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Sridevi Ka Anda
|by Ramendra Kumar|
On the outskirts of Ramgarh town lived a farmer whose name was Veeru. His wife was called Basanti. They were a rich and prosperous couple. Veeru was an easygoing fellow but Basanti was very stingy. They had a huge poultry farm. The pride of the farm was a hen called Sridevi. She was a large and fat hen who was very special. While the other hens laid an egg or two at a time Sridevi laid no less than six to seven eggs! Basanti never allowed any of these eggs to be used. They all hatched and yielded healthy chicks. Because of her talent Sridevi was given special treatment. While all the other hens were cooped up in a coop, Sridevi was kept in a special enclosure. While the other hens were given a normal diet on all days, Sridevi was fed her favorite raisins every alternate Sunday.
All these privileges made Sridevi very arrogant and she strutted about the farm as if she were its undisputed empress.
One day Sridevi, after laying her daily quota of eggs, went to Basanti’s kitchen. Today was the raisin day. She gobbled up the raisins and came back to her resting place. She had one more look at the eggs - ‘The best in the land’; she thought to herself her proud chest swelling even more with pride.
Then suddenly she noticed something and stopped in ‘mid-puff’. She had laid seven eggs but now there were eight!
She counted once again. Yes there were eight. Could she have made a mistake in counting the first time? Yes, that was always a possibility. She had always been poor in counting even as a chick. She went back to puffing her chest - eight eggs in one go - this surely must merit an entry into the Guinness Book of World Records or at least the Limca Book!
Basanti would be thrilled and might increase the frequency of raisins to once a week, Sridevi happily thought.
A few minutes later Sridevi went and sat on each egg to quicken the process of hatching. Soon seven healthy chicks emerged out of seven eggs. One egg remained in the same state.
Sridevi pecked it lightly, it appeared quite hard.
‘Stubborn fellow. Bull headed just like his Papa, Boney!’ Sridevi muttered.
“He needs a harder peck,” she declared to herself and with her beak gave a short, sharp peck.
“Ouch!” Sridevi yelled. Her beak had almost broken. She went around hopping in pain and rage. Finally she cast a dirty look at the egg and picking it up chucked it out of her enclosure.
Veeru was just coming home from work for his lunch. He saw an egg lying on the ground in front of Sridevi’s enclosure and picked it up. It looked big and solid. Now Veeru was crazy about eggs and had always wanted to eat the ones laid by Sridevi. But Basanti would never allow him to do.
“Don’t be stupid Veeru. Sridevi’s eggs are not for eating. We get the healthiest chicks from them and from these chicks the best quality eggs. You can eat the eggs laid by the other hens can’t you?” Basanti would say and poor Veeru would just lick his lips and hang his head.
He took the egg to Basanti.
“Hey, Basanti, quickly make one of your special omelets, I am feeling very hungry.”
Basanti looked at the egg. “Where did you get this? It looks like Sridevi’s egg?”
“No, no. I swear. It was laid by one of the other hens. Probably it was Kareena or Karishma,” Veeru lied.
Basanti made the preparations and then tapped the egg with a spoon. The egg remained in the state in which it was. She tapped harder and harder.
Veeru started getting impatient.
“If you do not want to make an omelet for me, say so. Why are you acting as if you can’t break an egg,” he grumbled.
“I am not acting. This egg is really hard.”
“How can an egg be hard? You are so stingy that you don’t want to part with one single egg, even if it is to feed your own husband,” Veeru shouted.
Basanti who was not used to being shouted at picked up the egg and banged it on Veeru’s head. “You have a hard nut, it will surely break the egg.”
“Ouch!” yelled Veeru jumping in the air. An egg like shape mushroomed on his nearly baldhead but the egg remained as it was.
Startled, Basanti threw the egg out of the window.
A few houses away Pappi Lahiri, the fattest man of Ramgarh, was bending down trying to touch his feet. His friend Unlucky Ali had bet him that he would never be able to do it.
“And suppose I do manage to touch my feet, what will I get?”
“I’ll send you a truck load of the juiciest mangoes to your house,” Unlucky Ali had declared.
