The power of ninety nine

A tale from India

Long ago there lived two friends who spent most of their time with each other. However, when they got married, they could not be as close as before. Bhola, for that was the name of one of them, married a wealthy woman while his friend, Chinna, married a girl from a poor family. But by chance, they moved into houses in the same lane. While the two remained good friends, their lives couldn’t have been more different.

Even though Bhola and his wife were rich they were frugal in their spending, perhaps some would even say, they were miserly. They never invited their friends home, never visited their neighbours, and never celebrated festivals. Their home was dark, gloomy and silent. Chinna and his wife led a life quite different from the Bholas. They worked hard all day and the little money they made they spent it all on entertaining family and friends. Their house was always full of people. There was light, joy and laughter in their house.

“How come they are so happy with so little money? We have so much more and yet are alone and sad?” said Bhola’s wife to her husband.

“My dear, they are happy because they do not have a lot of money. They share their wealth because they do not know its value. Just watch what happens when they get my gift of ninety-nine rupees,” replied Bhola.

The next morning, Bhola stuffed a purse into the day’s newspaper that lay at Chinna’s doorstep and quickly ran home. Imagine Chinna’s surprise when he saw the purse with ninety-nine rupees in it. Who could have left it there for them? They wondered long and hard but found no answers. Finally, they accepted that the money was theirs; and perhaps, that was when their life began to change.

“Let’s throw a big party tonight,” suggested Chinna. “We will make chicken biryani and kheer for dinner!”

“No Chinna, that is not such a good idea. Why don’t we add a rupee more and open a bank account. This could be a good start for us to buy a bicycle that you always wanted,” replied his wife.

Hence, they opened an account in a nearby bank and watched with eagerness their money grow inchmeal. Soon they stopped inviting family and friends home. They spent their money with care; they rarely celebrated festivals now. Their home too now looked dark and gloomy.

“Do you now understand what money can do to a man?” asked Bhola of his wife. “Man does not possess money, it possesses him. It is a demon that can ruin his life!”


Published as part of a series titled ‘Folktales of the World (Retold) ’ in Deccan Herald, Student Edition, dt. February 1, 2013

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