One gets good friends by the grace of God! Friendship does not sprout at all times. It needs certain favourable situations to evolve and grow. However, the friendship between the heroes of our story, Four Dear Friends, happened and developed under strange circumstances. God brought them together and united them in prison - in the barracks - in the common ward! How indeed does destiny work-  when it decides to work for the welfare of an individual!

They were all young-more or less of equal age. In our country, India, who has ever entered the prison gates after August 15, 1947 for doing good deeds? So was the case with these youngsters! They were born in the villages. The parents were so poor to provide them proper education or enough food- the boys had no alternative but to migrate to the cities. They took their 'flight' to Mumbai. Like any youngster, they too wished to get rich quickly. Is it possible to become so by doing sundry jobs or working in road-side eateries? No, not at all!

So they had the holy beginning of their career by taking to pick-pocketing; then they switched over to chain-snatching; but all efforts proved futile- even house-breaking proved                 to be of no avail, for they could not attain the reasonable standard of living. They wished to do something fruitful and result-oriented - definitely, for that, they picked up the latest in the line- stealing cars! Indeed they did brisk business and promptly landed in jail- for identical crimes! Destiny chased them again! Coming and going out of the jail became their routine, and their friendship deepened. But they were waiting for the rare opportunity, when they all would be out of the jail at the same time. Destiny obliged them again!

When all of them were out of the jail, they decided, “The time has arrived for us to strike big! - Enough of local cars!” Their eyes fell on a Mercedes car, but their patch of bad luck had just commenced- call it their inexperience or the reverse gear for their luck! The first Mercedes they stole belonged to the Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs. The Mumbai police- If it wills, it has the ability to recover a stolen sewing needle also. Within four hours of the theft, the Secretary was  seated in the air-conditional comfort of his own car  and our friends in the jail-cell, badly beaten and bruised! They went through a quick trial and were promptly awarded three years rigorous imprisonment!

That was their opportunity to think deep! They had a chance to attend spiritual discourses within the jail. “On release from the prison, we should also live like any other citizen of the country by giving up the path of crime”. Of late they had heard of many such stories of 'transformation- A gold-smuggler of international repute in that line for two decades caught, tried and after completing his five year jail sentence, bought a plot of land at Mumbai, and  started the legitimate profession of building, buying, and selling residential/commercial flats. He then earned so much money within two years that he deeply regretted, “Why I wasted decades of my life in gold-smuggling!” “This line is more lucrative than gold-smuggling”, he emphatically opined!

Each of the four friends had some 'hard-earned' savings securely deposited in a foreign bank, notorious for maintaining the secrecy of its important clientele. They all decided to be businessmen by buying shops in a row in a shopping centre, and engage in different trades! Grocery, Electrical Appliances, Photo Studio and Sweets- the plans to open these four                shops were finalised. After establishing the businesses, all of them would marry and lead the respectable life of house-holders. They would lead an ideal life, remain good friends, excellent neighbours, and live like members of one family. They discussed and agreed on several such high ideals of life and living.

But they imposed a strict condition on themselves. They will never enter into a day-to-day discussion about business matters. Exactly after one year, they will review the matter- whether they should continue in business or revert to the old profession! They would pursue that vocation which would be more profit-giving and more happiness-providing!

Presently what they decided was: They should live with mutual co-operation. They should remain honest among themselves. But, nobody should interfere in the other's business dealings!

“How soon would you come again?” the Jail Superintendent asked them good-humouredly, on the day of their release from the jail. “Respected Sir, let this be our last meeting behind the bars. Thank you for your co-operation. Please bless us,” said the friends in unison. Lines appeared on the forehead of the Jailor, who listened to them in surprise!

They walked out to their freedom. They bought four shops in a row, in Sopara, a suburb of Mumbai. On an auspicious day, Sonu's Grocery, Monu's Electrical Appliances, Tinu's Photo Studio, and Ginu's Sweets shops were opened. From day one, they did reasonable business. But sometimes, when they recalled the adventures of their past-lives, they felt tempted by their old profession. But, according to the mutual understanding, they had to carry on and push the business-cart.

