Fate Has No Favourites

Gupta was a wealthy merchant, although most people said he was a money lender whose business made Gupta richer and the borrowers poor. One day when his conscience felt a little uneasy, Gupta decided to go on a pilgrimage.

When three of Gupta’s business friends heard of this, they were keen to accompany him. Not that they were pious, but because their friend Gupta usually made a profit on any undertaking. Gupta was pleased to have their company on the pilgrimage because they would have to share the expenses.

For the pilgrimage, they engaged a Harijan servant named Ram, who was quite a good cook and had accompanied people on expeditions.

So on an auspicious day, the friends set out on their journey. After several days on the road, they came to a famous town with a famous temple, and they spent the day at worship. The following day, they had to go through a large forest, so they set out very early in the morning.

Noon found them in the thick of the forest, and as the day was scorching and humid, they were glad to reach a dark pool where they ate their food and rested. And it was not till late in the afternoon that the foot-weary travellers summoned enough energy to be on their way.

They were still in the forest at dusk, but now ominous black clouds filled the sky, and vivid flashes of lightning lit the horizon. Before they had gone much further, the storm was upon them, and the rain came down in torrents to the ongoing crash of thunder.

Luckily they came across a ruined old temple, where they took shelter. The storm got worse as they sat huddled in the gloomy ruins; the wind howled through the trees, and the continuous lightning and thunder scared them all. One of the friends, shivering with fright, said there must be a sinner in their midst to have incurred the wrath of the gods, and the sinner must be the servant Ram. The other friends readily agreed that a Harijan daring to enter a temple was the cause of such a storm. So they ordered poor Ram to leave immediately.

Ram, his teeth chattering with fright, pleaded to be allowed to stay. But his pleas were in vain, and they forced him out into the night.

Ram spent the night huddled and shivering under a vast tree, which at least gave him some protection from the rain. The storm got worse; the wind howled; trees were uprooted, and the thunder sounded like the world’s end was nigh.

When dawn came, Ram was surprised to be still alive. All around were uprooted trees, and the temple was just a gigantic heap of rubble. For it had collapsed during the storm, burying in its debris the four merchants.

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