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The Wisdom Shop | A Folktale from Gujarat

Updated: Aug 1, 2023

Raju lived in a small village, in the state of Gujarat. He was young boy, around 15-16 years old. Even though he was a teenager, his life was full of struggles. His relatives had abandoned him after his father’s death and now Raju had to survive on his own. His father used to be a merchant and had a small shop in the market where he sold grains of wheat which were supplied to him by other people. But none of the suppliers trusted Raju with the shop or their supplies and so, he could not earn a living with the only thing his father left behind. The shop was his but he had nothing to sell.

Raju thought about it, “I will sell something that I have in abundance.” Now you might think that what could a young teenager possibly have to sell? He decided to sell wisdom. He opened up a shop and called it “Wisdom Shop”. His neighbours and others in the village found it strange and made mocked him.

“Really? You will sell wisdom, Raju?” the villagers asked him, sarcasm and mockery lacing their words. “Usually people buy things that they can see, touch or feel. Who will by your wisdom?” Raju told them, “I will sell what I have.” In the same village lived another boy, Mohan. Mohan didn’t do anything. The only thing he did was, waste his time. He used his precious time to watch people as they fought, gossiped or even if they simply fell down.

One day while roaming around with his friends, Mohan’s eyes fell upon Raju’s wisdom shop. He noticed that this shop was new, something he hadn’t seen before, and if he had, he would have remembered. “What kind of a shop sells wisdom?” he wondered. He told his friends to wait and watch as he would go and make a fool of the owner, ironically. He entered Raju’s shop and asked him, “How can you sell wisdom? How much does a kilo of your wisdom cost? I would like to buy some.” Raju told him, “It is not on quantity, but on quality. I will give you wisdom based on the amount you offer”

“All right” said Mohan, “Here give me wisdom worth 2 cents.” Raju takes the money from Mohan and scribbles down something on a piece of paper. “If there is a commotion going on, on the street, do not stand around watching it because too much of curiosity is not a good thing.” Mohan is disappointed with the “wisdom” he received but goes back to his home. Mohan’s father, Kishenbhai, got very angry when he got to know that Mohan spent money to buy wisdom. “You fool” he roared, “Spending money over something trivial. If you want wisdom, ask for it from your father”

Laced with rage, Kishenbhai goes to Raju’s shop. “Give me back the money that you deceived out of my son.” He demanded. “Sure” Raju told him, “First return my goods then.” Kishenbhai became furious on hearing upon Raju’s impossible barter. “What goods?” he yelled. “The wisdom that you brought from me,” Raju replied.

Kishenbhai threw the piece of paper at Raju, “Here, take your wisdom.” But Raju was a proper businessman, he said, “This is just a piece of paper. What about the piece of wisdom that I had written on it? The wisdom that is already ingrained in you, what about that?” To say that Kishenbhai was furious before was an understatement. Now, he lost the little ounce of calmness he had. “What nonsense are you talking about? How can I return something intangible?”

“There is a way.” Raju tells him. Raju had a wisdom shop for a reason. The reason being that he had tons of it. He said, “You give it to me in writing that, next time when there is a commotion of any kind on the street, your son will definitely stand around to watch it.” Kishenbhai thought about it, slowly beginning to calm down. “That is a good deal” he said, “My son anyways likes to stand and watch other people’s life. I will give it to you in writing and you return the money.” They shook hands on it.

After a few days, two women visit the market place for shopping and roaming around from shop to shop. These two women happened to be the servants of different queens. The queens used to fight among themselves. “I am the favourite queen of the king,” one said. “No, I am the favorite queen of the king,” the other defended herself. Not only the queens, but their servants fought with each other too. “My queen is better than your queen.” “No, my queen is better than your queen.” The arguments would go on and on. Now, at the market, the two servants came to buy a pumpkin.

Unfortunately, on that day, there was only one pumpkin available in the shop. Both the servants reached the shop at the same time to buy it. A quarrel erupted between them. The shopkeeper offered to cut it in half and give a piece each to the servants. But they both wanted to impress their queens and take the one, big pumpkin home. One servant said, “How can the servant of the queen have only half? I want the entire pumpkin.” The other servant wanted the same and the argument escalated even more.

At that time, Mohan happened to pass by the market. He remembered the deal his father had made with Raju and abiding with that, Mohan stayed back to watch the fight. Soon the fight turned from verbal to physical. One servant started pulling the scarf, the other pulling a leg, while slaps were thrown here and there. Mohan’s timing was impeccable. He saw the fight from the start and was rooted in his spot since then. One servant noticed him and told him, “You will be my witness in front of the King.” But the other servant announced that Mohan will be her witness and testify how her leg was pulled. Something that had started with an argument about pumpkin, turned against Mohan, who was a mere spectator. Both servants took down Mohan’s address and arrived at the palace. They complained to their respective queens about the fight, who each in turn complained to the king.

The poor King was torn. He had no idea how he could possibly solve this dilemma. Just then, the servants and their queens told him that they had a witness. Someone who had seen everything from the very beginning to the very end. The king ordered them to present their witness in the court.

Meanwhile, Kishenbhai was struck with worry. “Who are you going to testify against? Regardless of which Queen you side with, the other will put you in jail.” The dilemma was serious, and Kishenbhai could only think of one solution. The only way they would get out of this is if they used wisdom and there so happened to be a wisdom shop in their village itself. Kishenbhai relayed the whole story to Raju. Raju told him not to worry because he had found a solution which would get Mohan out of this mess. He wrote an advice on a piece of paper and gave it to Kishenbhai.

Mohan appeared in front of the king. The queens and their respective servants were present too. The maids started quarreling about the fight in the court. “She is the one who started first.” “No she started first.” The king grew frustrated with them and announced once and for all, “The witness will be the only one to speak.” He turned towards Mohan and ordered him, “Tell us what exactly happened?” Now you might wonder what Mohan did? Well, he started speaking nonsense. The gibberish fell of his tongue but he was just following Raju’s advice. The advice written on the piece of paper was, “You should only speak nonsense in the court.” The king ordered him to speak clearly and asked him what language was he talking in, but Mohan continued his gibberish. The king couldn’t understand a single word and his anger took over. He said, “We will stop this proceeding right now.” He reprimanded both the queens and their servants, scolding them for bringing such cases into the court and wasting everyone’s time. Mohan came back home safely and Kishenbhai thanked Raju for his advice.

With that, Raju’s reputation in the village grew and grew and the “Wisdom Shop” became the most famous shop in the market.



Ulka Mayur


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