Honesty Pays

Veeraswamy Krishnaraj

Muniyan was a recent arrival to Madras in the 1930s. He had his wife and two children with him. He did odd jobs to support his family. The two boys were preschoolers and stayed home with their mother.

He could do anything with his dextrous hands. He could fix a bicycle, a bullock cart, a tonga…He was a good gardner too. He was helpful to his neighborhood children fixing small items like broken toys. When he had no job to do, he sold snacks made by his wife in the neighborhood, and in the Madras Marina beach on the weekends opposite to the Madras University Campus by the sea.

One day, when he was selling the snacks in the evening at the beach, he found a diamond earring glistening in the sand. He picked it up, put it at the end of his lungi, tied  and tucked it by his hip. He wanted to return the earring to the rightful owner. He worried that he might be mistaken for a thief.

Several days passed and as he was reading the daily newspaper, he found an advertisement in the ‘lost and found’ section about one earring lost in the beach. He felt good he would not be mistaken for a thief, if he returned the jewel to the owner.

He wanted to respond to the owner and return the earring. But he had a better idea. He wanted someone to witness the return of the earring. He went to the newspaper office ‘Lost and Found’ section manager with two of his friends as witnesses. He reported to the section manager and told her he was the finder of the jewel lost by the owner on the beach.

The surprised woman looking at the diamond earring jumped from her seat and thanked him for finding it and bringing it to the Newspaper office. She showed her ears and only one ring on her left ear with the right earring missing on the right ear. The recovered earring was the exact match of the left earring. She invited her colleagues at the newspaper to witness the transfer of the jewel from Muniyan to her. The official photographer took pictures of Muniyan, his friends and Malathi (the woman) with one ear missing the earring. Next day, this was the frontpage news and Munian was the sensation for his honesty. He was rewarded a thousand rupees for returning the item.

The story was Malathi visited the beach earlier in the week with her children. The right earring somehow got loose when she and the children romped on the sand. The earring fell off but the stud stayed in place. That was strange. It was too late, before she discovered the loss.

The owner of the newspaper hearing the honesty called Muniyan to the office and offered him a permanent job in the office.

Muniyan had SSLC qualification. The newspaper had a program for further studies to the select qualified employees. He was chosen as a qualified candidate. He went to college for four years in the day and worked for the newspaper in the night. In four years he finished his studies and received his B.A. and became a reporter at the city desk. Ten years went by and he became the editor of the newspaper.

He moved into an upscale neighborhood. His children were attending college and had job on the nightshift in the newspaper office while they were in the college.