A long time ago, there was a poor Brahmin who lived on alms. He would generally return home with things that did not help him feed his four children. Most of the time, the kids would go to bed on an empty or a half-empty stomach. One day, his wife asked him to go seek alms from the king. If the king agreed, the family would have enough food to eat. When he wondered how he should bless the king, his wife told him to say whatever came to his mind at the time.

The next morning, he went to the king’s palace. Hearing the Brahmin’s request, the king asked him to say something for which the king could reward him.

‘Good is good, and bad is bad,’ said the Brahmin.

Pleased with the Brahmin’s answer, the king issued a note that said that its bearer shall be given a rupee.

Every day, the Brahmin would go to the cashier in the palace, present the note, and receive a rupee in return. One of the palace attendants, who served the king as his personal masseur, saw the Brahmin receive a rupee every day. He grew jealous of the poor Brahmin for receiving money without doing anything.

One morning, the attendant stopped the poor Brahmin and asked him to pay a tip from whatever he received from the king. However, the Brahmin paid no heed to this illogical order and walked away. The attendant stopped him again the following day and told him that the king wasn’t very pleased with the poor Brahmin. The Brahmin got nervous and asked the attendant what made the king unhappy. The attendant replied that the Brahmin’s mouth stank when he stood near the king. Worried that the king might stop giving him the rupee, he closed his nose and mouth with a piece of cloth the following day. As usual, he blessed the king and received the note from him.

Later that evening, the king’s personal attendant complained to the king that the Brahmin sounded very arrogant when he came to collect the note in the morning. However, the king was having none of it, arguing that the poor Brahmin looked fairly humble and docile. At this, the attendant wondered that if the Brahmin really was so modest, then why he showed up with his nose and mouth covered. The king replied that the poor fellow might be having a toothache. The attendant told the king that the Brahmin came with his mouth and nose covered because he detested the king’s smelly ears.

The next morning, the Brahmin came to the palace and left with the note. The attendant stopped him on his way home and asked for his share once again. The poor Brahmin reluctantly gave the note to the attendant. Pleased with what he received, the attendant handed the note to the cashier. After reading the note, the cashier asked the attendant to wait there. The cashier then sent for the palace barber and asked the barber to cut off the attendant’s ears and nose as per the orders received from the king. The barber was quick to execute the king’s orders. With his disfigured face, the attendant rushed to the king.

The king asked the attendant how he had received the poor Brahmin’s note. The attendant replied that he had asked the Brahmin for a tip. He showed the note to the king, who told the attendant that he had committed a sin by lying to the Brahmin and that he had paid for that sin.

…now that you’re here

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Kalai Selvi, Folk Tale writer at Ameya

Kalai is passionate about reading and reinterpreting folk tales from all over the country. Write to her at kalai.muse@gmail.com to know more about her.

Folk tale adopted and abridged from Internet Archive.