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Pandit Alopideen was half-asleep in his splendid carriage. A few frightened coachmen woke him up and said, "Sir! The inspector has stopped the vehicles and is asking for you."
Pandit Alopideen had great faith in Laxmi, the Goddess of Wealth. His favourite refrain was, "Goddess Laxmi rules not only on the Earth but also in heaven." Indeed, this is true! Justice and morality are the toys of Goddess Laxmi; she makes them dance to her tunes as she pleases.
"Tell him I am coming," he said pompously, without rising. He got up, leisurely popped a betel quid into his mouth, wrapped a shawl around his shoulders, and appeared before the inspector.
"God bless you, babuji! What wrong have I done that you stopped my vehicles? You should be treating Brahmins like me kindly," he said.
"It is the Government's orders!" Vanshidhar replied tersely.
"I know nothing about the Government and its orders," Pandit Alopideen said laughingly. "For me, you are the Government. This matter is between you and me — a regular family affair. I am not an outsider. You took unnecessary trouble in coming here; I was coming to meet you anyway. It is unthinkable that I should be passing this way and not making my offerings to the lord of the place."
The charming tune from the flute of Wealth had no effect on Vanshidhar. New to the job, he was brimming with a spirit of honesty.
"I am not one those traitors who go about selling their integrity for a few pennies," he said gruffly. "You are under arrest and will be dealt with according to the law. I have said enough, and I don't have the time for more idle conversation. Jamadar Badlu Singh, take him into custody. It is my order."
Pandit Alopideen was stunned. There was a great stir among the coachmen. It was perhaps for the first time in his life that Pandit Alopideen had to listen to such harsh words. Badlu Singh went up to Pandit Alopideen but could not pick up the courage to catch hold of his arms. Panditji had never before seen duty showing disrespect to riches. The inspector is still only a defiant lad who has not yet been ensnared in the net of temptations; he is thoughtless and hesitant, Panditji mused. He said in a woebegone voice, "Babusaheb, don't arrest me. If you do so, my name will be mud, and I will not be able to show my face to anyone. What will you achieve by shaming me? I am no stranger to you."
"I do not wish to hear such talk," Vanshidhar said curtly.
Alopideen, who had thought he was standing on firm ground because of his wealth, felt the ground slipping under his feet. It was a huge blow to his self-respect and wealth. But he still thought his money would rescue him from this situation. He said to his clerk, "Lalaji, present one thousand rupees to the babusaheb; he is hungry like a lion."
Vanshidhar said angrily, "One thousand rupees! Even if you offer me one lakh rupees, I will not stray away from the path of honesty."
Panditji was annoyed at Duty's foolish hardheadedness and rare sacrifice. Now, a war raged between Duty and Wealth. Wealth launched its attack with great force. From one thousand rupees, Wealth raised the offer to five thousand rupees and then to ten thousand rupees. The offer increased still further to fifteen thousand rupees and even reached twenty thousand rupees. But Duty displayed supernatural courage and stood firm like a mountain against this army of offers.
Alopideen was defeated. "I cannot offer you more than this; now, it is up to you," he said.
Vanshidhar called out to his jamadar. Badlu Singh approached Alopideen, cursing the inspector in his mind. A frightened Panditji moved back a few steps. He said in a very miserable voice, "Babuji, for God's sake, have pity on me. I am ready to settle the matter for twenty-five thousand rupees."
"No way.""How about forty thousand rupees?"
"Not even for forty lakh rupees! Badlu Singh, take this man into custody at once; I do not want to hear another word."
Duty crushed Wealth under its feet. Alopideen saw a burly man approaching him with handcuffs. He looked around helplessly and dropped down in a faint.
The world slept, but its tongue wagged. In the morning, the old and the young talked about only one thing: the arrest of Pandit Alopideen. Everyone had something to say about Pandit Alopideen's conduct; people condemned him with such energy as though all the sins in the world were nothing in comparison to his sin. The milkman who sold water in the name of milk, officials who made false entries in their reports, the babus who travelled ticketless in trains, and traders and money-lenders who forged documents — all shook their heads in dismay at such grave sin.
The next day, the constables led Pandit Alopideen to the court. The accused — with handcuffs on his hands and guilt and anger in his heart — walked with his head bowed down in shame. The whole city was agog with curiosity; people climbed on rooftops and walls to watch the procession — even funfairs would not have attracted such eager spectators.
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