A long, long time ago, people believed that anything on earth could be turned into gold through a complicated process. This process was known as alchemy.

In a small village, visible no more than a dot on the map of Arunachal Pradesh, lived a man called Tapi. Tapi believed that he had what it took to convert anything into gold. However, this was borne more out of a desire to stop working in the sweltering heat for hours on a stretch at his banana plantation than a real interest in this coveted technique.

Tapi spent several months doing one experiment after another, hoping to finding the secret to alchemy. However, all he achieved was the complete neglect of the banana plantation, which kept deteriorating. Worried sick about their worsening financial condition, Tapi’s wife decided to seek her father-in-law’s help after all her attempts at convincing Tapi to focus on his real job ended in failure. After listening to his daughter-in-law, Tapi’s father devised a plan to get Tapi back to work.

Tapi gave a warm welcome to his father, whom he had seen after a good while. While exchanging pleasantries, Tapi’s father mentioned that he too once practiced alchemy. Tapi was ecstatic to hear this. His father further added that, during his research, he had found the secret of alchemy, but couldn’t put it into practice as he had grown too old by then. He, however, wanted Tapi to know this secret. Tapi was over the moon when he heard this.

Tapi’s father said that he needed to collect the ash on each banana leaf right after the fruit had been harvested. However, there was a catch – only five grams of ash present underneath the heap of ash produced from the leaves could actually be used for alchemy! Besides, Tapi would need to gather a kilo of such ash to get significant results. Unperturbed by the enormity of the task that lay ahead, Tapi began working day and night to fulfill his dream. He wanted to become an alchemist at all costs!

After years and months of hard work, Tapi had finally collected a kilo of the ash. He rushed to his father to inquire about the next step in the process. At this, his father fondly looked at Tapi and took the sack of ash inside the house. After about an hour or so, his father came out with a chest. When Tapi opened the chest, he was stunned to discover all kinds of jewels and gold coins in it. That is when his father decided to spill the beans. He told Tapi that it wasn’t the ash that had produced the gold. It was instead the money acquired from selling the harvest. He said that investing his time and efforts in some meaningful work had increased Tapi’s wealth.

Hearing his father’s words, Tapi realized how silly he had been until then. From that day, Tapi was sincere in taking care of his banana plantation. And the harder he worked, the more gold he accumulated.

…now that you’re here

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Ananya Susarla, Folk Tale writer at Ameya

Ananya loves to both read and reinterpret folk tales from different parts of the country. Shoot her an email at ananyasusarla2915@gmail.com if you would like to know more about her.

Folk tale adopted and abridged from Story Circus.