This wasn't the time to go out, but Mrs. Singh had to. July afternoons in Delhi can be very hot, especially when there are no clouds and sun is burning right above you. However, little choice did Mrs. Singh had – her daughter Tina's birthday party would start in four hours and she hadn't even bought the things she needed to prepare snacks. Tina was turning thirteen and she had already turned as finicky as we would expect from any teenage girl of our times. If snacks weren't prepared on time, she would surely start shouting and complaining "I told you to just buy the snacks, Mummy! Why do you always have to make them yourself? Now what will my friends think?!" Mrs. Singh was also set in her ways – she always avoided buying any snack, any fast food from the street vendors in the bazaar. One reason was that she considered street food dirty. "Those street vendors use cheap, low quality oil to make things and the vegetables they use, are not fresh. They don't even wash their hands before touching the food" she always tells her daughter. The second reason is that she took pride in her cooking skills – she knew that she could prepare samosas, kachoris, sandwiches and other snacks with the same (or even better) taste than any of those street vendors. Anyways, she wanted to avoid getting Tina angry and so she thought she better get the needed things and start preparing on time.
She combed her hair a little, took her purse and went out. The bazaar was ten minutes walk away, and as she walked, she was trying to recall all the things that were to be bought. When she reached the market, she wiped the sweat off her face with her handkerchief and went straight to the bakery. She took the cake she ordered yesterday and then proceeded to other shops. She bought bread, fine floor, paneer, some chocolate bars, potatoes, onions, etc. After everything was bought, she started looking around. She gave a sigh of relief when she saw a free rickshaw – now she didn't have to walk back home in this hot weather, with the added burden of the bought stuff. But as she was about to call that rickshaw, she noticed a man sitting by the side of road. He was selling colorful glass and plastic earrings. Immediately, she remembered something. Some days ago, when she and Tina together came to the bazaar, Tina asked her mother to buy her pink-colored, diamond-shaped earrings, but Mrs. Singh just ignored her requests. Mrs. Singh said "I don't have money to waste on everything you find attractive, Tina." For the whole day, angry Tina didn't talk to her mother. Now, Mrs. Singh thought, would be good time to make up to her. The earrings would be a happy surprise for Tina and would also match with the magenta dress that Mrs. Singh had bought for her as a birthday gift.
Mrs. Singh went to that vendor. The man showed her all the pairs he had in his collections. Though they were made of just glass and plastic, the earrings sparkled brightly as the sunlight reflected from them. Blue, Green, Pink, Purple, Orange – they were glittering like colorful diamonds. It took some time but Mrs. Singh was able to find what she wanted – pink-color and diamond-shape. She asked the cost and the man said "Just forty Rupees". "What? Forty Rupees for a single pair? That's too much!" she exclaimed. Man replied "That's what it is, Madam. Price has gone up." "Nothing has gone up. You are just bluffing" she said, a bit angrily "I think twenty five will be enough for it." Man replied smiling "Sorry, Madam. This is good quality stuff. I can't go down even a bit below forty." She wanted to say something but she knew that would be in vain. If it was something else, she would have just left. But she knew that this little thing would really brighten up Tina, and so she gave in. She put her hand in the purse, took out a hundred Rupees note, and gave it to the man. The man put the earrings in a small packet and gave it to Mrs. Singh, along with a bunch of ten Rupees notes. Then he got busy attending other women.
This is where the fun starts. Mrs. Singh counted the returned notes. One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven. Wait a second. One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven. "Huh?" she thought, "He gave me an extra note." Now, before she could hand over the extra note back to the man, a thought just came up - "Should I hand it over… or not?" Within a second, a debate between the two sides of her mind started. One side began "Obviously, he gave me an extra note out of mistake. I shouldn't take advantage of an innocent man." Other side countered "But then, he isn't that innocent. I know that the price of such earrings cannot be more than twenty five Rupees and still, he is taking forty from innocent people here. I think this is nature's way of saving my money from this cunning vendor. Moreover, ten Rupees isn't anything big. I won't be harming him anyway." To this, the first side returned "But if ten Rupees isn't anything, what's the point in taking it? I should just give it back. Why to be indecent?" Mrs. Singh was deep in thoughts when she was startled by the vendor asking "Is there a problem, Madam?" She replied "No, it's nothing" and then went away. She called the rickshaw she saw before and hopped on it.
On the way home, she again started thinking about that extra note. She said to herself "Why am I over-thinking it? What's the big deal? It's just ten Rupees. I didn't take it, he gave it to me. It's his mistake. He didn't even count the money before he gave to me. He is a vendor, he should be more careful while handling money. I don't think he would even know about it." She kept on thinking "But what if he comes to know about it? If he comes to know about it, he may ask me next time I visit the market. Okay, if he comes to me next time asking for ten Rupees, I will tell him that I also didn't notice and then I would hand him over the ten Rupees. Yes, that's decided... But if he doesn't come to know, it is still wrong to keep the money. It may be possible that the earrings really are of good quality and the price was genuine. Then it would be wrong on my part." While Mrs. Singh was still thinking gravely over her tiny crime, rickshaw halted outside her house. The driver said "Here we are, Madam. It will be twenty Rupees." Still in thoughts, she got down, took her things down and paid the rickshaw driver. The driver counted the money as Mrs. Singh took the things inside, and then went away to find the next customer.
Tina saw her mother carefully putting the cake in the refrigerator. She asked "What flavor it is, Mummy?" Mrs. Singh gave a smile and replied "Your favorite. Vanilla frosting with chocolate sprinkles." Tina brightened up "Yay! Thanks, Mummy!" Mrs. Singh thought this would be a good time to show her princess the little gift she bought her. "Look, what else I bought for you", she said as she handed the packet to Tina. Tina exclaimed happily "Oh wow! They are just like the ones I asked last time! Thanks, Mummy!", as she hugged her mother. That's what Mrs. Singh wanted and she got it. By this moment, she had forgotten about that extra note. Then Tina said, "I'm going to try them. By the way, the maid was asking for fifty Rupees." Mrs. Singh thought for a moment and then said "Yes, I agreed to increase her pay by fifty. Tina, do me a favor. Go to my room, take fifty Rupees from my purse and give it to her." Tina went to the room, came back in a minute and said "There is no change in the purse." "There will be some ten Rupees notes, Tina", Mrs. Singh said, as she put the pan on the stove. Tina said "Yeah, but only 4 notes." Mrs. Singh replied "You must have counted them wrong. There must be five." Tina went back to the room and brought the purse to her mother. She said "Count yourself, Mummy. There are only four." Mrs. Singh counted them. One, Two Three, Four. "Huh?" confused Mrs. Singh said "But how? I know that I had seven notes when I left the market, and then I gave two to the rickshaw driver when I got home. That's it." Tina said "You might have dropped one when you were paying for the rickshaw. Let me check outside." She went outside, came back and said "There was nothing." "So where did it go?" said Mrs. Singh, still confused. Tina casually said "Just leave it, Mummy. It's just ten Rupees. May be you gave an extra note to the rickshaw driver by mistake."