The Farmer and the Money-lender
Posted on: July 26, 2018.

This is the story of a poor farmer who borrows money from a wealthy money-lender—a game-of-the-fates tale in which both protagonist and antagonist take turns getting the better of each other. One of them finally triumphs, with irony lending an unpredictable end to this story…

A poor farmer, unable to support himself with the “fruits of his labour”, borrows money on loan from a money-lender, who then begins to mercilessly squeeze money from the poor farmer as interest on his loans, and makes him suffer miserably for it. While the poor farmer only gets poorer, the already rich money-lender keeps getting richer.

Finally, one day, when the poor farmer has given away his very last paisa in repaying his loans and has not even a handful of dirt left to give, he goes to the money-lender’s house and says, “You can’t squeeze water from a stone! I have not a nickel of money left to give you, so you might as well tell me the secret to getting rich!”

The money-lender succinctly replies, “Riches come from Ram. Ask him!”.

The farmer thanks the money-lender and immediately leaves in search of Ram, carrying with him only three girdle-cakes to last him on his journey.

First, the farmer meets a Brahman and offers him a girdle cake hoping that he would tell him where to find Ram, but the Brahman accepts the offering and walks away without uttering a word.

Next, the famer meets a Jogi or devotee and offers him a girdle cake, but the Jogi too reveals no information on the whereabouts of Ram.

Finally, the farmer comes upon an ageing mendicant sitting under a tree. Overcome by sympathy on seeing the plight of the homeless old man, the kind-hearted farmer offers him his last girdle-cake and rests beside him, eventually opening a dialogue.

“Where are you going?”, the mendicant asks the farmer.

“I have to find Ram, but it appears I have a long journey ahead of me!” replies the farmer. “But I suppose you wouldn’t know which way I must go, do you?”

The poor old man smiles at the farmer and replies, “You need go no farther, for I am Ram! Tell me the purpose of your quest.”

After listening the poor farmer’s story, Ram takes pity on him, gives him a shell conch, and also shows him how to blow the conch in a particular way. As a parting word of advice, Ram informs the farmer, “Remember only one thing! Whatever you wish for, you have only to blow the conch that way, and your wish will be fulfilled. But beware only that money-lender, for even magic is not proof against their wiles!”

The overjoyed farmer considers his misfortunes to have ended and returns home. Back in his village, the shrewd money-lender is quick to notice the famer’s high spirits and ponders thus, “What good fortune could have possibly befallen the stupid fellow to make him hold his head so jauntily?”

The cunning money-lender visits the farmer, congratulates him on his good luck, and pretending to have already known about the magic conch, cajoles the farmer into narrating his tale. The farmer, for all his simplicity, was not quite such a fool, reveals all yet deliberately withholds the secret of how to blow the conch. The villainous money-lender, nevertheless, connives to possess the magic conch by hook or crook and, at the very first opportune moment, steals it from the farmer.

But unable to make the conch work, even after trying as hard as he can, the enraged money-lender begins to blackmail the farmer revealing that he has stolen his conch but is willing to part with it and never disturb the farmer ever, if the latter is ready to wish that the money-lender receive double of whatever he, the farmer, wishes for.

The farmer claims that this becomes the money-lender’s old business again, and vehemently rejects the proposal, whereupon the wily moneylender forces the farmer to yield to the fact that money-lending business is at a stand-still, and that the farmer is having all his desires fulfilled, and why it shouldn’t bother him if he, the moneylender, is rich or poor. The farmer helplessly accepts, and the money-lender gains double of whatever the farmer wishes for. The poor farmer is overcome by remorse knowing that the moneylender is still twice richer.

Adding to the farmer’s misery, a very dry season cripples his farms with not a drop of rain, and all his crops begin to wither from insufficient water. The farmer blows his conch and wishes for a well of water, and lo! The farmer gets a well, but the money-lender gets two beautiful new wells! Seeing this, the farmer broods and broods, before one day, he finally hits upon a simple, yet brilliant idea.

He seizes the conch, blows it loudly, and wishes, “Oh, Ram! I wish to be blind of one eye!” In a twinkling, the farmer loses sight in one eye, but the money-lender turns blind in both eyes, and while trying to steer his way between the two new wells, the money-lender falls into one and drowns to death.

The story shows us that a poor farmer could once actually get the better of a money-lender—but only by losing one of his eyes!

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