Chaitali Sengupta (Children's World)

Chaitali Sengupta

The Two Servants

Long, long time ago in the kingdom of Biratnagar there ruled a wise king. The king had a big palace and to look after all the works inside the palace he had many servants. Kind and large-hearted, the king looked upon his servants as his sons. Of the numerous servants, however, he had special liking for two men whom he employed to do all his personal works.

                    The elder one of the two servants, Jairam, was hired to do hard works like scrubbing, washing, carrying water, loading and unloading things; the younger one, Maniram, ran errands for the King, maintained the king’s personal accounts, and wrote the instructions the king had to send to his courtiers.

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At the end of every month the king would send for his special servants and pay them personally. Jairam received a golden mohur and a silver mohur for his job; Maniram was given two golden mohurs.

 “What injustice is this,” complained Jairam’s wife at the end of each month when Jairam handed over the two mohurs to his wife. “You slog for the whole day without rest and yet all you get is two mohurs. And look at that sly Maniram! He sits and scribbles for the whole day and ran a few errands. Yet the king pays him more!”

 “What can I say about that?” Jairam would reply, himself a bit puzzled over the king’s decision. “The King is our master and if he pays me two mohurs, he must be right in doing so.”

But his wife, with her eyes on the big house of Maniram, just next to their own humble cottage nagged and complained. Maniram was a shrewd man, she said her heart almost bursting with envy. He knows how to fool the kind king.

 “And you! You’re a good for nothing!” snapped his wife.


(Photo Courtesy: Free Photo Dreamstime)

 

Sad and unhappy, Jairam sat and brooded over the king’s injustice but lacked courage to talk to the king. The more he saw of Maniram, the more his heart cried at the unfairness of his situation. No matter how much he labored, the king simply loved Maniram the best. Jairam stayed awake many nights and shed many a tears on his ill luck. And soon, the worry in his mind began affecting his work. It was not long that the king who was indeed watchful of all his men’s happiness found one of his favorite servants go around with a miserable face.

It was nearly evening one day. The king sat resting in his chamber with his queen. He sent for Jairam and asked after his well being.

          “By your grace your Majesty, I’m well,” replied Jairam, bowing low.

          “Oh, but you don’t look happy to me,” the king smiled. “It seems that something is bothering you. Tell me, Jairam. I command you.”

Thus commanded Jairam could not hide his trouble and in a fearful voice put before the king what had bewildered him for long now. And all the while he thought how angry the king would be after hearing him out, how furious he would be at him for suspecting the rightness of his decision!

But when he finished speaking, to his surprise the king shook his head, stared down at his cowering servant and burst out laughing. “And this was what caused you so much grief, you poor fellow?” said he kindly.

Jairam nodded his head in confusion. The king rubbed his chin and walked inside the chamber. Down in the courtyard, just before the royal granary stood a peasant with a cart. An argument seemed to be going on between the granary in-charge and the peasant. Turning away from the window, the king asked Jairam, “It seems some problem has come up. Run down and go and ask the peasant what’s he carrying in his cart. In the meanwhile I’ll think of a solution to your problem.”   

Jairam ran down the beautifully decorated stairs and came up sooner. “The peasant is carrying sacks of maize and corn, your majesty,” replied he.

The king nodded his head. “Ah, so I see. But in which village had he grown the corns, I wonder?”

Jairam was very prompt in bringing back this answer too. The corns came from the nearby village of Punpur.

 “Punpur? I never knew they grow corn there!” The king frowned. “Is it of a good quality? Are the grains broken or shrunken?”

            Once again the elder servant ran down and returned with an answer. And as soon as his master had learnt of the answer, he expressed a wish to know how many sacks of maize and corn were there on the cart.

No sooner had Jairam brought the information, the king sent him back again for he wished to have a sample of the corn. When Jairam had brought back a handful of corn, the King inspected it minutely and nodded his head. “Very good quality of product, indeed. Why are they arguing then, Jairam?”

After making his sixth trip when Jairam returned huffing and panting, the king asked him to take a rest and sent for Maniram.

The younger servant greeted the king by bowing gracefully. The king said, “Maniram, a peasant is standing with his cart near the granary. Run down and find out what is there in his cart.”

While Maniram ran down, Jairam stared at the king in total puzzlement. What was his wise master up to? Didn’t he make six trips to bring him the answer to his queries? Was he not in his own self? Even the queen had a bemused expression on her face.

In the meanwhile Maniram was counting the stairs and soon presented himself before the king.

 “Tell me now, Maniram.” 

 “Your majesty,” replied Maniram. “The cart contains maize and corn and the peasant had grown them in his village called Punpur. The quality of his maize and corn is indeed best and so he wishes to sell them to the royal granary. But the granary in-charge thinks he’s quoting a price too high and hence they are engaged in a bargain. It’s an argument to settle the price, your Majesty. And I think it’ll be solved soon enough. Do you need anymore information, my Lord?”

The king was satisfied and sent him away. Turning to Jairam he asked with a smile, “Now my dear man, have you realised why he gets more wage than you? It’s because he not only works hard, but he works hard intelligently.”

 

 

Bio Note: Chaitali Sengupta

 

Chaitali Sengupta writes and translates poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. A reviewer and a journalist, her debut collection of prose poems Cross Stitched Words, received the ‘Honorable Mention’ award at the New England book festival 2021. Her latest work of translation is Timeless Tales in Translation, a collection of 12 short stories by famous Indian authors. She is also a teacher of Dutch language and is presently working on a translation featuring the Dutch author, Louis Couperus.

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