13 March 2011

Retrospective Series 13: When the Universe conspires

This weekend, an event had me traveling back in time and set my Retrospective bells ringing. As my little one gets to understand the concept of money, counting and addition, we (rather it was him) decided that it was time to get a piggy bank to collect pocket money earned or gifted. The exercise was pretty exciting for all parties involved because the little one was getting a big new responsibility with perks attached and the parents were reliving their own childhoods and were sharing stories with each other of their first piggy bank.

That brings me to my interesting flashback. My first piggy bank was miles away from looking like a piggy bank. You know what it looked like? It looked like a television...not the flat screen ones in case you were wondering; remember this was the 20th century. It was an old fashioned Cathode Ray Tube Television with a bug's antenna on top and a locked door at the back to take out the collection. The coins/notes went in through a slit on the top of the television.

Me the proud owner of the bank would wait for my allowances/gifts and other miscellaneous revenue sources to fill up my piggy bank. That was the easy part. The difficult part was the withdrawal. You see my parents treated it like it was their savings account and would want to make sure every purchase was transacted through them, in their presence and with enough documentation to prove that the purchase was indeed something they approved. But for a kid everything is a legit purchase isn't it? From the street corner cotton candy to the shaved ice to the tender green mangoes sold by the lady near the school grounds. Ah, green mangoes; now that is something mouth watering if enjoyed with a dash of salt and red pepper seasoning. Needless to say it was forbidden at home and talk of using the piggy bank stash to buy such things would have been suicidal at best.

So what could a sweet helpless little boy do? Its not like he could rob a bank or something now could he? Oh wait....

Now the bank(the piggy bank, for the unknowing internet trolls who are eagerly looking for a confessional from a bank robber) was located in my room and so scoping it out was very easy. I spent a couple of days examining the entire structural details of the piggy bank. The cover on the back was made of plastic with a simple lock that could be picked by an adult(or a smart kid) in a matter of seconds using a screwdriver or a geometric compass. (I learnt that later)

But novice bank robber that I was, I hadn't yet figured that out; So the only reasonable way to pry out some money was to hold the bank upside down and using my geometric compass hoodwink a couple of small coins through the slit on the top. After a couple of days of excruciatingly painful acrobatics with multiple instruments, I managed to retrieve a couple of coins that just barely added up to the cost of a tender green mango. I was so elated. I had managed to withdraw some dough without any evidence of tampering, no serious scratch marks or paint peels on the piggy bank and since my parents did not necessarily keep a running tally of the money inside the bank, they would be no wiser about the missing money.

The coins in my pocket, I was very eager to go to school the following Monday. I eagerly waited for lunch break, gulped down my lunch and ran out the school gate so that I could catch the vendor selling the mangoes. (You see unlike in the western world, I grew up in a place where hawking outside a school was tolerated to a certain degree)

I asked for a nice long mango, paid the money and ran back into the school grounds. Finding a shady spot under a secluded tree, I started working on my mango. I had barely relished the first bite when I spotted a black spot in the corner that I had just bitten into. A poke and a little exploratory prying of the mango's innards revealed a completely worm eaten and fungus filled mango in my hand. The emotion of the moment cannot be ever captured using any known human language. I was utterly devastated. Weeks worth of work had been spoiled by a worm. A measly ugly yucky worm. How dare it yank my chain this way? How could this happen? What had I done to deserve this? Oh wait...

That day I realized a naked truth long known to the ancient peoples of the world. The Universe does conspire. Whether you attribute it to God, the Jedi force, nature, plain old karma or just sheer molecular resonance, it does conspire. So the next time you think of doing something that is even half a shade shy of honest, think again.

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