This article belongs to Sweet Grace column.


          Some fifty years back, India introduced the Lottery system  to enable the federal States  raise their own money to finance some minor projects.  It  became an instant hit with the  people  and the State Governments were collecting tons of money and what they paid out as prize amount was only a fraction of the collection.  From the people's point of view, it was a very tempting proposal.   Imagine getting about one hundred thousand dollars for an investment of a mere half a cent?


          Every State was competing with the others by offering varieties of prizes for different digits of the lottery ticket numbers.  Even if your last digit was correct, you got a small prize which perhaps was a little less than your investment.  Nevertheless, people indulged in this public gambling happily because the  waiting time made you dream to be a millionaire if God  willed it.


          I was never a believer in this game at all.


          Anyway,  the lottery project started showing kinks as years rolled by. Over fifty percent of the low income group men folk was known to be investing fifty percent of their income on lottery tickets hoping to turn into  millionaires overnight. The wives started complaining  loudly.  They felt, that lotterying was as bad as drinking.  Many  States abolished  the  scheme  completely and made  ‘sale of lottery tickets of any Indian State' an offence.  But some States continued with it.


          My  old time friend  PK, a lottery addict, came down to Chennai to spend his retired life in the southern city.  Oh!  How dejected he felt at knowing that Lottery was a prohibited  game in my State.  "Why did I choose Chennai for my retired life? " he lamented.. 


          Then came  a day when I had to fly to New Delhi (a distance of 2 and ½  hours) on a consultancy trip.  PK caught hold of me.  "I say, buy for me six bumper tickets.." he said and also told me the name of the shop which had been producing winners every other day.


          You cannot hurt old time friends and so I agreed.  No, he didn't give me any advance money.  PK said he would reimburse the amount.  My job in the far off New Delhi was finished within a day  plus and on the following day,  I had some 3 hours to spare before catching my flight back to Chennai. 


         So, I  got down to the business of locating this lottery  shop called, Som and Home which is around Chandni chowk in Old Delhi.  After about a kilometer  of walking and when I couldn't locate this S & H, I sought  some help from the passersby. "Oh,Som..?  It's just over there," one friendly  pedestrian said pointing a finger in a westerly direction. Alas!  It was a sweetmeat shop.


         Then I encountered an elderly man with  scorpion like moustaches dressed in an impeccable  safari suit.  He was tall and imposing and looked a  perfect gentleman. He spoke in polished English.  I told him that I was from down South and was on the look out for a shop named  Som and Home. "Som and Home" he repeated. "What's their business, brother?" he wanted to know. I felt touched when he called me ‘brother'.  His esteem went up sky high in my view.  "He is a lottery shop owner, Sir" I said in equally respectable English.


        "WHAT?" he yelled out. "Lottery ticket shop, you said?"


       I nodded  somewhat trembling inside me at his tone and tenor.


       The safari suit halted for a while, sized me up and down with fire emitting out of his eyes. "Lottery tickets, eh?" he  bellowed at me like I had mentioned the unmentionable.

He positioned himself right in front of me and  remarked, "You a pensioner?" "Yes"


       "Now, go back to wherever you have come from. Stop wasting your precious money on  lottery tickets, understand?  Now, get lost…."  he screeched out. I tried to argue with him that the tickets were for … for … PK  and not for  me.


        He wouldn't want to hear a word more from me.  He raised his hand and commanded me, "Out".  I felt like a small little fellow standing in front of a no – nonsense type  elder brother. "Go back.." he ordered again.


       I had no alternative but to retreat to my hotel,  pack up and head for the airport.


       It was an evening flight and I  reached Chennai at 10 p.m.


       Early on the following morning, PK rang up and asked when he could collect his

 Prize winning tickets.  "PK, I jut got up.  Sleep is still on my eyes.  Shall I ring you back after an hour or so..?"


       I called him around 8 a.m.   "PK, I looked everywhere and  I couldn't trace the tickets, my friend. I must have left them in the shop itself.  There was a big crowd there, you know?"


       How to tell him, an angel of light prevented me from buying those darned tickets. I thought it was better to tell a lie than to let PK suffer a loss of some 5 dollars.


-         - - -


                                                                    Israel Jayakaran (Sweet grace)