest, humble, and God-loving as a person, though such qualities are rare to be found in girls/boys her age. Just by being her friend, other students also picked up these virtues through experiences they shared while being with her, and thus the School got a very good name in town. Yes..Encorage School got the “best school” reputation in NORTA (name of the town). The moral values of the students stood glaringly and topping this list was our sweet girl Laira who always had something good to do or rather always “found” something good to do.
Now, as Laira and others got excited about their plans to visit the Fun-Fair, they got busy preparing the list of friends who would go to the Fair and also were collecting contributions of 200 Rs each. Sushmita, Gayatri, Richa, Priya, Dinesh, Sudip, Gopal, Narayan, Robert, Ayub, Altaf, Ganesh.. the list ran to 24 members now and they had planned total of 25. Now they looked with question mark faces and Ayub asked “who will be the 25th?” They were all thinking, when Laira spoke “Savitha..friends, I am sure she would love this.”
Everyone said almost at once “Savitha!!! we don’t think she can afford 200 Rs. Her family is very poor. She is a good jolly girl but we better find somebody else who can contribute.”
Laira told everyone “Savitha will go with us. I will bring her with me and I will pay for her contribution.” The matter thus settled, they all dispersed having finalised the list.
In the evening, Laira went to meet Savitha to invite her. Savitha’s house was a very small 2-room house. As Laira reached up the house, she saw the door open. Savitha’s mother said hello to her with a smile for she too knew and loved Laira. Savitha came up and offered an old chair to Laira as a seat. Laira sat on it and watched Savitha’s mother struggling with the kerosene stove. The stove was old and though it did burn, the flame was uneven and would shut off after few minutes. Laira asked her “Aunty, you want any help.”
Savitha’s mother smiled “No.. thanks dear, but I am used to this old stove. I will manage. Wanted to buy a new one last month, but could not afford. It costs 2000 Rs and I do not have that much money with so many other bills to pay.. but it is okay. I will manage with this for some more time.”
Savitha came out smiling and said “Lirry, what brings you today to my place.”
Laira said “Savitha I have come to ask your mother to send you with me to the Fun-Fair.”
Savitha said “NO” at once. She said “You know Laira, I just cannot afford it. I have to help mother too. (With a sob she said) With dad gone forever.. we have to manage things between us”.
She hugged Laira.” Thanks Lirry for inviting anyways. You are a dear friend.”
Savitha’s mother kept silent. She felt sorry for Savitha but she knew Funfair meant lot of expense and there was no point to go there without money to spend for fun. Laira understood. She said “Savi.. it is okay. I will take snaps of the Fair and will come and show it to you.” So saying she said bye to Savitha and with something weighing on her mind, Laira walked back slowly to her own house.
Laira called Gopal who had made the list and told him that Savitha was not coming and to get someone else to make it total 25 members. Gopal promised to take care of that. Laira also asked everyone to meet that very evening at her house. In the evening they all met wondering why Laira had called them. Laira spoke now “dear friends, I have an idea. I want us to be part of the Fun-Fair and not just be visitors. So if we all have something old and unused, not required by our household, we could collect it and set up our own stall. What do you say?”
All were struck dumb for 3 seconds and then unanimously roared “What a great idea Lirry?..You do think wonderful things. We WILL do it .. and while 2 of us stand at OUR stall.. the rest can enjoy moving around. It is going to be great fun.”
So by evening there was quite enough collection of old stuffs, like umbrella, tiffin box, old shirts, toys etc. By Saturday evening, all seemed perfect and planned.
Sunday morning all 25 kids boarded the bus from Norta and reached Santehalli by 10 am. They lost no time in setting up their stall as attractively as they could with balloons and ribbons and colour papers. They had already put the “price tags” on the stuff they had brought for selling. Gayatri and Richa said we will do the selling till you come back. So off you all go now. They all went looking around. It was a BIG Fun-Fair with lots of colorful attractive stalls all around selling chocolates, biscuits, toys, kites, umbrellas, clothes. They all started buying whatever they felt fascinated with.. they found the price quite cheap and were thrilled.
Laira was equally excited and was looking around to buy something for herself. Being a rich girl, she had all that she wanted at home. So as she moved along thinking what to buy, suddenly her eyes caught something in a shop. She went near and saw that it was picture of a “new model kerosene stove” which assured easy handling and less messy burning. Laira went into the small stall and asked the seller “How much does that stove cost? and is it as easy as it is mentioned on the picture?”…
The shopkeeper smiled and said “If you really want it we can give you a demo. So tell me.”
Laira said “give me 5 minutes. I will bring my friends also and we would like to buy it if it is really good.”
So saying she ran to the others and told them of the stove. Dinesh had his mouth open wide “Lirry.. what is this?… we come to the fair to buy a stove.. are you gone crazy?.. what is wrong with you girl?”
Laira smiled at him and said “Shh Dinu..it is a little secret.. please trust me.. I bet you will like it later.”
The boys and girls gave in finally and soon they were at the shop again who kept his word and asked one of his assistants to give a demo. The “demo” proved to be very positive and all the kids agreed that it was a wonderful stove with magic. No soot, no mess, and good flame. Laira asked for the price and the shopkeeper said 3000 Rs. Laira bargained with him and he fixed the amount at 2225 Rs.. and asked for the money. Laira told him to keep the stove packed as a “gift” and that she would return by 5 pm, pay the money and collect it. The shopkeeper agreed.
