Our netas know better, but they can’t help themselves

Our netas do know better, but they can’t help themselves anyway

Here is a new story from the very old Kathasaritsagara about doing things when you should know better

Union Minister Nitin Gadkari recently took a jibe at ministers who try to promote themselves by putting up cut-outs, hoardings, and birthday wishes, telling them those will not help their political careers in any way. Wait, so the BJP knows that?! Pray, tell me then, why do the vaccine certificates have pictures of the Prime Minister, confusing poor foreign officials into thinking Indians travelling abroad are faking their documents with someone else’s picture?

Here is a new story from the very old Kathasaritsagara about doing things when you should know better. There was once a wealthy merchant who had a son called Ishwaravarma. Now, the merchant didn’t want his son to squander away his wealth on some courtesan. So, while Ishwaravarma was still young, his father dropped him off to the house of Yamajihva, a famous courtesan, and paid her handsomely to teach Ishwaravarma all the tricks of her trade so that he would never have his money stolen by a clever courtesan. After a year, Ishwaravarma completed his ‘education’, and set out on his way, with five crores (told you his father was rich!), to explore the world.

Ishwaravarma had not gone far, when he saw a courtesan, Sundari, performing at a local temple, and promptly fell in love with her. All that he had learnt slipped out of his mind instantly. Ishwaravarma sent her a message through a friend and arranged to meet her. Sundari gave him all the right responses, and after just a couple of nights together, he had already given her a little fortune from the money he had. Sundari pretended to refuse the gifts, claiming that Ishwaravarma’s affections were enough, but her mother gently told her to accept, and accept she did, with a show of great embarrassment. Ishwaravarma’s friend advised him to leave, reminding him of what he had learnt about courtesans, but the smitten one insisted that Sundari was not like the others, that she would perish without him.

When the friend at last induced him to leave, after he had already a lost of a couple of crores, Sundari wept all morning on the day of his departure, and pretended she had completely lost her appetite. But she and her mother had a secret plan to keep him there. They got someone to spread a net across a well at the corner of the town. As a sad Ishwaravarma took leave of them, Sundari insisted on accompanying him till the end of the town. Almost as soon as they parted and Ishwaravarma set out on his way ahead, he heard a tragic scream and came rushing back -- Sundari, out of grief, had jumped into the well to end her life, he was told.

He jumped into the well and rescued her from the well, thanking fate for the net that had saved her from sure death. Then he went back to town with her and lived there for a few more weeks -- until he had parted with all his money. Then, suddenly, Sundari’s mother threw him out of the house, and Sundari didn’t seem to care that he was leaving.

Ishwaravarma’s friend escorted the dejected chap to his father, who went straight to Yamajihva and demanded a refund of ‘tuition fee’ because she had clearly not taught him well enough. Yamajihva heard the story, laughed, and apologised for forgetting to teach Ishwaravarma the old ‘well trick’. She now taught him how to get back his money. She called out to her monkey, Ala, who knew a rather unique trick. She gave Ala a couple of thousand, and he promptly swallowed the money. Then she asked him to give her two hundred, and he promptly produced two hundred for her.

Ishwaravarma returned to Sundari, with Ala. Now that his father had given him more pocket money, Sundari and her mother were excited to see him again. Sundari was even more thrilled to see the monkey. She thought the monkey could cough up any amount of wealth at will, and begged Ishwaravarma to give it to her. Ishwaravarma, just as Yamajihva had taught him, refused to part with it -- until Sundari offered all the wealth she had in exchange for the monkey. He took up the offer, got all his money back, gifted Sundari the monkey after secretly feeding it a couple of thousand, and scooted from there quickly.

That brings us to the end of our tale, but as usual, some of you will argue that the story is too incredible, even as a parable. Well, real life is rather unbelievable too, isn’t it? If one can believe cow dung can cure Covid-19, why can’t one believe a money-producing monkey? Or that politicians can spruce up their image by putting up their pictures everywhere – including on vaccination certificates?

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