Divine justice and costly truthfulness
A few months before my fourth birthday, in June 1955, we shifted to Paprola in Kangra district where my father was to join, on promotion, as the founding Headmaster of the District Board High School. It was a habitation merely half a mile from the famous Baijnath town on the Kangra Mandi highway. Baijnath, is known for the Shiva Temple where the demon king Ravana is said to have prayed to Lord Shiva and to have offered his ten heads in sacrifice to God.
We lived in a first floor rented accommodation, the ground floor of which was used by the landlord’s family. I only remember that there were green fields and fields, left, right, in front and on the back of the house. The only land mark was the railway line that passed by at a distance of one furlong. The railway line came alive several times a day when the rumbling and whistling engine broke the otherwise noiseless tenor of the air.
I never visited father’s school nor had an idea what it look like. Only three memories related to this location, standout strikingly. I waited for the shrill whistle of the train that passed by six times in a day, up and down, singing ‘chhuk-chhuk’. It stood out for me as a symbol of some mysterious harbinger of hope for travelers and their kith.
These trains did rounds between Pathankot and Joginder Nagar and as they negotiated a mountainous terrain on narrow gauge they passed through tunnels and over 900 odd small and large bridges. Once, for two days there was no singsong rumble of the train and the landlord’s daughter announced that there had been a landslide near a place named Kopar Lahad. I felt dismayed as if the desolation on the tracks were a personal loss to me.
Once the landlord’s family, my mother, my younger sibling and I went to a cinema hall which must have been a kind of roofed shelter for a touring talkie. Here, they screened a movie on Bhakt Prahlaad. The young prince Prahlaad was a devout believer in God and his father, King Hiranyakshipu, tortured him for that reason. When the tyranny exceeded all limits, God Himself descended in the Man-Lion form and killed the tyrant King and saved His loved devotee, Prahlaad. This was my first awareness that the Divine hand always intervenes to punish the evil when it crosses all limits.
Once the landlord’s daughter came home with a song on her lips and a spring in her gait, announcing that she had found a one-rupee currency note on the railway lines at the unmanned crossing close to the house. I thought it was something to rejoice in. There was jubilation. Finally it was decided that the ‘find’ should be spent on buying ‘jalebis’ for all. I insisted that I would also accompany the two sisters and was allowed. At the railway crossing, we saw a man with a stooping neck looking for something. He announced that he had lost his one rupee note somewhere. I was only too ready to gladden him saying that his rupee was going to buy ‘jalebis’. The two girls had no choice but to return the rupee to its rightful owner, but that was done with a very heavy heart.
Back home, I was blamed for being a spoilsport. My mother also a kind of snubbed me. I was sad on receiving the scolding. Still till this day, I believe that I had done the right thing at the right time. Speaking the truth may be a costly affair, yet it is worth doing each time an opportunity comes to do so!
(The author is a Retired Principal, Govt. College, Hoshiarpur Punjab)