ancient commandment of the Hebrews "Love thy neighbour as thyself" is almost
literally practiced on many occasions in villages, towns and cities in
the East where neighbourly relations have existed for generations. Most
easterners are a fussy people and a wedding or a funeral is not deemed
to have been duly solemnized unless a large number of friends, relations,
neighbours and acquaintances participate in it. On such occasions kitchens
are run on almost a community scale and even a stranger asking for food
at any odd hour may not go unrewarded. Every parent advises their young
offspring to maintain good and intimate relations with the neighbours as
they share the responsibilities and the jubilations of occasions like marriage
celebrated on a mass scale and even grief and sorrow. Think of the requirements
of a kitchen catering to the needs of 500 people for four days. Besides
the consumable articles like fuel or edibles like flour, rice and oil one
needs lots of things: furniture, utensils and what not. While there is
no way out but to purchase the former, for the latter one can draw upon
the co-operative agency of the neighbours built with goodwill, patience
and sacrifice for generations, and the neighbour feels proud if his voluntary
offer of assistance in any shape is accepted.
A clever man
once hit upon a plan to defraud this "co-operative agency." He had some
wit about him and set to work boldly. He requested a few of his neighbours
to let him have the use of their brassware utensils. The neighbours lent
him a few of their utensils each. A couple of days later the utensils were
promptly returned. And whoever had lent him anything got a vessel, a brassware
cup, a tumbler or a dish besides by way of reward.
"What is this?"
asked the neighbours, pointing to the additional vessel.
it is what your utensils have begotten" he said humorously. In Kashmiri,
begotten is used in a metaphorical sense also and means profit or interest.
As the man seemed to be nonchalant and humorous the "interest" that he
paid was accepted with pleasure.
The plan was
given another trial with a different set of neighbours and it was established
that in the custody of this particular man it was profitable to lend the
use of utensils because they always "begot" something. After the interval
of a few months it became known that this good neighbour was again celebrating
some festivities but on a much larger scale. Before long the need for kitchen
pots and utensils arose and the neighbours were only too eager to lend
the use of what they owned. On the present occasion all sections of the
neighbourhood had to do their bit and the large number of kitchen pots
and utensils indicated a festivity on a colossal scale. The neighbours
were looking forward to the actual celebrations with great interest.
did not come off. The house which was the cynosure of all eyes was quiet
as usual. "What is the matter?" discussed the good neighbours. "Why are
the celebrations not coming off?" "Perhaps he is in financial troubles,"
said one. "He may be looking for a loan," said another. "Why, what are
we meant for if we don't inquire and render whatever assistance we are
capable of?" decided the third.
waited upon the gentleman. He was melancholy. "What bothers you, good neighbour,
that we may together not overcome?"
replied he, "my trouble affects you also but with all your goodwill you
cannot help me or help yourselves."
is this grave loss weighing upon your mind? Unburden your heart, for we
can see that you need some relief."
friends, my good neighbours, the kitchen pots and utensils borrowed by
me have all perished."
Why, this is a language we understand not. Please make yourself more intelligible."
perished. They died as any mortal would die."
"But that is
astonishing. Whoever has heard of a brassware vessel perishing!" said one.
"And I need
my pots, samovars and pans," said another in excitement.
"And I, platters,
bowls and dishes," said a third.
friends, it is useless; they are no more."
"How are we
to believe it?"
you believed in the past that your vessels begot others."
The party was
dumbfounded. This was a cool and calculated plan for which they had never
bargained. The fellow made a fortune and they had not the power to touch