The wealthiest man in Haldipur was digging a hole in the mustard fields that surrounded the village. He dug quickly and he dug furiously. The ravines surrounding the village had recently been occupied by dangerous bandits and rich men like him were their prime target. Word of his wealth was a major source of gossip in the village and the wealthiest man knew that if ever the bandits attacked Haldipur, his mansion would be the first place they would stop. He had worked hard his whole life to build up his wealth, and he did not want it to fall in the hands of those who looted for a living.
The mustard fields were a lonely and desolate place to be in during the late hours of the night. Not a sound could be heard for miles around the area except for the thud of the shovel hitting the earth removing mounds of dirt out of their resting place. Even the wind was silent on this night and the only light came from the crescent moon whose dim glow had to travel miles to reach this bleak spot. Normally such a still silence would be a source of fear for many men, but not for the wealthiest man. He did not fear the quiet night. He only feared the intruders who were bent on disturbing its peace.
From time to time the wealthiest man would steal a glance at the four giant bags of gold by his feet. This was the riches that he had accumulated through many years of hard work and harder parsimony. There were times when he had gone to bed hungry, there were times when he had worn torn clothes, and there were times when he had walked long distances on foot, but he had not spent a rupee more than he had needed to, and he worked harder to replenish that which he had spent.
The wealthiest man perspired heavily as he removed mounds of earth and dug a hole large enough to store the bags that were his beloved treasure. He was exhausted from his labours and he was tired. His hands ached and his feet yearned for some rest. His back groaned under the stress and his eyes longed for some sleep. Yet, he could not stop. He had to keep going.
Finally, the wealthiest man had dug a hole large enough to store his four bags. He put his shovel down and sat for a little while, exhausted from his efforts. Then he got up again and gently lowered each of the bags in the large hole. Tears fell from his eyes as he said a quiet goodbye to the treasure that had defined his life. He hoped he would see his precious gold again, but he did not know when and if that day would come. After all the four bags had been put in the pit, he said a quick prayer. Then he resumed work on the dirt and the sand yet again, this time to cover the hole.
The next day the bandits attacked. As expected by the wealthiest man, they targeted his house first. But they found nothing there. Not used to facing such disappointments, they killed him in a fit of rage. They then proceeded to ravage the village trying to get their hands on whatever wealth they could find. But the villagers fought back. A long hard battle ensued. The skirmishes went on for many days and many nights. But finally the villagers emerged victorious. The bandits fled, barely saving their lives. They not only fled the village, but they vacated the ravines as well. Peace finally returned to Haldipur.
But the damage had been done. The village was in ruins. There was nothing left. The mustard crops had been destroyed and the villagers had lost much of their tools and their livestock in the battle with the bandits. There was despondency all around and an uncertain future stared them in the face. Those who still had the means to travel made up their minds to leave the village and start a new life somewhere else. But there were others who were too poor even to travel and had no option but to continue their life in Haldipur.
One day the poorest man in the village made his way to the mustard fields in the hope that he might be able to plant some crops and start farming again. He walked long and hard in the fierce mid-day sun, looking for a patch of land which might be suitable for planting seeds. He finally found one such place. He looked up at the sky, said a silent prayer, lifted his shovel and dug it into the ground. Little by little he set about cultivating the soil making it presentable to receive the seeds that he had purchased with what little money he had.
As he dug the soil, his shovel suddenly hit something hard. The poorest man was surprised. At first he thought the heat was playing tricks with his mind. But as he put the shovel in the ground again, it hit something harder and this time a hard clanky sound reached his ears. Now the curiosity of the poorest man was piqued. There was something beneath this soil and he had to find out what it was. He began digging harder and harder. Sweat perspired furiously from his brow, his hands ached as they repeatedly lifted the shovel and brought it down on the hard ground, his throat was parched with thirst, and his legs longed to rest for a while. But the poorest man continued digging.
The hidden bags of gold slowly came into view as the poorest man worked hard to separate the soil. Finally, throwing his shovel aside, he knelt down and lifted the bags one by one. The bags were made of expensive cloth and the poorest man suspected that he had stumbled upon some hidden treasure. Upon opening the bags, his suspicions were confirmed. Bright shiny coins of gold greeted his eyes. They radiated magnificently as the fierce light of the afternoon sun fell upon this patch of land.
Upon seeing this huge treasure the poorest man’s knees gave way in shock and he sat down dumbfounded. His mind went blank for a while, unable to form cogent sentences to describe the enormity of what the eyes had just seen. For a while he just stared blankly in the distance before bringing his eyes down to look at the treasure again. Gold coins; lots and lots of them; four bagfuls of them; enough to feed the village for days and months and years; enough for everyone to live happily ever after; enough to rebuild the ruins of Haldipur and keep it preserved for a lifetime.
Once his mind and his heart had realised the scale of what he had just discovered, the poorest man began to wonder where this gold could possibly have come from. Haldipur did not receive enough visitors from the outside world to leave a treasure as big as this in its backyard. And surely none of the bandits would have been foolish enough to leave it here, even if they were in a rush to run from the village. No, there had to be some other explanation. It had to be the personal property of one of the villagers. Since it was lying here unclaimed, it had to be one of the dead ones.
Then the poorest man began thinking of the fate of the wealthiest man; the man who had paid with his life for not having any gold in his house. Yes, that was it. This was the gold of the wealthiest man. This was where he had buried it because he did not want the bandits getting their hands on it. Unfortunate soul thought the poorest man. How mysterious were the ways of this world? The poorest man had lived because he had nothing while the wealthiest man had died because he had nothing.
The poorest man decided that the death of the wealthiest man would not be for nothing. His death could yet be turned into a noble sacrifice. This gold would be used to rebuild a Haldipur that would be the talk of the world. There were still enough strong hands left in the village to till the fields, build new industry and create a fresh life. With a new hope and a fierce determination, the poorest man picked up his shovel and began the walk back to Haldipur to get the other villagers.