Every day people who frequented the CGS market would spot him for his mischievous but endearing nature. Sometime he would be seen selling few fruits in a basket whereas the next day, he would sport as a flower seller. He had a smile for every buyer whether they bought or not, any of the items he sold. Just when one thought they knew all his chores, he would surprise them by employing himself at Karim’s workshop or any of the other shops in the market for a few days.
Ramu as he was fondly called, was a jack of all trades and did have shades of good nature in him. Most of the women folk would stop to inquire and have a chat with him before they vanished in the vehicles that brought them. He knew which shop had good vegetables and which among the displayed fish had come fresh from the river that day. In fact he knew the minds of the shopkeepers in that market as well as the customers who flocked to the market.
He was barely 14 having seen school for a few years before he ran away from where he belonged after which he was sighted at this place. It had been a couple of years since he was a part of this market, in this remote small township nestled near the western hills far away from the affluent cities.
One fine day Ramu was not to be seen. Also, some shops were ransacked that very night and certain merchandise and money went missing. Everybody blamed it on him or a gang of thieves who might have enrolled his services. The police made inquiries and all fingers pointed to him since he he had gone missing.
After the initial animated talk that lasted few days, everything seemed forgotten which is when Ramu the urchin made his appearance. The news spread like fire and the shopkeepers whose shops were ransacked came running to thrash him. Fearing for his life and well being, some customers and other kind shop owners shielded him from their wrath. “I had gone to the the next town to witness an annual festival” is all what he could repeatedly mutter before the police who were by now alerted took him away.
Ramu was in a poor state after he could not reveal anything or be of any use to the police about the robbery and after having beaten him black and blue he was disposed off near the thick woods at a neighborhood forest. He went hungry for a couple of days though the steady rains gave him enough water to drink. Slowly he dragged himself to the precincts of an old dilapidated temple. There he decided to put up shelter till the rains ceased.
In the morning he saw a old man worshiping at the shrine of the goddess. Among the items of worship was a plate of fresh flowers and fruits.After the puja was over, the person left the place or so he thought. He crawled to the plate intending to partake the offerings when he saw the same old man coming back again. “You may take whatever is left after an hour has passed” he suggested and disappeared again. Famished that he was, Ramu counted some minutes before he fell asleep. When he woke up he was surprised to see the flowers and some of the fruits gone. There were a bunch of bananas still left from which he ate and drank from the water that was part of the offerings.
A couple of monkeys descended from nowhere and made off with some bananas to his consternation. At least they could have sustained him in the evening. He tried getting up but the bruises all over and a couple of broken ligaments did little to help him.
“What brings you here?” Ramu jumped at the question. A sweet lady in a red sari sitting on the parapet was looking at him with a smiling face.
As was his playful nature and despite the pain Ramu replied, “I was dumped here by the law thinking me to be an outlaw. They lost interest in me after a couple of days and I do not know where I shall go now that some of my friends in the market have turned enemies as he recounted his tale”.
“Don’t worry about them. Here are a few silver coins. Distribute them to all those whose shops were ransacked and they will be happy. But before that you should regain your health. Come with me “as the lady got up and held a hand to Ramu to lift himself up. Together they descended the steps and entered a grove where existed a pond. “Why don’t you take a bathe in that pond all this pain that you experience will subside”. Like a loving son obedient to his mother’s call he slowly entered the pond with feeble steps and bathed himself. When he emerged from it how surprised and thrilled he was as all his ailments had left him.
“Now listen son, to all the other shopkeepers you must tell about this temple that exists deep in the dangerous woods and this trunk pointing to an old iron heavy trunk. It has a heavy padlock. Nobody can lift this from here but only the sadhu can open this and others could only break it open if they feel so. I guess there are a few hundred such coins in there. A few lucky and needy people do come this way that is when I get the chance to give away some of these” as she handed a few more. This is for you to open a shop of your own when the time is ripe. Which shop would you open dear son?” . “What about a flower and incense shop” Ramu wondered aloud, the first thought that had come to his mind.
“I would like you to sell a bit of everything with less margin so that poor people can depend on you. Will you do this for me in return for this favor, and yes do sell flowers and incense for I would grace the temple next to the market and people from all sections would throng your shop to get the flowers for worship”.
Ramu never felt so happy and yet sad to leave her. “Where do you live and who is that old sadhu who prays here”, was his parting question. “I am the caretaker of these woods and that person found me here when I rested once in my journeys through the length and breadth of this forest. It is an old story for which we will find some other time”. “Meanwhile hurry up and get going now and plan accordingly as I told you”. Ramu kept looking back at her wondering how they could live in the midst of that thick forest as he traced back his way to the road on the outskirts and from there on to the market.
The shopkeepers rejoiced to see him back in his usual self and were glad he could be of some help to recoup their losses with the coins he gave them. Others who had faith in his goodness were glad to see him hale and hearty and blessed him. Some were sure that he had the divine’s blessings during his stay in the forest. He recounted all what had happened to him in the last few days but only Mukha who had setup a oil shop last month came to him again and pressed on him to retell the story as if he didn’t believe the innocent Ramu.
One day Mukha did not come to open his shop. People who came for their weekly oil needs had to go back disappointed. In fact, Mukha never came back from wherever he had gone to and even while the police like the others made a half hearted attempt to search him, they too failed. After a month, it was Mulchand, the vegetable grocer, who suggested that Ramu use the vacant shop to setup a small business of his own and true to the promise given to the sweet lady at the temple, he set up a shop which had everything what others had including the flowers and the incense for the shrine at the market roundabout.
It was a matter of few months before news started pouring that the goddess at the market shrine was powerful enough to grant blessings and remove many ailments of those who flocked to her so much so that the shrine became popular in no time and Ramu’s was the only shop which was selling flowers and worship items at the market. After a couple of years the CGS shrine could host its own festival.