Keerti, daughter of famous cinema producer cum director, Mister Partibhan lifted half a dozen newspapers left in the verandah of the house and handed them over to her father. She wished him good luck. “At least let today be your luckiest day, Appa. Let your hunt for spicy news turns out to be successful.”
Yrs. She was right. The director was looking for a theme for his next motion picture. He wanted that it should be based on a true incident. A real life-story! Exactly for that reason, he was scanning through the newspapers for inspiring and interesting incidents, from out of which, he could spin an awesome gripping story for his next movie. So far, he was not successful. That was the reason Keerti wished him well. He was getting bored with the same routine mundane news of raping, murdering, pickpocketing, chain snatching, adultery, robbery, etcetera. The newspapers were more of a daily report on crime digest. There was no heart-welcoming good news. Rest of the paper are filled with fresh episodes of mudslinging by political rivalries and fresh round of terrorist attacks at Kashmir border areas. These very same news items were broadcasted as ‘Breaking News’ of the day.
He was about to collect the heap of papers when he noticed a small piece of information in small prints, about a village school teacher becoming a millionaire called karodpati, just overnight. He became curious. He wanted to know how a school teacher in a remote village in Kerala could become a millionaire that too overnight. If that was so easy, let everyone know and follow the same formula to become rich. He sat down to read the matter.
At first, he wondered how he missed the news and next, how it was not available in any other newspaper than this local vernacular newspaper. After giving it a reading, he really got wonderstruck. “Can there be such honest people living on earth, even in these days!” It was difficult to believe. In disbelief, he read it again and again. He wanted to make sure that it was not a fake news. He jotted down the place and date of incident. He rang up the distributor of films to the nearby area of the village. Unfortunately, he did not have any know anything about such an incident. Whatever Partibhan told, the distributor took it as first- hand information. However, he said he would gather information by contacting the owner of local cinema theatre closer to the village.
Shortly Partibhan got a phone call from the distributor.
“Yes Sir. You are right! A village school master had won a lottery ticket and became a crorepati. Till yesterday, he was leading just a hand to mouth living. Now suddenly he is millionaire. But that is not the news in the village. People are praising the vendor of lottery tickets more than the winner of lottery ticket. He is also from the same village and his shop is just near the bus stand. By selling the prize-winning ticket to the school master and arranging to get the prize money to the teacher, this nondescript lottery ticket seller has become hero. He shot to fame and is in limelight.”
Partibhan was still in daze and could not get the reason for vendor’s overnight popularity. “Hey! Come on. Give me full a coverage. It is but natural for the lottery ticket seller to push the sales and clear the stock. Then what is so peculiar about it? How he became a popular hero?”
“Yes. That is where this man stands out. I am telling you whatever I gathered from the theatre owner. I do not know as to how much the news is reliable and how much it is exaggerated. He told me that the school master wanted to purchase the tickets for himself and asked the vendor to keep them aside. He did not have sufficient cash in hand. So, he promised to take the tickets next day after making full payment for all the tickets. You will not believe Sir. Next morning, the result was out and the first prize was for the ticket chosen by Masterjee and kept in reserve. Prize money is not one or two rupees. A mind blogging two crores.” The distributor paused for a while.
Partibhan kept the conversation going. “Now you tell me, who is the winner – school master or the ticket seller? It is a bit confusing. Only the ticket seller knows result is declared and school master is yet to buy the ticket. It is just possible that the seller must have taken the ticket in his son or daughter’s name and hit the jackpot. But the newspaper says it is a school master who is the latest addition to millionaires’ club.”
The distributor laughed aloud. “This is what we would have done if you and I were in his position. But this man! You simply cannot believe. He was honest to the core. What he did, do you know? He went running to the school master’s house and handed over the tickets to him and demanded Rs. 125/- only as cost of five lottery tickets. The school master gave him the money. To cut the story short, the two met the collector and got the prize money. The collector highlighted the honesty of the vendor and praised him sky high. Media also put him in limelight. Because of such honest people it still rains in our country and we stay blessed.”
Partibhan was really moved by the noble gesture of an innocent nondescript simpleton. He could have easily swindled the amount and nobody would have known it. Alternatively, he could have struck a deal with school master for a lion’s share in the prize-money. But this guy took only the cost of the five lottery tickets. Such honest and straight forward citizens are indeed hard to find. They need to be glorified.
Partibhan thought aloud. “Keerti, you are right. Your wishful greetings have come true. I got a perfect theme for my next movie.” He immediately phoned her and conveyed the message. The girl who was busy elsewhere came running to answer his call. When her father told her the news item, she was overwhelmed with joy.
“Appa, keep aside your cinema story writing job. That can be taken up later. You must call him first and congratulate him. If that is not possible, please arrange for a felicitation and show the public, how great he is. Really. Look at these politicians --- how they exhibit themselves and roam around in pomp and vanity and often erecting statues for themselves at strategic places. Wasting taxpayers’ hard-earned money. Appa, you must do something for this real man of honesty.”
