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The Foolish Miser – A Folktale

Once upon a time, in ancient India, there lived in a village a rich landlord. He was extremely wealthy but was a miser to the core. He never gave any food or shelter to anyone in need and also did not give any charity whatsoever. He would openly shoo away anyone who came seeking help from him. Soon his ‘fame’ spread throughout the village.

The landlord had a neighbour who was a poor farmer. The farmer had a small patch of land and grew some vegetables on it and earned a living out of selling those vegetables. Though he had a small patch of land and a small hut for his dwelling, he had a large heart. Many a time, when the landlord shooed away people, the farmer would be ready to feed them or give them shelter.

One day, a weary traveller came to the village and went to the landlord’s house. “Is there anybody in?” he shouted from outside. The landlord peered through the window and got angry. “Here is another nuisance who has come asking for food” he thought. It was late in the evening. “Most likely, the person will ask for shelter also. I should drive him away”, he muttered to himself as he rushed out.

Without even asking a question, he started yelling, “Go away from here. What do you think this is? A public inn or something eh? There is no food or shelter. Go away right now!” And turning his back on the traveller, he came inside the house and shut the door with a thud.

The farmer was watching this episode from his hut. He came out and called out to the traveller, “Sir, please come to my hut. You are looking very tired. Please come and relax yourself on this cot” The farmer had a cot made of rope which was put outside the hut. The traveller looked grateful and came to the farmer’s hut.

“Please make yourself comfortable. I will arrange for your food” said the farmer. He went inside the hut and the traveller could hear the conversation between the farmer and his wife which was in a low tone.

“What is there to offer this weary traveller?” asked the farmer.

“Nothing much. There was very little rice and I made gruel. Some buttermilk is available and a ladle of greens leftover from the noon is there” said the wife. The traveller could make out from their voices that there they both were concerned that there was not much good food to feed him.

“Give away my portion of the gruel to the man” said the farmer.

“I shall give my portion too” said the wife. “Giving your portion alone will be too little and the traveller should not remain hungry through the night”

The farmer came in and called the traveller. “Sir, we have some rice gruel, buttermilk and greens for you. Please take it”, said he.

“What about you people?” asked the traveller.

“We had our dinner just a while back” lied the farmer.

The traveller knew that the farmer was lying, but accepted the food however. The farmer gave his rope cot to the farmer and slept on the bare ground beside the cot. It was a full moon and the cool light of the moon and the salubrious breeze put them to sleep.

At the wake of dawn, the farmer felt a pat on his shoulder and got up to see the traveller glowing in a strange light. Surprised, the farmer stood up as the traveller with a smile said, “Dear friend. I am a messenger from God. I am so happy with your selfless service and hospitality and I want to grant you a wish. Come on, tell me what you want!!”

The farmer, unable to comprehend what was happening, was wondering whether this was a dream or reality, but said, “All I wish is that I should be able to continue this hospitality and give selfless service to needy people throughout my life!”

“So be it” said the traveller and walked out of the place. The farmer again fell into deep slumber as if he was under a spell. When he got up an hour later, he found himself on a soft mattress in a nice room. He got up wonderstruck and found that his hut had been converted into a mansion and the open space outside had become a beautiful garden! He could not believe his eyes. His wife was also unable to believe their luck. Both of them just looked up and thanked the Gods for the blessings.

Meanwhile, the landlord, whose wood carved windows which usually filtered the sunlight on to his room were not getting any sunlight today. “Unusual”, he muttered to himself, “What is obstructing the light?”

To his great shock and surprise, he saw a huge mansion on the adjacent plot on which the farmer’s hut used to stand.

“Heh? What is this? Who has built a building overnight?” he said as he hurriedly scrambled down from his bed. Not even waiting to brush his teeth, he rushed out, only to find the farmer and his wife sitting in their new lawn and drinking cups of hot tea.

On seeing the landlord, the farmer got up and invited him. “Come Sir, please have a cup of tea with us” said they. The landlord was infuriated all the more as the farmer was always submissive and now he was inviting him as if he was an equal.

“How did you build this overnight?” the landlord asked angrily.

“Sir, please cool down, I shall tell you” said the farmer and went on to narrate the happenings.

