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Once upon a time, in a sleepy little village known as Omniwas, there lived a very honest, God-fearing, simple farmer named Dukhia. The name Dukhia, in that country, literally meant “Sad One”. And truly, he was a sad one. All day long, he would toil under the burning rays of the merciless sun, for an equally merciless Employer, doing back-breaking work of removing weeds and stones from the soil. For all this hard labour, he daily received a pittance of two “kowris”, and a handful of grain, which he would clutch tightly in his fist as the dusk fell, and creep home, like a weary spider to his equally sad and tired wife, Hasdo. Ironically, the name Hasdo translated in the native dialect to: “please laugh”. But as long back in her life as Hasdo could remember, she had had nothing to laugh about. So she remained sad alongwith her sad husband, not bitter, not complaining, not angry, just sad.
They were very poor, poorer than temple-mice, which are poorer than church-mice, so you can imagine how poor the couple was. To count their blessings, which were very scarce, they would add each other, the moon, the planets and throw in the stars for good measure. The saving grace was Dukhia’s Goddess, the one he had great faith in. Her name was Lakshmi, Goddess of wealth and abundance. He kept saving asking for her grace for a rainy day, that when all else failed, he would ask for her help. But he never got around to invoking her for her help, for some mysterious reason, known only to himself.
AND THEN, on one dreary, misty day, as Dukhia was shivering and burning huge piles of withered leaves on the fields of the Land-owner, Goddess Lakshmi herself. unexpectedly manifested before his amazed eyes. She was the epitome of beauty and grace, dressed in flaming red and gold silks and brocades, queenly demeanour, bedecked with priceless flashing jewels, surrounded by an enormous golden aura as brilliant as the sungod himself, dazzling those rare ones who had the good fortune to cast their eyes on her. Dukhias eyes too, were dazed but tears were pouring from them as well, at seeing his dearly beloved Goddess in a finite form before him.
She spoke to him in a voice which sounded like a million tinkling bells. “Dukhia” she said, “You are such a great devotee of mine, I hear your prayers everyday. But I am puzzled why you have never asked me to relieve your poverty. After waiting and waiting to hear your request, I have come to you myself to give you a gift you richly deserve for your lack of greed, and for your unconditional love for me and commitment to me”. She took off a ring from her own graceful finger, crowned with a splendid, sparkling, flawless emerald (the size of a birds egg), and placed it in the trembling hands of the speechless, wonderstruck Dukhia.
“This jewel”, she said to Dukhia, “will fetch you enough money from the nearby town’s jewelers to live in luxury for the rest of your life, have children, give them every comfort, buy your wife gold ornaments and rich silk apparel, eat well, build a palatial mansion and buy your own fields and employ many Dukhias to work for you at fifty times the pay which your cruel Employer gives you. They will bless you, and work with loyalty and honesty for you. Your family and your fields will blossom and bloom and you will be the most famous and respected land owner in this village”. With these loving words, she blessed Dukhia who was sobbing gratefully at her feet and as mysteriously as she had appeared, she vanished, in a swirl of golden mist.
Dukhia was so excited that he started jumping up and down, and singing songs of praise to Goddess Lakshmi. Then, clutching the gleaming emerald in his fist, he started running like a mad-man towards his home and to his sad wife Hasdo, to tell her the miraculous news that Goddess Lakshmi had come to visit him, and had alleviated all their financial hardships and lacks with one magnificent gift.
Alas! As he was hastily crossing the little bridge over the river which led to his home, he stumbled, and the precious ring went flying out of his hand and landed with a splash right into the river! Oh! What a great loss for Dukhia! Half-crazed with fear, he jumped into the river, searching wildly for the ring, gulping water, coughing, but to no avail. The ring had disappeared into the murky depths of the river.
With great distress, and soaking wet as a bedraggled rat, he squelched his way home, and told Hasdo the entire story. Hasdo at first could not believe him, she thought he was hallucinating, but by and by she realized that Dukhia was speaking the truth, and then she burst into tears and started wailing at their ill-fortune. So the sad couple became even sadder, with the thought of WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN. They silently wiped each others tears, ate their frugal little meal as always, and sorrowfully went to sleep.
