Once upon a time there lived a king who was very proud of his intelligence. He believed there was no one in the kingdom who could cheat him and get away with it. He said it to his ministers one day. Everyone agreed except one. He kept quiet.
The king was surprised. “Why are you silent?” he asked. “Do you not believe that it is impossible to cheat me?”
“No, Sir, I do not,” said the minister. “It may be true of others but I know for certain that some goldsmiths always cheat their customers, even in our kingdom.”
“I do not believe it,” said the king. “I shall send for all the goldsmiths and talk to them myself.”
“Sir, surely you do not expect them to admit it, even if it is true?” cried the other ministers.
“Don’t worry, I know how to handle them,” said the king.
He sent for the goldsmiths in the kingdom the very next morning.
The goldsmiths, who arrived, were surprised and wondered what it was all about. “Why has he called all of us?” asked one of them. “Is there a royal wedding or coronation which has been fixed all of a sudden?”
“Perhaps the queens are tired of their old jewellery and want us to cast them in a different mould,” suggested another.
“No!” said a third. “The queens always send for us directly. This has something to do with His Majesty.”
“I think it is because he wants to send a special gift to some other kingdom and wants the jewels in a hurry,” said another.
“It is no use guessing,” said Madan, the youngest of them all. “I am sure His Majesty will tell us what it is all about.”
The king came into the room. “I have called you here to ask you a simple question and I want an honest answer,” he said. “If I were to give you some gold to make a thing, would it be possible for you to take away any of it without my knowing? Even if you are working under supervision the whole time?”
There was a stunned silence.
‘Well?” asked the king looking at them closely. “Speak up.” The goldsmiths looked at each other. “Yes, Your Majesty. It
would be possible if we wanted to do it,” they said together. “Really?” asked the king looking incredulous. “How much of
gold would you be able to take away?”
“I could take away a quarter of it,” said some jewellers.
“I could manage to take away half,” said some others.
“I could take the whole of it if I wanted to,” said Madan.
The king looked him up and down. “I don’t believe it but I would like to see you try,” he told Madan. “You will come to the palace every day. You will get into the clothes ,I provide. I shall give you the gold and you will make me an image of
Ganapati right under my
eyes. Whenever I go out of the room, my personal
guard will be in charge.
When you return home, you will leave everything
behind, get into your own clothes and leave the palace after you have been thoroughly searched. This will be your daily routine until the Ganapati is made.”
“Very well, Sir,” said Madan.
“Do you still think that you can manage it?” asked the king.
“I am sure I can,” said Madan.
“If you are really able to do as you say, you shall marry my daughter and have half my kingdom,” said the king. “If you fail, I shall banish you from my kingdom forever.”
“So be it, Sir,” said Madan cheerfully.
“Remember, you will be watched every single moment by me or my guards,” said the king.
“Don’t be crazy, Madan,” said the other goldsmiths. “You know you cannot do it! No one can, under such strict supervision.”
“I can do it,” he said confidently.
Madan came to the palace early the next morning. He got into the plain robe, took the gold and the set of instruments and started work. He was surrounded by the royal guards throughout the day. The king also sat there most of the time. Madan worked away carefully, melting, chiselling and hammering away. He did not mind the audience at all. After a day’s hard work he got into his own clothes after handing out everything to the king’s men and went back home.
On reaching home, however, he did something strange. Something that no one else knew anything about. He started making an indentical image of Ganapati with brass and worked away late into the night.
He did it every day. He worked at the gold Ganapati under strict supervision in the palace by day. And he worked at the brass Ganapati quietly by himself, occasionally helped by his sister, at night. Both were complete in a week’s time.
On the seventh evening, Madan held up the completed gold Ganapati for everyone to see.
“Is it complete?” asked the king eagerly.
“Not quite, Sir,” said Madan. “I have to keep it submerged in a pot of fresh curd the whole night and polish it the next morning. It is very important.”
“Really?” asked the king, amazed. “I have never heard of anyone polishing gold with curd.”
“It is my special technique,” said Madan. “Can I have a large pot of fresh curd, please?”
“Now that is a stupid thing to ask for,” said the royal guards frowning. “How can you get fresh curd at this time of the day? People usually set it at night and it is ready by dawn. Why on earth did you not tell us in the morning that you wanted curd? We could have set some for you.”
“I forgot,” said Madan. “Can you not buy some in the market?”
Just then they saw a young woman with a large pot on her head walking by the roadside. “What are you selling?” cried one of the royal guards.
“Fresh curd,” said the woman. “I came late this morning and could not sell any. So I am taking it back home.”
“Wait!” shouted the guard eagerly. “Bring it up here. We will buy it.”
“Thank goodness!” cried Madan. “I was getting so worried, wondering what I would do if you could not get me any curd.” The woman came up with the pot.
“I will have to see it first,” said Madan, “it may not be good enough.”
“I won’t let you see it unless you pay me,” said the woman. “As it is, it is unsold stuff. If you tamper with it, no one is going to buy it even at half price.”
“Don’t worry, we will buy it from you,” said Madan peeping into the pot. “Seems all right.” He brought the gold Ganapati and dropped it into the pot.
The king paid the curd-seller a gold coin. She was about to leave when Madan called her back. “I don’t like this curd,” he said. “It is far too watery and won’t give a proper polish to my work. Better take it back. I will polish the image with fresh curd in the morning.”
“And what am Ito do with this curd?” cried the woman angrily. “No one will buy it now!”
“Eat it, throw it, do what you like,” said Madan lifting the Ganapati from the pot, “but don’t dare to grumble. Remember, His Majesty has already paid you for it.”
The woman picked up the pot and went away muttering under her breath.
Madan polished the Ganapati in fresh curd the next morning and handed it to the king.
The king passed it to his gold expert. “Check and see how much gold he has managed to remove from this,” he said.
The expert examined it carefully. He frowned and examined it again. And again and again.
“What is it?” asked the king impatiently,
“Your Majesty, there is not a single atom of gold in this!”
“How can that be possible?” cried the king incredulously. “I gave him the gold myself and he made it in my presence. I have not allowed him to take a single thing from this room.”
“I don’t know how he managed it but this Ganapati is made of pure brass. There is no gold anywhere,” said the expert. “Amazing!” cried the king.
“I told you I could do it, didn’t I?” said Madan smiling.
Finally the king asked Madan how he had managed to fool them. “Are you sure you won’t punish me if I tell you?” asked Madan. “Word of honour, I shall not,” assured the king.
Madan told him the story.
The woman selling curd was none other than Madan’s sister who had come there just at that time. The brass Ganapati that Madan had made during the night was already hidden in the curd. When she brought it to the palace, Madan had simply dropped the gold Ganapati into the curd and taken out the brass one.
The king was taken aback and then burst out laughing, “Well, well! you are a smart lad! It was clever of you to have fooled us all like this. I never thought anyone could get the better of me. But you have proved me wrong.”
Madan was married to the king’s daughter as promised. He was also given half the kingdom. And once he became the king, Madan never tried any of his tricks again and came to be known as one of the best kings in the kingdom, keeping all his people happy.