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The scene opens, revealing a lady reading out the Bhagavatha (an epic that narrates the story of Lord Vishnu and His devotees) to a number of other women, and explaining the meaning of the slokas (hymns). She says that it is the duty of the housewife to give charity to the deserving, the unfortunate ones who cannot earn by the sweat of their brow, and not to pretenders who lead idle, parasitic lives. The women disperse sometime later, and the lady is left alone with her little son, who has all along been an interested listener. Presently, a blind beggar comes and makes much fuss to attract attention but he is rebuked and sent away. Then, there comes along a hefty mendicant with a pompous paunch and a polished copper vessel filled with grain and a richly caparisoned Tambura (a stringed musical instrument), and the mother respectfully welcomes him and offers him rice and coins, and falls at his feet, asking for his blessings. The son is nonplussed; he asks the mother why she had not followed what she had herself preached a few minutes ago and he is dismissed with the curt answer, "Cheppinattu Chesthara? Can we act as we say?” The mother is irritated by the impertinence of the son who dared question the behaviour of grown-ups. She drags the boy to the office room where the father, an Upper Division Clerk in some Office, is busy with the files.
He gives the son a long lecture on the value of education and how people should study and get educated whatever may the difficulties. Suddenly, a schoolboy pops in and asks for some money to pay his fees, for otherwise his name will be struck off the rolls. The father says that he has no money with him and shows the boy his empty wallet as proof. A few minutes later, a batch of young men, all clerks belonging to his office, thrust themselves in and hold out a subscription appeal calling for contributions for a ‘Welcome Dinner’ in honour of an officer, taking charge of their office in a few days! The father is very jubilant at the idea, says that it must be done very grandly so that the new man may be pleased and also offers to make a speech. He then pulls out the drawer of the table and gives them a substantial amount.
The child looks aghast at this behaviour and asks the father why he went against his own words; why he uttered a lie to the schoolboy? The father turns angrily at the child and asks, "Cheppinattu Chesthara? Need deeds follow words?” He roars at the child and commands him to go to school immediately.
The scene then shifts to the school. Sathya, that is to say 'Krishna' of the drama, enters the school. The teacher is in a storm of excitement because the Inspector of Schools is to visit the school the next day. He coaches the children intensively for the occasion. He tells them that the Inspector may ask, "How many lessons have been completed?" And they were all to say, not "23" the actual number, but, "32". He says that he will do, when Inspector comes, lesson number 33, on "Harishchandra," the legendary king who sacrifices everything to uphold truth. So, he teaches them that lesson so that the answers may come quick and fast the next day; he threatens them with severe punishment if anyone so much as whispers that lesson number 33 was already done in class. “It must all appear as if I am doing it for the first time tomorrow,” he says, and continues with the teaching of King Harishchandra's sacrifices for the sake of remaining true to his word that he had given to Sage Viswamitra. When the class is over, all other boys move out, but Krishna alone remains behind; he asks the teacher the question he has already asked twice that day; "Why do you not follow the advice you give?" and he gets the same rebuff, "Cheppinattu Chesthara? Do you mean to say that the adviser should follow the advice?" Hypocrisy, hypocrisy, everywhere!
The scene now shifts to Krishna's home. Next day at school-time, the boy refuses to go. He throws away his books saying that going to school is a waste of time. The distracted parents send for the teacher, who comes rushing in. Then, Krishna says, "If all that you teach, as mother, father and Guru is only to be spoken and written, if all that is learnt is to be discarded when it comes to action, I do not understand why I should learn anything at all." This opens the eyes of all three and they praise the boy as their "Guru," and decide thereafter to speak the Truth and live by the Truth.
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