The very thought of hundreds of mangoes in his house was inspiring Pappi Lahiri to try the unthinkable. Ever since he had been a toddler he had never been able to touch his feet. In the last few years he hadn’t even been able to go beyond his knees.
He bent himself at the waist and inch-by-inch started reaching down. From the knees, his hands moved to his shins and then slowly, very slowly towards his ankles. He started sweating with the strain but the vision of the mangoes kept him going. He touched his ankles and was just an inch away from his feet when something landed on his huge trouser seat. He felt a searing pain and shot up in the air. It was as if his backside had been set on fire. A few seconds later he landed on the ground, lost his balance and tumbled over.
He was greeted with howls of laughter. He looked around. Some urchins were standing around him, doubling up with laughter.
“You rascals! Wait till I get my hands on you? Just when I was inches away from my goal you had to mess up things,” he yelled, his fat, pink face turning purple.
“We did not do anything? Someone threw this thing and it landed on target,” one of them said pointing to a white object next to Pappi Lahiri’s massive trouser seat.
Pappi Lahiri picked it up and threw it as far away as he could. He then got up and lumbered away. He had decided to postpone his plans of touching his feet for at least another ten years or so.
“Deva, I am feeling hungry,” Paro told her friend Devdas. Six year old Paro and ten year old Devdas were orphans living in Anand an orphanage managed by Bramhachari a forty five year old man. Anand had 14 children in the age group 6 to 15. Bramhachari managed Anand from the money he earned by teaching English to students in the neighborhood. Bramhachari had been suffering from jaundice for the last few months and had not been able to work. All his savings had been spent in meeting the day-to-day expenses of Anand. For the past one week the children had not been getting even two square meals a day. But they had not told Bramhachari anything. They knew on coming to know the children’s plight he would set out to work without bothering about his condition.
“Come Paro, let us go to the temple. There might be some prasad left over from last night’s puja,” Devdas said and taking Paro’s hand led her outside. It was early in the morning and the other inmates of Anand were still asleep.
They walked to the Ganesh Temple which was close by. The Pujari gave them some prasad and they walked back. Suddenly Paro stopped, bend down and picked up a white object lying on the ground.
“See Deva, how beautiful this is?”
“It looks like an egg.”
“No, Deva. It cannot be an egg. I stepped on it and it didn’t break.”
“Let us show it to Baba.”
By the time they reached Bramhachari had woken up.
“Baba, see what Paro found on the street,” Devdas said.
“What was she doing out on the street so early.”
ldquo;We had both gone to the temple,” Devdas said giving him the egg.
Bramhachari gave one look and his eyes widened in surprise.
ldquo;Devdas, can you ask Aslam to get his auto?”
“Why Baba? Is anything wrong?”
“No, no. I have to go somewhere and you two also come along with me.”
Half an hour later the three of them were sitting in the living room of Natwarlal whose children were taught by Bramhachari.
Natwarlal entered the room.
“Bramhachari bhai! How are you? You look very pale? What brings you here this early?”
Bramhachari showed him the egg. Natwarlal, who had been standing, sat down with a thump.
“Wh....where did you get this?”
“These kids found it on the street in front of the Ganesh Temple close to Anand.”
“Can you imagine its value?” Natwarlal asked looking first at Bramhachari and then at the kids.
“I knew it was valuable. That is why I came to you,” Bramhachari said.
“It is a diamond- probably one of the biggest in India. Its value, at a rough estimate, would be around Rs.25 crores.”
“Twenty fire crores!” exclaimed Bramhachari and Devdas together.
“How many zeroes are there in 25 crores?” Paro asked and everyone laughed.
As advised by Natwarlal, who owned the biggest jewellery shop in Ramgarh, Bramhachari handed over the diamond to the Police. An official evaluation was carried out. The value of the diamond was Rs. 26.54 crores. It was given to the State Museum Authorities and was placed in a room housing precious stones from all over the world. It was given the name Paro. The photograph of Paro, Devdas and Bramhachari holding the precious stone was displayed in all the newspapers. The Government gave Bramhachari a cash award of Rs. 30 lakhs. The money, he kept in the bank and with the interest took care of the expenses of Anand. Today, Anand has 35 children and all the comforts which reasonable amount of money and lots of love can buy.
Image under license with Gettyimages.com
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