Today was a specially blessed day for me—I met a truly blessed man this morning. I first heard about him some months ago, and when I recently discovered that he worked in the town where I’ve been staying for the last month or so, I decided I just had to meet him.
45 year-old K. Sudhakaran runs a little shop, selling sweets, juice, cold-drinks and lottery tickets, in a market in Kanhangad, a town in northern Kerala. This soft-spoken, unassuming man shot into the news last year when he did something truly remarkable. One morning, P. Ashokan, a regular customer of his, called him up and asked him to set aside ten lottery tickets for him. Later that day, Sudharakan learned that one of those tickets had won the first prize—a whopping ten million rupees!
Sudhakaran rang up his father at once. “Call up Ashokan right away and give him the news!” his father told him. Sudhakaran did as his father instructed. Ashokan could hardly believe his ears when he learnt what had happened!
Ashokan had not paid for the tickets. Nor had Sudhakaran told him the ticket numbers. And so, Sudhakaran didn’t have to tell him that one of the tickets that he had set aside for him had won the bumper prize. He could easily have pocketed the money had he wanted to—that wouldn’t have been considered illegal. Had he wished, he could have bagged the ten million rupee prize for himself.
What was it, I asked Sudhakaran, that had led him to choose the course that he did.
“My father always told me that if you need to, you can even beg, but you must never snatch other people’s rights,” he replied.
Did he at all hesitate to call Ashokan? Did he think twice about what his father had told him to do? Was he, at least for a moment, tempted to claim the money for himself?
“No, not at all! I knew that what my father had said was perfectly right,” Sudhakaran said as he drew out a passport-size picture of his father from a note-book and handed it to me to see. “My parents taught me to be honest, to do what is right, to consider everyone, rich and poor, as equal,” he continued. “My mother and all my other relatives were all very happy with what I had done. They all said that I had done the right thing.”
A couple of months ago, Sudhakaran was back in the news—and for a similar reason. He had found a gold chain while travelling in a train and handed it to the police, who managed to trace its owner!
Sudhakaran’s little shop—which he’s taken on rent—is the sole means of livelihood for his family of six, including a daughter who is physically-challenged. Sudhakaran manages to earn around Rs. 10,000 a month from it, and it’s demanding work. He is up every morning, at around 4:30, and takes the train from his village to Kanhangad—a journey of more than two hours each way. He works seven days a week, taking a day off only once in a while.
This man could have been a millionaire had he not listened to his heart and his father and kept the prize-winning lottery ticket for himself instead. But he has no regrets at all about his decision. “I know what I did was just what I should have,” he says unhesitatingly.
“Try to do as much good as possible and to refrain from doing bad—that way, you can lead a happy, meaningful life,” Sudhakaran tells me as he hands me a lemonade and gets back to work.
I slowly sip the lemonade as I watch this amazing man dealing with his customers. I’ve never seen anyone like him before. I know I am truly blessed to have met him—and I’m sure you agree!