About the Author of The Gold Watch Story
The Gold Watch Story By Ponjikkara Raphy- Ponjikkara Raphy born in 1924, is a Malayalam writer He is a trade unionist and a severe critic of the abuses of the church and the priests. He started writing stories about the life of the low-paid workers. He has written full length novels, too.
About The Gold Watch Story
Sanku was a poor man. He worked in a factory. He got only one rupee a day. He had a wife and nwo litle children so he could not support his family properly and was compelled to take loans from various sources.
His family needs made him worried. So he decided to steal the gold watch of his factory engineer. Being driven by his pressing needs he stole the gold watch of the engineer. But he was not a habitual thief.
So his conscience pricked him. Being afraid of being punished, he put back the gold watch at the place from where he took it and came out of the engineer’s ofice hurriedly. The story tells us that our needs compel us to do what we do not wish to do.
As on many previous nights, Sanku could not get any sleep that night. He turned and tossed in his bed, but it was no use… The more he thought, the worse he felt. He closed his eyes and lay on his torn mat, in the darkness.
And yet he could see it as clearly as during the day; the deserted office room-when everyone had gone out for rest or for lunch. The glass window was only partly closed. On one end of the table inside were a few fat volumes, at the.
Other end, a pen, an ink-bottle and so forth, and in between was a gold watch with its gold chain placed on a book. Open the window and stretch you can pick it up. Everyone is out for lunch! Noboby will
Sanku remembered his etforts, his cowardice and his vacillation during the past few days. He had never seen anyone there at that time. And yet, he had been afraid. He had trembled and felt breathless. That was why he had refrained from taking the watch every time.
It would not do to put it off any longer. If he thought any further, he would not be able to do anything. He might even blurt out his intention accidentally. So he must take it tomorrow. Suppose he did not ?
Sanku’s thoughts began to linger over the thorny problems of his life. Tomorrow would be the third day of the month. In another three days, he would get his pay thirteen rupees for thirteen days. He had to pay four and a half rupees for purchases at the store; there would be a balance of eight and a half rupees.
He had repaid only five out of the ten rupees he had borrowed from the Fund the previous month to go home for his mother’s death anniversary. No, he must pay the remaining five rupees with interest at six paise a rupee a węek.
At the teashop, he owed over three rupees for two weeks, besides previous arrears amounting to a rupee and a half. He owed six rupees to Ali for supplying extra rice, beedis and other odds and ends.
One month’s house- rent was three rupees. In addition to these sums he had taken small loans of twelve paise, twenty-five paise and fifty paise from several people. And his wife had reminded him two days before about the one rupee to be paid to the fish-woman.
Sanku mentally added up the total amount that he needed. What he was going to get was just eight and a half rupees What he owed was twenty-two rupees thirteen paise. He had other needs too, He had borrowed three rupees from his wife.
This was out of the sum she had slowly saved up now and then in order to buy a waist-chain for the younger child. He had assured her that he would buy it out of his pay that month.
Sanku’s heart beat uncontrollably fast. Through his heartbeats, he could hear the harsh voice of the tea-shopowner, Kochunni, Ali’s hollow laughter and vulgar words and the irritating talk ot Lonappao who was in-charge of the Fund.
He felt that they were all surrounding him like rowdy boys, armed with sticks, gathering around a stray dog. What a horrible scene! Finding it unbearable, Sanku turned over on his stomach and thought, “I have no alternative but to pick it up tomorrow.
Will it not fetch at least twenty rupees ? Even fifteen will do! Fifteen plus eight and half, that is twenty-three and a half rupees. It will fetch more than fifteen.” He would be able to pay his debts, and live in peace.
A life free from debts! With a fecling of relief he drifted into a light sleep. It was morning.
“What, are you still asleep ?” Sanku’s wife said gently shaking his shoulders. “It is long after sunrise.” Sanku raised his head at once. His wife picked up the younger child who was crawling up to her, and asked Sanku, “Don’t you have to go to Work today ?” O yes,” he said, and got out of bed.
He stepped down into the courtyard in a hurry, watching the golden rays of the morning-sun piercing the lush bamboo foliage on the castern side and brightening the old palmleaf thatch.
