“Sir, the mangoes are all packed”, said the jawan. He loaded them into the car as my father readied himself for work. This was a daily morning routine. He was taking the mangoes for his colleagues.
The mangoes of our garden were the talk of the entire estate. Mangoes thrived in abundance on the sprawling mango tree in our backyard.
“Hi there, how are you? I was just passing by and thought I would drop in. Oh, and by the way, your mangoes were heavenly!” . This was the favourite statement of one of my father’s colleagues which he used as an overture to him whenever he used to ‘drop by’; which he used to do every couple of days. It was indeed a long time for him. His punch line never failed to fetch him a dozen mangoes from my all too innocent and magnanimous father.
The venue of the fortnightly kitty parties, invariably, used to shift from the mess to our house. After all, the mess could never have boasted of the delightful mango treat. After a couple of games played in vanity, the humble mango took the centrestage. One would remember the good old days of Ghalib when around the mango treat were organized the famous mushairas. Only here, it was the gossip rather than the maestro’s enigmatic couplets which served as an excuse.
Though it did fetch them accolades by the dozen, the philanthropy of my father and the over indulgent and apparent generosity of my mother was vocally dissented by me. The very thought that anyone should get away with the crowned harvest of our backyard so very easily, was acrimonious.
The mango, of course, had other ways of landing into undeserving hands. Last time he had eluded me but today I had finally caught him. A small little kid had had the impudence of trying to steal my mangoes again, after having had a narrow escape barely a week ago.
Not someone to lose my temper easily, this incident was enough to bring me to rage. “I’ll have you beaten up by him”, I said, as I called the jawan near. His friends who had managed to escape were watching the scene anxiously from the fence. He was in his white uniform and was probably returning from school. He had a mango in each of his hands, a few in his pockets and perhaps, a few more in his already overburdened bag.
The initial wink in his eyes had changed to moisture and by now it had given way to tears. I could see the twinkle in his eyes reflecting upon torn shirt that he was wearing. “Forgive me!!” he pleaded. I reasoned that he was here not as much for his love of the mango as his need for it. Besides that, I thought, stealing a mango still required some physical effort, unlike the likes of my father’s colleague who simply sweet-talked their way to the mango.
As I bent down and looked into his eyes, it suddenly dawned upon me that I can make this a defining moment in his life. He would be all ears now and in his one of the most vulnerable and weakest moments. It would also be one of his most impressionable moments. So I wiped off his tears from his face, took his hand in mine and softly I started whispering to him about the great virtues of life and how one gains from them. I told him stories of great men and hoped secretly that he would follow them someday and also thank me for giving him such an important lesson in his life. I talked about ethics and moral values and the principles of leading one’s life. He listened intently as his friends standing at the fence gradually started leaving.
I got up finally, with a thought that I just made someone a better person today; and it filled me with a great sense of pride. I turned back, only to feel his touch pulling my fingers from behind. Wiping off his semi-dry tears, he asked, “ Can I take the mango lying behind you?”
He went home with a bagful of mangoes…………