Months passed uneventfully for Dukhia and Hasdo, and they continued to eke out their dreary little existence, day by day, when suddenly and miraculously, Goddess Lakshmi appeared again! Dukhia had finished his work and was just about ready to leave the fields and go home. Oh! He was delighted to see her again, and was about to tell her what had happened to the emerald, but it seemed she knew everything. With a gesture of her graceful, swan-like hand, she dismissed his explanations and said, “Never mind, it was not your fault. Just try to be more careful this time”. And in her big-hearted and most generous style, she took off her heavy gold necklace, studded with the priceless fabled nine gems, and gave it to him. She cheerily blessed him with a tap on his head, and vanished again in a swirl of golden mist.
This time, Dukhia promised himself that he would be extremely calm and sedate and would walk home with great caution. He wrapped the necklace in his old muslin scarf, and clutching the packet tightly with both his hands, slowly and surely made his way homewards. This time Dukhia decided not to go over the bridge, and to take a short diversion through the forest to get to his home. Oh dear! Oh dear! Oh dear! What bad luck! A decaying, over-ripe papaya fruit lay flattened and sprawled and sticky, right in the path of Dukhia who was busy looking straight ahead, in his efforts to reach his home safely and quickly..
As his foot touched the pulpy soft fruit, Dukhia slipped very badly, and the cloth wrapped packet with Lakshmis splendid necklace went flying out of his hands to GOD ALONE KNEW WHERE! With all of his scrambling, lamenting and searching frantically amongst the trees and bushes, the necklace just could not be found. Tragedy had struck again! In the wee hours of the morning, Dukhia gave up, and broken-heartedly limped homewards. Hasdo was anxiously waiting up for him, and Dukhia told her about his second debacle, the whole tragic episode of the golden necklace. Now, Hasdo’s greatest quality as a wife was that she never chided nor nagged Dukhia. So she cried and wailed to herself for some time, then calmed down, held Dukhia tightly in her arms, and they wordlessly. with a monsoon of tears pouring down their cheeks, went off to sleep.
Winter turned to spring, and Spring to summer but nothing had changed for Dukhia.. All the visions conjured up by Lakshmi were still just dreams, but they haunted Dukhia constantly. Sometimes, he wished she had not come at all, nor given him those gifts. At least, there would be nothing to regret, nor unfulfilled dreams to yearn for. Whenever he looked at Hasdo, he would imagine her dressed up in rich silks and exquisite ornaments like Goddess Lakshmi, laughing and radiant in her finery, and his heart would start weeping again.
Then, just as the monsoon’s first cooling drops starting falling on the scorched and parched fields, the big-hearted Goddess made a third visit to her devotee Dukhia.. She stood silently, intently studying his heart-broken expression and his woe-begone face for some time. Full of compassion and love for him, she generously took off a dozen ruby and diamond studded gold bangles from her wrist, and with a smiling face and finger on his lips to silence his apologies and explanations, she deposited them in his lap, wiped his tears with her swan-like hand, saying gently “Dukhia, this is my last visit and last gift, be very, very cautious this time” patted his head tenderly and vanished into the swirl of golden mist in her her usual, magical manner.
Dukhia was overwhelmed with joy at her mercy, and at her repeated forgiveness of his mistakes, and mostly at her continued love and generosity towards him. He tied the bangles carefully in his sweat cloth, and chanting holy mantras, he slowly and carefully, looking up and down at the path before him, reached safely home. Hasdo was overjoyed to see the ethereal Heavenly bangles with glowing rose red rubies and sparkling diamonds the light of which lit up the entire gloomy little hovel in which they lived. How thankfully, and joyfully they sang the praises of Goddess Lakshmi together, on that significant and blessed evening.
Now, full of worry about the safety of these priceless bangles, they thought and thought where they could be kept safely for the night. Aha! The big clay, cooking pot in their minuscule backyard. No thief would dream of looking there! And the heavy pot cover would block the radiant light emanating from the bangles. So they silently crept out on tip-toe and picked up the cover of the enormous pot, and placed the bangles neatly wrapped in a clean cloth, inside the pot and then put back the cover.
