On her return from the super market, when he saw Vimala with the bucket, Sreedhar was surprised. He knew that Vimala would never buy anything that was not needed at home. Both Sreedhar and Vimala were against wastage of all kinds.
The bucket was green in colour. To be precise, the green shade was attractive. It had a unique appeal to it. It was medium sized. It had stripes on the outer side. Even a 10-year old could easily lift that bucket.
Soon enough the green bucket became the cynosure of all eyes at home. Vimala’s children loved the bucket. Even Sreedhar felt that the bucket was attractive. Vimala explained to them that the green bucket was offered as a free gift along with a 2 kg of detergent powder.
Vimala did not wish to buy the bucket. She wanted to buy only the detergent powder. But the shop-keeper told her that she should keep the bucket. “Madam, it is an offer by the company. Look how attractive the bucket is. Many customers are buying the soap powder because of the bucket.”
That afternoon, Shantamma, the housemaid was late for work. Her daughter Meena studied in Class V. Meena was a smart child. She did her homework even while she waited for her mother.
Vimala’s house was close to school. So, everyday, Meena would come to Vimala’s house at 2 pm after school. Shantamma would also arrive around the same time. While Shantamma was busy sweeping the floors or washing the utensils, Meena would browse through the lessons that were taught in the class.
Shantamma was poor. But she had lot of self-respect. When Vimala offered a few biscuits to Meena, the poor girl would accept it only after her mother approved of it. Shantamma was a strict disciplinarian. But she worked hard to ensure that she could provide the best education for her daughter. Mercifully, Meena was sincere, diligent and hard working. She always got good grades in her class. When Meena’s eyes fell on the green bucket, her eyes sparkled. Vimala noticed this. But she knew that Shantamma would never accept this gift. More so, if she knew that Meena had longingly looked at the bucket.
Meena’s home had a bucket that was partly broken. It could only fill water up to half its capacity. Shantamma would always chide her saying, “Look Meena, you know how difficult it is for me to make both the ends meet. Yet, I am trying to do my best. Please understand your mother’s plight”. After this incident, Meena never broached the topic of buying a new bucket.
But after she saw the green bucket at Vimala’s house, Meena started imagining how it would to be having such a green bucket herself.
“Do you like the bucket?” Vimala asked the little girl lovingly.
“Yes, aunty. It looks good.” replied Meena.
Vimala’s heart sank. She felt sorry for the poor little girl. She could make out that the girl longed for a new bucket. Children love the smallest things in life. Yet, how deprived Meena was!
A few weeks passed. When Vimala had enquired with the shopkeeper about new stocks of the detergent powder, the latter said, “Madam, all the buckets were sold out. The offer got over last week itself. There is no offer now on the new stocks of the soap powder.”
Vimala had completely forgotten about this incident. She had not even discussed this with her children or Sreedhar. One fine morning, she decided to buy a few grocery items from a store that was at some
distance from their home. Vimala’s friend lived near that store. So, it was a good opportunity to meet her friend as well as buy a few items for the household.
It proved to be a good morning walk for her. Though it was 9 am in the morning, Vimala felt cool breeze blowing on her face. The road was lined by tall Ashoka trees on either side. Traffic was sparse. Barring a cyclist or two, there was not much traffic either.
After spending an hour with her friend, Vimala left for home. On the way, she entered the store and soon enough completed the purchase of the grocery items.
“Madam, would you like to have this”, the shopkeeper beckoned her. It was a 2 kg packet of the detergent powder.
“But I have already purchased powder”, replied Vimala.
“Madam, you are the first customer in my shop today morning. This is the last pack of detergent that is lying with me. There is also a free offer of a bucket along with this. This is the last piece available as the offer has expired, “so saying the shopkeeper showed her the green bucket.
There it was... Another green bucket ... with the same sparkle. Vimala remembered Meena’s face and the sparkle in the child’s face on seeing the green bucket.
Shantamma was not keeping well and she did not report for work that day. So, when Sreedhar saw a new green bucket, he was surprised. Had Vimala become a spend thrift? Why was she buying another green bucket when they already had one?
Sensing the questions in her husband’s mind, Vimala patiently explained to him about Meena’s longing for the green bucket and how she had purchased it for giving it to her. “But will Shantamma accept it? After all, she is self respecting and may refuse it.”
“What is the harm in trying? Fulfilling the desire of the child is more important to me. I will find out a way. Do not worry” Vimala assured Sreedhar.
When Shantamma returned to work, Vimala placed the green bucket in front of her. She told her that the shopkeeper had literally forced her to buy this.
“Shantamma, during the vacations, you had helped massage Nethra’s grandmother back. Do you remember?”
“Madam that was not a great effort” replied Shantamma.
“But Nethra’s and Sumeet’s grandparents are grateful to you for that. Their grandmother says that her back pain has reduced due to the massage you gave her. She insisted that I give you some money. But you won’t accept money, will you?” asked Vimala.
“No, madam, I can’t accept money for that” said Shantamma.
“Ok, then accept this green bucket” Vimala literally thrust the bucket in Shantamma’s hands.
Vimala saw that the sparkle had returned to Meena’s eyes. Meena gave a smile that was worth a million dollar bucks. Has someone not said, “You can see God in a poor child’s smile”?
Vimala hugged Meena lovingly and said, “If you want something badly, the entire world will conspire to ensure that it happens. You wanted the green bucket. Now you have it. Are you happy now?”
“Thank you Aunty, thank you very much” replied Meena.
Vimala did not miss the moistness in Shantamma’s eyes as she saw Vimala’s affection for her daughter. After all, love conquers all, right?