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TIBETAN SHORT STORY: A CHEST OF STONES

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    Pencu lived a happy life with his wife Lhamo and sons Dorji, Renchin, and Gama in a big tent near a river. Lhamo worked at home, milking and collecting yak dung for fuel. Every morning Pencu took the livestock to the mountain. Whereas, Dorji, Renchin, and Gama did much of the housework and helped their mother fetch water.

In this manner some twenty years had passed. Pencu and Lhamo had now grown old. One by one their sons had left their home and each one had established their own tent.

On the other hand Pencu and Lhamo led simple lives in their old tent and were left with only two sheep after they gave their other livestock to their sons. They were now forced to have simple food.

Sadly, one day Lhamo died. Pencu was now all alone. Sometime later his cousin Tsomu visited his tent and was very sad to see the plight of the old man. He had not eaten for days. He was old, weak and thin. Tsomu gave Pencu some hot milk and barley porridge, and said, “Pencu, you don’t need to live like this!”

Then she left the tent and found two of Pencu’s other relatives. They talked about Pencu for half an hour and then hurried away. That afternoon Tsomu and the two men returned. Tsomu sat beside Pencu and said gently, “You need someone to care for you. Please come outside the tent and see who they are.”

Pencu grasped his walking stick and came out of the tent. Outside, were his three sons waiting for him. They agreed, “for one month Pencu will live with Dorji, next month with Renchin, and the following month with Gama.”

Pencu did as he was told, but he was treated unkindly by each of them during his stay at their homes. Three months later Tsomu came to visit Pencu again. She learned what had happened and was saddened by what she heard. She whispered something to Pencu and then returned home.

The next day Pencu got up early in the morning and told Renchin that he has to go to Lhasa. “Many years ago I loaned one thousand coins to a man in Lhasa. Now that I have some time left, I’ll go to Lhasa and see if I can get back the coins from there.” And he mounted a horse and rode away. Some days later he came back. His sons smiled when they saw him return and helped him get off his horse. They noticed that Pencu was holding a chest, and thought it contained money.

“Father, did you get the money?” Asked Renchin.

But Pencu said nothing. He sat on the grassland. His three sons sat around him.

“I was wrong, Father,” Said Renchin and went on sadly. “I’m sorry. I broke my promise to our mother. She wanted me to take care of you. I didn’t keep my promise and was unkind to you.”

Pencu didn’t feel angry. On the contrary he felt sorry for his son.

Renchin went on, “Please come and stay in my tent as long as you wish. I’ll be kind to you.” Renchin helped Pencu stand up and they walked together to Renchin’s tent. Pencu entered the warm tent with his sons.

That night Pencu was happy. He had mutton to eat, and milk tea to drink, and talked with his sons all night. All his sons were very kind to him because they were thinking of the locked chest. They were eager to inherit the money that they thought was in it.

When Pencu died, his sons were not too sad. They took the heavy chest, looked at each other and smiled. Renchin opened the chest. But it was full of stones. They took the stones out of the chest and found there was no money inside it. They looked at their dead father and shouted angrily at him.

Tsomu, Pencu’s cousin heard them from her tent. She knew what had happened and laughed.

Moral of the story: Don’t part with all your money till you’re alive. There is a lot of difference between moneyed and non-moneyed parents.

By Kamlesh Tripathi

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https://kamleshsujata.wordpress.com

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