Tanak was an eight year old boy living in a small village in the state of Kerala. His father was a rich farmer who owned huge cashew plantations. Tanak’s elder brother was studying in a school in the big city of Cochin. He used to come home only during vacations. So Tanak was the only child in a big household.
Tanak had a room full of toys. Every time his father went to the city to sell cashews, he would get Tanak a toy. Even his uncles who visited from nearby villages would bring him lots of gifts and Tanak would spend the whole day playing with his toys.
Soon Tanak started expecting that everyone who came to their house should get him gifts. Whenever his father returned from the city, Tanak asked, “What have you got for me Father? Did you get me a toy?”
He never bothered that his father might be tired from the journey. He never offered him water or helped him with the luggage. Tanak only wanted the gifts. His mother did not like the way Tanak was becoming greedy.
He often broke expensive toys or just lost them while playing. Whenever his mother questioned him, he just said, “You can get me another one.” or “Good I lost the toy, now I can get a new one.”
Tanak’s mother was worried. Her son was becoming greedy. She also understood that the more Tanak got things the less he valued them. He always wanted some more.
Tanak’s mother discussed this with his father. The father was a rich and hardworking farmer. He knew that Tanak’s mother was right. Tanak’s father knew that Tanak was an intelligent boy. But he also agreed that bad habits like greed and selfishness were harming Tanak. He had observed that all children from Tanak’s school had stopped coming to play with him as he insulted them for not getting any gift for him. Moreover he would show off his new toys to them and never share or allow his friends to play with his toys.
One Sunday, Tanak was bored because he was playing alone. His father called him out to the verandah. His mother was sitting next to his father cutting vegetables. Both parents tried to explain to Tanak about greed and selfishness. They told him how these vices can make him lose all his friends and loved ones as no one likes greedy people. Tanak listened quietly to his parents but all the while he wished he could ask for more toys. As soon as his father finished explaining, Tanak asked, “Father, when will you get me a new toy. I have already played with the old ones and they now seem boring.”
Tanak’s parents let out a sigh. Their boy had not understood what they were trying to explain. Tanak’s mother knew if her son doesn’t learn a lesson now, he will remain greedy all through his life. The parents thought about it.
Vacation was nearing. This time the family decided to go to Cochin and spend time there. Tanak was very excited. His exams were about to be over. Tanak loved being with his elder brother. He also knew in Cochin he will get a chance to buy more new toys.
But all did not go as planned. One night, just after the vacations had begun, Tanak’s mother woke him up and said, “Tanak, your father and I have to urgently leave for your uncle’s house. He has taken ill. I am leaving you with Ayyapan Anna.
Ayyapan was his father’s trusted aide. For ages, Ayyapan’s family had worked in Tanak’s father’s fields. Whenever his father was out for trading cashews, Ayyapan took care of the farm and other affairs.
Tanak was upset but seeing his parent’s worried, he kept quiet. That night as his parent’s went off to his uncle’s village, Tanak went along with Ayyapan to his house.
Ayyapan’s house was a small. It did not have much furniture but it was very clean. Tanak saw that in one corner there were few toys. He recognized that those toys were the ones he had broken and thrown away. Tanak met Ayyapan’s son Vijith.
Vijith smiled on seeing Tanak. He immediately ran and offered water to his father and Tanak. Ayyapan blessed his son. Vijith invited Tanak into his home. He offered Tanak his bed and himself slept on the floor with his mother. Tanak had never seen something like this. He always had the best room in his house. He never agreed to share his room with anyone even when there was wedding in his house. His brother had let their cousins sleep in the same room but Tanak had not shared his bed.
Since it was late night everyone slept.
Next morning, Vijith took Tanak to the nearby well. He filled water for his mother and carried two small buckets inside the house. Tanak quietly followed. He was missing his toys. He saw Vijith’s mother kiss her son’s forehead for helping her with the work. She fed both the boys with tasty breakfast. Tanak noticed that the meal was simple yet tasty. It was not like his home where at least four kinds of delicacies were made in each meal and Tanak had always wasted food. He could see that little was left for Vijith’s mother who ate in the end.
Two days had passed. Tanak was feeling out of place. He had never worked at his home. He kept wondering when Vijith would play; but Vijith was busy helping his parents around the house.
Tanak asked him, “Don’t you ever want to play with toys?”
“I do” replied Vijith, “But only when it rains heavily and I have to stay indoors.”
“I love to play outdoors with everyone. Will you come out with me to play?” asked Vijith.
Tanak nodded his head in agreement.
“So let us finish helping mother and then we can run out.” Vijith suggested.
Both the boys ran to Vijith’s mother. She asked them to get some raw papayas from the courtyard. Vijith and Tanak went to the papaya tree standing at the corner of the courtyard. Vijith took a long stick and pulled one raw papaya down.
“Why don’t we take down all the papayas? The birds will spoil them.” asked Tanak.
“Because we don’t need all. We can eat only one today so why should we pluck all. We can always share some food with others, be it our friends or animals.” said Vijith. Tanak wondered.
He carried the papaya back to Vijith’s mother. This time she kissed him on the forehead and blessed him. Tanak felt good. He missed his mother.
He helped Vijith bring water from the well and even clean the courtyard. Ayyapan was watching the boys. He called them and said, “Both of you have worked very hard today. Here take a rupee each and go buy something for yourself.”
He placed one rupee coins in their palms. Tanak felt happy. He was used to getting fifty or hundred rupees from visiting relatives just like that but the one rupee given by Ayyapan for their hard work seemed more precious.
He saw Vijith putting the rupee in a money box. “Are you not going to spend the money?” asked Tanak.
“Not now, I am saving for Onam. Then I will buy my mother a gift.” replied Vijith.
Tanak smiled. He went and kept the rupee in his bag. The boys then went out to play. Tanak knew some of the boys as their parents worked in his father’s cashew plantation.
The children did not play with expensive toys. They played with a ball made from coconut fibre. They ran around, played in water. Tanak was happy. He did not get bored at all. By afternoon the boys were tired. They returned home, bathed and ate the hot tasty lunch prepared by Vijith’s mother. She asked both the boys to take an afternoon nap.
Tanak heard a familiar voice calling him in his sleep. “Wake up my child.”
Tanak opened his eyes. It was his mother.
“Mother,” exclaimed Tanak and hugged her.
She thanked Ayyapan and his wife for taking care of her son. Tanak hugged Vijith and his mother and walked towards the car. His mother showed him the packet of sweets and toys she had got for him. Tanak smiled. He picked up the packets and turned towards Vijith. He gave his friend all the goodies and thanked him.
Tanak’s mother was surprised to see the change in her son. They reached home. Tanak’s father was standing by the gate. Tanak hugged him and said, “I am glad you are back, Father.”
Tanak did not ask for any toy. He did not throw a tantrum for sweets. He went to his room and put the one rupee given by Ayyapan in a box and went out to help his mother with household chores.
Tanak had learnt his lesson.