Ranjan owned most of the fertile land in the village. He was a powerful, arrogant person who treated everyone with disrespect and contempt. All the villagers feared him. They all worked in his field as landless labourers and owed their livelihood to him. He was a hard taskmaster. He made his workers toil in the fields for hours everyday under the hot sun. At the end of the day, he paid them a pittance. His workers had no choice but to work for him.
If anyone dared question him, he would haul the person before the panchayat, the village council on a trumped-up charge. He was the village headman too. There, as the whole village assembled, the accused person would be judged and handed a harsh sentence. Usually, it would be a boycott by the village and denial of access to the village well.
One day, Prabhudas was digging the soil near his home. His wife, Rajmathi, wanted to plant a few plants. The family had a small kitchen garden near their hut. As Prabhudas excavated the soil, he felt a shiny object in the soil. The object glistened in the dull light of the late evening. Prabhudas gently removed it from the soil. He asked his wife to fetch water. He gently cleaned it with a moistened cloth. He could scarcely believe what he saw. It was a beautiful necklace. He had seen one in the neck of the landlord’s wife when she came to the annual village fair. But this was different. As he looked again into the pit he had dug, he found many other jewels.
Any other person would have quietly hidden the hoard of treasure. But, not Prabhudas. Poor as he was, he was an upright and an honest person. He knew the law of the land, which said that all treasure found buried would automatically become royal property. The king should be immediately intimated about it.
Prabhudas wrapped the jewellery in a cloth and placed it in the corner of his home. “I will report this matter tomorrow to the royal officials. The king may even reward me for this”, said the humble man. He then went to sleep.
Unfortunately for him, the conversation was overheard by Ujwaldas. He was a mean and wily person. He spied on the villagers for the landlord. He would learn of every small incident in the village and report it to Ranjan. His house was adjacent to that of Prabhudas. As the houses were made of thatched materials, one could hear of conversations made in the neighbouring homes if one listened carefully.
The wily Ujwaldas had heard of every word spoken. That very night, he scurried in the dark towards his master’s home. He entered the home through a side entrance. Labourers, such as he, were not permitted to enter through the main door. He narrated what he had heard to the landlord. Ranjan was happy to hear of the discovery. He gave Ujwaldas a bag with a few silver coins.
He, then, summoned four of his henchmen. These strong men were in the pay of Ranjan. Their job was to beat up the village people who had displeased Ranjan. They would roam the village with stout clubs, which they carried in their shoulders. They were feared by all.
They barged into Prabhudas’ home in the dead of the night while the poor family were sleeping. They thrashed Prabhudas and snatched the bag of jewels from him. The jewels were now in the custody of Ranjan. Ranjan was happy at the collection. It was worth a large sum of money. He put the jewels in his treasure chest.
Unknown to Ranjan, there was a spy in his own home. It was the sweeper, Kushala. Kushala was an elderly woman. He son was a soldier, stationed in the royal palace. She had seen the goings-on in the landlord’s home. She told this to her son. The news soon reached the king’s ears. The king was furious. He sent his soldiers to Ranjan’s home. The soldiers searched his place and soon found the treasure chest. They forced it open and found the treasure. They arrested Ranjan and produced him before the king, who threw him into prison.
The king seized Ranjan’s property. All the land now became royal property. Officials were stationed in the village to look after the fields. Life became a little easier for the people of Palanpur.
Children, this story teaches us to be kind to others and to be honest in our dealings. It also teaches to be discreet in discussing sensitive and confidential matters.