Some things in early life leave an indelible mark. What happened to me when I was in the fifth grade was one such instance.
The tuition fee was paid in cash every month. We had to take money on the fee day and pay and take it to the class teacher. Students would stand in a queue for this, and go to the teacher, one by one, and pay their fees.
The sum to be paid was about six rupees. My mother had given me a ten rupee note (bill). I had put the money in my trouser pocket. As I was standing in the queue, Kedar, one of my class mates, slipped his hand into my pocket and stealthily took the note out. I, however, felt his hand going into my pocket and caught him red handed. When I accused him of stealing my money, he said that it was only a prank on his part to see if I could detect his trick. I let him go and put the bill again in my pocket.
A little later, when it was my turn to make the payment, I put my hand in the pocket to take the money out, I found it missing. I was at a loss what to do? I told the teacher that my pocket had been picked in the class and I did not have the money to pay the fees.
The teacher asked me if I suspected anyone to have done it. There were nearly thirty boys in the class and it was difficult for me to pin-point anyone of them. Even though Kedar had tried to play a prank on me, but what proof was there that he had done it again? It was certainly most improbable that he would do so again, having been caught in the act earlier, the first suspicion would naturally go to him. So I told the teacher, 'sir. I don't suspect anyone. At the same time I added, 'but one thing I must tell you sir that I found it strange that earlier, Kedar had put his hand in my pocket and was trying to steal the money and when I caught him he said he was playing a prank.
Having this information, the teacher called Kedar into his chamber and questioned him. He completely denied ,having stolen the money. The teacher, however, insisted that since he had no business to put his hand in my pocket, even to play a prank, all the suspicion would fall on him and he was in great trouble. The teacher adopted a threatening attitude and told him that the matter will be reported to the Principal for further disciplinary action.
When Kedar found himself cornered, he broke down and accepted his guilt. He said that he was very poor, having lost his father in early childhood. His mother had a very low paying job and could not afford to get him educated. As he was keen to carry on his studies, he had to steal to pay for his studies. The teacher told him that he will not report the matter if he paid back the money.
But the problem for Kedar was wherefrom could he return the money? He had already paid it towards his fees and did not have enough to return. He begged me if I could help him. I took him home to my father and narrated the whole story. My father promised to help him if after verifying it was found that the facts told by him were true. He, therefore, asked me to go with him to his house and find out details from his mother.
Accordingly, I went and met his mother. I was appalled to see the conditions in which she was living. There was a small room in which she lived with her four children. Her only hope was in Kedar so that he could be educated, get a suitable employment and then help her in supporting the education of his younger brothers.
I narrated all this to my father. He promised to pay him ten rupees every month, provided he worked hard and showed good results. Kedar kept his promise, finally passed his High School Examination and got a suitable job.
This is how, sometimes, the whole future of a person gets changed. If our teacher had reported the matter, Kedar would have been rusticated and the whole family would have been ruined.