There Came A Big Spider…
Chandran, after reading an item of news from The Hindu paper said aloud “Because of these people only, it still rains on earth”. Bhuvanaa busy in her morning chores, heard him say something, turned to him with a questioning look. He read out the news item loudly for her – “Kaushal, a multi-billionaire turned philanthropist by setting aside half of his wealth for charity. Bhuvanaa told him that of late, quite a few are very lenient – particularly from the corporate sector and spared a chunk of their bounties for social welfare. Azeem Premji of WIPRO must be a role model for them. He had announced sometime back that he had earmarked an amount of Rs. 120 crores for education of rural masses and his charity trust is spending on the teachers to upgrade their skills. One NRI, being an alumni of Madras Institute of Technology, had donated Rs one crore to his institution and there are many more like him. Even women entrepreneurs are donating large sums for social causes. Why so much, even Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan are having their own charity trusts for helping the downtrodden. “Wow, you seem to have a long list of such donors who are undertaking such noble work”. “Yeah, I had prepared one, a few days ago. I thought I might give this list to our Subbu uncle and ask him to contact any of these well-wishers for donation. You know very well that he is running an NGO and has been nagging us and other relatives for a sumptuous amount. How we salaried people with fixed income can feed his white elephant? Moreover, he does not even realize that the younger generations feel that spending in hundreds at the Imax is just a pittance, whereas sparing a tenner also for a charity is a big sum. Subbu uncle needs enormous amount for his ambitious project. Without a sponsor it is not possible for him to realize his dreams”. “Yeah, you are right” said Chandran and wound up the conversations. He had to rush for office. Bhuvanaa too turned to the kids and got busy in readying them for school.
Two days later, when Chandran exclaimed “They are asking us to see in person”, Bhuvanaa wqas totally perplexed – “Who? Why? What? Chandran explained that he had sent an e-mail congratulating Mr. Kaushal for his noble gesture and wished him wholeheartedly for his plans and the related deeds. As a footnote, he had also mentioned about his uncle Subbu’s NGO activities and appealed to him to take the first step by a humble donation to the NGO. Of all things on earth, the least he expected was a prompt reply from them – “Come and see us in Person”. Date, time and venue were also given in the mail. He urged Bhuvanaa to go with his uncle and meet them in person. “Strike the iron when it is hot” he said to her. He rang up his uncle and told him about the developments and asked him to keep ready a detailed report on the activities of his NGO – its past performance, present work and future plans and also his expectations as to how he would proceed further, in case required finance for his future projects was assured.
While Bhuvanaa wanted Chandran should only go with his Uncle to meet Mr. Kaushal and seek donations, he declined and insisted that she should take the lead. His intuition was that the donors might feel that Chandran being employed might not devote much time and Subbu being old, might not go around the village and do much at the field level. At best he could guide. After all, the NGO was for motivating the village boys and girls for completing their school education and also equip themselves with some vocational training on making handicraft items with locally available raw materials. The future plans included a craft section at the school, so that when a student completed his secondary schooling, he was fit to stand on his own. It was for this purpose only a large sum was needed.
On the appointed day both Subbu and Bhuvanaa were there at the venue. Much to their surprise, nobody at the reception had any idea about such an appointment. Bhuvanaa showed them the print-out of the email. The receptionist then contacted her boss and later a meeting was arranged. It was a four member team – so to say, a committee - questioning Bhuvanaa and Subbu Uncle. The four-member team in fact, acted as a trust, on behalf of the main donor Mr. Kaushal. It had to ensure about the genuineness of the people or the organization seeking funds from the corpus. When Subbu explained his future plans and present initiatives, they were quite impressed. They turned to Bhuvanaa and asked her about her role in the movement. She instantly replied it was all due to her husband’s support, ---or else how a woman, that too non-descript simpleton housewife, could go to the village to motivate the children and make them and their parents understand the importance of education.
Committee members were quite satisfied and openly appreciated the interest evinced by Subbu and Bhuvanaa. They were aware of the field level difficulties. Educating the rural poor was and is really a tough job – though it was very much, an essential one. Whenever there was seasonal work in the fields like weeding, harvesting, grading or packing, the boys and girls remained absent from school. So, the parents were to be taught first to keep school as top priority for their children.
They congratulated the duo for their endeavors. The committee assured them positively for help and asked them to come next day.
