Once upon a time, there was an old man by name Rao. Rao was very rich and possessed four houses and a lot of gold. Rao’s wife had died long back and he was well taken care of by his four sons.

Rao had grown old and things were going on smoothly till such time Rao fell ill following an accident. He suffered an injury in his spinal cord and was recovering very very slowly. Being an active person otherwise, Rao became very depressed with his pace of recovery and thought that he would die very soon. So one day, he called three elderly men of the village as witness and distributed all his wealth and his houses to his four sons. Unfortunately or fortunately for Rao, he did not die as he expected. He recovered to some extent but was almost bed ridden and needed help for everything.

Over the next few days, Rao realized that the attitude of his sons and daughters-in-law had changed drastically. One day, on the pretext of his room being painted, he was shifted to the verandah of the house, and was given a tattered cot to sleep on. The silver plate on which he ate was replaced by a tin plate and a small can for drinking water. The arrangement became permanent. Day by day, the quantity and quality of food and the time his family spent with him, reduced drastically.

His calls were answered after a long time and his moans of pain were ignored completely. Nobody talked to him and he was left to stare at the ceiling and be alone. Rao was completely broken inside as he never expected his sons and their families to behave thus. He had always seen them affectionate and caring and thought they respected him highly. The grandchildren were also following the behaviour of their parents.

One day, Rao’s childhood friend Shamu who lived in a town far off, came to visit him. He was terribly shocked at Rao’s pathetic condition. Rao was very happy to see Shamu and poured out his heart to him.  Shamu was overwhelmed with grief and was angered beyond measure. “Look Rao,” he said, “you have done a mistake by distributing your wealth to your children while living. Do you not know that the best way is to write a will? You could have sent word to me. I would have helped you draft a will”

“Shamu, what has happened, has happened. I cannot undo it now. I will have to be resigned to my fate” said Rao, despondently. Shamu thought for a while and whispered something in Rao’s ears. Rao looked disbelievingly at Shamu, but Shamu just nodded his head and left. The family was so indifferent that they did not notice Shamu’s coming and going.

Fifteen days later, a huge bullock cart with two bullocks having big bells hung around their necks came with a lot of jingle bangle and stopped in front of Rao’s house. Somebody with a long beard and a topi got out of the cart shouting “Rao, Oh Raoji… Raoji…” Rao’s elder son and youngest son were inside the house and they were disturbed by the noise and came out. The man looked questioningly at the sons and asked them “Is this Rao’s residence?” The sons were not very cordial. With an indifference they replied, “yes, but who are you?”

The man turned around and called out to his men on the cart, “Bete, bring the sacks down!” As the sons looked puzzled, the men brought down four sacks made of very thick material, that what was inside was not visible. The sacks were well sealed.

“Where is Rao?” the man demanded, “I have come back to repay with interest the loan I took forty years back from Rao. Thanks to him, I am a successful businessman now”. He looked around impatiently and asked, “Is Rao there or not? If he is not there I will go back with my money!” The next second both the sons bowed down with so much humility which was unseen till now and said “Arre Saab, who said our father is not there? He is very much there. Please…. Please do come…” And they led him to Rao’s presence. Rao could recognise Shamu who was in the disguise.

“I am Babulal” said Shamu. “Thank you so much sir, for your help. You may not remember, but you gave me 50 silver coins as loan forty years back, and I invested it in my new business and have become a millionaire Sir. I owe my wealth to you and so have brought the money back with interest” Saying thus he signalled at the men who brought the sacks. They brought the sacks and kept it in front of Rao. “Thank you Babulal”, said Rao, “I remember vaguely now. Thank you very much”

The elder son of Rao started, “We shall keep the money inside…” when Rao cut him short. “Let it remain underneath my bed. It is my money and I will decide on how it will be spent”, he said in a stern voice, and looking at Shamu, said, “Babulal, do me a favour. Please go to the next street and call the headman of the village with two more elders. I would like to have a witness for this money being received by me and later on after my time, there will not be a problem in distributing the money”.

The shocked sons, whose mouths had run dry at this unexpected turn, were helpless. Shamu immediately did as he was instructed and in the presence of the elders, Rao gave Babulal a receipt. Suddenly it started to rain and water was splashing from the side of the verandah and Babulal asked him, “Sir, you are so rich, why are you lying in the verandah, if there is no place inside I could take you to my place with your money just now. Should I Sir?”  And he stood bowing his head humbly.

Within a minute, the sons were ready with the soft mattress in his old cot inside and held out their hands in support to lead him to the bed. “Keep the sacks in the almirah” said Rao, “and put my bed against the almirah”. There was not a word of protest and soon Rao was in his cosy bed.

Within a matter of minutes, the household’s attitude had completely changed. Rao was offered hot food and drink and the youngest son said he would stay with the father in his room at all times to help him. Babulal took leave of Rao and went his way and Rao’s comfortable life returned to him. But Rao had learnt the lesson of how money could change people’s attitudes totally!

After a few years, Rao died a natural death due to old age and the sons did all the rituals waiting patiently to take the “money” their father had kept in the sacks in the cupboard.

I leave it to you to imagine the expressions on the sons’ faces and that of their families when they found nothing but sand and gravel in the four sacks. Ha ha ha….