The others now took a turn at their own stall and most of their “things” were almost sold by noon. Priya counted the collection and said “we have got 2700 Rs until now.. Narayan’s old mobile and Laira’s old sewing machine have got us the maximum amounts.”
Some more customers came and bought things from their stall, and by around 4 pm, they had sold every single item they had collected as junk. The total collection amounted to 3450 Rs. They handed it over to Laira. Robert said “Lirry, here is the money. what are we going to do with it. More games or shall we watch a movie together?”
Laira touched his shoulder and said “Sorry Rob.. this is for a noble cause. Come let us go and collect the stove that I bought”.
They met the shopkeeper. Laira counted 2225 Rs from their “sale collection” and handed it to the shopkeeper as others watched. She also bought at the Fun-Fair, a kerosene can for 100 rs, and some plastic sit mats for 125 Rs. They were now left with 1000 Rs cash.
After spending another half an hour at play at the Fun-Fair, having thoroughly enjoyed the day, they now boarded the bus back to Norta. As they reached Norta, Laira had an announcement to make “Friends, we will all go to a house where I will take you to now, and from there we will all disperse.” They were eager to know about “Lirry’s secret.” So they all said “okay.”
Laira told them on the way where they were going and also instructed them to behave well and not say anything hurting or rude. As they reached Savitha’s house, Laira again saw Savitha’s mother sitting there struggling to get the old stove going with welled-up tears in her eyes. Now she turned and saw these school kids approaching and was wondering if Savitha had invited them. So with a curious look on her face she caught sight of Laira and said “Savitha has gone out Lirry.. did she invite you all?”..
Laira smiled and said “No aunty.. we are coming from the Fun-Fair and we came now to meet YOU, not Savitha.”
So saying she opened the gift pack of the stove and told Savitha’s mother “We all had our own shop at the Fun-Fair and sold a number of OLD unwanted things. We raised enough money and with THAT money we have bought you this gift. Let me show you how to use it. Please come here.”
So saying Laira opened the pack, brought out the stove, proceeded to the place where the old stove was. She poured kerosene into the NEW stove and as the flames came up burning beautifully, Laira turned around to see Savitha’s mother who seemed thrilled beyond words. She broke down into tears caught Laira, hugged her and kissed her. “Oh my angel.. oh my angel” she kept saying with tears of joy. Such joyous tears when they fill the air make all eyes moist as we all know. So before long, everyone was “crying”.. Such was the immense joy the new stove brought for Savitha’s mother.
Laira now handed the other gifts also, the kerosene can and the plastic sit mats. Savitha’s mother kept blessing the children and Laira especially all the time. She sadly said “Laira.. I wish I could offer you all something to eat or drink. But you know.. don’t you.”
Laira said “I know very well aunty, and none of us mind that.. don’t you worry.”
She said “Aunty now we have to leave. Please ask Savitha to meet me tomorrow morning.” They all hugged Savitha’s mother, told her it made them happy to be of help to her, and left the place. Savitha’s mother kept staring at the group until they disappeared round the bend. With a smile on her lips and joy in heart, she proceeded to attend to the cooking with the NEW stove, blessing the kids of Encorage School at the time.
As they walked out from the place much farther, they now had to disperse to go to their respective houses. They all went rather silently for all were tired but before they parted, each one gave Laira a warm hug with a “love you Laira.. well done.” Laira’s face shone with happiness and she looked so angelic as she stepped into her house. She saw her mom and dad and suddenly had the urge to hug them and she did THAT. They were very surprised and asked “Lirry, why was this sudden affection.”
Laira said “I cannot thank you enough for what you teach me through your own behaviour and temperaments. You always express love, caring, sharing, and you make sacrifices for each other. I have seen and felt it and the same has made me follow the examples, and the result is I get abundant happiness and joy that I would have truly missed had I not been guided by these wonderful virtues of yours. Love you ma, love you pa.”
They both simultaneously said “Love you too Laira. You are God’s little angel who has come in our life.”
Next day Savitha came to see Laira. Her mother had told her everything that happened when she was away. Savitha now hugged Laira and was so overwhelmed that she was unable to stop her tears from flowing rapidly. Laira said “Savitha, come on!! it was just a little surprise we managed for your mother. Nothing so great really.”
Then she gave Savitha the envelope with 1000 Rs that was balance money and told her. “Savitha.. I know your birthday is after 2 days, so I want you to have this money and spend it as you please. I know how hard you are working with your mom and so I want you to be happy. This is NOT my money Savi.. this is what WE collected from our efforts at the sale. So you need not feel bad. Do take it and make use of it.” Savitha took the envelope feeling thrilled, hugged Laira again, had tea and biscuits with Laira and then left for her own house.
Laira as she now sat on her bed, thanked the Lord for the day’s happenings and asked HIM to protect her from temptations and evil forces. After praying to God, Laira then stretched on her bed and was soon fast asleep.
MORAL: Using parents’ money or “easy found money” to buy things for poor people is rather an “easy” way to give charity.. we must always give in charity what we “earn” through OUR own sweat and efforts. We can do this by using “creative methods” like Laira. But the real question is “Do we have enough moral values within us to take the initiative to do it?.” Girls and boys MUST understand that “God always rewards right thoughts, right words, and right actions.” It is a “tough track to tread” but one should never forget that “whatever we do, we are being WATCHED all the time.. Only ONE power has the ability to change our Destiny for Good and that is the Supreme Power we call “God” but HIS blessings can only be “earned” through what I call “the Laira Way.” I love the wonderful Laira Way. Do you friends?.. I know you are smiling now.. aren’t you? :)