In Sravasthi, there once lived a good-natured youth called Suputhra. After his father’s demise, he took great care of his widowed mother and spent all his time looking after and making her happy so that he had no time left to engage himself in paying work. The mother, who noticed this, said to him, “my son, you are the male member of the house. How can you waste your time attending to me day and night? Get married so that your wife will look after my comforts.”
To please his mother, the youth got married. His wife was handsome, and he loved her very much. But the wife noticed that her husband had a great love for his mother too.
“If he loves me so much while he loves his mother too,” she thought, “how much more his love to me would be if he stopped loving his mother!”
Then she set herself to dividing her husband and his mother. She began to complain to him against her mother-in-law.
“Your mother hates me,” she would tell her husband. “I have been keeping it from you not to cause you pain. She finds fault with me for everything. If I give her hot food, she complains that it is hot. If I give her cold food, it is cold, and she does not like it. While I massage her legs, she complains that the pressure is too much or too little. Whatever I try to do appears to be wrong to her.”
Suputhraka suspected that his mother was jealous.
“Mother,” he said to the old lady one day, “I am afraid you are unhappy in this house. Would you mind going somewhere else?”
The old lady understood all. “All right, son,” she replied. “I shall go!” She had relations in the same village. She went to them and began to work for them, ate what they gave her and had a miserable time.
Sometime after the departure of her mother-in-law, the daughter-in-law was with child and, after nine months, gave birth to a boy. “What can one think of my mother-in-law ?” she said to her neighbours. “I was not in the family way as long as my mother-in-law was with us. But as soon as she left, I gave birth to a fine boy!”
Some people believed the daughter-in-law. But some others went to the old lady and said, “See what your daughter-in-law says about you! She says she never had children while you were living in their house. It appears she got the son because you had left!”
The old lady was furious when she heard this. “Why,” she exclaimed, “there is no longer any Right in this world. Right is dead! Let me go and perform its obsequies.” She took some water, rice and jinjili and went to the burial ground, made a fire and began to cook the rice.
A hermit, who happened to pass by, saw the old lady and asked her, “Why, good mother? Who is dead?”
“Don’t you know, son?” the lady replied. “Right is dead! I cook rice to feed the crows!”
“Right is dead?” the hermit said, puzzled. “Who told you?”
“No one need tell me,” the lady replied. “Has not my daughter-in-law given birth to a fine babe after poisoning my son’s mind and driving me out? Is not Right dead?”
The hermit got the whole story out of her and said, “How dare your son, and his wife treat an old lady like this? Let me destroy them at once by the power of my penance!”
Immediately the old lady panicked, “Don’t, son, don’t,” she begged the hermit. “I don’t mind their treating me ill. My grandson will become a miserable orphan if they die, my precious little one!”
The hermit marvelled at the old lady’s love for her grandson, whom she had never seen.
In the meantime, news about the old lady spread throughout the village. Her son and daughter-in-law heard the news and ran to the burial ground.
“What are you doing here, mother?” Suputhraka said to her. “Come, let us go home!”
The daughter-in-law fell at the old lady’s feet and said, “I said several foolish things out of ignorance. Please pardon me.”
The old lady melted. She returned to her son’s place and soon forgot what had happened. She spent the rest of her days in the joy of her grandchild.