Jul 17, 2024

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# The Hidden Gem - Part 2

CHAPTER III

THE GREAT MATHEMATICIAN

Lakshmi’s throat was parched, so she went to the handpump nearby and quenched her thirst. She saw a washerman sitting on a rock in despair.

“What happened, bhaiya?”

“I just don’t get it. Ramu uncle gave me sixteen clothes, Sonu gave fifteen and your mother gave twenty-four. So, how many clothes do I have? Ten? Thirty? I don’t know. Do I look like I have time to count them?” he said, pointing at the big pile of clothes, all different colours, shapes, and sizes.

“Hmm… you will have fifty-five clothes.”

Just then, a lady came and put a pile of clothes on the ground.

“1...2...3..4…thirteen more.”

“Hmm..sixty-eight clothes, bhaiya.”

“Well, you are clever. Thank you.”

Then he separated shirts, pants, and sarees.

“Now do I count them all separately?” he exclaimed.

There were clearly more shirts than pants and sarees, so Lakshmi answered, “No, bhaiya. Count the sarees and pants only.”

He counted the sarees while Lakshmi counted the pants.

“There are eighteen pants.”

“And twenty-one sarees. But how will this help?”

“So, you have twenty-nine shirts.”

“Yes. Sixty-eight minus eighteen plus twenty-one. We do eighteen plus twenty-one first, then subtract sixty-eight.”

Until then, the washerman counted the shirts, and Lakshmi was correct.

He thanked her, and she smiled and replied, “Bhaiya, I will help you anytime. Just call me. I live in that hut near the big guava tree.”

She went to help him often and helped him in calculations.

One day, Lakshmi was sitting under a banyan tree when the washerman came running and said, “Sita just gave me thirty-six shirts to wash and said to give some to Ramprasad, Mangal and his brother equally.”

“Bhaiya, everyone should get twelve shirts.”

“Really? 12 and 12 and 12….36! Thank you very much.”

That evening, the washerman went to his friends and said, “Do you know Ramlal’s daughter is very smart?”

“I don’t believe it.” said the potter. “I’ll check if she really is so smart or not.”

A day later, the potter was confused in orders and very irritated.

“You must be Lakshmi. Well, I got four orders every week so how many orders did I get this month?”

“Well, this month has five weeks, so you got...twenty orders.”

The potter’s son was literate, so he called him, and Lakshmi’s answer was correct. He asked Lakshmi another question and she replied confidently. They became good friends and Lakshmi would go there every day, help him and chat.

That evening, the washerman gathered with his friends again.

A young man came and said, “May I join you? My name is Prakash, and I am a milkman.”

They let him sit down.

“How I wish there was a magic pencil which could solve all my calculation problems!”

The potter and the washerman looked at each other and smiled.

“We don’t have a magic pencil but there is a girl in this village called Lakshmi. She will help you.”

The next day, as the sun rose, the milkman went towards the city nearby, to sell milk. There was a festival in that town, so many people bought milk. He held the coins tightly, as if someone would take them away.

He was sitting on a log, counting his earnings of the day, when he saw a girl, lost in her thoughts, pass by. He asked, “Are you Lakshmi?”

“Yes.” she replied. “I am Lakshmi.”

“Can you tell me the answer to my question? If Mrs Gupta took five litres of milk, Mr Sharma took three, and Seeta took seven, at the price of sixty-four rupees per litre, how much did I earn?”

She thought for a minute.

“Bhaiya” she said, “You will earn Rs.960.”

“Okay” he said, writing it down in his register. “Lal took one litre, Sitaram took four, and Mr. Kapoor took seven, at the price of fifty-four rupees per litre, how many rupees did I earn?”

“You earned six hundred forty-eight rupees, bhaiya.”

Two boys came running and spilt some milk.

“Hey!” shouted the milkman.

“Sorry, bhaiya!” said the boys.

“Ugh! Now if two litres of milk is wasted, how much money am I losing?” asked Prakash.

“Well, if it costs 54 rupees per litre, then that would have sold for rupees 108.”

“Really? Thank you.”

That evening, Prakash called his friends under the banyan tree.

“That girl is actually clever.” said the milkman.

“I know. She is extremely helpful and smart.” commented the potter.

“She is very fast at calculations.” added the washerman.

“Really? Tell her to come to my field tomorrow.” said the farmer, Surya.

The next day, Prakash met Lakshmi and told her to go to Surya’s farm.

He was sitting on a haystack when Lakshmi saw him.

“My name is Lakshmi.” said the girl. “Prakash bhaiya said you wanted to meet me.”

“He said you are good with numbers.” the farmer replied.

“I wanted to buy another field and it costs Rs 5000. I sell all the items for Rs 20 per kg, and I sold 180 kg this month. Do I have enough money to buy it?”

