Mr. Ramnarayan was our English teacher at our Cuddalore factory. An extremely nice gentleman who authored books on ‘How to write and speak English’. His speciality was his impeccable accent, diction and his strong basics on English grammar. He will be, I am sure, squirming within and without when he reads today’s SMS and E mails. Wit, humour and sarcasm have been his forte. When some student had told him that ‘a rose by another would smell as sweet’, he had retorted that ‘a chrysanthemum by another name would spell easier’. All of us present enjoyed his class thoroughly and looked forward to his weekly lectures.
In one such class, he had narrated a short story which till today remains etched in my mind. This was a real life story and I vividly remember the manner in which he had narrated this one. The story goes like this. Quote“ Ramnarayan Sir’s family consisted of five brothers, five sisters and their parents. One day it so happened that their mother prepared delicious halwa (Indian sweet delicacy) and all the brothers and sisters had feasted on the halwa. The father was at work and was to return at night. Their mother had lovingly kept a piece of halwa for her husband and duly placed it in a container. Her husband returned home at night when to her shock and embarrassment found the delicacy missing. She promptly ordered an enquiry into the ‘MISSING HALWA’, and informed her husband about the incident. Her husband, a disciplinarian and more catholic than the Pope, summoned all his children and got into intense cross examination. No one was ready to come out with the truth which made the father rant in fury. He gave them a final opportunity and closeted all his children in a room, bolted the door with instructions to come out clean within an hour. (These children, as ordinarily children are, would have even broken the eleventh commandment if one existed).
What, of course, transpired in the room is rather interesting. No one confessed to the salivating crime but rather a strategy was worked out. The grandiose plan was - all the brothers and sisters told Ramanarayan Sir that since he was the favourite and pet child of the parents, he should confess to the disappearing act. After initial refusal, Ramanarayan Sir was coaxed and convinced to believe that the parents wrath on him would be miniscule as compared to what would befall others. As the gong struck after an hour, our Ramanarayan Sir confessed to his parents and was anointed ‘Martyr at the Halwa Altar’. Sir was admonished before his siblings and part one of the story ended.
Part two seems to be more interesting and revealing of human nature. Ramanarayan Sir, after having owned the mistake on his siblings’ behalf, asked them who had in reality consumed the halwa. No one , again, relented. All of them got married over a period of time, had their own children and grand children and met once in a year congregating at their native place during Diwali. During every such get together, Sir asked each of them whether they could at least now reveal as to who had eaten the forbidden halwa. The answer to this question was never forthcoming. The family has met over the years several times, their parents have expired, some of the brothers and sisters have expired but to date the riddle of the missing halwa still remains unresolved. One cannot fathom whether the halwa has gone with one of those brothers and sisters who are no more, or whether the mischievous one who had indeed hideously consumed it is still alive. Ramanarayan Sir, for sure, rests comfortably content in his house knowing fully well that he is not the real culprit, and still smiles reminiscing the incident.
Why do human beings behave the way they behave?
20 hours ago