The sun set in the horizon as the sky turned yellowish. There was still a large crowd waiting patiently in the queue to get a glimpse of the Lord.
There were fathers carrying their kids on their shoulders, mothers trying to soothe their irritated babies, and others just rushing in. Ranji sat atop a stone step gazing at the milling crowd. The step was still hot. A little later, he got up and made for the hall, where free food was being served. He squatted on the floor and gobbled up the served food. On his way to his usual resting spot under the huge tree by the wayside kiosk, he met Nathu, the son of one of the cooks.
‘Hi!’ Nathu reciprocated with a nod.
‘What are you doing?’ asked Ranji when he noticed a knife in Nathu’s hand.
‘Just cutting some vegetables,’ Nathu replied. ‘I need to help my father. I need to earn a living. Besides, he injured his hand, so I guess I should help him.’
Ranji nodded. Nathu at least had a father who cared for him. Ranji, on the other hand, was an orphan.
‘I, too, should earn my living. How long can I live on temple food like this?’ Ranji suddenly got up and walked into the kitchen.
‘Hey, hey you! Get out! Get out of here!’ from the corner of his eye, Ranji saw a man charging at him. ‘You thief! Get out! Trying to steal food, are you?’
The man tried to shove Ranji out.
‘Wait, I’m not a thief. I just want to work here.’
The man stared at him. However, Ranji stared back at him with defiance. Suddenly, the man smiled, and so did Ranji.
‘You want work? Oh, well, come on in,’ said the man, handing a knife to Ranji. The man pointed at some tomatoes and said, ‘I hope you can cut tomatoes. I’d need them finely chopped.’
After finishing the chores, Ranji received a two-rupee note. He decided to save it. Soon enough, his life had some order to it. He would spend the day in the kitchen peeling potatoes, cutting vegetables and doing odd jobs for the kitchen staff.
One day, Nathu told him, ‘You know, I got an offer to work in the big bungalow down the temple street.’
‘That’s great! So, what are you going to do?’ Ranji asked eagerly.
‘Well, I turned it down. I didn’t like the idea of being a servant,’ Nathu laughed.
Later that evening, Ranji decided to try his luck at the bungalow. To his surprise, he was offered the job immediately. It turned out that an old woman lived by herself in the bungalow. She needed someone to take care of all the household chores for her. In return, she could offer food and shelter. This was just the kind of job Ranji needed. Soon, things started changing for the better.
One day, the old lady asked him, ‘Have you been to school?’
‘No, ma’am,’ replied Ranji.
‘Then let’s arrange for you to go there.’
Ranji soon found himself at a school. Of course, his classmates were younger than him. Slowly but steadily, he went about his work and studies. It wasn’t long before he finished school.
Ranji celebrated his twenty-sixth birthday last month. He is now a doctor with a small house on Tirupati Lane.
Whenever the temple bells chime to announce the evening pooja, he eagerly waits for his childhood friend, Nathu, who is now twenty-five and works as the assistant cook at the temple. Nathu is also a contented man. The two friends often sit together and relive their childhood days over a cup of tea.
‘Strange are the ways of life,’ remarks Dr. Ranji.
‘They sure are,’ replied Nathu. ‘And to think that it was all down to a small act of kindness!’
‘Who’d believe that we were once boys who lived on temple food? Thanks to the Almighty for making our lives worthwhile,’ said Ranji.
…now that you’re here
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As fond of writing a good story as he is of reading one, Pravin is one of the most promising writers at Ameya. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.