Chandran, highly elated on the assured assistance, was full of praises for Kaushal and his foundation. He told his uncle that he would go with Bhuvanaa to the venue and get whatever little payment they would offer. They both were directed to the finance department and see the officer concerned. There was nobody at the desk. They waited for the dealing official to turn up. To their surprise they found on the table, a cheque drawn in their favour. They expected a meagre amount of Rs 10 lakhs only, but the cheque they saw on the desk was for a sum of Rs 20 lakhs. Oh! Double Dhamaka. Twice of what they sought for! But very very unfortunately, Chandran noticed that two lines were drawn across the cheque. Actually, these two transverse lines should be small and at the top of left-hand corner (account payee). But to his dismay, he found the lines drawn across in the middle, connecting the two edges, meaning-- CHEQUE CANCELLED”. Alas! Why was it first of all, drawn – that too for double an amount and now it was lying cancelled? What went wrong? If they wanted some queries or additional explanations, both Bhuvanaa and Chandran were there to clear the doubts. The cheque already drawn need not be cancelled. In case the committee decided to give more than what was now being offered, one more cheque could have been prepared. The cheque already drawn need not be cancelled. Too many thoughts and doubts sprang up. They were waiting for the dealing official to come and explain. One possibility for cancellation of the cheque could be that the dealing clerk would have inadvertently prepared the cheque twice and that is why he had to cancel one. The original one may be kept safely inside which would be handed over to them, once the officer turned up. Probably that was the mystery behind the cancelled cheque, they thought.
When they got consoled with their own thoughts, the officer came to his desk with a bunch of office papers and a Newspaper. They were waiting patiently for his kind attention and he was busy arranging the papers he brought with him. While doing so, he flung the Newspaper to the other side of the table. A particular news item on the Newspaper was highlighted by a marker pen that too, with a border in red ink, drawing instant attention to the piece of news. The news item had a caption “Two Conmen Cheat a Crorepati”. Bhuvanaa lifted the paper and read that particular news and was very furious. She gave the paper to Chandran to go through the details.
‘Two thugs posing as good guys, approached a good Samaritan and with their sweet talks sought for charities for meeting the medical expenses of a nonexistent close relative admitted in Apollo Hospital. They cunningly got the money and coolly walked away with Rs. 5 lakhs. The donor – a millionaire with a soft corner for the sick and the aged, came to know that he was duped – only when he rang up the hospital and found out that neither any patient was admitted, nor any “open heart surgery” operation was to be performed. Soon he called his banker and asked them to stop payment of the cheque. A “Stop Order” was issued. When the smart thugs came to present the cheque, they were caught red-handed.’ This was the story of the news item highlighted in the Newspaper.
The officer turned to them and told that his boss and the committee, on reading this piece of news had changed their mind and immediately ordered for cancellation of the cheque. “Sorry Sir, we cannot do anything for you”. Bhuvanaa was naturally very furious. How can his boss equate them with the thugs? How can the committee go back on their promise? “Yesterday he praised us and assured us of help and today he calls us cheats, thieves. Does he have any proof? Has he found out anything foul in our activities or attitude? Did he smell a rat? Let me see your boss.” She demanded. “Sorry, Madam, he had already left. He left for Germany and will return only after two months” Bhuvanaa took it as a big insult to her integrity and could not swallow the humiliation. She told angrily that she would certainly come after two months and demand an explanation from them for their disregard and uncourteous behaviour. But Chandran remained cool and looked at the incident practically. He consoled her. “Oh! Come on, Cool down. They don’t mean to insult you. They only want to protect their money and they have every right to do so. If no donation is received now, don’t be afraid. Probably they will decide to pay after making thorough enquiries. In the Newspaper item also, only on probing, they found out the fraud. In our case also, they may conduct discreet enquiries. You keep the option open even now. Any way, you have a long list of donors. You need not strike out this, but let us try next.” It was not that easy for her to be comforted. She could not take it easily. With lots of hope she had come and to go back empty hand and in utter disappointment, was not a joke.
She needed few minutes to collect herself and calm down. She sat down on a bench at the lawn a little away from the reception counter but near the portico. A spider was slowly crawling towards her. Chandran said to her, lifting her hand and pointing to the spider --“Hello Miss Muffet, sitting on a Tuffet, are you frightened? Don’t be afraid of the spider. But stand up and be like ‘Robert Bruce and Keep Trying.’ Keep on trying… You can make it if you try. This is what the spider here wants to teach you.” He took the spider by a small stick and threw it. Bhuvanaa by then, had come to her senses and shared his wits.
Then they set out on their journey and it goes on….