Mani Iyer has been ailing from an acute heart ailment and was not expected to live long. He is past 75 and has been staying in this poor home for the last ten years. He was discarded by his children who were themselves leading hand to mouth lives. Although life was not comfortable in the home with its Spartan meals and dormitory type of accommodation, Iyer was grateful for the shelter and food the home provided. He shuddered to think of the alternative and had no complaints to make. He had no place to go and did not have any visitors. Some kindly people used to visit the home on festive occasions and distribute sweets and dresses for the inmates. Some used to give five or ten rupees each to them. Some of the inmates bought betel leaves and areca nuts, some procured snuff, some peppermints and the others kept them in their boxes. Mani iyer had bought for the first time in his life a Sikkim lottery ticket for Rs10 on the persuasion of another friendly inmate and kept it in his diary. He bought it only to please his friend. He never thought about it though his friend would come up with various suggestions how the winnings should be utilised in case his ticket won the prize.
Ramu was a young man working in the home for a paltry salary. Mani Iyer had taken a liking for him as he was gentle in his words and kind by disposition unlike the many others who were rude and irritable most of the time and went about ordering the poor people.Ramu also liked iyer and used to spend the leisure hours chatting with him and seeking his advice and guidance.Iyer had a great trust in Ramu.It so happened that iyer’s friend who goaded him to buy the lottery ticket passed away suddenly. In the grief iyer had forgotten about the lottery ticket for months. One afternoon when Ramu and iyer were talking, the latter saw the ticket in his diary. He asked Ramu to keep the ticket with him to check the results and added that he would make it worth his while for the help. Ramu jokingly asked iyer what would be his share.Iyer without any hesitation instantly said fifty-fifty.Ramu was surprised and said ”Sir, I don’t need so much. If you win huge amount you expand this home, provide more facilities, give better food and clothes to the inmates and increase our salaries.” Iyer replied “Don’t build castles in the air. We are destined to this lot in this birth. If per chance we get a few thousands, we can buy mats and pillows for all as they are in tatters.” Ramu was touched by his generous nature and concern for others.
That night Iyer unexpectedly suffered a massive heart attack and died even before he could be taken to the hospital. The entire home was enveloped in sorrow at the passing away of the kindly soul.Ramu could not control his tears at the demise of iyer whom he regarded as a father. The vacant space in the hall brought him sad memories. He did not care to check the results for fifteen days.
On the sixteenth day Ramu was in for the biggest surprise when he saw from the lottery results that iyer’s ticket had won one crore rupees. He made doubly sure without telling others and went to the bank manager of the bank that the home dealt with and narrated truthfully the happenings. The manager was a good natured man and asked him “Since you possess the ticket, you are the rightful owner of the entire winnings. I will credit initially the money in your name. Tell me how you wish to deal with it. In the first instance please sign at the back of the ticket your name and write the address.” Ramu replied “Iyer had a great desire to improve the living conditions of the inmates and provide basic facilities without being cramped. I would request you to spend the entire fortune in expanding the home with a pucca building with greater facilities. That would please the departed soul. I do not want even one rupee for myself as the ticket was purchased with his money.”The bank manager stood up and embraced Ramu telling “Frankly I do not know who is more praiseworthy-the humane iyer and the scrupulously honest you. I think I will set apart 90% of the net proceeds after tax for building and modernising the home and 10% for you in your name. That alone will meet the ends of justice. If you wish I can make it 80 and 20 percent also.” Ramu reluctantly agreed for 10% and left the details to be worked out by the bank manager who made a written record with proper signatures. It is defying a ready answer as to which character in this story is really laudable Kpartha12@hotmail.com