Carry secrets to the grave

  • Neela Sood, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Aug 29, 2014 09:16 IST

Today when secrets are sold as easily as the books of Sanjay Baru and Natwar Singh, I recall the true story of a conscience keeper that I heard from my father.

It is about Chakwal village in undivided Punjab, where lived a Sikh landlord with a large landholding, a palatial house, seven sons and their children. He had the reputation of being a no-nonsense man who would make charity with no desire for any name or fame. He was Darji (the way most elderly Sikhs are addressed on the Rawalpindi side) to everybody in the village, including his family.

His haveli had two floors. On the ground floor lived the family, and on the first floor was the granary. A noise from the granary one night woke up the seven sons. As they went upstairs to investigate, they found the patriarch standing at the repository door. The sons told him what they had heard and felt. "Yes, even I heard it. There is nothing serious. Go back to your rooms and relax," said Darji. Such was his aura that none could dare ask him anything further, though they were convinced something fishy was behind the din.

In the morning, the tell-tale signs of theft were all over the granary: footprints on the dusty floor, a sack opened, and some wheat taken away. It continued to happen at some intervals, though the quantity of grains stolen would be insignificant. Whenever the sons made a plan to catch the thief, Darji was always there to scuttle the move. After about three months, the thefts stopped as quietly as these had started. The landlord's sons were relieved but it remained a mystery to them.

Time passed. The landlord breathed his last. A widow, who at one time was his neighbour living in a dilapidated house, came to mourn the death. Darji's family remembered her as a proud woman who after her husband's sudden demise had refused to take help offered by the respected senior, even though she had fallen on hard days with three children to support. Respecting her feelings, Darji had not forced her either.

She paid homage to the departed soul and, after a while, sighed: "I'm here to make a confession and come clean. Those were very bad days when I could tolerate the pangs of hunger but not bear to see my children crying of it. My pride did not let me approach Darji for help, so I decided to steal from his granary. Darji saw me stealing but walked back pretending as if his eyes had caught nothing. Waheguru had given him the large heart of the saints."

We are all privy to information and secrets. Wisdom lies in carrying them to the grave, or it is a breach of trust that somebody had reposed in us. Of course, it is for the people who still believe in the theory of karma.

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