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The Greedy Woman and the Golden Swan

Once upon a time in a far away land lived a poor, old woman named Sushma.  Sushma lived with her husband and three daughters.  They lived in a hut near a small piece of land on which they grew crops.  The field provided little to feed herself and her three daughters.  They lived a meagre existence.

One year the expected rains had not arrived.  The crops had dried up.  They had no harvest and could earn no money.  Soon, they were struggling to get food.

One day, late in the evening, as Sushma was thus sitting and thinking over her sad fate, a beautiful swan came and perched itself on the window.  Sushma looked up and saw the bird.  She was surprised for she had never seen a bird like that before.  The bird was made of pure gold. 

The swan looked down kindly at Sushma and said, “I am Pushpak.  I belong to a  huge colony of golden swans that live in the valley in the far-off mountains.  I happened to pass by your village.  I saw only one house with the light on at this hour.  I was curious and came here”.  Sushma was startled to hear a swan speak.  She was silent for a moment and then broke down in tears and narrated her sad tale. 

The swan had an idea.  It turned to Sushma and said, “I know that you humans are fond of gold.  Why do you not take one of my feathers and sell them in the market.  You and your children will have enough money to eat and live well for many months. “.  So saying it plucked a feather with its beak and threw it down to Sushma.  Sushma was delighted at the kind gesture.  She gratefully thanked the swan.

The Swan flew away leaving Sushma and the golden feather.  Sushma went to bed that night a happy woman.  The next day, she showed the feather to her husband and children.  She told them of the swan.  She cautioned them not to tell of the feather to anyone.  The children were happy to see their new fortune.  The next day, Sushma and her husband went to the nearest town and met with a leading jeweller.  She showed the golden feather to him. 

The jeweller agreed to buy the feather and gave her a large sum of money in return.  Overjoyed, Sushma collected the money.  Then they went to the marketplace and bought food and clothing for her and her children.  They had never had so much money in her life. 

 They returned home to her children with the food and new clothes she had bought for them.  They were overjoyed.  With the new found wealth, Sushma built a new house in their land.  She could now live a life of luxury.  Sadly, soon she grew proud and greedy.  She wanted more money so that she could buy more land and build a bigger house.  Her children, too, grew haughty as they showed of their  new clothes and jewellery to their friends.

But where would she get her money from?  An evil thought occurred to her.  The next month, the golden swan again came to her window.  The swan was happy to see Sushma and her family happy.  Sushma thanked the swan.  She then asked the swan to come inside her home.  As the innocent swan came inside, Sushma quickly the window.  The swan was alarmed.  Seeing the frightened look of the swan, Sushma gave a wicked smile and said, “I am sorry.  I am going to take away all your feathers. “.  The poor swan was terrified.  Without her feathers, it would surely die. 

The wily Sushma stood there with a wicked grin on her face.  Then suddenly, the swan saw an opportunity to escape.  It had seen a gap in the tile in the roof.  The gap between the tiles was small, but it managed to squeeze through it and was free at last.  The angry swan looked down at Sushma and cursed her saying that the gold she had sold would turn to stone.  But the gold was now with the jeweller.  When the jeweller saw the gold brought by Sushma turn to stone.  He was shocked and angry at having been cheated.  He promptly reported the matter to the king. 

The king sent his soldiers to Sushma’s house.  The soldiers arrested Sushma and her husband and put them behind bars where they remained for many years.   He sent the children to the royal orphanage to be taken care of while their parents remained in prison.

Children, this story tells us the need to be modest whether we are poor or rich.  We should learn to be content in all situations. It also teaches us to be thankful to others who help us and to be satisfied with what we have got. 

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