Once upon a time, in the town of Sircilla, there lived a man whom people fondly addressed as Gopal. He was a silk weaver and owned a small shop in the local market. His everyday sales were pretty good and he was leading a comfortable life.

However, just like any other human being, Gopal too had some ambitions. His adjoining shop owners aspired to own large houses or enjoy a feast with the king. Gopal, on the other hand, only harbored the desire to make it to heaven alive. Propelled by an earnest wish to fulfill this ambition, Gopal would often go around asking for a way to reach the heaven alive. However, who could possibly answer such an ambiguous question?

One day, a supposedly all-knowing pundit came to Sircilla. Thinking it was a godsend remedy, Gopal rushed to the pundit’s home to ask him the question. Gopal kept at it and almost made the pundit’s ears fall out by constantly asking him the same question. Fed up of his persistent blather, the pundit decided to find a way to get rid of him. He concocted a story and told Gopal that if he meditated on a single leg for twenty-four hours beside the rivulet, while chanting Lord Vishnu’s name, he might be able to realize his wishes. Happy at finally having gotten rid of Gopal, the pundit rushed back home.

Nonetheless, Gopal was quite pleased at the fact that he would finally find a way to get to heaven alive. The very next day, Gopal went to the rivulet. Brimming with determination, he began his penance. Hours passed but he did not relent. Finally, at around midnight, he spotted a shiny orb of light in the sky. Slowly, from the orb descended a celestial white elephant. It was none other than Airavat, Indra’s personal chariot. As Gopal stepped away in awe, Airavat began its ascent to heaven. As he figured out what was happening, Gopal quickly grabbed Airavat’s tail. High up went Airavat, and high up went Gopal with it.

It was not long before Gopal stood in the heaven. At last, his wish had been granted. He was finally in heaven… alive!

Heaven was indeed quite beautiful. Mouth-watering food was exquisitely decorated on tables, breathtaking dancers swayed to heavenly tunes, and holy mist shrouded the area. Truly mesmerized, Gopal could not wait to tell his friends about his experience. A few hours later, Airavat descended onto earth again, and with it also came Gopal.

The following day, Gopal giddily shared his experience with his neighbors and friends. Now they too wanted to visit the heaven and witness those divine sights in person. Moved by their pleas, Gopal asked them to come by the rivulet in the evening. Everyone gathered as planned and started their penance.

Again, it was around midnight when the shiny orb appeared. Gopal signaled for everyone to stay quiet. As soon as Airavat began its ascent, Gopal grabbed its tail, the fruit seller grabbed Gopal’s legs, the toy-maker grabbed the fruit seller’s legs, and just like that, a long human chain had formed. All of them ascended together, albeit rather uncomfortably.

On their way to the heaven, everyone began dreaming about what they would do when they got up there. The fruit seller said that he would set up a big store and sell sweet fruits to the gods. The sweet shop owner said that he would sell sweets to the gods in an even bigger store. Gopal fiercely proclaimed that he would sell his handwoven sarees to the goddesses in a much larger store. Things were going quite well until an enthusiastic Gopal tried to demonstrate the size of his shop through a wave of his hands. And lo! Everyone came tumbling down the sky one after the other.

That is why our elders say that one must be mindful of their present before leaping toward their future.

…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 TheStoryCircus.