A long time ago, in the kingdom of Patliputra, there lived a man better known as Munshiji. He worked as the king’s chief collector. He was in his mid-thirties and was usually an easygoing man. However, when it came to money matters, no one was as diligent and as strict as him.
Munshiji was very meticulous in his work. He would visit everyone whose taxes were due and collect them. He would then hand each payee a receipt. At the end of the month, the king’s soldiers would check each house for the receipt given by Munshiji. This thorough process helped collect taxes in a systematic and organized manner.
However, not everyone cooperated with Munshiji. Pehalwan Peshwan, or wrestler Peshwan, was the wealthiest man in the kingdom. He was notorious for being short-tempered and uncooperative. Even Munshiji was scared of him. Despite his best efforts to persuade Peshwan, the unyielding wrestler would pay no heed to him. Finally, one day, Peshwan’s brother, Bahadur, heard Munshiji complain about this.
Now, although illiterate, Bahadur was a very shrewd man. The next day, he called Munshiji to his house on the pretext that he would pay him the due amount. Happy at the thought that he would finally get Peshwan’s dues, Munshiji gladly complied.
At Peshwan’s residence, Munshiji was received by Peshwan, who was armed with big, heavy sticks. He seemed to be in the mood to thrash someone. Bahadur slowly approached Munshiji and threatened him to furnish a fake receipt stating that Peshwan’s dues had been paid. Scared to the bone, Munshiji had no choice but to do what he was asked to.
A fortnight passed and the king’s soldiers came over for the monthly inspection. This time round, Peshwan and his brother proudly showed their receipt to the soldiers. And lo! The soldiers wasted no time in surrounding the pair and arresting them for the non-payment of taxes. The brothers were shocked out of their wits. When they inquired as to why they were being apprehended, one of the soldiers read out the receipt to them. What they heard only compounded their disbelief.
Now this is where Munshiji had shown great presence of mind. He was well aware of the fact that both the brothers were illiterate. So, when they had forced him into writing a receipt, he had added a line saying that he had written the receipt under coercion and that the two bullies should be arrested. The two unschooled goons had ended up digging their own graves.
That is why elders often say that the pen is mightier than the sword… or, as we saw here, the stick!
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Ananya loves to both read and reinterpret folk tales from different parts of the country. Shoot her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to know more about her.