As Dukhia’s constant bad luck would have it, the neighbours were sleeping in the open air in their backyard, and the furtive sounds caused them to wake up and see what Dukhia and his wife were doing. The brilliant light that lit up the dark night before the pot cover was put back, mystified them and filled them with immense curiosity. Long after Dukhia and Hasdo had peacefully and happily snuggled up in their tattered quilts and gone to sleep, the snoopy neighbours scrambled over the dividing hedge, and opened the clay pot, astonished to see the fabulous jeweled bangles. Their greed knew no bounds, they stole the entire bundle, put the cover back and stealthily climbed back over the hedge to their own home.
In the morning, Hasdo with her first radiant smile in years, and humming a lilting, romantic song went rushing out to see their splendid treasure in the morning light. We can just imagine her fright and terror upon seeing an empty pot. She frantically called out for Dukhia, who came running and he too, was totally devastated at the disappearance of the priceless bangles.
They cursed their luck, and their stupidity in keeping the precious bangles away from themselves. Realising they had been stolen, knowing that the corrupt, local village policeman would never believe nor help such a poor man as Dukhia, nor would his heartless Employer, they decided to stay silent and keep the pain of their third loss too, in their hearts.
Dukhia knew that Goddess Lakshmi would not come again, and he began ceaselessly blaming himself for his carelessness in handling the precious gifts from the great Goddess. He felt great guilt and shame that he had never been able to do anything for his beloved Hasdo, and now with all the treasures gone, he never could. His daily life became a sort of an unending nightmare, and the promised happiness and hopes all vanished, and the couple resigned themselves to a life of poverty forever.
As Father Winter’s icy fingers began to touch the village again, and little snowflakes were visible falling soft as whispers on Mother Earth’s face, something amazing happened once more to Dukhia. As he was tying up bundles of firewood in the fields, a strange old man manifested in front of him. He had a flowing white beard, with twinkling eyes and rosy cheeks, and a flowing pristine white robe, tied at his voluminous waist with a leather thong. He said to Dukhia “Son, Unlike Goddess Lakshmi, I have no jewels nor costly ornaments to gift to you. I am a practical old man, but my gifts have great value. Here, this coin is all I have for you. Buy your wife a good hearty meal, with fish and rice and gur pancakes.” Thus saying, he put a four anna coin in Dukhias hand, and was about to vanish, when Dukhia stopped him and asked “Wait, Sir. Please tell me your name. Who are you?” The old man gave Dukhia a mysterious smile and a mischievous wink, blessed him, and answered ” I will tell you my name someday”… And with a friendly wave of his hand, he disappeared into thin air.
An astonished and puzzled Dukhia slowly wandered home, staring at the small four anna coin in his palm. Not much..However, ever grateful, he mentally sent thanks to the old man. He wondered what could he buy for his wife with it. He decided to take the old man’s advice, and give his frail wife Hasdo, a solid, nurturing meal. He stopped in the village market to buy a nice fat “bangra”, a cheap, river water fish, and herbs, spices, vegetables and oil to make a nice fish curry.. He then went to the forest and with the kind help of a woodsman, lopped some branches off to drag home to make a fire to cook their sumptuous dinner. Feeling happy at the thought of the delicious dinner they would have, and to extort a laugh from his sad wife, he borrowed a drum on the way, from a neighbours child and went drum-drumming loudly back to his home, armed with the tree branches and the silver bangra fish and the rest of the supper ingredients.
His strategy worked… the eternally sad Hasdo came running out at the sound of the drumming, burst out into laughter as she saw her husband coming, looking hilarious, drumming, festooned with leafy branches and the enormous “bangra” fish hanging from his neck, and walking bent sideways to balance the weight of the bulging jute bag stuffed with all the vegetables and grain. In fact, she just could not stop laughing and laughing and laughing! Dukhia told her about the mysterious old man, and his advice to give his wife a good dinner with the four annas. After an hour of these talks, Dukhia realized it was very late, and instructed Hasdo to go and quickly clean and marinade the fish, as he heaved the branches to the backyard to shave them for firewood.