“What a fool I have been”, thought the landlord to himself.

“Do not worry Sir” said the farmer as if guessing the landlord’s thoughts. “The traveller may be around in the village only as I remember him leaving my hut early in the morning”.

“Okay, I will go then” said the landlord, mentally making up his mind to catch hold of the traveller wherever he was and get himself a wish!

After finishing his duties quickly, he went on a round to find the traveller. At about noon, he found the traveller under a banyan tree.

Immediately, tying his upper garment around his waist as a mark of respect, the landlord, with a sheepish smile, looking at the traveller said, “Hmm.. I am very very sorry, hee…. Hee…. I did not recognize you Sir. Please come to my house and stay for a night or more. Please, please do come”

The traveller threw a nonchalant look at the landlord and said, “I am too busy to come to you house. However I am happy that you are repenting your action of yesterday. As a reward, I will grant you three wishes. Go on, ask what you wish for!”

The landlord did not expect this at all. Three wishes against one given to the farmer! But he was very careful and did not ask anything immediately.

Sensing the landlord’s thoughts the traveller said, “Okay, take time if you want and go home, but the next three wishes of yours which you utter will come true!”

This was even better. “No need to waste food on this traveller and I can choose the wishes carefully” thought the landlord, proud at his achievement.

He thanked the traveller and walked home slowly thinking of what his wishes should be. After reaching home also he kept on thinking, much to the surprise of his wife who was not aware of anything that had happened. He was unusually quiet and after dinner went to retire very early. But he could not catch a wink of sleep and kept on thinking through the night as to what wishes he should wish for.

At daybreak, there was this sudden shrill crowing of the cock near his window. “Cokra co co……”. It startled the landlord who was in a dreamland thinking of what to wish for. He got up with a start and immediately shouted, “I wish that cock was dead.  Useless thing! So disturbing it is. I cannot think in peace!” The next moment he heard a ‘thud’ outside his window and he looked out to see the cock fallen dead, from its perch!

Only then he realised that he had wasted one of the three wishes. “What a fool I am” he thought to himself “I have wasted one precious wish! I will go to the garden and sit there alone and think”. Thinking thus, he walked to the bench under a neem tree in his garden and was soon engrossed in deep thought.

After a while, one of his servants came and said “Master, some guests have come and Madam (landlord’s wife) is calling you in to meet them”

“Is there no peace in this house huh?” he shouted at the servant. “I wish to be stuck to this bench here and will not come. Tell Madam”.

“OK Master”. The man went back.

The next moment the landlord realised that he was actually stuck to the bench and could not move! What a waste of the second wish! The landlord banged his head on the neem tree dismayed at his foolishness, but it was all that he could do. He was stuck to the bench like a statue and he could do nothing about it. He cursed his luck and was abusing his own self when his wife came out to see why he had refused to come and meet his guests. She was wondering what was wrong as her husband was kind of doing some circus with the bench! She had no idea about what had happened.

“What are you doing?” she asked, “and why are you sweating profusely?” She got worried also at the state of her husband.

The landlord told her what had happened and asked her “Tell me how to get out of this mess”

“The only way my dear husband” she said, “is to utter your third wish to get detached from this bench!” She was equally sad that the third wish also had to be ‘wasted’ like this, but there was no other way.

Sad and almost in tears the landlord said, “I wish to be free from this bench!” and the next moment he could get up from the bench. Not looking back, he ran into his house!

From that day, the landlord’s house became a resting place for all travellers and he was the first to give charity for any cause.

The reason for this change however has not been known to anybody except the landlord, his wife, me and of course you!!!

 

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4 Comments

  1. Ram Mohan Narasimhan

    Nice story. Emphasises the moral that one should not be too greedy and selfish.

  2. mohanprevadi@uiic.co.in

    Wonderfully narrated. Keep up your good work Vidhyaa. Thanking you,

    With Regards,

    MOHAN P.REVADI. MANAGER, TP – HUB/DEPARTMENT, REGIONAL OFFICE, BANGALORE, PHONE – LL -22534044, Mob -9448262022.

  3. As they always say, “Be careful what you wish for!”

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