The king dismounted and walked to where the deer had fallen. The animal was dead. The king wanted to carry the animal to his palace. He turned to his men and to his surprise found no one. In his eagerness to bring down the animal he realized that he had left the hunting party far behind.
He was hungry and thirsty. He got back on his horse and wandered about to find something to eat. He could not find any food. He found a small footpath in the forest. The foot path led to a small house. He felt relieved. Now he could ask for some food and help. He got down from his horse and walked to the door and knocked it. There was no response. He pushed the door and it opened easily. He went inside and called out. There was no one. There were only a few pots. He lifted the lids of the pots. The first pot was filled with water. In the second pot, there was some porridge.
The king first drank the water to quench his thirst. He then hungrily ate the porridge. The porridge was indeed tasty. As he looked around, he saw a small cot by the wall. He lay down on it. vercome by tiredness, he was soon fast asleep. He was awakened by the sound of heavy knocking on the door. He quickly drew his sword and went to see who it was. It was his own soldiers on the lookout for him.
The soldiers were relieved at seeing their king and were sorry for leaving him alone. The king proceeded to depart. Before leaving, he wanted to give something to the occupants of this humble dwelling as token of his gratitude. It was their food and water that had given him strength. He thought for a moment and then left his ring on the table.
The hut belonged to a poor woman, Neelambari who lived in the hut with her little son. Her husband had died a few years back. She lived alone in the forest. That day, Neelambari had gone into the forest as usual to gather wild fruits and berries for food. It was late when she returned home. She was surprised to see the front door open. She cautiously went inside, followed by her son Raju. There was no one. On the table, she found the pots in which she had kept the water and the porridge. They were empty. Someone had eaten them.
She then found the ring in the table. She picked it up. It was ring made of pure gold. On top of it was embedded a shiny jewel. She was awe-struck at the ring. She had never seen such a thing in her life. Anyone who had owned it would really be a rich person. But why would such a rich person come down to her humble abode. But, she was feeling hungry now and such questions had to wait. The porridge was all that he had prepared to eat. She then remembered that she had kept a few fruits on the loft of the house. She took them and gave it to her son Raju and had a few herself. Then mother and son fell asleep.
The next day Neelambari woke up. She remembered the incidents of the previous day and the ring which she had found. She picked up the ring and looked at it closely again. She could not believe her eyes. The ring contained a seal – the royal seal. The ring belonged to the king.
She felt that she had to return the ring to the king. It had perhaps slipped from his finger when he was eating. The palace was about twenty miles away from her house. She woke up her son, had breakfast and started for the palace. She reached the palace in a few hours. The king was in his durbar. Neelambari approached the soldiers standing guard outside and told that she had come to return the king’s ring. The soldiers were surprised that a poor woman should give a ring to the king. Nevertheless, the message was relayed to the king who ordered that Neelambari and her son be permitted to enter the royal court.
The king was surprised to see a poor woman and her son at his court. He was impressed when told that they had come to return a ring that they had found in their hut. “Such honesty in such humble people”, he thought. The king rewarded Neelambari by appointing her as a cook in the royal kitchen. He had loved the porridge that he had made. Neelambari lived with her son in the palace happily ever after.
Children, this story tell us the value of honesty. We need to be honest even in humble circumstances. Honesty will always be rewarded.