by Lakshmi Menon
There was a rich man called Shankar, who lived in a village with his wife and four sons. One day there was an outbreak of cholera, which spread out in the village and many people died. His wife was also succumbed to it. Shankar felt very upset to live without his wife, who was always his strength in life, and decided to go on a pilgrimage. Before proceeding on his journey, he decided to divide his property among his sons and make himself free from all duties and responsibilities.
He called his eldest son Madhav and told him about his decision. Though he was upset to know that his father was leaving them and going, Madhav was very happy to hear the good news of the property division.
“Father, I’ll be very happy if you can give me the option as to what I want from you,” said Madhav, looking at his father.
“Sure, son. You can tell me,” agreed his father, without thinking for another moment.
“Are you sure, father? Won’t you change your word when I ask?” asked his son anxiously.
“No son, I’ve never changed my word in my life. Even at this stage of my life I don’t intend to change it.”
“Being the eldest of the four children, I request you to give me all the gold you have bought and kept in the locker. All other properties can be shared between your other sons,” said Madhav hesitantly.
Shankar had never expected such a demand from his eldest son. He felt very sad, thinking that how greedy his son had become, but he didn’t want to show it on his face. He suppressed his feelings and agreed to Madhav’s request. He had planned to give his properties to four of his children equally, but he realized now with utmost pain, that he wouldn’t be able to do so. He regretted for having agreed to Madhav’s request about his choice of property.
Madhav was overjoyed when he got what he wanted from his father. He was afraid that his father might go back on his word after knowing his demand. But for his luck, his father kept up his word.
Then Shankar called his second son, Amrith and told him about his decision and the share of property he had agreed to give Madhav. In his heart, he was no more interested to enquire his children’s options. But he felt that it wouldn’t be fair on his part as a father if the other children too were not given the options. Keeping that in mind, Shankar asked Amrith whether he wanted anything particular from his father.
Amrith got excited at this chance. “Since you have given away all the gold to my elder brother I want all the money that you have deposited in the bank,” said Amrith at once.
That was another shock to the man, who had loved his sons so dearly.
Shankar had not expected such an answer from his second son. “Amrith my son, if all the gold and money go from my hand, what is left with me to give to my other two sons?” asked Shankar with great concern.
“There are still many things left at home like furniture, electronic items and vessels. You can give these things to them,” suggested Amrith defending his demand.
After listening to his second son’s answer, Shankar didn’t utter a word. He took a deep sigh and agreed to give him what he had asked for.
With a heavy heart, he called his third son and told him too about his decision.
“Since all the gold and money have been taken away by my smart brothers I want all the remaining things including the house,” voiced Prakash without thinking of his younger brother.
“Then what will be left for me to give to my youngest son?” asked the anxious father.
“I don’t want to know about it. I want to know only about my share. You’ve given lavishly your money and gold to your elder sons, without thinking of us. I must get at least that much to equate with them.” Prakash raised his voice.
“Don’t you want to leave something for your younger brother, son?” asked his father again.
“No, I’m not bothered about it. That is your problem. You should have thought about it before agreeing to your first two sons’ demands.” He was adamant.
Just with a painful smile, Shankar agreed to Prakash’s demand, too. He was already very upset for his sons’ attitudes and their lack of love to each other.
He finally called his youngest son, with tears in his eyes, wondering what could he offer him.
“Vinay, my youngest son. I regret to tell you that all your three brothers have taken away the properties I had earned all these years, which I wanted to give you all equally. Finally I’m left with only a small piece of barren land, which is in the outskirts of the city. No one had asked for it. They know very well that it is a barren land and they won’t get anything from there. I know it is of no use to you too, but since I’ve nothing else left to offer you I’m giving you this. My dear son, please accept it with my apology.”
Shankar felt a lump in his throat unable to talk to him further, and perched himself on the nearby chair.
“Father, please don’t feel sad about it.” Vinay consoled his father. “I’ll accept it with pleasure. I want one more thing from you which nobody bothered to ask you and I hope you’ll not hesitate to give it to me.”
“Now I’m only a pauper, son. Nothing is left with me to give to you now.” He spread his arms in helplessness.
“No father, you’re not a pauper. I know what I want is still there with you’, said Vinay with an affectionate smile.
He looked at him questionably.
“Father, I need your blessings. I consider it as an invaluable gift,” said his youngest son thoughtfully.
Shankar was bewildered. Only then he realized that none of his older sons had asked for it. He hugged his youngest son with tears of joy, and thanked God for having given him such a wonderful son.
“Yes, son. You’re right. None of them had asked for it. All of them wanted only my property. My blessings are always with you, my son.”
Early next morning, Shankar left the house and his children, and moved forward without knowing his destination.
He wandered many holy places, visited several temples, mosques and churches and saw people of all types and religions.
After ten years of his pilgrimage, with a different mind set, Shankar decided to return home to see his sons leading a happy and content life with their families.
Madhav, Amrith and Prakash had built their own houses and stayed separately. They were leading a lavish and lazy life, and without any exercises they had put on extra pounds of weight. As a result, they all began to suffer from various ailments like blood pressure, diabetes and heart problems. Soon he realized that they were not having a happy life, and they had taken into alcoholism, too. None of them welcomed their father’s return and they were not willing to keep him with them either. He felt very sad knowing that even his daughters-in-law and grandchildren had no sympathy and concern for the old man.
With a heavy heart, Shankar walked towards his youngest son’s house. He wondered what would be his position without having received any valuable property from his father like his older brothers, and how he would welcome him now.
To his utter surprise, what awaited him there was entirely different. Vinay had built a beautiful small house in the barren land which he had got from his father and worked hard to bring good crop there. He was looking healthy and content with a loving and beautiful wife and two obedient and affectionate kids.
Vinay was overjoyed to see his father. He inquired about his health and how he had spent all these years away from them.
After hearing his story, Vinay said, “Father, please don’t leave us and go anywhere now. Let’s have an opportunity to serve you in your old age and let our children get the love and affection of their grandfather.”
The old man’s eyes filled with joy.
Vinay’s wife welcomed her father-in-law with all due respects and affection. Shankar found the worldly heaven when Madhu and Tara, his grand children, stretched their hands to fondly embrace him.