One Good Deed Please!*
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A Short Story By G.S.Vasu Kumar
*Based on a true incident.
One Monday evening, Keerthana came home from school with the weekly assignment. The assignment was that one of her parents had to perform one good deed in the next six days. Each of the students of her class had to write down this good deed in a note book and read it before the entire class on the next Monday morning.
Keerthana gave the assignment notebook to her father when he came home that evening. Narayana M, her father went through it patiently.
‘What good deed could I do, my dear?’ He asked her.
‘Well, dad, you have six days to do one small good deed. Just be ready, your opportunity may come anytime!’ eight year old Keerthana replied, with a smile on her face.
Narayana was a college dropout, and has been an auto driver for the past fifteen years. He remembered he had returned back a smart phone to the customer, who had forgotten and left it behind in his auto rickshaw. Another driver would have kept it for himself or sold it off for good money. Honesty was the best policy, which he had learnt from his late father. But then, this had happened long time back. He needed to do something now for his daughter, Keerthana.
‘You don’t have to be someone special to do one little good deed, dad!’ Keerthana said, as if reading his mind.
‘I know, my dear.’ He said, smiling at her.
Next morning, he told his fellow auto drivers about the assignment which the class teacher had given to his daughter. They all laughed and made fun of him.
‘Has the teacher gone crazy or what?’ asked one of them.
‘No, my dear friends, the teacher is right! We need to do good little things every now and then. Whatever goes from us comes back to us in some way or the other, and I strongly believe in this!’ Narayana replied.
‘It is bullshit!’ said another driver.
‘Fine, leave it!’ Narayana said, shrugging his shoulders, with a smile on his face.
Keerthana eagerly waited for her dad to return home after his day’s work. She was curious to know if he had been successful in performing that one good deed.
‘Dad, did you get chance to perform good deed today?’ Keerthan asked.
‘Sorry, dear. I didn’t get an opportunity today.’ He replied.
‘Ok, No problem. Better luck for tomorrow.’ She said, smiling at him.
He felt sad to see disappointment on her face after hearing his reply. He prayed silently to God to provide him with an opportunity to help someone, so that he could make his little daughter happy.
On Friday morning, Narayana was waiting for his customer at LIC Colony, III Block, Jayanagar, Bangalore, going through Vijaya Karnataka newspaper, when a senior citizen aged about 80 years old approached him.
‘Good morning, sir,’ Narayana wished him, staring his auto, ‘Usually, I ask others where they have to go before starting…however, I am willing to take you wherever you need to go.’
‘Good morning, Narayana,’ He replied, seeing his name on the license copy which was attached behind the driver’s seat, ‘I just finished my morning walk today. I was feeling somewhat tired…so I thought to go home by auto..by the way, my name is Venkat Rao..’
‘It’s so nice of you to call me by name…please tell me which way should we go?’ Narayana, asked looking at his customer’s reflection in the front mirror.
‘Please go straight…’ He said, ‘You know, the city has changed a lot since I was a young man like you. Then there were more trees and less pollution as compared to now. I still remember those days, when I used to come for walk along with my dear wife…we used to have filter coffee after our brisk walk everyday..’
‘I agree with you, sir.’ Narayana replied, looking at him with a smile on his face. ‘How is your wife doing, sir? Do you have any kids?’
‘Oh! She left me many years back and went to the other world. I have one daughter, who is happily married with two kids.’ He replied.
‘Oh! Sorry, to hear that. You should be having nice time with your grand children.’
‘You needn’t be sorry…how long do you expect a person to live..I hope I would join her soon some day.’ He said, smiling, ‘Yes, I have a very nice time with my grand children. They just remind my childhood days…those happy days..’
Soon, they approached the crossroads, then:-
‘Sir, which way should I take from here?’ Narayana asked, slowing down a bit.
‘I think…you should take right…no left…wait! Just a movement,’ He said, searching his pockets frantically.
‘Sir, did you lose something? Should we go back?’ Narayana asked, pulling the auto to the side of the road.
Venkat closed his eyes for a movement…trying to think hard about something. Narayana waited patiently for him to open his eyes and say something to him.
Suddenly, he opened his eyes and glared at him:-
‘Why am I seated in this auto? Where are you taking me?’ He asked, rather bewildered.
‘W-what?’ Narayana cried astonished.
‘Are you trying to kidnap me, mister? I…I don’t have any money with me to pay you…please let me go…please…’ He said, trying to get down from the auto.
‘Sir, I am not trying to kidnap you…I am trying to help you…I am taking you to your home…please get in..’ Narayana pleaded, holding the old man’s wrist.
‘Alright,’ He aid, getting inside, ‘take me back to my home then!’
‘Well, sir, I need to know your address for doing that.’ He replied.
‘Didn’t I tell you when we started?’ He asked, rather puzzled at his question.
‘No, sir, you didn’t!’ Narayana replied.
‘Please take me to the hospital…my wife is in coma for three months…I need to see her.’ He said.
‘But, sir, I was taking you home…you said, your wife had passed away many years back.’ He replied.
