Many hundred years ago there lived at Laganbaha in Kathmandu a merchant named Harsharam Chandra. He was a merchant in name only, for although he had visited Lhasa a number of times he remained poor.
One morning he made his way to the woods at Teku, not far from his home, and there he sat down by the bank of the river to answer the call of nature. As he was squatting by the swirling water, he noticed an ant trying to drag along a dead insect up the river bank. Even as the ant almost reached the top, it lost its grip and the insect dropped down close to the water.
The ant lost no time but came down and reached for its food. It failed again to climb up the ledge with the insect. It tried a third time. The man kept on looking and wondered if the ant would keep trying. At last on its seventh try, the ant climbed up the ledge and took its food home.
Harsharam was fascinated by the scene he had just witnessed. He had also gone six times to Tibet, but every time he had returned a failure and he was on the verge of despair. He now said to himself, “If an ant did not give up hope but kept on trying, I’ll not give up either.”
Heartened by the ant’s example, he returned home determined to try again. So, once more Harsharam Chandra went to Lhasa. This time his business flourished. He stayed on for several years and made a fortune. When he returned to Kathmandu, he was received according to tradition at Chabahi, a few miles from the city. But he was poorly dressed and gave no hint that he had made it good in Tibet.
Arriving in his home at Laganbaha, he took off the old travel-stained garment that he had worn all the way from Lhasa and perhaps for years before. It was all patched up and it gave a foul smell. As soon as he turned his back to attend to some business, his wife, finding the odour unbearable, took the garment to a lane and threw it in a corner.
When Harsharam found his old garment missing, and his wife told him that she had thrown it away, he cried in dismay. He rushed to the place where she had left it. It was still there and he took it home fast. “Look,” he said to his wife and proceeded to tear away one patch after another from the old garment, and piece after piece of gold dropped down. Soon, there was a heap of gold before his astonished wife.
She hastened to ask him to forgive her for her foolishness in throwing away the old garment.
Thus, Harsharam Chandra became a really rich merchant. In the course of time, he purchased a large tract of land and founded a guthi to give gifts of cotton to the monks on the day of Panchadan every year.
Adapted from Folk Tales from Nepal by Kesar Lall