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Haridas did not tell anyone about the buried valuables. His good intentions turned sour, just as milk becomes impure when a fly falls into it. The note informed him that the valuables were buried under a platform of a temple, 500 steps to the west of the house.
Haridas wanted to dig up the valuables in such a manner that no one would get to know about it. It was a difficult task. If people came to know, his name would be mud; a bad reputation is the greatest torture in life. Haridas was thinking of doing the wickedest thing. He was thinking of betraying an orphan boy whom he had protected and cared for like a son. He suffered self-deprecation for several days but, eventually, hollow reasoning triumphed over good sense. I have not forsaken religion, and I will never do so. Is there any person who has not strayed ever in life? If there is, then he is not a man but a god. I am an ordinary human being and do not claim to be a god. The task of convincing the conscience is much like deceiving a child.
Every evening, Haridas went out of his house for a stroll. When everything was silent, he would go and sit on the temple platform and start digging with a spade. Occasionally, he lifted his head to see whether anyone was around. An immoral follower of a religious sect that forbids a non-vegetarian diet would feel fearful if he were to sit and secretly eat the food of animal origin. The same kind of fear gripped Haridas as he sat alone, digging up the temple platform and removing the bricks in the silence of the night.
The platform was long and wide. After digging for a month, Haridas had not completed even half the work. These days, he looked like a man who was trying to work up some divine miracle. His mind was restless; there was an extraordinary brightness in his eyes; he became suddenly quiet, as though he were meditating; he did not speak with anyone, and if someone tried to talk with him, he got irritated. He went to the kiln only occasionally these days. He was a thoughtful person. His conscience reproached him for his devious adventures, and he would resolve never to go near the platform again. But come evening, he lost control over his senses as though drunk and could not distinguish right from wrong. His condition was like that of a dog, which runs away after being hit but returns moments later in the hope of getting food. The second month also passed this way.
It was a new moon night. Haridas sat on the platform like a person with a dark soul. Today, he would finish digging up the platform; he had only to work for some more time. Everything was fine. Of course, people at home would be worried. But, I would soon come to know what lies under the platform. If there is a stone cellar, then the treasure would definitely be there. If there is no cellar, then I would know it was all a bluff. But it will be ridiculous if there is no cellar; I will feel and look a fool. But no! The spade has struck something solid; yes, it is a rocky shelf. Haridas felt with his hands. His doubts were dispelled; it was indeed a rocky shelf. He had found the cellar, but Haridas did not jump with joy.
He returned home with a headache. It must be due to the exertion, Haridas thought. But the headache did not go away with sleep. He developed a high fever the same night. For three days, the fever tormented him; medicines did not help.
In his sickly state, Haridas was constantly bothered by the thought that perhaps the illness was a punishment for his greed. He would feel an urge to give the ancestral note to Magan Singh and ask for his forgiveness. But, the fear of condemnation held him back. Who knows how Christians confessed all their sins before their priests!
After Haridas' death, the old paper came into the possession of his son, Prabhudas. There was not the slightest doubt that Magan Singh's forefathers wrote the note. But Prabhudas thought his father must have kept the paper for some compelling reason. Father was the most honest and ethical person; nobody ever questioned his integrity. When he did not think it wrong to keep the note, why should I bother my head about it? If I get hold of the treasure, my life will become so comfortable. I will show the wealthy people from the city how to make good use of money. The bigwigs will bow their heads before me in respect; no one will dare to look me in the eyes. Prabhudas' resolve was made.
As soon it was evening, Prabhudas stepped out of the house. It was the same hour, the identical brightness in the eyes, and the same sharp spade. It seemed as though Haridas' spirit had set out to dig up the platform as usual but in a new disguise.
The platform was already dug. The difficult task of tackling the cellar now confronted Prabhudas. The roof of the vault was held in place by steely, old-time concrete. The spade hit the surface and immediately sprang back without making even the slightest dent. After several days of effort, Prabhudas removed the upper layer, but the stony layer underneath remained firm. He used an iron rod, but despite putting in all his strength, he met with no success. He had to finish the work on his own; he could not take help from anyone.
Once again, it was a new moon night; Prabhudas continued his efforts well past midnight, but the rocky shelf stood resolutely firm just like the firm fate lines on his palm. Today, he must find a solution at any cost. If someone were to notice the exposed surface of the cellar, then my heart's desire would remain just that — only a desire in the heart and nothing more.
Some useful links for
- Union Public Service Commission - www.upsc.gov.in
- IIT-Kharagpur - www.iitkgp.ac.in
- Indian Statistical Institute - www.isical.ac.in
- Indian Institute of Technology Madras - www.iitm.ac.in
- Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad - www.iimahd.ernet.in
- Indian Institute of Mass Commission - www.iimc.nic.in
- IIT Bombay - www.iitb.ac.in
- Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad - www.ismdhanbad.ac.in
- Birla Institute of Technology, Ranchi - www.bitmesra.ac.in
- Central Institute of Fisheries Nautical and Engineering Training - www.cifnet.nic.in
- Indian Institute of Information Technology, Allahabad (Deemed University) - www.iiita.ac.in
- Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Kochi - www.cmfri.com
- Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai - www.tiss.edu