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Hidden treasure

(This is only a feeble translation of a story by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore. The objective is merely to exhort readers to read the original story, or a better translation. Mrityunjoy has inherited a treasure map from his father; the father had inherited the map from his father. Mrityunjoy's father and grandfather died in poverty while trying unsuccessfully to trace the treasure during their lifetimes. Mrityunjoy is determined to succeed. In order to reach the treasure, Mrityunjoy has to decipher the meaning of a verse, the meaning that had eluded his father and grandfather. In an eureka moment, the meaning comes to him in a flash, and Mrityunjoy discovers the treasure! But, Mrityunjoy finally realizes that the golden sunlight, the open sky, freedom, and all other natural gifts bestowed upon man are far more precious than all the gold in the world!)

It was dark moonless night. Mrityunjoy was offering worship to the family deity. When he finally rose after completing the worship, a crow cawed from the nearby mango trees signaling the break of dawn.

Mrityunjoy, for one last time, touched his forehead to the ground in reverence, and then moved the seat of the idol. Underneath the seat was a small wooden box. Mrityunjoy opened it by turning the key and immediately slapped his forehead in disbelief.

Mrityunjoy's garden is walled in on all sides. At one corner of the garden, under the shadows of huge trees, is this small temple. Apart from the idol, there is nothing else in the temple; there is only one entrance to the temple. For a long time, Mrityunjoy sat shaking the box this way and the other. The box had a lock, and no one had broken it. He went round and round the idol, groping here and there and searching for something - but he could not find what he was looking for. He flung open the door of the temple - the first rays of sunlight had by then made their presence felt - and began pacing around the temple like a mad man.

When the morning sun finally illuminated the surroundings, Mrityunjoy went to the courtyard facing the temple and sat there in deep thought with his hands pressed to his head. After a sleepless night his tired body cried for some rest, and he fell into a trance. He was suddenly awakened from it by a loud call, "Greetings, my son."

Mrityunjoy saw before him a hermit with a flowing beard. He touched the hermit's feet in deep respect. The recluse blessed him and said, "Son, you are grieving un-necessarily."

Mrityunjoy was surprised on hearing this, and replied, "You are truly all-knowing, or how else could you have known that I was in sorrow. I have not revealed my sorrows to anybody!"

The recluse said, "Son, I tell you that you must feel happy over what you have lost; don't grieve."

Mrityunjoy clutched the hermit's feet and said, "You know everything - you know what I have lost, and you can also tell me how I can recover it. I will not let go of your feet unless you tell me."

"If I wished you ill, I would have told you what you want to know. But do not grieve over what God has taken away from you for your own good," the hermit told him.

All through the day, Mrityunjoy served the hermit to earn his goodwill. The next morning when he came with a bowl of milk for the ascetic, he found that the hermit had gone away.

When Mrityunjoy was only a child, his grandfather, Harihar, had one day been relaxing in the same courtyard. An ascetic had come and stood before Harihar, and called out "Greetings, my son" exactly in the same way in which the hermit had called out to Mrityunjoy. Harihar had invited the ascetic to stay in his house for a few days, served him well, and pleased him with his service.

At the time of departure, the hermit asked Harihar, "Son, what do you want?" Harihar said, "If you are satisfied with my service, please listen to my woes. Once upon a time, we were a prosperous family in this village. But my grandfather married one of his daughters to a person from far away. That branch of the family, by cheating us, has become very rich while our condition has deteriorated. We cannot bear their arrogance any longer. Bless us and tell us how we can regain our past glory."

The hermit smiled and replied, "Son, be happy as you are. I do not see any good resulting from your wishing to become rich."

But Harihar persisted in his request. The hermit drew out from his bundle an old piece of paper that was rolled like a horoscope; he laid it open on the table. Harihar saw various signs and symbols sketched on the paper, and at the bottom was a rhyme in Bengali which began thus:

Paaye dhore sadha

Ra nahi dey radha

Sheshe dilo ra

Pagol chaaro pa

Tetul-boter kole

Dokkhine jao chole

Ishankone ishani

Kohe dilam nishani.

Harihar could make nothing of the rhyme. The verse held no apparent meaning. It mentioned about "Radha" who did not wish to forego the "ra" but the "ra" could go and attach itself at the end; it appealed to a pagol(mad person) to let go of the pa(feet); there was mention of tamarind and banyan trees; the rhyme advised the treasure hunter to go southwards, and seek the treasure in the north-eastern corner.

"I can make nothing of it," Harihar told the hermit. The hermit replied, "Keep the paper with you and offer worship to the Goddess. The meaning of the rhyme will become clear to someone from your family because of her blessings. When that happens, the family will be bestowed with riches beyond imagination."

Harihar pleaded with the hermit to explain the meaning of the rhyme, but the latter said the meaning would become clear only through worship of the Goddess.

Harihar's younger brother, Shankar, arrived there just then and Harihar made haste to conceal the paper. The hermit smiled at the action and said, "The grief in the path of attaining riches has already begun. But there is no need to conceal the paper because only one person will finally be able to understand its meaning; no one else, will be able to decipher the meaning however hard they try. It cannot be foreseen as to who from your family will be able to uncover the meaning. So, you can, without any fear, show the paper to everyone."

The ascetic went away. But Harihar, despite the hermit's advice, could not overcome his urge not to keep the paper hidden. The thought that someone else, his brother Shankar for instance, could gain from it, troubled Harihar and he kept the paper in a small wooden box and hid the box under the seat of the idol in the family temple. Every new-moon night, Harihar offered worship to the Goddess; after the worship he would take out the paper in the hope that the meaning of the rhyme would be revealed to him.

Shankar had started pestering Harihar to show him the paper. But Harihar claimed he had burnt it. "The hermit was a pretender. He wrote some nonsense in the paper to cheat me - I have burnt it." Shankar did not say anything in reply. One day, however, Shankar disappeared from home and was never seen again.

The thought of the treasure continued to haunt him to such an extent that Harihar began neglecting his work. When he neared his death, Harihar gave the paper to his eldest son, Shaymapad. Upon getting the paper, Shyamapad gave up his job and spent his days in the worship of the Goddess, and in trying to decipher the meaning of the rhyme. Mritunjoy was Shyamapad's eldest son, and inherited the paper from his father. As his financial condition deteriorated, Mrityunjoy became more and more obsessed with the paper. Under such circumstances, the paper unexpectedly disappeared and the hermit, who came that day, had also vanished. Mrityunjoy was certain that the hermit held all the answers to the riddle, and he decided to leave home in search of the ascetic. One year has passed by and Mrityunjoy has spent his days travelling in search of the hermit.

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