Solitaire lost and regained

It was a day like any other at Arya Vidya Shala in Seshadripuram, Bangalore. The year was 1949, and I was in 7th standard. With mid-term exams around the corner, school was in full swing and in my class too, Pandit Bhaskaraiyya was belting out Kumaravyasa’s poetry in his booming voice.

We had settled into what seemed like another monotonous day, when there were repeated loud knocks on the classroom door.

At our door stood an old man, perhaps 80, in his striking white jubba, and dhoti. The Iyengar nama on his forehead did little to hide the anxiety writ large on his face. The man apologised profusely for disturbing the class, and narrated an intriguing tale. In his household, it was his duty to draw water from the well for the day’s use. That day too, he attended to his chore and as was his practice, he removed his ring and kept it on the wall of the well. It was a diamond solitaire gifted by his father-in-law at his wedding. He had worn it ever since, and it carried tremendous sentimental value. Then something happened – an eagle picked up the ring in its beak and flew away!

He reacted quickly and darted in the direction of the bird. Pretty soon, and to his relief, the bird dropped the ring in a field a few houses away. When he got there, he saw mechanics working at a car garage by the field, and asked them if they had seen the ring. One of the mechanics told him that the garage owner’s son had picked up the ring and gone off to school with it. This was looking good – it was fortuitous that the eagle had dropped the ring quickly, and that he now may be able to find it. It turned out the boy studied at Arya Vidya Shala, and so the man stood at our door.

After listening to this story, Pandit Bhaskaraiyya asked the class if anybody knew the student. The class was silent. He then asked the boys to file out of the classroom so the man could frisk everybody. After I was frisked, I stepped outside the classroom and in the corner of my eye, noticed something lying on the ground. It stood out against the dark background of the kadapa stone that lined the corridor. I almost ignored it, but on second thought, I picked it up and examined it.  And there it was!  It didn’t look like a ring any more, but the piece of mangled metal and stone had unmistakably been a piece of jewellery. The man was relieved, and couldn’t stop smiling for the rest of the morning!

After that, it didn’t take long for the facts to come out. The students knew Arumuga’s (name changed) father owned a car garage. When asked, Arumuga admitted that he had indeed picked up the ring. Unaware of the value of it, he had just pocketed it and made his way to school. When the frisking started, he got scared that he might be accused of stealing. So he put the ring in his mouth and chewed on it. Once outside, he had spat it out in the corridor and walked away.

The old man wanted to reward the boy who located it, and so I was the lucky winner of a Rs. 2 prize! And rightly, Arumuga was not punished; instead, he learnt a good lesson about being honest and transparent.

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