Laira had 3 friends, Priya, Richa, and Sonali who were her classmates and stayed nearby. These three girls were from middle class families while Laira was the daughter of a wealthy businessman. While Priya and Richa were of a easy-going nature and always cheerful, Sonali was different. In fact Sonali was secretly jealous of Laira. Something in her burned always when she saw Laira stepping down from her dad’s car, or when she wore a new dress. Laira looked very pretty and had the sweetest smile and drew a crowd around her wherever she went…. and that made Sonali jealous too. She tried to pull Richa to share this with her as she said with conviction in her voice
“Richa.. Laira acts so pompous because her dad is rich, doesn’t she.. she feels great about herself?”..
Richa said with equal conviction “Sonali, Laira is the best girl I have met, not because of her rich family background, but because she is the sweetest person on earth.” Richa said this and went away.
Sonali sat there and sulked. She wanted to know how Laira was better than her and in what ways except for her “hi-fi living” status.
One day all four of them decided to go out in the evening to a nearby park. Sonali said “we will all pack our respective food and water and we can eat at the park”
Priya and Richa said “yes, and I will bring my skipping rope and tennis ball so that we can even play a game or two.”
Laira nodded with her sweet smile. At around 5 p.m. they started off together. The park was about 5 km away from their place and they had decided it would be fun to walk and talk all along the way. The little team of four thus began their short outing. They had just reached the 3rd km milestone, giggling and chatting when Priya said “Hey.. look at the poor old man there. He is shivering.”
A few passers bye threw a coin and walked off. The poor old man was touching his stomach and stretching out his hands. Laira said “let us see what he wants. Maybe he is hungry and wants food. We can give something to him from our supplies.”
Sonali at once pounced on her “Laira, just throw a coin and let us go. We don’t want to get late, do we?” saying this she just dragged Laira and asked Priya and Richa to follow her.
They had walked further for 5 minutes, when suddenly Laira turned and left them saying “you guys carry on, I will be back soon.”
Richa and Priya started after her when Sonali pulled them and said.. “Oh!! let Laira be.. she cannot spoil our fun. We will follow our time-bound plan”.
So the three of them went further on. Laira almost ran back to where the old man was sitting, now with tears rolling down his eyes and his hands being weak even to lift. Laira swiftly brought her backpack down and opening the “tiffin box” offered it to the old man. The old man looked at Laira once and grabbing the tiffin box started feeding himself from it. “Poor old man” Laira thought “must have been very very hungry.”
Then she pulled out a paper glass from her backpack, filled it with water from her water bottle and placed it in front of him.” The old man having finished the contents of the tiffin box drank the water from the glass. Laira could see that he had regained his energy now as he fumbled in his “old rag bag” for something.
As Laira turned to go, the old man called “Child!! take this and open it only when I am out of sight.” He thrust a small dirty envelop in her hand and with a slow shuffle disappeared at the bend of the road.
Laira suddenly remembered that she had to reach the park soon, or her friends would be angry with her. She did not bother to open the envelop, just put it in her backpack and ran towards the direction of the park. Her friends were there skipping around with the rope. They stopped and surrounded Laira.
“Where had you been Laira?.. why did you have to suddenly turn and go without saying a word?”..
Sonali said “She must have gone to buy choclates for herself at that small shop so that she could eat them all herself.”
Priya said “Shut up Sonali.. you are such an evil guesser.”
Sonali laughed loudly and said “Ok. Laira .. tell us where you went then.”
Laira narrated her little time spent for the sake of the poor old man.
Sonali just said “Ugh!!”.
Richa and Priya said “Laira, you are so different and nice.”
Sonali said.. “okay come now let us eat.”
Richa said to Laira “we can share Laira, since you have given your tiffin box to the old man.”
They all shared whatever they had.. and after playing “catch” with the tennis ball they were on their way back home again. As they neared the spot where the old man was sitting earlier, suddenly Laira remembered the envelop and told the others. Sonali demanded that she show it to all what was inside the envelop.
“Surely the old man was a beggar and could not give any 100 Re note to Laira” was Sonali’s cheap thought. Laira slowly tore the envelop open and pulled out a small folded paper sheet. She opened the sheet and as all four of them saw the words, all except Laira had to bow their head down in shame. For in it was written in the most beautiful handwriting “Where compassion exists, God exists.. and where God exists Heaven is in the heart always.. Bless you my child.”
Richa who had heard Sonali remark about Laira.. now looked at Sonali with a raised eyebrow. Sonali knew what Richa meant and overcome by remorse she silently wiped a tear from her eye and hugged Laira tightly and affectionately… which made both Laira and Priya wonder why? Needless to say from that day onwards Sonali too changed for “good.”
Moral: Never give importance to wealth, status, age, or gender. Give respect to the human that respects and incorporates moral values.. and learn to be like them.