“No uncle.” she said. “You earned Rs 3600 this month. You will be able to buy it next month.”

Soon, she started helping everyone in the village.

One day, she was helping the potter and forgot to go home to clean the floor.

“Where were you?” her father asked. “The floor is so dirty.”

“I-I went to the fields to w-work.” she stuttered.

“Be there tomorrow or you’ll get a good scolding.”

The next day, her father, Ramlal, was going to the fields, when he saw Prakash and bought some milk.

“Here you go, bhaiya” he said. “Say thank you to Lakshmi for me.”

CHAPTER IV

WHAT?

What?” asked Ramlal. “My daughter Lakshmi?”

“You must be mistaken.”

“No, I am not. There is only one Lakshmi in this village, or are there more?”

“But why would you thank her?”

“Because she helps me! Now let me do my job.” the milkman shouted angrily.

Ramlal went home and was shouting at Lakshmi when the washerman, the potter, the farmer, and the milkman came.

“Don’t scold her.” said the potter.

“Didn’t you know?” asked the washerman.

“You have such a helpful and intelligent daughter.” said one of the villagers.

“She helps us every day in calculations.” commented the farmer.

“She is quite smart.” said Prakash.

“You must be so glad to have such a great daughter.” said a woman.

Soon, all the villagers started praising Lakshmi until one of them said, “You are sending her to school, right?”

“No. I don’t.” said Ramlal, confused.

“Yes, he doesn’t. I learned all this from Ram.” commented Lakshmi, sitting at the corner.

“Well, then you should go to school. You deserve it.” said an old man.

There came shouts of agreement. Ramlal had tears in his eyes.

“I will send her to school. Why not? She is my daughter. She will not clean the floors all her life.”

Everyone started clapping and cheering. For the first time in forever, he was proud of his daughter. He hugged her and said,” I am immensely proud of you. Shabash.”

CHAPTER V

Her bag hanging on her shoulders, her face beaming with happiness, she walked towards the little white-and-red building with her siblings – the building which she could now proudly call school.

She met amazing teachers, made kind friends, and learnt many new and wonderful things.

Lakshmi was returning from school when she saw her father crying.

“What happened, papa?” she inquired.

“There is a very big problem. I am in debt and have no money. Let me ask my son what to do. Shiv would know how to help me.”

Ramlal and Lakshmi went below the banyan tree, where they saw her brother sitting, and waiting for his turn in the cricket game going on.

“Shiv, help me.” he said to the 17-year-old. “I took a loan from Gupta sahib and now he wants his money back. How do I get money? It can take a year to earn that money and by then he would have increased the rate.”

“OUT!” shouted the boys playing.

“I don’t care. I must go now. The match is going on and I have to bat.”

Lakshmi was exasperated. Her father was talking about such an important matter, and Shiv was interested in playing a little game of cricket?

She asked her father the money he was charging and said, “Papa, that moneylender is cheating you.”

“How? The whole village has taken loans from him!”

“He has tricked you and taken advantage of everyone’s illiteracy. The interest rate should be 13% and he is asking for 20%.”

“Maybe you are right. But you can be wrong, too, and then he can take us to jail.”

“We can confirm from my teacher.” she said. “He must be in school right now.”

They went to him, and he said, “Wow! You are clever. That is absolutely correct.”

The duo then called all the villagers who took loans from the lender, and they all went to him.

“How dare you cheat us!” a potter shouted.

“You charged us extra money!” shrieked a woman.

“We’re going to take you to jail, unless you lower the rate!”

“Give us our money back!”

All the villagers started threatening him until he said, “Fine, then. Take your money and get out of my house.” and charged them less.

As the contented men and women came out, they all chanted one name – Lakshmi.

“LAKSHMI! LAKSHMI! LAKSHMI!”

“If you didn’t tell us and check, he would have charged us a lot!”

“Thank you, beta.”

Later, Ramlal went on a walk while Lakshmi was in school and saw a girl washing clothes while her brother was studying.

He inquired, “Doesn’t she go to school?”

“Why would she?” an old woman replied. “Girls shouldn’t go to school. Why bother learning when she has to spend her life doing household chores?”

He thought what the woman said was wrong, but then the words echoed in his mind as he remembered that he had said that to his own daughter.

“You should send her to school. Every girl has a wonderful mind, equal to boys, but only if you let her use it. If you send her, she can live a glorious life, study in a good college, and get a good job. Nothing will change if you don’t change these ridiculous things.”

Just then, on the little TV came the Prime Minister’s speech about giving education to girls.

“He is right.” said Lakshmi’s father, with tears in his eyes. “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao.”

#### More By  :  Aanvi Bamba

• Views: 247

 Very well written!

Ananya Dawer
13-Jul-2024 09:16 AM

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