A Matter of Opinion

Telugu: Chinta Deekshitulu

[There is no motif to happiness better than a contented smile; all others are just redundancies. Before she could realize this truth from experience, a poor woman is accused of, and imprisoned for, stealing. Did she really steal? Our answer is only a matter of opinion.]


He had only one child – a daughter.

He was a clerk with a moneylender. He looked after all payments and collections on his behalf and also maintained his accounts. He received a salary of thirty rupees per month. In addition, he charged a commission of one percent from the parties he referred to the money lender. He was somehow able to make a comfortable living. He bought a house and laid a garden in the compound.

He recently ordered for a necklace to his wife and a carcanet for his daughter. The parents felt happy whenever their child played around with the carcanet on. The daughter was in her fifth year.

A Yanadi[1] woman lived in their surrounds. She too had a daughter. The girl was in her third year. It was two years since her husband deserted the woman. She was living with her child, going to work whenever she could find one, and lived under the shade of a tree or slept under some awning. Whenever she couldn’t find any work or had to remain hungry for two days, she used to beg on the streets to feed her child.

Her daughter was everything for the Yanadi woman. She used to dress up her daughter with the worn out and chinky clothes people donated her. Her heart leapt with joy after embellishing her daughter with trivial things.

Watching her daughter’s smooth, black, dust-coated skin; matted black hair; bright, smiling eyes; laughter for no apparent reason and the parting lips every day, she never felt the absence of her husband. Besides, she never rested in peace unless she embellished her daughter that day.

Every day, she gleaned the senna flowers or some other from the open and made earrings and necklaces for her child. If she gleaned senna today, she collected Gul Mohar tomorrow, and the yellow oleander the day after – to embellish her child.

But that did not give her satisfaction. Because…

She watched earlier that children from many cultured families wore gold ornaments on festive occasions. She felt they looked good. She yearned to see her child wearing such gold ornaments. She desperately wished! But how could a lone Yanadi woman who was not sure of her next meal get such gold ornaments?


That was a new year day!

All the children were dressed up in new clothes and neatly embellished with ornaments; ate Neem-flower hotchpotch.

For the Yanadi woman, the new year day was no different from any other day. All days were alike for her: she had to struggle for food and clothing!

That was not the season for senna. Rangoon Creeper and Milk Wood flowers were available in abundance. She adorned her child with those flowers only. But her old desire haunted her still. If only she could kiss her child once after decorating her with the gold ornaments! Just once!

Carrying her child in the sickle of her waist, the Yanadi woman was walking along the streets that afternoon. The child was chirping some sweet words to her mother.

The daughter of the moneylender’s clerk was playing at some place. She was wearing the gold carcanet around her neck. The Yanadi woman saw the girl. She also saw the gold carcanet in her neck. Her mind started imagining how her own daughter would look, wearing that ornament. But where could she get a carcanet like that? What if she put the carcanet on her daughter? My god! That carcanet? She hesitated.

But the mother in her could not resist the temptation. The woman went to that girl. She spoke some wonderful things to her. Offered to give her fruits. Removed the carcanet from her neck and adorned her child. And watched to her heart’s content. She was so happy. Lifted her up and kissed her deeply. But she was in a dilemma. What extra happiness she got seeing her daughter with this carcanet than when she was wearing only senna flowers? Why do the rich go after these gold ornaments? — She mused.

The clerk’s daughter made a huge cry when the carcanet was removed from her neck. The Yanadi woman was frightened. Listening to the child’s outcry, her parents ran up to her from inside. The Yanadi woman was scared and took to heels. People ran after her. Caught hold of her and beat her black and blue.

She admitted having removed the carcanet. But she did not disclose the reason for removing. They removed the carcanet from Yanadi woman’s daughter. Her daughter started crying. Yanadi woman’s heart melted listening to her daughter’s cries.

They handed over the Yanadi woman to the police accusing her of resorting to thievery as she could not make a living.

The Yanadi woman had to serve a jail term, along with her daughter, for her lawless act of stealing the carcanet, commissioned with the lawful money earned by the moneylender’s clerk.

People believed she was imprisoned for stealing; she thought that it was for embellishing her child!


[1] The Yenadi / Yanadi are one of the Scheduled tribes living in the Nellore, Chittoor and Prakasam districts of Andhra Pradesh.


Murthy Nauduri

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