There are some inviolable principles and values that we need to follow in our lives. Some do not bother about them, but a few do care. Prasanta da (Prasanta Bose) was one of those who cared.

We had formed a tight-knit group of early morning walkers, of which Prasanta da was the initiator. He was a retired bank manager, and had served the industry for almost 30 years. The high point of our morning walk was that at the end of it, we would sit at a roadside stall sipping tea and listen to Prasanta’s wonderful anecdotes from his long and interesting professional life.

Of all the different stories he told us, one still sticks in the mind. The incident happened just a week after Prasanta got a job as probationary officer. His father, a retired post-master, had asked him to bring two dot pen refills on his way back from office. The old gentleman was in the habit of writing letters to the editor.

After receiving refill packets, Prasanta’s father was absolutely delighted. “Why did you purchase two packets, when just two pieces would have sufficed?” he asked in spite of his evident happiness.

The son’s heart leapt with joy and he smiled back, “No Baba, I have brought these from my office inventory. You see, I have been given such a huge stock of stationery that I will not be able to exhaust even half of it in one whole year.”

The smile immediately vanished from the old man’s face. In a pained voice, he said, “Prasanta, I cannot accept this, as it is your office property. Please put it back from where you had taken it for me.”

This irritated Prasanta a little. “Do you mean to say that I have stolen these two mere refill packets from my own office stocks?” he asked.

“That is precisely what I mean,” his father answered.

“But these are just refill packets. Most of my colleagues take it without hesitation,” Prasanta tried to explain.

“But it is meant for your office use only, is it not? I did not expect all such arguments from you, Prasanta. This is most unfortunate. Whatever be your arguments, I am not ready to accept either the refills or your reasons,” said the old man.

Prasanta da stopped for a while, and he was trying to check his tears. After a few more moments of silence, he spoke: “After my getting a job, all that my father wanted from me was to buy him two refills as a treat …… But I could not fulfil his wish. He passed away a few days later.” And Prasanta burst into tears after recalling his father’s words.

One feels strange to observe in a country, where corruption seems to be the driving force of society, a man like Prasanta da’s father, and the son himself who never veered from the path his father followed, however anachronistic it seemed with the changing times.

Prasanta’s father left behind for his son a philosophy for a way of life, which he followed till the last day of his life.

(The writer’s email is debiarup@yahoo.co.in)

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