Digital Dimdima

INDIAN FOLK TALES

Witness

A Thakur borrowed a large sum of money from a Bania and despite repeated reminders failed to repay it.
One day, the Bania went to the Thakur's house when he was entertaining guests and demanded the money. The Thakur, embarrassed, promised to come to his place the next day with the money.
But he had no intention of repaying the loan. Instead, he wanted to take revenge against the Bania for humiliating him in front of his guests. So one evening, he waylaid the man on a deserted stretch of road.
"No one can insult me and get away with it!" he said, drawing out his sword.
The Bania thought fast.
"I was expecting you would do something like this," he said. "I've left a letter with my wife. If I do not return home by nightfall, she will take the letter to the Rana. The letter details the business transaction between us and the steps I took to recover the money. It also expresses the fear that you might do me some harm."
The Thakur lowered his sword. He knew that the Bania could be bluffing but he did not want to take a chance. The Rana was known to be harsh on defaulters and murderers.
"I'll spare your worthless life," he said, finally,"but I'll chop off your nose. That'll teach you a lesson you'll never forget."
"If I write off your loan, will you forgive me?" asked the Bania.
"I might," said the Thakur, guardedly, "but you must give me a receipt to say I've paid you in full. I don't trust you."
"I'll make out a receipt right away," said the Bania, hastily opening his bundle of books."But we'll require a witness."
"No witness!" cried the Thakur. "Just give me a receipt to say that I've paid you in full."
"The receipt has no value unless there is a witness," said the Bania. "Why don't we make that old banyan tree a witness?"
The Thakur reasoned that there could be no harm in making a banyan tree a witness. It could not reveal the circumstances in which the receipt was made. So he agreed. They stood under the banyan tree, and the Bania wrote out the receipt and gave it to the other man. The Thakur pocketed it and went away, very pleased with himself.
But the very next day, he received a summons from the Rana. When he went to the Rana's palace he found the Bania there.
"Did you borrow money from this man?" asked the Rana.
"I did," said the Thakur.
"Why haven't you repaid it?"
"But I have," said the Thakur and triumphantly taking out the receipt from his pocket, handed it over to the Rana.
"So your witness was a banyan tree," said the Rana, looking at the receipt.
"Yes," said the Thakur, "there was nobody else there."
"So you admit accosting him in a deserted spot?"
"No, no," said the Thakur, panicking. "I...I... just happened to meet him there."
"Anyway this receipt is useless," said the Rana. "It does not carry this man's signature, only the witness's."
"What!" gasped the Thakur, taking the paper from the Rana's hand.He stared at it and turned pale. Instead of putting his signature at the bottom, the Bania had scribbled: "Banyan Tree".
Based on a Rajasthani folktale.

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