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Stories. 
Wisdom and Wealth
by Ramendra Kumar

In the land of 'Prithvi', not very long ago, there lived a king. His name was Eeshwar and he was very wise and kind. He had two daughters. The elder was Saraswati and the younger Laxmi or Lucky.

Lucky was really very lucky. She was very pretty in a flashy sort of way. She knew how to charm and was hence very popular. Her birthday was celebrated all over 'Prithvi' with pomp and pageantry. It was called the 'Festival of Lights'. The young and the old wore new clothes, decorated their houses with bright lights in glorious patterns and burst crackers throughout the night. Lucky enjoyed all the attention and adulation. Saraswati was sober, gentle and kind. She shunned the limelight and was always busy reading, writing, singing and painting. She love playing the 'Veena' and was very good at it. She was always overshadowed by her more glamorous sister. But she didn't really mind that. She was quite happy in her own little world of learning.

As the sisters grew older the differences between the two became even more striking. More and more people became enamored with Lucky's charms. She, however, was neither consistent nor logical in dispensing her favors. Many ardent followers who had served her for long were neglected by her. On the other hand some people who had rarely paid attention to her were rewarded in ample measure. Hard work, intelligence, learning and loyalty meant little to her. She was whimsical in her dealings. No one could say when she would abandon him mid way and suddenly switch her attention to some one else.

Saraswati was exactly the opposite. She never went out of her way to charm anyone. But any person who approached her with sincerity and devotion received her blessings. Dedication, faithfulness, sincerity and above all a thirst for knowledge were the qualities she prized. The people who displayed these virtues were the closest to her. And with them she shared her knowledge, learning and wisdom liberally. Her benedictions were also long lasting. They didn't vanish suddenly like the blessings of Lucky.

However, inspite of her many sterling qualities, Saraswati started getting completely overshadowed by her charming sister. The people of 'Prithvi' flocked in droves to Lucky to seek her blessings. The supporters of Saraswati started shrinking in numbers. Saraswati didn't really mind this too much. What she felt bad about was the shabby treatment being meted out to her followers.

The teachers, who at one time were treated with tremendous respect, were now marginalized. Now one cared about them anymore. The writers, the poets, the philosophers were also languishing. They were no longer considered the leaders or the opinion makers in the society. The leadership had been usurped by the followers of Lucky. The black marketeers, smugglers, swindlers and scamsters now occupied the highest positions in the society. They used their riches to whitewash all their sins. Once a man became prosperous no one bothered about his antecedents or the origins of his wealth. Money was important not how and why it came by. Soon Saraswati could take it no longer.

One night she quietly slipped away to a secluded island to the south of 'Prithvi'. Her most ardent supporters accompanied her. They settled down in the island which they named 'Swarag'. Without the interference of Lucky and her followers they could now concentrate on reading, writing and the pursuit of other arts. Soon 'Swarag' became a haven of learning and wisdom.

The condition of 'Prithvi', on the other hand, started rapidly deteriorating. There was neither music nor art, neither wisdom nor learning. There was only a blind, insane pursuit of wealth. In their greed for money the people of 'Prithvi' lost touch with all values and ideals. They started stealing, robbing, looting and even killing. 'Prithvi' soon became a jungle where the only law was - survival of the wealthiest. The rich became richer and the poor poorer. As the gap between the haves and the have nots increased 'Prithvi' started moving towards anarchy. To Eeshwar it was agonising to see his beloved 'Prithvi' disintegrating before his very eyes. Earlier he had tried talking to Lucky. But she seemed totally unconcerned.

"Papa isn't it great that people are willing to maim and kill each other for me? Doesn't it show how much they love me? How devoted they are to me?" And with these words she walked away to unleash her charm on a few more innocent persons. Eeshwar then tried persuading Saraswati to return. But she was adamant not to return to 'Prithvi' where her supporters had been treated so badly.

One day Eeshwar decided things had gone too far. He made up his mind to address his subjects for one last and final time. When the people of 'Prithvi' came to know that their beloved king wanted to talk to them they flocked to the Palace grounds. The young and the old, the rich and the poor assembled to hear their King speak.

"My beloved people, I am sure you know why I have called you here. I can't bear to see my 'Prithvi' being slowly destroyed. You know people have started calling it 'Narak' or Hell. And you are all responsible for this. You and your excessive devotion to Lucky. Her charms have driven you crazy. To win her favors you are now even willing to kill each other and ruin 'Prithvi'. And Saraswati, who deserved your respect far more, was forced to leave 'Prithvi'. She was neglected and her followers humiliated. Dear friends, Lucky can give you short term pleasure not long lasting happiness. Remember Lucky and her charms should only be the means not the end. Your end, your goal should be the blessings of Saraswati. You can never buy happiness with money. But with learning and wisdom you can find contentment. My advice to you is to go to Saraswati and plead with her to come back. Then and only then can 'Prithvi' survive. "

The people of Prithvi heard in silence. Then quietly they started moving towards 'Swarag'. They crowded in boats and ships and went to seek Saraswati's forgiveness. They cajoled, pleaded and begged. Finally Saraswati relented. She and her followers came back to 'Prithvi'. Eeshwar was delighted. Lucky sulked for a few days but finally she had to accept the inevitable. And what about people of Prithvi. This is what they did -

They courted Lucky with caution
They worshipped her sister with devotion,
Choosing wisdom over wealth
They found happiness and health,
And lived merrily with Saraswati's benediction.  

21-Nov-2004
 
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