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A Lesson Well Learnt

About Aparna Mondal

Aparna Mondal was born and brought up in Kolkata. Presently she lives in Mumbai with her family. She always loved nature and that prompted her to study Biological Sciences. She loves to paint landscape and nature. Her other hobbies are reading, photography, travelling, making costume jewellery, acting, swimming. She has recently developed a special interest in putting her thoughts into writing. Making new friends and interacting with them make her feel loved.

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Life is a great teacher – sometimes out of desperation we end up doing things which teach us lessons for life.
This was around nineteen – twenty years back. We were then living in Pune as my husband was posted there. My daughter was studying in high school. My son was about to join a good school and we were called for his interview and admission test. The night before the interview my husband told me that the school wants two copies of the original birth certificate instead of one.

After we registered his birth with the city corporation, we paid some extra money to get three original copies of birth certificates which was then a new facility offered by the corporation. We did not have a scanner at home in those days, so I went to a nearby shop to get another photo copy. A portion of a stationary shop was probably given on sublet to a person who actually ran a roadside “Xerox” services. When I arrived there, the shop keeper of the stationary shop informed me that the Xerox service was closed at 8 ‘o’clock and he would not be able to help me out. The shop would only reopen on the next morning around 8 am.

It was 8:30 at night and I was wondering what to do next. I enquired for other shops in the neighbourhood but to my disappointment, I learnt that I would have to go to Pune station which was quite a few kilometers away, if I wanted to get it done the same night. The interview was scheduled for the very next day at 7:30 am in the morning. So I did not want to take any chances and thought of getting a photocopy done, somehow or the other. I knew my husband was busy working at home to meet a deadline and it would be difficult for him to go out at that time. So I thought that I would return home, inform my husband about the situation and then catch an auto ricksaw to go to Pune station.

A narrow lane from the shop led to our housing society. As I turned to go home, I heard a voice behind. “Ma’am, I understand that you need to get the copy of the certificates urgently. I can get it done for you.” I realised he was the same young man who was there at the shop when I was engaged in a conversation with the shopkeeper. He probably realised my desperation from the expression on my face and that is why he was offering a helping hand. I however refused, telling him that my husband will get it done, to which he said, “Ma’am, you can trust me. I am on a mobike, so I will get it done faster than you going home, telling your husband and then going for it.” He also said that the shops at Pune station shut around 9 pm.

Naive I was, about human character. I was moved by the catch words he used. “If you trust me.” In the back of my mind I was assured that I still had two more original copies so I had nothing to lose. I handed over the certificate to him. He asked for my address but I only gave him the name of my society which was a stones throw away from there. I told him that I would be waiting at the gate. I also offered to give him money for the copies to which he said he would collect it later. I went back home and told my husband about the turn of events. He was not very happy and advised that I should not have trusted him so much. But it was already done and could not be reversed.

Gauging the time elapsed, I went downstairs sometime later and waited at the society gate. The young man on the mobike returned eventually and handed over three copies of the certificate along with the original one. I was immensely relieved and felt happy. But my happiness was short lived. The moment I tried to give him the money and thank him, his eyes and body language changed. I immediately understood what he would say next. So I wanted to pay him off quickly and return home. But he immediately started saying what I expected and I could not escape that. He started speaking in English, so that the rustic watchman would not understand.

“I never knew your name but I have been observing you for a few days now. I am attracted to you. I picked this opportunity to get closer so we can talk. You need not pay me the money. I just want to have a relationship; so please give me your phone number.” His eyes and looks made it quite obvious, indicating the kind of “relationship” he wanted to have. For a few seconds my confidence was washed out. But almost immediately I realized that this moment was the test of my character, my integrity and the ideals I have followed all my life. Life does put you in situations when a “no” isn’t enough. It is the complete response that matters the most. It did, at least for me.

I suddenly mustered up enough courage and looked at him in the eye. I needed to face it, talk to this man and communicate strongly. So I firmly yet politely told him to back off.

“I trusted you as a Good Samaritan but if this is your intension, I regret to say that I have to either return these copies to you or tear them off. If I have given this certificate at this hour to get it copied, it is only natural that I am happily married and love my kids and family. I am not interested in anything to do with you. I will not indulge you just because you helped me.” Saying these, I paid him off and went home quickly.
When I reached home with the copies my husband started to appreciate the man’s noble gesture. I corrected his wrong notions by relating the entire conversation to him. I was still shaking in rage.
For a week or two after that incident I did not take that lane at night. This incident had jolted me inside-out and taught a lesson for a lifetime.

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