After about a month, Sonu thought that Monu was doing brisk business. “If I continue to live with honest dealings for one year, what if I forget my past expertise!” he feared. “I must do something to at least maintain the level of that expertise,” he surmised! But, suddenly he remembered about the promise he made to his friends to remain honest for one year! But Sonu failed to control his mind! “I must do something. This is the question of my future”- Sonu had arrived at a decision!

When Monu was not in his shop, bidding his time, Sonu was on his action plan. A copper wire connected Monu's electrical meter with Sonu's. He had to drill a small hole through the thick wall separating their shops. He did it so efficiently and the concealed wiring was done so nicely that nobody could notice it. From that instant, Monu owned Sonu's electrical bill. “I now save five to six hundred rupees a month,” he surmised. He was overjoyed!

In the third month, when Ginu purchased a second-hand car, it set Monu thinking! He too didn't want to forget his past skills for his secure future! Ginu used to park his car at a particular place. Monu dug a tunnel in his shop, and the mouth of the subterraneous passage he created opened right below the petrol tank of the car. He drilled a hole to the petrol tank and fixed a rubber pipe that brought the petrol directly into the waiting container at his shop. He made perfect arrangements for opening and closing the petrol-donating hole of the tank. As soon as Ginu parked his car, Monu profited by a litre of petrol daily, gain of over a thousand rupees per month! Monu was happy thus!

In the fourth month, when Tinu got his new telephone connection, Ginu thought on similar lines. He lost no time to react. Keenly intelligent as he was, he quickly fixed the 'pair' for his newly acquired 'instrument', only through Tinu's authorised telephone connection. Since he had the telephone facility now, he renewed his contacts with some of his old friends at Kolkata and Chennai. Of course, he kept his instrument at a secret and a sound-proof corner that he specially created in his shop for the purpose.

In the sixth month, Tinu was restless. He felt a sense of insecurity even in his dreams! He felt, “All my friends are progressing and I am left far behind!” He knew the habit of his gluttonous friend Sonu. He used to drink a litre of milk and lots of curd daily. A milkman brought milk for him very early in the morning at 5 O'clock in a special can. He would keep the can on an elevated stand, press the doorbell, and disappear into the darkness. Tinu purchased an identical can. Everyday, he used to keep his can ready and one litre of water. He replaced this can with the original can of the milkman by pouring one litre of milk in his can. This he did in seconds! There was visible glow on the countenance of Tinu- of course, by drinking 30 litres of fresh milk a month, at the cost his dear friend Sonu!

A year rolled by! The time had now arrived for their annual meeting! The same evening they all met at the open courtyard of a temple. Now the question was, who would initiate the discussion? Who would give the account of his honest living for the last one year? Then, thus spoke Sonu, “Tinu is the youngest amongst us. We are all like his elder brothers. Let us hear his honest thoughts. His views- we shall treat them like the grace of God. Tinu dear, please speak first.”

                Tinu was overwhelmed to hear the loving words of Sonu for the trust he enjoyed with his friends! “Did I cheat such divine friends?” thought Tinu, and he could control himself no more! Tears gushed down from his eyes. In an instant, Tinu lay prostrate at the feet of Sonu. He gave a detailed account of his misdeed, sobbing intermittently. He gave a solemn promise that he would remain honest at all times and at all costs. Looking at the never ending torrent of tears, Sonu, Monu, and Ginu-all of them confessed to their crimes and unleashed an uncontrollable crying session! Competition in rhythmic crying!

Then Tinu owned the difficult responsibility of controlling them!

From that day onwards, they really commenced living an honest life- The telephone wire was cut; the meter wire was pulled out; the tunnel was filled with sand; the milk remained unadulterated! “What is there in the life of crime? If you wish to earn money and become prosperous, enter into business”, they used to advise their former prison-inmates since released.

Yes, Sonu, Monu, Tinu & Ginu are leading an honest life. They are counted amongst the rich businessmen now. They don't brag about their rags to riches story. They don't discuss money matters with anyone at all!

For, none of them is paying  income tax!