‘Oh, is it? I should have forgotten…I’m sorry..then please take me home…my family should be eagerly waiting for me..It’s already late.’ He said.
‘Yes, I’m taking you home..I need some address for that.’ He said, trying hard not to lose his cool.
‘You should have asked for it before…just a second.’ He said, searching his pocket, ‘I think I lost the address slip which I had in my track suite pocket.’
‘No problem, sir.’ Narayana said, ‘ I would take you through the streets…please try to remember your home.’
‘Yes, please do!’ He said.
When he started from that place, little did Narayana know that it would be one of the longest drives with a single customer, Venkat Rao. Narayana realised the man was suffering from memory loss, but he nevertheless went around Jayanagar for hours, hoping to find the elderly man’s home. The old man had neither any identity card nor money with him, but Narayana ignored the running meter and other potential passengers as he drove around.
After more than four hours of search, Narayana took the man to a police station in Tilaknagar, hoping to get some help there. But the police refused to help.
‘It is a common case and we have better things to do…didn’t he have any address slip or identity card with him?’ asked a cop.
‘He had the address slip, but lost it somewhere.’ Narayana replied.
‘In that case, take him to NIMHANS and leave him there!’ The cop suggested, before he went away.
He then took him to the Jayanagar police station where he got a similar response. He had no choice but to take him back to the place from where he had picked him up in the morning.
The spot was where he used to station his auto and look for customers every day. During the last few months, he had also befriended one local person called Raghunandan. Narayana informed Raghunandan what had happened so far.
‘My friend, do you know this person by any chance?’ Narayana asked him.
‘Sorry, my friend, even I haven’t seen him before in my life.’ Ragunandan said, shrugging his shoulders.
‘What should I do then?’ Narayana asked, rather confused.
‘I suggest why you don’t leave him at some nearby temple. Maybe, someone would come looking for him or else he might just remember his place after sometime.’
‘That’s a good idea!’ Narayana said, starting the auto.
By then it was dusk, Just then the words of his daughter, Keerthana came to his mind.
‘You don’t have to be someone special to do one small good deed, dad!’ She had said a few days back.
He had a smile on his face and took the old man to his home instead of temple..
‘Who is he, dad?’ Keerthana asked, looking at him.
‘He is Mr.Venkat Rao and has given me an opportunity to do my good deed, my dear.’ He said, with a smile on his face.
‘Wow! Dad, finally, you got the opportunity!’ Keerthana said, very pleased.
He narrated what had happened since morning to his wife and daughter.
‘You did the right thing by bringing him home.’ His wife said, after he concluded, ‘Let me go and prepare dinner now.’
When the dinner was ready and served, he refused to eat. He told them that he wasn’t hungry.
‘Please have something before going to sleep.’ Narayana’s wife requested him.
‘Then please give me some Ganji ( gruel). That would do for me.’ He replied.
He ate the food and then slept peacefully. While Narayana stayed awake, wondering what would his next course of action be?
The following day, Raghunandan spotted a missing advertisement in Vijaya Karnataka, Bangalore Mirror’s sister publication. The man in the picture, Venkat Rao, was Narayana’s fare. Raghunandan immediately called the number that was published in the paper.
Rao's son-in-law, Raghavendra Vellore, residing at Thyagarajanagar, rushed to the spot. Raghavendra revealed that his father-in-law had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for the last three years.
‘My father-in-law had retired as a gazetted officer from the state government. He often went out for walks every morning and returned early. This was the first time he lost his way. He was missing for four days. We even approached the Thyagarajanagar police station, but the police hardly paid any attention and asked so many details that we gave up,’ Raghavendra said.
‘Subsequently, we put a missing advertisement in Vijaya Karnataka newspaper. I don’t have enough words to thank you, Narayana sir. My wife and kids haven’t eaten properly for last few days..Please keep this money…’
‘No, Sir, I didn’t do this for money…my goal was to reunite your father-in-law with his family. I think I have finally done my good little deed for my daughter’s sake. It has given us immense happiness. What more can I ask for?’ Narayana said, refusing to take the money.
‘..for your daughter’s sake? I didn't get it?’ Raghavendra said, scratching his head and looking at them confused.
Keerthana explained everything to him.
‘I’m really proud of you all. I am very much indebted to you all. How could I ever repay you all for what you guys have done for us?’ Raghavendra asked.
‘Uncle, it’s simple. Just do one good deed to someone who is in need.’ Keerthana said, smiling at him.
‘Sure, my dear child. I would be waiting for my opportunity.’ Raghavendra said, smiling at her.
Next Monday morning, in the class room, Keerthana narrated the good deed, which her father had done. The whole class including the class teacher listened to her story in pin drop silence.
Keerthana concluded, ‘I am really very proud of my father. He had given his all to reunite the old grandpa with his family. Anyone else would probably have abandoned him.’
Everyone started clapping after she concluded her narration.
The class teacher, Ms. Vimala gave an autograph book to Keerthana and said, ‘I would like to have autograph of your dad! He has become a hero for everyone to follow.’
‘Sure, Ma’am,’ Keerthana said, smiling at her.