He washed his face and hands as usual, put on his working clothes, and was about to leave for his factory when his wife said: Listen, you must buy some ointment for the child !” She threw a commanding look at him.
Sanku felt that each of the sore on the child’s festering body was staring at him a gruesome way. A moment passed in silence.
“What sort of ointment ?” Sanku asked like a fool.
Ointment for the sores,” continued the wife. “You mean you have not seen the sores all over the child’s body ” “Yes. How many paise worth of ointment ?” “At least 13 paise worth. We must apply it for three days at least.”
“H m. Sanku began to walk with bent head. “Please,” she called out in a soft voice. Sanku looked back. She spoke gently, “Please bring two ripe bananas when you come back in the evening-the baby starts crying at night-and I have no milk to give hinm.”
She stood there pulling up her blouse with her left hand. Then Sanku notice her belly bulging out! Was yet another burden on the way, Sanku was stunned. He cursed himself, and with a deep sigh he resumed his walk to the factory.
“Listen! Do not forget,” the wife reminded him. Sanku nodded his head and walked on. At one o’clock the bell rang for the interval. Everyone rushed in haste to homes, hotels or tea shops for lunch. Sanku was the only one who did not go anywhere.
He stood leaning against a pillar in a corner on the west side of the office. His heart was clouded and bursting with impatience. A few moments passed. The engineer, a short, fat Englishman with cat-like eyes, who looked like a marble statue,
got out of the room, closed the door, and lett. As usual, there was no watch on his wrist ! Sanku’s heart felt cool with relief. A few more moments passed. Sanku looked all around; there was noboby in sight.
He walked towards the office.
The glass-Window, as usual was only partially closed. The gold watch was on the table. How it glittered. His heart beat faster. The Englishman would return after lunch and his siesta only by four o’clock! A good opportunity There was nobody around!
One, two, three…..Six or seven minutes passcd. Suddenly Sanku thought; suppose someone sees me! AS in the past few days, fear pushed him forward. He took a few steps looked around, but saw no one. Prompted again by urgent need he walked towards the room. Once again he looked around. Nobody was there! A shudder passed through his veins; his heart throbbed.
One second passed. He stretched out a hand and the gold watch was in it. Nervously his eyes made a quick survey. No one was there at all. Trembling, he put the watch in the pocket of his trousers.
He held his breath and walked forward in haste. After about ten steps, he looked back. Then he saw someone walking quickly along the astern corridor.
Obviously he was going to the time-kecper’s ofice. He must have seen everything! Perhaps he was hasteninig to inform the watchman at the gate. Oh God! Had he bungled? Sanku stood like a pillar, petrified. The gold watch seemed to burn his pocket like a burning cinder. It sent sparks along his nerves. The whole world seemed to be spinning around him in a blazing fire. Flames arose from every particle of sand! No shade of coolness anywhere! Everything was on fire, burning, burning.
“Brother Sanku, why are you standing here like a pillar ?” Sanku turmed with a start and saw Madhavan standing close by. Sanku stammered out
No reason…for nothing.”
Go on my liar !” Madhavan said with a laugh and walked away to his work. He must have gone and reported the theft! My mtetmicalatc Dgilbl
God! Everyone probably knew about it..All the eight hundred odd workers at the factory would surround him noisily. They would look at him in scorn. They would all remark with derision: Thief! Thief” Then he would be taken before the white boss, and reprimanded. How sternly he would look at him! Sanku would surely be dismissed. That fellow, Vackey, was dismissed just for taking an old umbrella.
A cold fear entered Sanku’s heart which was choked with depressing thoughts. The guard would be waiting at the entrace of the time- keeper’s office.
He would catch him. No, that way lay danger. He would put this back in its place; a scorching cinder that was burning him. But then “Oh, no” he said to himself on second thoughts. But finally he made up his mind. He was at the ofice room. The windoWastill remained half open! Sanku looked around. No one was there, no one at all ! He took the gold watch quickly out of his pocket. His hand trembled like an aspen leaf. He presently remembered his home and his unpaid debts. What was to be done ?
Sanku felt suffocated. The sound of a footstep behind him ? Someone was returning! He put the watch
on the table and breathlessly walked away.