Saturn was getting bored and it tried bullying the cool Fairy.
“See, I am the king of vices and you are the queen of virtues. Let us play a game today. Let us choose a person and apply our forces and see who wins. I know in these modern days of Kaliyuga, I have a stronghold on anyone and everyone. But still, let us give a try. What do you say?”
Fairy retained her cool calm posture and replied.
“I am not into any game. I shall be a mere spectator. You do what you want to do. I will count till ten and you spot your victim and start.”
“Why ten? 3-13-8 are my favourite numbers. So, you count till 13.”
Saturn opened its eyes and picked up Thangamma. She was a maidservant in Ranee’s house who always remained honest and trustworthy.
Ranee was quite upset on that day. She was very angry with her eight-year-old daughter, Mrudula. The girl had lost one of her golden studs. It was taken out recently from the locker for her birthday. Before it could be kept back, it got lost. ‘What a stupid girl! Does not know to keep her things safe.’ Ranee said loudly. More than the loss of the jewel, others in the house, irritated her the most. They kept questioning her why at all she decked up the girl with costly items. Precious items were to be handled with due care and diligence. Ranee searched for the stud hither and thither and it was not to be found.
She told Thangamma about the stud. When it fell, or where it fell could not be established. At home or outside? It could having fallen somewhere and hid under the table or cot or somewhere else, wherever she was playing. The servant was asked to dust and sweep well, all places thoroughly. Thangamma did her job very well. She knelt and peeped under the cot and found something shiny. She swayed her broom and pulled the stuff to her. It was the front portion of the stud that had gone under the cot. Probably, it would have fallen on ground and rolled down under. She looked for the screw. A tiny thing. It was not found anywhere, even as much she would try.
Thangamma was known for her honesty and loyalty and that was one of the reasons that Ranee was not supervising her work. But on that particular day, Thangamma was under the influence of Satan. She thought of keeping the piece of gold for herself. She had tied it to her saree and hid the same under its folds. Strangely that day, she swept the staircase also, searching for the screw and found it there. This also she tucked into her saree. She went and told Ranee that in spite of her best efforts, she could not find the lost jewel. A blatant lie. A thief and a liar for the first time!
Satan winked at Fairy, as though wanting to say, ‘See how my charm is working!’
Ranee had high hopes of getting the 15000/- piece of gold and after Thangamma’s sweeping and searching, the good news would come. Alas! It did not happen. What the elderly people in the house told, seemed to be correct. She should not have ventured to adorn her daughter with a precious piece of jewellery. At least she should have remembered to remove the golden studs as soon as the birthday function was over. Since the studs suited the girl very well and she looked prettier, Ranee did not bother much. Now it was too late and a total loss.
Thangamma went home. She had a son, Muthu. She had pinned high hopes on Muthu. He should study well, come out successfully, should get a decent government job or some permanent job, carry some ethical values, bother about family welfare, a bright future awaiting him, et cetera et cetera. Her husband, Manickam, was a good for nothing fellow and on top, a drunkard. Most irritating factor being, highly dominating. A hopeless one. She was the sole bread winner in the family and obviously had to do all juggleries to keep ‘hand to mouth’ going steady. Any small amount of saving meant a lot to her, so as to ensure Muthu’s bright future. This piece of jewellery was an addition.
She carefully took out the stud and screw hidden inside the folds of her saree. She neatly put them in a cover and hid the same inside a stainless-steel container containing pulses. She often changed the place where she kept her secrete reserves. She had to guard her precious little belongings from her notorious husband. This time, the item was more precious because for the first time, she had stolen a golden stud. Stealing was much against her consciousness. She felt the pinch even now. In what way, she was different from her husband? He was laying hands on her hard-earned savings and for the first time, she too, did the same blunder. She laid hands on things which did not belong to her.
She consoled herself stating that her husband squandered her earnings, meant for running the family, whereas, her theft, she linked it to her son’s bright future. It did not occur to her that she cheated her employer. She thought, of course there was some monetary loss to Ranee, but very soon they would overcome it. She hardly realized that it was a breach of trust and that she would be branded forever as ‘once a thief always a thief’. Luckily, she did not feel that she was richer nor having a jackpot in her pocket.
Suddenly, she heard some ladies wailing, crying, howling and rushing towards her house. Her adrenal shot up. What went wrong? Did her husband create any ruckus? Her son… Aiyyoh! “Oh! God save me. Spare my son. Nothing should happen to him.”
Amidst the ladies clamouring and crying, she could not make out anything. Someone with better senses explained to her that her son met with an accident and was rushed to Surya Hospital. Thangamma was torn apart and almost fainted. She feared the worst must have befallen on her. She grabbed whatever money she had kept in her rice drum and also the golden stud packet from another container and ran towards the hospital. All the way, she kept praying to all Gods.
No sooner she heard the news of her son, Muthu’s accident, the first and foremost thought that occurred to her was, her first-time wrong doing. A misdeed, root cause of all mis-fortunes. Why did she set her eyes on that small girl’s stud.? The ill-gotten money had shown its true colours now. ‘Money, easy-come, easy-go.’ She decided then and then to return the stud to Ranee and seek confession and if possible, to forgive her. She was at peace now.
By then, she came to the hospital. Again, the adrenal shot up. In her anxiety, she was more in tears and her words failed. The nurse calmed her down. She assured Thangamma that there was nothing to worry. The boy was riding on his cycle. He, on suddenly colliding with a scooter, fell unconscious, more due to shock and fear. The crowding mob mistook it for instant death. Though there was nothing alarming. The scooter-rider also had the jerk and some minor bruises. What a great relief! Tremendously thankful to God. Thangamma straight went to the scooter-fellow, sought apology and gave the left-over money for his vehicle repairs.
Immediately she left for Ranee’s place. On seeing Thangamma coming to her, Ranee smilingly, told the other woman, to whom she was talking to. ‘Think of the devil, err, no, no, think of the angel and there she is.’ Thangamma carefully opened the packet containing Mrudula’s ear-stud and gave it to Ranee. She said it was found outside but near ‘your’ house. Once again, Ranee turned to the other woman and said, ‘see, how honest and trustworthy she is’. She continued. “You can simply leave the house to her care and go anywhere. All things will remain intact. In fact, she herself is a jewel.”
Turning to Thangamma, Ranee said, ‘this lady wanted a baby-sitter cum domestic helper and I recommended you. All she wanted was an honest and sincere person. Hence, I suggested your name. You will be given good salary and you may have to work from 11 am to 6 pm. Is that okay with you?’
Thangamma fell flat on Ranees’s feet with tear-filled eyes. Actually, Thangamma betrayed Ranee and cheated her. But Ranee on the contrary, was very benevolent and attributed some noble credentials to her name and recommended her for a higher income. No doubt, Muthu’s bright future was ensured. What more she wanted.
Ranee comforted her.
” You deserve it. I have not done anything great to be so grateful. Don’t be so emotional.”
Fairy, turning to Satan said, “Initially, you were winning. Finally, the victory, is….”
Satan did not listen fully to Fairy’s utterings. It turned its face away and went in search of another possible victim, may be a gullible one.