In a particular village, there was a gardener named Papa. He was an expert in growing prize-quality vegetables. He had only a tiny plot of land but made the best use of it. He would prepare the beds and manure and grow first-rate vegetables which would fetch a reasonable price. With this money, he lived a contented life. He loved his vegetables so much that he would give each of his favourites a pet name.
In the same village, there was another gardener called Gowra. His plot was much bigger than that of Papa. He was very ambitious to earn lots of money, but he never had the knack, nor the patience, to grow good vegetables. Papa’s vegetables always fetched more money.
“Look at that, Papa,” friends would sneer at Gowra. “He is not educated like you. Yet he beats you in growing vegetables.”
One year, Papa grew pumpkins of extraordinary size. No one had ever seen pumpkins that big. Seeing them, Papa was beside himself with joy. He named them “Mammoth,” “Gold Vessel,” “Big Sister,” “Lakshmi”, and so forth. There were forty giant pumpkins in his plot.
On the eve of the fair day, Papa went to his plot and marked the giant pumpkins. Then he went home intending to come with his cart early next morning and take them away to the fair and sell them. That night he slept uneasily. To him, selling these pumpkins at the fair was like sending his daughters to their husbands.
Early the following day, Papa got up from his bed, got his cart ready and went to his plot. His heart jumped when he went amidst the pumpkin creepers and looked for his favourites, for someone had already taken them away! Papa felt that he was going mad. He cursed the thieves.
Suddenly he had an idea. He could trace his pumpkins, after all! There were forty of those giant pumpkins, and all of them would not disappear so quickly. There was only one place, the fair, where they could have gone.
Papa got into his cart and drove to the fair. Then he began to look into all the vegetable stalls. And, sure enough, he found all his pumpkins in a heap in one of the stalls. Papa went up to the stall owner and shouted, “You thief! Are you not ashamed of stealing my pumpkins and putting them up for sale publicly?”
The owner of the stall was taken aback by this outburst by Papa. “I never stole any pumpkins!” he protested. “Gowra of your village has just sold them to me for ten rupees.”
The people hanging around told Papa that Gowra had not gone yet. While they went to fetch Gowra, Papa went to the officer in charge of the fair and complained that Gowra stole his pumpkins and sold them for ten rupees.
The officer followed Papa to the stall, where Gowra was also brought.
“How can you prove that these pumpkins are yours?” the officer asked Papa.
“Don’t I know them?” Papa shouted. “Didn’t I grow them? Here is Mammoth; here is Lakshmi!” He began to name each one of the pumpkins.
The people who gathered there laughed at Papa’s simplicity. The officer, too, joined the laughter. “I am convinced that you can identify the pumpkins,” he said to Papa. “But how do you prove that they are yours?” Papa was at a loss to answer that question.
The officer turned to Gowra and said, “Papa is accusing you of stealing his pumpkins. What have you to say to that?”
“Oh, everyone knows that he is a simpleton,” Gowra replied. “I always keep an account of the vegetables I grow. If your honour wants to see my account book, I can go and get it.”
On hearing this, Papa came out of his gloom. “Sir,” he said to the officer, “I, too, have my account book, which will show you that these pumpkins are truly mine. May I go and get it?” Gowra laughed loudly when he heard these words.
The officer sent his men along with both the gardeners so that they could bring back evidence to prove their claims. After a time, they returned. Gowra carried his account book while Papa brought a bundle.
Gowra’s book contained an entree of forty pumpkins which came out of his plot and were taken to the fair that very day.
“What about you?” the officer asked Papa.
“Here it is!” Papa said as he undid the bundle, exhibiting forty stalks. He took each one of the stalks and showed that it fitted one of the pumpkins. All the stalks held all the pumpkins without a single mistake.
Gowra’s guilt was proven and established. He was made to pay the price of the pumpkins to Papa on the spot. Since then, Gowra has been called a “pumpkin thief.”