The Troublesome Head
In ancient Bundlekand, a nobleman named Diwan Sahib lived who considered it beneath his dignity to do a stroke of work. Naturally, he liked to live well and enjoy all the good things in life. But as his wealth was not unlimited, he resorted to devious ways of making other people pay for his keep.
One evening Diwan Sahib stopped the village money lender and, pointing up the road, said, “You see that elephant coming towards us? My father had a bigger one, which he rode in the state during the Dussehra festivities.”
The money lender was not at all impressed. “Your eyesight must be failing. That is merely a bullock cart, you can see.”
“What will you bet?” demanded the Diwan Sahib. “I say it is an elephant and not a bullock cart.”
“Alright, your Honour, it is an elephant,” declared the money lender, anxious to get rid of this troublesome bore.
But the Diwan Sahib was not going to be put off so quickly. “We will settle this wager right now. If I am wrong, you shall have my head. But if I am right, I shall have your head!”
The money lender realised it was hopeless to argue, so he turned to the Diwan Sahib when the bullock cart came close. “Now you can see that it is a bullock cart, so goodnight to you.”
As he tried to hasten away, the Diwan Sahib caught him by the arm and, drawing his sword commanded, “Sir, you must now cut off my head.”
The money lender’s jaw fell in astonishment. “Be reasonable; why should I cut off your head?”
With this, he tried to escape, but Diwan Sahib held him firmly, shouting. “Do not you know that men of my noble descent never break their word. So you have to cut off my head.”
By now, a crowd had gathered, and the two men were taken before the local magistrate, who, having heard each man’s story, gave his judgement. “By the wager, the Diwan Sahib’s head belongs to the money lender. But Diwan Sahib cannot insist on his head being cut off immediately. The money lender can do so whenever he pleases.”
“Then at least,” demanded the Diwan Sahib, “Let the upkeep of my head be the responsibility of the money lender who owns it.”
To the unfortunate money lender, the upkeep of Diwan Sahib’s head became a most expensive affair. Such were the extravagant demands for the finest foods the money lender could see that his money was fast dwindling. But how to get rid of this costly menace? Then one day, an old friend gave the money lender some good advice.
A man was heard shouting the next day outside the lender’s house. The money sounded like he was crying, “I buy ears and noses.”
The money lender, followed by Diwan Sahib, rushed outside and asked the man what he was shouting. “Gentlemen,” they replied “, I buy men’s noses and ears” man.
“What price do you give?” asked the money lender.
“That depends on the rank of the person to whom they belong”, man
Pointing to Diwan Sahib, the money lender asked, “Here is a gentleman of noble birth. His head belongs to me. So what will you give me for his nose and ears?”
“Five hundred and five rupees promptly said the man. “It is a bargain,” exclaimed the money lender. “Where is your knife”.
As the man took out a big sharp knife, Diwan Sahib, shivering with fright, yelled. “It is an outrage! Call the guard. I am being murdered.”
Finally, the two men were again haunted before the magistrate, who found it difficult to hide his smile when he heard the story. Looking solemnly at the Diwan Sahib, he pronounced, As the money lender owns your head, he has the right to sell your nose and ears. But if you object, you must repay the money lender the cost of the upkeep of your head plus an equitable interest.”
The Diwan Sahib had no alternative but to sell everything he possessed to repay the money lender. He was now a poor man and was glad to seek work to live.