Pravin and Raju were friends since college days. They used to play not only lots of cricket at a nearby playground in their locality but also a lot of naughty pranks at others, such much so, that most people used to avoid them whenever they saw them coming their way. Though the general perception about them was so, there was no doubt they were good at heart. Pravin having the rare O-ve blood group was always a call away in emergencies that required his blood group, and many a time he was disturbed from his sleep by someone who was referred to his house in such cases. Raju never lost an opportunity to help the old and infirm. He was a bit short tempered but used to laugh uncontrollably at himself when someone pointed out his mistake. Pravin was always smiling when you met him and it seemed he had a solution to every problem that his visitor had, in his welcome smile.
After college, both decided to set up shops in the nearby town center, a distance of a kilometer walk from their homes. Raju set up a medical shop with his DPharm License and Pravin a Grocery shop next to it. Though both shops were not that expansive, it seemed it had everything any buyer would want when they started frequenting these shops. There were a few as I said who stayed shy away from these two shops and the owners wondering what new pranks they would play on them during their visits.
They had a fair share of critics and cynics who were not happy about how they had settled themselves in life since their earlier predictions about the duo had gone haywire and also wary about what and how they sold. This was one of the topics of the so called group who whiled away their time in the shade of a poor banyan tree who could not but help listen to all their negative conversations.
It was not that there were no other grocery and medical shops in the town and our PR brothers knew it would take some time for consumers to come to their shops from afar. Knowing that the local community would not fail them, they reposed their faith and trust in their businesses and got going. Both had stocked only the bare necessities in their shops since they did not have a big capital while starting their ventures. Having studied the buying habits of the people in their place by frequenting the other shops, whatever they had on their shelves they could sell fast.
One evening on a dark night when Pravin was about to close for the day and down the shutters of his shop while calling out to Raju to do the same, an old woman came up to him asking for a kilogram of rice and half a kilo of tur dal. She was perhaps over seventy with wrinkles adorning her features with a stick in hand. She looked at peace with herself and yet so out of place in the middle class locality. Pravin was wondering where he had seen her and it was then a fragile piece of memory dawned upon him. She lived in a small house with her daughter in law, her son having passed away a couple of years back near the playground. He had gone into their small courtyard once to retrieve the cricket ball that Raju had struck for a Sixer. She, her daughter and her granddaughter subsisted on a pension that amounted to a meager 2000 rupees as per the all knowing banyan tree group.
“Son, should I go back or will you be kind on this old woman in the dark“, she said with a smile mirroring Pravin’s smile. Oh Dadi! how could I be so cruel to have turned away such a beautiful woman away from my shop, was the instant reply that came out from Pravin. Old habits die hard, he muttered as he bit his tongue. How is your granddaughter doing? “Oh, she is not keeping well, down with fever since yesterday. Only when I wanted to prepare some gruel for them was when I came to know there were no provisions at home to prepare one”, with a chuckle came her reply. Gita is also sick since morning otherwise she would have come for this.
Hey Raju, don’t close your shop yet. There is a customer for you. “Dadi do you have some medicine for their ailment or should you need one, you can ask Raju here for one, he is dying to help people recover their lost health”. As Pravin gave the packed rice and dal in her cloth bag in the dim candle light, he waited for her to pay him. She took out her small purse which had a few small denomination rupee notes and quite a lot of coins… In the dim light, since the electricity was out just as as the old lady had reached the place, she was taking a bit of time counting the notes to pay a smiling and observant Pravin. Raju having heard the conversation had come with a strip of Paracetamol and he looked to Pravin with a twinkle in his eyes.
It is okay Dadi if you don’t have enough money to pay us now. You should hurry as I sense rain some minutes away from here, and we don’t want you too, to fall sick. “It is okay sons”, she said, “I think I should have enough money to pay you” as she went on counting her notes and coins to make it tally…
What Dadi? how can your counting tally since each time you are dropping a few notes and coins, as Raju sat down and picked up a few notes and a couple of coins and gave it to her. “That is so kind of you son to have noted it and helped this old lady. I am a bit nervous and hence fidgety with my fingers”. When Raju counted back the money and handed over to Pravin his share and took another 10 rupees for his Paracetamol strip, there were a couple of notes given back to the woman, saying this time also, your counting was wrong. “Come we will give you company, give me the bag, it will be heavy for you”, said Pravin, as the trio traced their steps to her house. Would you want a cup of tea here before you reach your homes was her parting remark. Don’t bother Dadi, some other time, said they, in a single voice and waited outside till she had entered her house.
Raju you were quick to switch off the light, in fact I think you saw her before me. What is our gain today, remarked a laughing Pravin, Well, she got fifty five rupees from me, said Raju. Hmm, and half a kilo more of gram and rice from me. Each patted the other on the back as they walked back, contented towards their homes. Their well devised prank and well rehearsed reach to the poor, who counted their meager store of money in the dim light had worked out well, this time too…