As he started to pluck the leaves off the branches, he suddenly felt a rough lump hooked to a thorn in the branch, and pulled it out. Miracle of miracles! There was the bundle he had made.from his scarf, with Goddess Lakshmis golden necklace still safely nestled within it. Oh! Dukhias joy knew no bounds! As he was about to shout out for Hasdo, she herself came excitedly running out, holding aloft a brilliant sparkling huge emerald, Goddess Lakshmi’s first gift to Dukhia. Hasdo explained that as she cut the stomach of the “bangra”,, there it was, winking its glorious green light all over their little hovel..
At last, the sad couple had a true reason to smile, and they started laughing and dancing in celebration with merriment. Dukhia chopped up the firewood, placed it under the clay pot and lit the fire to cook the fish curry. As he opened the pot for Hasdo to pour in the oil, the fish curry ingredients and the fish pieces, he got his third and last delightful surprise. There they were, the entire dozen, Goddess Lakshmis ruby diamond bangles, still wrapped in the muslin cloth, and the pot was lit by their radiance as bright as daylight. (Probably the neighbours frightened by the drumming, and afraid that the village policeman had come to search them, had hastily put the stolen bangles back, or some good angel had done the needful). The couples happiness and ecstasy knew no bounds. They put all their heavenly treasures safely in Goddess Lakshmis protection, next to her picture on their little altar and came out to blissfully to watch their delicious fish curry simmering in the pot. Roasted wheat pancakes, dripping with butter and molasses were prepared, and fragrant smelling rice, spiced with big cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper balls and bay leaves. Also a mouth-watering concoction of goat cheese and leafy green vegetables. The hungry couple seeing their first square meal in years, eagerly filled their gleaming, spotlessly scrubbed copper bowls and platters with heaped helpings of the scrumptious food, alongwith brimming glasses of rich buttermilk, and just as they sat down to eat, AN UNEXPECTED GUEST ARRIVED..
Wonder of wonders! It was the magical old man who had given Dukhia the four anna coin. Upon their insisting, he accepted Dukhia and Hasdo’s invitation to join them for the fish curry meal, and Hasdo generously spread a feast before him: a huge bowl filled with the exquisitely prepared bangra curry, and an enormous mound of steaming rice and a mountain of buttered pancakes, and a goblet-full of the delicious buttermilk.
As they all three sat by the glowing fire contentedly relishing the satisfying meal, the old man finally told them his name.
“My name is “Waqt” (which meant “time” in the local language). You can call me Father Time”, he told them, “And when I come, everything changes for the better. When people feel discouraged, when they make horrendous mistakes, when they incur huge losses, when their efforts are to no avail, or when luck comes into their hands, yet manages to slip out through their fingers, tell them not to despair or fall apart. If they win, or succeed, and then lose it all right after, tell them not to keep blaming themselves or others. When I will appear, then the time will be right, and all that they thought they lost will come back again in the right manner!”
And then they will value those very things they lost, be it money, possessions, loved ones or relationships, or trust in themselves and others, and most of all, faith in the Creator; they will have learnt their lessons, including gratitude, humility, kindness, temperance and patience, and forgiveness for themselves and each other, and compassion, and the ability to put themselves in another persons shoes, and to see the issues from their point of view as well. And most important, they will have learnt to surrender to Divine Will, knowing deeply, that there are Powerful. Heavenly Parents, witnessing everything, and watching over each and everyone of their earthly children, and providing for all their legitimate needs, and sending help at the appropriate TIME..
Goddess Lakshmi wanted to give you everything, and she did, but you could not access her treasures until the time was right. Just a small four anna coin, WHEN THE TIME WAS RIGHT, brought back everything for you. So respect TIME, and the right time WILL come for everyone. And when it comes, use it wisely and with gratitude, for the benefit of all. As you both must do, with the enormous treasures that Lakshmi has conferred on you”. And with these words, Father Time thanked them for the splendid dinner, and blessed them, and vanished in a puff of smoke, leaving Dukhia (whom we shall now rename Sukhia, meaning Happy One) and Hasdo (whom we shall now rename Hasi meaning laughter) to their sleepy dreamtime and happy plans for a joyful and prosperous new life, exactly as Goddess Lakshmi had envisioned for them. And now, it is time for us to reluctantly leave them too… Can there be any doubt that they will live happily ever after?
write by Mohammed Hamid