Ramlal was a vendor of seasonal fruits. The items kept changing every season but his favourite selling items were mangoes. It was the most profitable item and he was an expert in gauging the quality. Everyone wanted to learn from him but he would keep the secret buried in his chest. He had learnt the art from his father and he would only teach it to his son. Mango season was his favourite also because it’s the most luring fruit and it was costly.
Ramlal had a neighbour, Prayas, who would come to his laari (cart) every day in the market and spend at least five to ten minutes checking and smelling the mangoes. Then he would ask for the price of the mangoes. “100 rupees for 500 gm mangoes.” Prayas, without the slightest disappointment on his face, would smile and leave. This would happen every two or three days. This thing had started to annoy Ramlal.
Mangoes were costly this year. Fortunately, his one and only son did not have a great liking for the fruit or even his work. He would never ask for it. Ramlal was glad. They could not afford it. He wished that these mangoes become the route to his son’s brighter future. “This year if the sales happen well, we’ll shift Ravi to a private school.” he had made elaborate plans with his wife.
He built a small hut outside his house, where he used to store the mangoes. He loved arranging and re-arranging the mangoes according to their ripeness. This year, he had to pass on the responsibility to Ravi. After an intense training session that lasted for a week, Ravi was ready. With that, Ravi was also to keep a check on the safety of the mangoes.
Meanwhile, the season came to its prime and so did mango sales. However, Ramlal noticed some discrepancies in his count of mangoes. Two days at a stretch, he had checked the mango collection late in the night and early in the morning. He had inevitably found a few of them missing. Around 2-3 would be missing every single day. He had not counted exactly but he could feel it. Next day when his neighbour Prayas, came to his laari and did the same ordeal, it struck him! “This man is sneaking into my storehouse and stealing the mangoes!”
He asked Ravi to tighten up the security, to even sleep outside the hut he could, but protect the mangoes like his mother’s gold. The next day, the mangoes were absolutely fine. Not a single one here and there. Nothing happened for a week. But then one fine day, when a buyer came to buy a box of mangoes at home, Ramlal went into the storehouse and found an entire row of mangoes missing. Ramlal’s temper rose up.
“Who the hell does he think he is! That bloody thief! I will beat him today!”
Ramlal went inside the house to get his wooden stick. He called for his wife in the kitchen, she wasn’t there. She must have gone out. I’ll tell her later.
As Ramlal moved towards the gate, he heard his wife screaming. He ran inside, perhaps the thief had been caught. This was no thief, this was his own, Ravi, who had fainted on the bathroom floor. They took him to the doctor. He had severe diarrhoea since morning and had fainted out of dehydration. He had not told his parents.
“Doctor, what happened to him? He doesn’t even eat out.”
“Nothing much. He’ll be fine. Guess five mangoes in a single day were too much for a child.”