“Ippadi anjukkum pattukum kashtapadam pothu, yen ma kaasu veenakarai?”
(When we are suffering to earn fives and tens, why, my girl, are you wasting money?)
That’s what he said when his daughter came home after watching Toy Story for the second time in the cinema.
The young girl stared at her father as he dropped a coin into the old man’s cup and returned the man’s toothless grin with a smile. “Use money, earn money, share it, value it, no need to hoard it.”
“Amma, there’s this concert that all my school friends are going for.”
She just kept stirring the pot full of sothi. The girl watched her mother and then her heart leapt at the slight nod.
“But first put away clothes you’ve outgrown to give to people who really need them.”
“Can’t we have Nutella, Appa?”
His father frowned but put it into the cart wordlessly. He took the bus to work that day and the boy wondered why.
The girl tried her best to sneak the puppy into the compound, but her mother had already noticed the ragged mongrel.
Her expression unreadable, she watched her youngest sigh as the realization that another mouth to feed in her household was just a bit too much to ask for sank in. The girl tried to shoo the pup away, but suddenly the forlorn creature began wagging its tail.
The small girl turned to see her mother place a bowl full of leftover rice and some chicken on the ground before it. She ran to her mother’s side and smiled up at the face she knew so well. “Thank you, Ammi.”
The old aunty was walking in the hot sun, her gait unsteady and barely holding up the two plastic bags full of groceries.
“Kanna, go help that Aunty.” My mother stood there and I wondered why she was making me go when she could have easily gone herself.
When the old aunty gave me a tight hug and slobbery kiss on my cheek, I almost figured out why she had sent me instead.
“You give me for 12 and I’ll buy.” The girl sighed as her Dad walked out of yet another store after haggling over the price of an item.
“Sir, buy this colour book for your daughter.” The girl looked at the boy slightly older than herself, a peddler on the streets, and wondered if he was OK. She was 8. Colouring book for her? Puh-lease!
Her father was already handing over the money. “Study well, son.”
At times like these it hits me that charity begins at home.