He had gotten used to the adrenaline gush by now. It didn’t bother him much and it was not a big deal anymore to slide a chocolate bar into his socks and behave as if nothing happened at the billing counter. “Is that all?” asked the guy before printing the bill out. “Yes,” replied Ishvar innocently glancing at the tomatoes, green chilies, and a pack of Lays chips lying on the countertop to be billed. “How much?” The 6-year-old lad asked. “53,” replied the feeble looking shopkeeper with a smile. Ishvar handed over a note of Rs 100, filled his red colour shopping bag with everything he had bought, clenched the change of Rs 47 in his fist, and walked out of the shop casually. 

‘Nilgiris’ – the department store was located within the residential community, and it was just a 3 mns walk from the parking lot. And it took another 1 minute to reach the 7th floor where Ishvar lived with his loving mother and father who was a hard-working IT professional. The couple were very clear when Mamta got pregnant. ‘Money, house, wealth, cars can wait but we need to raise our son with utmost discipline,’ Naren had said. Mamta had agreed and decided to quit her high-paying job to concentrate on the expanding family. And not a single day since had she regretted her decision. Every day was a blessing with Ishvar and she could have never asked for more from God. His cuteness, inquisitive questions, and his naughtiness was the first thing she would discuss every single day with her husband when he returned home late from his hectic job. The couple always felt they were blessed in abundance and were always thankful.

Four minutes was all Ishvar had to gobble up his chocolate bar before reaching his house. And to carry out the operation, he had to always make sure that he was decently far away from the store, and that no one noticed him picking it out from the socks. So far, he had never been caught by anyone and he was indeed proud of his accomplishment.  

Wiping his mouth and swallowing every bit of morsel stuck to his milk teeth with excess saliva, Ishvar rang the doorbell. Mamta opened the door at once and adored her 6-year-old bundle of joy standing there with a clenched fist and a bag. She thanked him for his help and welcomed him with a kiss on his cheek. Ishvar removed his footwear and placed them meticulously, walked towards the kitchen, kept the bag on the kitchen table, took his Lays packet and settled on the couch watching Peppa Pig on the television. “Amma, the bill is inside the bag, and I have kept the change of Rs 47 near the bag, you can take it”, said Ishvar. “Ok,” replied Mamta as she walked into the bedroom to continue doing her chores.  

Naren was very particular that he would never send his only son to any school and would instead home school him. He believed that the present education system was a scam and wanted his son to learn life skills and finances more than anything else. He was adamant about inculcating habits in the child that his father had never taught him and things that he himself never learnt in his 40 years of existence.  

The first thing he remembers having bought Ishvar when he was 2 years old was a blue colour piggy bank. As a sign of sentiment, he had deposited Rs 100 into it and wanted Ishvar to inculcate a habit of saving for the rainy day. “You can buy whatever you want once it is full,” Naren had told his son. Ishvar didn’t take too long to fall into a pattern of depositing coins into his piggy bank. Whenever Naren came from his office, Ishvar would rush to greet him and Naren would hand him over a few coins if he had any on him and on the days, he didn’t have – it was just hugs and games.  

The piggy bank was filling up fast, and Ishvar was indeed excited to break it open soon. He had made a wish list on his Ipad already. A Play Station 5, GTA game, and a movie in a theatre that has recliner seats were his plans. Of course, he didn’t have any clue about how much they cost or if his funds would be sufficient to get them all. But he trusted his father.  

“I smelt chocolate even today when I kissed him,” Mamta complained to Naren. “Is he taking the money from the piggy bank or somewhere else to buy those chocolates?” asked Naren. “No, I don’t think so. Neither does he buy them with the money I give him for shopping,” replied a confused Mamta. “Don’t worry, I will sort it out,” affirmed Naren before going to sleep.  

Lazing around on the couch the next morning watching his favourite show on the Tele, Ishvar noticed something unusual but then wasn’t sure what exactly. He had a photographic memory since childhood and excelled at ‘spot the difference’ exercises since he was one and half. “Where is my piggy bank?!” Yelled Ishvar on top of his voice. Mamta rushed to the hall panicking. ‘Oh God! It was right here. Where did it vanish overnight?” Mamta replied looking for it frantically on and around the table placed right below the wall mounted TV. Tears rolled out from his eyes like flood, and the feeling of losing all hopes and dreams of life overpowered Ishvar, and he didn’t know what to do next. Mamta carried her lovable boy in her hands, and consoled him saying, “don’t worry, we will get a new one soon, and fill it up with coins once again. Let daddy come back from the office and we shall sort it out.” That was one of the rare afternoons when Ishvar slept without having his lunch. 

With swollen eyes Ishvar was watching TV holding the remote in his tiny hands and waiting for his daddy anxiously. He had asked his mom the time a couple of times already and found that time wasn’t just moving today. The doorbell rang twice, and Ishvar ran to the door calling, “daddy.” He opened the door and let his father inside. “Daddy, the piggy bank is missing,” he pointed at the table where it was kept. Ishvar could not control his tears and sobbingly made him available to be lifted by the father. Naren lifted him, looked around the table, and said, “may be some thieves entered our house in the night.” “Mamta, did you hear any strange sound in the night,” asked Naren. “No, not at all,” replied Mamta. “In that case we have to fix CCTV in our house,” said Naren. “What is CCTV?” asked Ishvar innocently. “Haven’t you seen that black thing hanging from the ceiling in our lifts, apartments stairways and Nilgiris?” “Yes,” replied Ishvar. “They are cameras that record events, and we can play it back later to see what really happened. In our case, if we had had the CCTV, we could have caught the thieves,” said Naren. “Oh…”, replied Ishvar as he slid down from Naren’s hands and went on to watch the TV as Naren and Mamta walked into their bedroom. 

“Thank you for letting me know, instead of embarrassing the kid,” said Naren to the cashier at Nilgiris. “No problems sir, it is quite normal here. In spite of parents being rich and, in a position to buy whatever their children want, kids flick things just out of curiosity and excitement”, replied the shopkeeper. “True that,” replied Naren as he emptied the piggy bank in front of the shopkeeper.  

“So where did the piggy bank go?” asked Mamta as Naren was entering the bedroom to change his clothes. “I met the Nilgiris guy today morning and gave him the money for all the chocolates Ishvar stole so far and gave him more so that he adjusts it for the future theft,” replied Naren.  

“Here is the list Ishu, and here is the money. If you are free, you can buy them for me,” asked Mamta. “Yeah, I will,” replied Ishvar as he paused the video that was playing on the TV. “Mama, shall I buy a chocolate for myself?” asked Ishvar. “Of course,” replied Mamta as she walked into the laundry area. 

“Curds, milk, and chocolate’, murmured the Nilgiris’s shopkeeper as he was billing. “Anything else,” he continued with a smile. “No, nothing,” replied Ishvar. He collected the stuff in his bag and walked the same route munching on his chocolate. Today Ishvar took 7 minutes to reach his house as he spent more time relishing his delight and freedom.  

Couplet 292 – Thirukural 

“Poymaiyum Vaaymaiyeedattha Puraiteerntha 
Nanmai Payakkum Enin”

Translation 1

If anything, good can be achieved without flaw, then even untruth will take on the value of the truth.  

Translation 2

Falsehood may take the place of truthful word, If blessing, free from fault, it can afford.

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