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A Telugu ‘తనకు మాలిన ధర్మం’ story written by Sesi Saradi is translated into English as ‘Charity Should Begin at Home’ by the same author, Sesi Saradi.
In the center of the sprawling Metropolis, the apartment building “Shiva Krupa” is buzzing like a beehive. It is in midst of a purely residential middle class area: where the majority of the residents are office going people. This building has three blocks, each having twenty apartments. All in all, sixty families reside there. In any of these houses, whenever someone needs any help, the name that comes to their mind is “Radhika”. Come let us find out who Radhika is and what made her so popular.
Radhika is a very kind hearted human being, who could not watch anyone suffering and always tries to help people who needs her services. In fact she thinks it’s her duty to help people.
Radhika did not cultivate this habit. It’s in born. Even while at school, she is known for her charitable nature. So, when any student needed anything –a pen, pencil or eraser they know whom to contact and Radhika is always more than ready to oblige.
Once while writing an exam, a girl asked Radhika for pen with tears in her eyes to write the exam and Radhika’s heart just melted away and she gave her pen to the girl even though she did not have a spare one. The teacher noticed Radhika’s dilemma and gauzed the situation and gave her own pen to Radhika to write the exam. After everyone went away the teacher took aside Radhika and advised her that “Charity should begin at home” and ‘self help is the best help’. “You can give your things to a needy person if you have another one. It’s foolish to help when it brings you inconvenience or trouble. If you continue doing these things, no doubt, you will get the tag of ‘good girl’, but ultimately you will suffer.” Radhika nodded her head in agreement, but kept on doing her kindly deeds, unmindful of the results. Even her parents stopped advising after a time and left her to herself.
Coming to the present, Radhika’s husband Sekhar is a Government employee. They have two children, Srikanth who is in class vii and Sri latha who is in class v. “The kids are in that stage of their schooling, where they need constant supervision. Please stay at home and attend to their needs”. Sekhar reminded her one day. “Okay”, is her reply. But if anyone comes in the evening, asking for help, she readily obliges. She did not have, ‘no’, ‘not now’, or ‘I Cant do”, in her vocabulary. With this becoming a daily happening, the children naturally fell backwards in studies. With no one to monitor them, they usually spent the evening watching television or playing video games.
In the meantime, ChickenGuinea fever became prevalent. This is a God sent opportunity to Radhika to serve people. Before she used to go out after arranging everything at home, but now as the people who needed her services grew, she spent almost all her time outside her home. One day when she is returning home, Savitri, who lives opposite to her home stopped her. “Radhika, after coming back from school, your kids are roaming in the corridor, waiting for you. It would be better if you are home before their arrival.” Outwardly Radhika smiled, but inside she fumed and thought, “Why don’t she mind her own business?”.
The direct impact of Radhika’s services fell directly on her children. Before, after coming from school, they ate the snacks their mother prepared and did their homework. Now they had to wait for their father to return from office and make something to eat for them. Because of this their health suffered.
Sekhar is a good–natured fellow. Soon after their marriage, he realized his wife’s tendency to help others, but thought to himself, “while I am at office, she can do all the social service she wants to do”, and never tried to curb her enthusiasm.
When the children were small, Radhika kept aside her services and tended to them. But once they started going to school, she started her services with renewed zeal.
Coming to the present, the house has become like a market place. Sekhar could not find a thing with out searching for an hour. But he never complained. He just said, “Children are not getting good grades, Radha, please spare at least an hour every day for them”. Radhika readily agreed and said, “Yes, it’s true, from today I will go out only after they complete their home works”. But she forgot all about her promise when some one came with a request for help.
Sekhar thought very hard for a solution to this problem. He never wanted to hurt his wife. In fact, in his opinion, she is not dong anything wrong, but only over doing it. But a good deed too turns into a bad one, once it crosses certain limit. How to make Radhika realize it is his present problem.
As things turned out, Radhika too became the victim of the Chicken Guinea fever. She could not even get up from her bed. Sekhar took leave from office to take care of her. She protested weakly, “why are you wasting your leave? If you send word, any one from the building comes flying to help me. You don’t even need to cook. Some one or other will send us meals, as long as I am bed ridden”. Such was her confidence.
For the next two days, she repeatedly asked him whether he shared with anyone her sickness. Sekhar lost his cool, “I told Mrs. Kumar, who lives next door, the day you got fever. By now the whole building must be knowing”. Still, much to Radhika’s disappointment no one came. That day Savitri, came and gauzing the situation, sent her maid to clean the house and also started sending curries. Radhika felt ashamed of her previous thoughts.
After a week, she ordered her husband to go to office, but even slight work made her dizzy and she had to take rest. Tears of self pity welled up in her eyes. At evening children came from school. They made Horlicks and almost poured down her throat. Later they cooked rice in the rice cooker. Radhika looked at them in wonder. How quickly children learn! Sekhar taught them well. In no time at all, they brought steaming rice and curd for her to eat. “You should not be on empty stomach, mother! It will hinder your recovery!” said her daughter, who aspires to be a doctor. Radhika hugged both her children close to her. ‘When they were hungry I went out to feed others, now I am depending on them’. She thought sadly.
That night when Sekhar is massaging her swollen legs, she could not contain herself. “How thought less had I been all these days! I went to clean other people’s houses, leaving my home dirty. I forgot that charity should begin at home. Now my eyes are opened. I will not go any where to help people”.
Sekhar smiled at her and said, “May be, those who sought your help are really unable to return the favor. There might be various reasons for them not responding. I will never stop you from doing good work, but take care of us too”. He said with a twinkle in his eyes.
Radhika’s heart is filled with peace. Such loving husband and caring children! What more can a woman ask for? From now onwards no social service, only self–service. She pledged to herself before going to sleep.
But tomorrow is another day. When she is well and healthy, if some one asks for help, Can Radhika resist her inner urge to help people? Only time will tell.
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