He felt she was right. She struck the right chord in him. He went with Keerti to the village and met the lottery ticket vendor. He introduced himself as one from filmdom and had come to Kerala, looking for suitable location for shooting. He showed the newspaper to him in which the incident was mentioned and asked for full details of the news item. The vendor was quite elated to see someone form cinema world had come looking for him. He also felt shy of talking about himself.
“Sir, myself and the school master are friends from childhood. I was earlier a small petty shop owner. It was the master who told me to add sale of lottery tickets also. For that no extra investments were needed, only reporting the sales and giving ticket numbers were required. From the time I entered into this venture, masterjee was regularly buying tickets. Occasionally, he goes to other places for invigilation or school duties. Then also on getting down from bus, he will come to my shop and buy tickets and go. This is what he did in the last occasion also. On that day, he was running short of money and that was the last day for the lucky draw. So, I paid on his behalf and closed the account. Earlier also I had done once or twice similar payments.”
He continued. “No one expected that a ticket purchased from this village and that also one at the end of the day will be the prize-winning entry. Earlier also there were some gains. It was just a meagre amount. This time it was a big catch. I was really thrilled. Immediately I went to his house and asked for my money, so that he becomes the true owner of the jackpot. Even before I could tell him about results, he was annoyed and poured out his anger. He openly blurted.
“What is the hurry? Am I running away? Early in the morning you came to collect your payment for these worthless tickets. We have been friends from our childhood days. You know me very well and I know you well. Still you behave as though you are a stingy money lender. You are insulting me by coming to my doorstep to get this payment! After all a small amount. One hundred and twenty-five only.”
The vendor continued his narration.
“I could not control myself. I thrust myself into the house and whispered into his ears, ‘Masterjee, you are the winner. You are a millionaire now. You pay the cost and take the tickets. That is why I came so early. Keep the ticket very safe. Let us go immediately to the collector and encash the ticket. If the news is leaked, anybody will attack you and snatch the coveted ticket.’ While I was telling him something more about the tickets, I did not realise that Masterjee fell flat and fainted. I was taken aback.
By then, his wife and children had come out and were in terrible ecstasy. The youngest daughter took a paper and wrote the prize-amount and was counting the zeroes. She showed it to her sister for correction. They were terribly innocent. What a great fortune for them! Now, my friend can lead a happy life. He can marry off his four daughters and save something for his family’s future. I am happy my friend got the prize.”
The vendor was full of joy. Partibhan asked him “Why did you give the prize-winning ticket to your school master? He had not paid for them. Since you paid for the tickets you could have shown them in your children’s name and retain the prize money also. What made you to rush to your friend’s house and listen to his abuses?”
The vendor almost screamed, “Si…r! what are you talking? He is my friend. How can I cheat him?”
Partibhan was happy to see his instant reaction. There was no pretence. Keerti clapped her hands and presented a stiff military salute to him. Partibhan told him that it would be a great honour to receive him as his guests. He extended a warm welcome to his family and wanted them to be for two days at Chennai. The vendor was quite amused. He simply said, “Sir I have not gone to any place, not even nearby towns. Chennai is a very big city. I am perplexed. I cannot afford luxuries of travelling to far off places and that also with family. Thank you for your invitation.”
Partibhan comforted him. “Don’t worry. All expenses will be mine. Your presence is enough. It is a prestige to be with an honest man and to introduce an honest man to my people. Give me that privilege.”
Partibhan had booked a mini auditorium and arranged for felicitation of this rare jewel who exemplified his hardcore honesty. He asked the distributor to engage a taxi to fetch his family from his residence. He also got for his family, to-and-fro air tickets to Chennai and a posh five-star hotel accommodation for two days. The poor innocent vendor had never got into a taxi, nor his family. They had never boarded an aeroplane nor seen a high-end posh hotel. He might have seen such a thing in some cinema, but not in real life. It was unimaginable. Incredible truth. Not withstanding this, he was also taken to a top-class cloth store and was presented with five sets of new dresses for his whole family.
In the evening, a grand reception was arranged at the auditorium. Eminent luminaries from film world spoke in praise of the guest of honour. Everyone was hailing his virtues and exemplary exhibit of honesty. When it was his turn, he suffered from stage-shy and confined himself to saying, ‘whatever I did, it was just for my friend. I stood by my conscience. I never knew my simple act can get me so much of name fame and honours. I am humbled and dumbfound. I dedicate all these appreciations to my friend. Thank You Masterjee.”
The spectators in the auditorium and Partibhan, all alike were filled with emotions. A rare specimen to notice in modern days! Keerti stood up and announced that soon this would be translated into a script and will be made into a full-fledged motion picture. The crowd instantaneously clapped, cheered and welcomed the idea. The hall was filled with roars of cheers echoing from corner to corner.
It might take a long time for the waves of joy to subside.