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Stories. 
From Rat To Riches
by Ramendra Kumar

Once there lived a twelve year old boy called Hari in the town of Dharmapuram. He had lost his father when he was still a toddler. He lived with his mother who stitched clothes for a living. One day his mother died leaving him an orphan. For a few days he managed on whatever was left in the house. But soon he did not have anything to eat. He decided to go out and earn a living.

He was wandering on the roads of Dharmapuram when he heard someone shouting. He looked around. A tall well built man of around forty years of age was standing in front of a large shop. In front of him a young man was standing with his head bowed.

"You lazy fellow. There is no hope for you. I had asked you to go to take two bundles of cloth and deliver them in the house of Vinayak Raoji positively by eight this morning. He had to leave for his daughter's village by 9. And what did you do? You slept till nine and reached Vinayak Raoji's residence at ten. By then he had purchased the cloth from someone else and left. We lost a good customer forever."

"I am sorry sir, please forgive me. Give me one more chance."

"I have already given you enough chances. You are a useless fellow. My shop is for youngsters who are sincere, hardworking and intelligent. Can you see that dead rat there?" The man pointed to a rat lying on the pavement.

"You know an intelligent man with enterprise and initiative can turn even this dead rat into one made of gold!" The man said and walked into his shop.

Hari looked at the signboard: Narayan Murthy Cloth Store! 'So this man must be Narayan Murthy', Hari thought to himself. He had heard of him. He was one of the richest men in town. Hari looked at the dead rat. Narayan Murthy's words had impressed him deeply. He picked up a banana leaf lying nearby and walking towards the rat picked it up and placed it on the leaf.

He roamed the streets looking for someone who would be interested in a dead rat. After roaming for more than an hour he finally came across a middle-aged woman who was sitting in front of her house dozing. In her lap was a black cat.

" Would you like to buy a rat for your pet cat?"

The woman looked at him and then at the rat in his hand .

"But I can only give you a two bowls of chana (gram) for it."

"Okay." Hari said and taking the gram went home. A plan had already formed in his mind.

He soaked the gram in water. Next morning he added some salt and pepper to it. He then filled an earthen pot with water and taking it and the gram he proceeded towards the outskirts of the town where there was a forest. In the forest many woodcutters were always at work chopping wood. A path leading from the forest to the town was used by the wood cutters. Hari went and settled under the shade of a huge peepal tree near the path. On their way back to the town when the woodcutters passed him Hari offered them cool drinking water for their parched lips and spicy gram for their
hungry stomachs. Some of them drank the water, ate the gram, blessed him and also gave him a few pieces of wood.

By the end of the day he had collected a reasonable amount of wood. He sold this wood in the market and with the money brought two kg of gram. He ate a little bit he ate and the rest he kept for the woodcutters the next day. Now he had enough gram to offer to all the woodcutters. They once again gave him wood which he sold and bought some more gram. On the way back he found a young boy selling guavas at a very cheap rate. He bought all of them. Now he was offering spicy gram along with delicious guavas.

Whatever little time Hari had, he used in scouting the city and trying to find ways to satisfy his customers better.

One day he came to know of an old lady widow whose name was Rangamma. She was a widow, who was a very good cook. Hari went to her. "Amma, can you cook sweets and snacks for me? I will get you all the things you need and will pay you suitably."
"Why not son? I have no one to look after me. If you can take care of my meagre needs I will take care of your requirements."

Soon Hari had opened a small eating outlet at the edge of the town. It sold mouth watering sweets and delicious snacks made by Rangamma. This became a favourite haunt of not only the woodcutters but also the workers in the nearby stone quarry and many others.

One day Rangamma told Hari, "Son why don't we start supplying idli, dosa, uttapam and other delicacies? "

"But Amma can you make them? And that too for a large number of people. Cooking for a small family is one thing but cooking to serve numerous customers is another."

"Son, my father was a professional cook who used to be invited to cook in marriages. He was famous not only in this town but also in the neighboring ones. Since the age of thirteen I have been helping him. My husband too was in the same business so I have enough experience."

"Hari was delighted. With whatever money he had saved he bought all the things he needed and set up a small hotel. He called it Atithi Vihar. From day one it was a big hit. Rangamma's idlis, dosas and uttapam's became the talk of the town.

Now Hari started working harder. He had a small group of workers whom he had hand-picked. They were loyal, hardworking and sincere like him. Once Atithi Vihar became popular he opned a branch in a different part of the town. By the time Hari was 21 he was the owner of three hotels in Dhramapuram and one more in the neighbouring town of Bhimapuram.

One day Hari went to the best jeweler in town and said, "I want you to make me a rat made up of gold." The jeweler looked at him as if he was mad but did not say anything.

A month later Hari took the rat, placed it in a cage and went straight to Naryan Murthy's shop.

Narayan Murthy was sitting in his usual place behind the counter. Hari went to and him respectfully touched his feet.

"Who are you son?" "I am Hari. I live in this town. I have brought this for you," Hari said and placed the cage with the golden rat inside, on the counter.

Narayan Murthy stared at him, puzzled. "But son I don't know you and what is this?"

"Sir, this is my gurudakshina."

"Gurudakshina. I don't understand."

"Sir, exactly nine years ago I was passing by your shop. You were shouting at one of your workers. You had then said, I remember your exact words, "You know a man with enterprise and initiative can turn even this dead rat into one made of gold!" I was then only twelve years old and very poor. I was alone in the world. Your words made a deep impact on me. I picked up the dead rat and........" Hari told Narayan Murthy the story of his struggle.

"Your words changed my life. Ever since I have regarded you as my Guru. Hence I request you to accept my Gurudakshina," Hari said with folded hands.

Narayan Murthy got up and embraced Hari.

"Son, I am really proud that a young man as dynamic, sincere and committed as you considers me your guru. I have been trying to impart good values to many people. Most have heard my words and then forgotten about them. Hari, you are the only one who has taken to heart my advice and acted on it." As Hari got up to leave, Narayan Murthy said. "Son you have given such a good gift. Now I would like to give you something very dear to me and worthy of you. Come with me."

Narayan Murthy took him home. While they were sitting and talking a young and beautiful girl came in carrying a tray of fruits.

After she left Narayan Murthy said, "Hari, she is Mohini, my only daughter. I feel she cannot get a better husband then you. Will you accept her hand in marriage."

Hari, who had never seen a more beautiful girl in his entire life, nodded. Hari and Mohini were married at a grand function held in the town. And needless to add, they lived happily ever after.  

24-Nov-2002
 
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