The Servant

While Brahma-Dutt was ruling Banaras, Bodhisatva was born a rich man. He married at the proper age and had a son over time. On the very day his son was born, Bodhisatva’s servant-woman also gave birth to a son named Katahak.

Both the boys grew up together. But one was a rich man’s son, while the other, Katahak, was the son of a servant. When the rich man’s son went to school, Katahak followed him carrying his slate and books. At school, Katahak learnt what all the rich boy was taught.

In the end, Katahak was recognised as a scholar and knowledgeable, yet he remained only a servant in charge of his master’s store and cash. He did not like his condition. He wanted a status that was in keeping with his learning. He thought of a plan to attain such a status.

A millionaire, a great friend of Bodhisatva, lived in Pratyant, some miles away from Banaras. Katahak forged a letter from Bodhisatva to this gentleman. “I am sending my son to you,” he wrote. “I have concluded that we should become related through the marriage of our children. I desire that you marry your daughter to my son and keep him with you. I shall be honoured to meet you as soon as I can find time to make the journey.”

To this letter, Katahak put the seal of his master. He took some money from his master’s treasury and journeyed to Pratyant. Then he went to the millionaire’s house and handed the forged letter to him. The millionaire was overjoyed at the offer made by his respected friend and married his daughter to Katahak at once.

Now Katahak was no longer a servant. He had numberless servants to attend to him. He had no end of suitable dresses, feasts and all conceivable luxuries. And yet he used to curse the people of Pratyant every day. “These people are so crude !” he would say in disgust. “They do not know how to dress or how to eat properly. I’ve never seen such stupidity anywhere!”

Meanwhile, Bodhisatva found Katahak missing. No one seemed to know what had happened to him. So he sent his men in all directions to find out the whereabouts of Katahak. One of them went to Pratyant and found Katahak living with the millionaire as his son-in-law and pretending to be the son of Bodhisatva.

He had heard these details. Bodhisatva was deeply hurt. He started for Pratyant to bring back Katahak. Katahak was very much afraid of the news that his master was arriving. His first idea was to run away, but he abandoned it since he had nothing to gain and everything to lose by running away. Confessing his crime and obtaining the pardon of his master was the only way left for him to get out of trouble.

Katahak did not suspect that Bodhisatva already knew all about him. He thought that it would be better if his master learnt the facts through him first.

He would confess everything and beg his pardon. Naturally, he would have to play the part of the servant; seeing this, others should not be surprised. So he told his servants in advance, “I’m not like other fellows. I respect my father immensely. I fan and serve him respectfully when he sits at the table.”

Next, Katahak told his father-in-law, “My father is coming. I want to receive him on the way.” Then he went forth and met Bodhisatva on the way. He fell at the feet of his master, confessed what all he did, and begged for mercy. Bodhisatva promised not to betray him, and both arrived at the millionaire’s house.

The millionaire was happy to see Bodhisatva. “According to your wish, sir,” he said, “I’ve given my daughter in marriage to your son.”

Bodhisatva pretended to be gratified. He talked to Katahak as to his son. Then he met Katahak’s wife alone and asked her, “Child, does my son make you happy?”

“He is quite nice in all respects,” the girl replied, “except that he disapproves of everything set for his meal. I’ve tried all sorts of dishes, but nothing seems to please him. I don’t know what to do about it.”

“Oh, yes,” Bodhisatva said to her,” he is that sort of boy. But I advise you to do one thing. When he criticises his food reminds him about Katahak, a fellow who is nobody in his place but is treated like a lord where he is not known. This Katahak indulges in abuse instead of enjoying what he gets.”

After Bodhisatva departed from Banaras, Katahak began to feel that his position was secure. Bodhisatva pardoned him, and he had no fear of anyone else. So Katahak began to swear and abuse worse than ever. Particularly at meals, he began to curse every dish. His wife remembered the advice of Bodhisatva and reminded her husband about Katahak. Of course, she never knew that Katahak was her husband since he assumed another name. But the effect on Katahak was magical. He became a lamb and never raised his voice again in criticism of this, that or the other.

Chandamama December 1955

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