One evening, an old man was passing through a village. From the interior of a small house, he heard a sweet, melodious voice singing. He stood outside on the road till the song ended. Then he went near the house and looked inside. The singer was a small girl. He patted her affectionately and gave her a gold mohur.

The girl’s father, Mohan, who was standing nearby, was delighted at the unexpected present. He snatched the gold mohur from his daughter’s hand. As soon as the old man turned to leave, Mohan shouted, “Wait, what about the rest of my dues?”

A Verbal Trade [By Manoj Das]
A Verbal Trade [By Manoj Das]

The old man looked at Mohan with great surprise. Mohan continued, “You see, old man, the price for enjoying my daughter’s song is not just one gold mohur but ten. Give me the rest. The sooner the better.”

It did not take the old man long to realise that Mohan was a rogue. But he feigned innocence and said, “Great father of the little musician! I am sorry to inform you that I have no more mohurs at the moment. What should I do?”

“You can give me your cap, your gold chain and your shoes!” replied Mohan.

“Certainly, your head which is so full of cleverness, deserves a cap and your neck, which supports such a blessed head, deserves a chain. But my friend, these are old and do not have much value. Why don’t you accompany me to my house? I will gladly give you one hundred fresh gold mohurs. The one I gave you has lost its lustre. You can return that if you decide to come with me.”

“One hundred gold mohurs! You are really a good man! How far is your house? Of course, I am ready to walk a thousand miles for a hundred gold mohurs!” said Mohan gleefully.

“That will be unnecessary. You have to walk only three miles,” replied the old man.

Mohan returned the mohur he had received from the old man. Then he followed the stranger to obtain the promised hundred mohurs.

As they walked, Mohan exulted — it seemed as though he would burst with joy. “Do you know what I will do with the hundred gold mohurs?” he asked.

“No,” replied the old man.

“I will build a castle which will surpass the King’s palace in grandeur.”

“Oh, I see!”

“And I will ask the King for his daughter’s hand in marriage.”

“But you are already married, and you already have a daughter!”

“So what? I will marry again, and this time none less than a princess!”

“Aha, I see!”

Soon they entered the town and arrived in front of the King’s palace. Seeing the old man proceed towards the palace gate, Mohan asked, “Why are you going that way?”

“That is my house!” said the old man.
Mohan looked at the old man very carefully. He suddenly recognised him. He was the King. Mohan had failed to identify him before as the King said politely, “Now you great father of the little musician, you can go. Your daughter’s song gave me joy. My verbal promise gave you joy. Is that not a fair exchange? To continue, my joy was followed by disappointment when you showed your greed. Naturally, to make this deal still more just, I saw to it that your joy too was followed by disappointment. Now get out!”

Mohan returned to his village bemoaning the one mohur he had gained and which he had then lost.

From Stories of Light and Delight; By Manoj Das; Illustrations by Mario; Published by National Book Trust, India.

606 words | 6 minutes
Readability: Grade 4 (9-10 year old children)
Based on Flesch–Kincaid readability scores

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Tags: #musicians