Hari was a naughty boy. His mind was always at some prank. The people were fed up with his naughty games. Hari’s maternal uncle wanted him to help him in work. But Hari’s heart was not in any work and he was not patient enough to finish any task.
The boy’s parents had died when he was just a baby. His charge was taken over by his maternal uncle and aunt. Hari had an elder brother too who slaved for uncle and aunt.
One day, the uncle chided Hari, ’You are good for nothing. A freeloader you are. You will learn a lesson if you ever earned money through honest work. ‘
Hari took uncle’s rebuke to his heart. He knew that if he worked for his uncle he would pay nothing. He will use him as a slave. So, the sensible idea would be to do work somewhere else and earn money. He wanted to show the uncle that he could earn money. One day, Hari left his home quietly to go away.
He reached the nearby village. There lived a rich merchant named Shyam ‘Sahu’ (‘Sahu’ in Nepali means a merchant/ businessman). He was rich but very miser. He made others do work for him for free through tricks. Hari went to him and asked for work. The merchant said, “I will employ you on some conditions.’
Hari considered himself a clever boy. So. he very confidently accepted the challenge. “Sir, tell me about your conditions. I need to work. Only thing I ask for is a good salary.”
The merchant smiled, ‘Don’t worry about the salary, boy. You will get five gold coins a month. But my condition is that you will do whatever I wish of you. And remember you should not make me lose my temper no matter what. If I get angry even once a month you will get nothing for that month.’
Hari laughed, ‘Sir… that’s nothing. I accept the conditions. I will work hard and give you no reason to get disappointed. But I request you… sir…. to arrange for my lodging and boarding to enable me to serve you better.”
The merchant, Shyam ‘Sahu’ smiled, ‘Hari boy… That will be done. But remember you will get only a leafful of food each time.”
Hari had not seen the outside world and had never worked for anyone. He could not see through the trick of the wily merchant. He accepted, ‘That will be fine, sir. I am no big eater. I start work from today itself.”
Hari began working for Shyam ‘Sahu’. He worked hard and tried to please the merchant. Everything was good except for the food. A leaf could hold very little food. Hari starved.
There was a mulberry tree in the courtyard of the merchant’s house. Hari would try to find some big leaf to get more food. But no leaf was big enough to hold enough rice and dal. He always felt hungry. Hari drew consolation from the fact that he would get five gold coins at the end of the month. Once he got the coins he could go back to his home.
Thus, twenty days passed. Hari was happy that now it was only a matter of ten more days.
The next day, Shyam ‘Sahu’ called Hari to him and ordered, ‘Today you will go to the fields and water all of them,’.
Hari went to the fields. The fields stretched to miles. The merchant had so many fields that it could take a week to water all those fields.
And Hari had never done any hard work. He was doing now to earn the gold coins. Anyway, he drew water from the well and started watering the fields.
He worked all day long and could water only one-fourth of the fields. He sat down to rest. Then, he remembered that if he reached home ate, he would not get food. He went home. The merchant asked, “Did you water all the fields?”
Hari calmly replied, ‘No sir. It will take at least four more days.”
Shyam ‘Sahu’ growled, “Then, why did you come back. I had asked you to water all the fields.”
Hari mumbled, ’Sir. the sun had set and it was dark.”
‘So.? Isn’t there moonlight all over the fields’ The merchant angrily said.
Hari had given a reason to Shyam ‘Sahu’ to get angry. Shyam ‘Sahu’ barked, “I don’t know. Go and water the fields.’
Hari went back without getting food. He was tired. He slept in the corner of a field. He woke up at midnight and began watering work again. He remained at work till next evening. When the darkness spread he returned to his room dead tired. The merchant didn’t speak to him Hari ate food and went to sleep.
Thus, a month went by Hari knew that he had lost his salary. In fact, Shyam ‘Sahu’ didn’t pay him any salary. Hari continued his work with more care. But in the last weak of the month, the wily Shyam ‘Sahu’ again found an excuse to get angry. Again Hari lost his salary.
In this way. six months passed. Hari received no salary. Every month Shyam ‘Sahu’ managed to get angry on something or the other. Due to not getting enough food, Hari was becoming weaker and weaker besides being sad.
Hari’s going away had worried his brother Ramesh. He looked for his little brother. At last, he reached the house of Shyam ‘Sahu’. He was shocked to see the bad condition of his naughty brother. Ramesh asked Hari to quit the job on some excuse. So, Hari slept late next day. At noon, he went to the kitchen to get his food. When Shyam ‘Sahu’ learnt that Hari had done no work on that day, he rebuked the boy.
Hari burst into tears. Shyam ‘Sahu’ said, “Alright… If you want to go home… you can…But you must come back after two days.’
