THE UNCONFESSED CRIME
It is a common practice in Defence Services to share one’s living quarters with needy colleagues who have not yet been allotted family quarters. This is done with no monetary considerations or agreements.
Thus, when one of my relatives asked if I would allow her grandson and his wife, a newly married couple, to occupy my vacant upstairs unit for a year, I readily agreed to do so.
I had no regrets about the arrangement as the injection of young blood (both being active office goers) provided a welcome change in my recently bereaved, single, dull state.
Everything went off fine. After about 10 months, as the day of their departure approached, they invited their parents, sister and grandmother for an overnight stay upstairs. As they were running short of space, I offered them the use of the third upstairs bedroom which I had kept locked and which they were happy to accept.
I was told the next morning that my guest’s mother and sister enjoyed their overnight stay in the cool room (and the use of attached bathroom too, perhaps). When they were about to leave, the grandmother conscientiously locked the bedroom and handed over the key to me.
Few days later, the young couple vacated the house. During that month, I noticed that the automatic water pump kept switching on quite frequently, which I attributed (wrongly) to a probable increase in consumption though I was a bit taken in by the enhanced water bill.
But, when the switch maintained its alarming frequency even after they left, I got a suspicion that the overhead Syntex tanks might have developed cracks. I rang up my plumber, preparing to replace them.
But, when he came, he insisted on checking all the plumbings for leakage. He made me take him round all the bathrooms including the one attached to the locked bedroom. On entering the bath- room we were flabbergasted to see the sink tap fully open, merrily draining the overhead tank.
I was shocked! When the bedroom keys were returned to me, I had taken it in good trust and had never checked the bathroom or its taps. It was like an utter betrayal.
Used to living in Service quarters all along, we had never liked wasting drinking water for the traditional washing of the front yard every morning, though we were now living in our own house in the civilian area. Even to wash the car, my husband used to take the well water.
And here I was, letting nearly a lakh litres of clean corporation water go into the drain over a period of 30 days in the parching days of summer while elsewhere in the country, people were struggling to get one pot of water. I was filled with remorse. Even paying a hefty electricity bill of extra Rs 4500 and a correspondingly heavy water bill, my conscience would not be assuaged.
To be honest, my ex-guest offered to share the bills which I refused, as money was not the issue here. It was my colossal lapse which I could only categorise as an unpardonable national crime and for which I could never ever compensate my thirsty countrymen.
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