Once we were getting our house repainted before Diwali. Elaborate research was done to pick up pleasing colours and shades for all the rooms as well as the exterior. The ladies of the house were all enthusiastic about the whole exercise mindless about the money it might consume. The local contractor was called and contract awarded after a couple of rounds of negotiations on the value of the contract. The work progressed to everyone’s satisfaction and all were pleased that it would set a befitting milieu to welcome Diwali this year. Then one day an unfortunate thing happened. My mother realised that her golden wedding ring had disappeared. The entire family launched massive hunt for the missing ring. After hours and hours of searching the ring could not be located. Everyone was tensed about the loss of a precious object, not for the monetary value it held but because it was a storehouse of emotions and sentiments of the last many decades.
Such a brazen act had never occurred in our house even when the house was full of domestic helps like maids, cleaners, drivers etc. all the time and this was what astounded us even more. We used to leave the house unguarded in the efficient hands of faithful and loyal helps without an iota of doubt in our minds about the safety of our valuables. Almost always we used to leave for work as well as attended parties only to return late at night with no untoward incident ever reported. The staff even attended to the seniors at home with their special needs without a single complaint. We were at a loss to suggest the name of the perpetrator of the singular crime. My uncle suggested that it could be the handiwork of one of those men employed to paint the house. We all agreed to confront the contractor together with his men. We assembled contractor’s men to apprise them of the incident and ended with a threat of calling the police if we did not find the ring. The contractor’s unease was quite evident and somehow it depicted his guilt. The contractor took charge of the situation and asked us to relax and promised to find the ring. Unexpectedly the next day the contractor returned the ring first thing in the morning. We were taken by surprise and my mother was happy beyond limits. Ultimately, we had found the ring and with this the unpleasantness ended. In the same breath, I asked the contractor where and how did he find the ring. He narrated the entire story that went into finding it.
When we were gone, he sat with his men and told them that he was certain that it was the handiwork of one among them only. The one who was guilty feared that the contractor would launch a physical search thus revealing his crime immediately that might lead to his arrest. The contractor was a wise and experienced man. He did not want to embarrass his men beyond a point after all he had no proof. Simultaneously, he wanted the wrong doer to reform rather being charged with crime and live with the stigma for his entire life. The contractor did not ask his men to return the ring to him, instead asked them to fetch a fistful of sand each and empty their hands inside the bowl. Along with the sand came the golden ring sitting somewhere inside the heap of sand. In the end, the contractor fished out the most wanted object from the heap of sand and went straight to my father and handed over the golden ring. To this day no one knows the name of the wrong doer, sincerely hoping that he must have been forever a reformed man.