To placate Hari the merchant put a silver coin on his palm. He thought that it would bring back the silly boy “He didn’t want to lose a worker who worked for him free.”
The next day Ramesh went to the merchant and asked for some work. Shyam ‘Sahu’ was pleased. He thought that another fool had come to him to get trapped into working for him for nothing. So, He spoke, “Ramesh! I can employ you. But I have some conditions.”
Ramesh said, “Tell me your conditions, sir. And I want to know what I will get paid?”
The wily Shyam ‘Sahu’ knew that he was making servants work for him for nothing through tricks of conditions. So, to lure the job seekers he used to offer very attractive salaries
He spoke, ‘Look. I will pay you ten gold coins every month. But the condition is that you must not give me any reason to get angry the whole month. If l get angry, you lose your salary. You must do so good work that I should not get angry.’
Shyam ‘Sahu’ was cunning. He played his game differently. He smiled, “Alright then. If you get angry on any matter, you don’t get your salary for that month. If I get angry I will give you 15 gold coins instead of ten.”
Ramesh agreed. ‘That is fine. And I want you to give me food. Shyam ‘Sahu’ played the same old game, ’Done’ You will get a leafful of food each time.’
Ramesh accepted it. He made one demand, “Sir, let’s agree to one more thing. You will not sack me from your service.’ Shyam ‘Sahu’ raised his eyebrows but he trusted his cunning. So, he said confidently. “lf I sack you from service before one year, I will pay you 100 gold coins as compensation. But if you leave my service you will pay me 50 gold coins as fine.’
Ramesh was a bit scared. The merchant could harass him to make him quit. But in the end he accepted the condition putting his trust in God.
He began his duty from the very next day. During mealtime, Ramesh went to the cook with a leaf to get his food. He had taken a huge banana leaf. It took entire food cooked for the whole family. But they had to fulfil the condition. Ramesh took a load of food to a nearby hut where his brother Hari waited for him. The brothers ate to their hearts’ content. They fed the left over food to dogs and crows.
When the merchant leant about the trick of Ramesh, he felt enraged. But he could not show his anger. Ramesh worked for a month. At the fag end of the month, the merchant asked him to go to the godown and fill the food grains in the sacks. Ramesh came back in the evening having filled only half of the sacks. The merchant wanted to get Ramesh angry to make him lose his salary. He said. ‘Why did you come back? You were to fill all the sacks.”
Ramesh calmly said, “I got tired. Will do it tomorrow.”
Shyam ‘Sahu’ lost his temper and growled, “Stop tomorrowing. Get back and do the job.”
Ramesh laughed and taunted, ‘Sir. I will do it tomorrow. And you owe me 15 gold coins to be paid to me tomorrow.”
Shyam ‘Sahu’ had forgotten about their employment conditions. So, he yelled, ‘You are a shirk work.’ And what makes you think that you can rob me of 15 gold coins?”
“Sir? You are getting angry,’ Ramesh smiled.
The merchant suddenly realised his mistake. He gave out a hollow laugh and uttered, “Oh’ Well okay I see.’ The next day he paid 15 coins to Ramesh and made up his mind to make Ramesh work for nothing for the next six months. Then, frustrated Ramesh would quit and pay him 50 gold coins as a fine, he thought.
Ramesh was equally clever. He came to work next day. Shyam ‘Sahu’ asked him to do a godown job and attended to his other works. A few hours later he found Ramesh basking in the sun outside the godown. He boiled inside but could do nothing to Ramesh. Losing temper meant another loss. He merely asked Ramesh to do his job in a very soft manner.
Ramesh was doing little work. A week went by. He would remain busy mostly talking and bantering with other servants. And he was taking loads of food on the banana leaves. He was proving a thorn in the flesh of the merchant.
One day, the wife of Shyam ‘Sahu’ complained. ‘This Ramesh is spoiling all our servants. Why don’t you get rid of him?”
He told his wife the reason. The wife reasoned, ‘You have been making all these servants work for you for nothing for so many years. This man is teaching you a lesson. Learn to pay fair wages to your workers. Make him quit or all the servants would rise against us ’
Next day, he sent a message to Ramesh to meet him. Ramesh said he would come later. At noon he came and sat down to eat. The merchant appeared there and screamed, ‘Ramesh… Get out! I am sacking you.”
Ramesh finished his meal and came to the merchant. He said, ‘That’s fine, sir. Give me a compensation of 100 gold coins according to our terms and no trouble.’ The merchant was ready for it. He handed over 100 coins and Ramesh departed.
The merchant Shyam ‘Sahu’ was feeling defeated. He was angry at himself. But getting rid of Ramesh gave him great relief. He peeped out of his window and saw Ramesh going away holding the hand of a small kid. Shyam ‘Sahu’ looked carefully and realised that the kid was Hari. He took a vow that he would never again make anyone work for nothing.