Children's booksFablesPanchatantra

Mister Duly

Once there lived a merchant named Sagargupta. His son picked up a book at a sale for a hundred rupees. The entire book consisted of only one verse:

“Man gets what is in his destiny,
Even God cannot prevent it.
To me it makes no difference,
What’s mine can never become others.”

Sagargupta saw it and asked his son: “My boy, how much did you pay for this book?”

“A hundred rupees,” said the son.

“You idiot!” said Sagargupta flying into rage, “You have paid a hundred rupees for a book that has only one verse. You can never come up in life. Leave my house at once. It has no place for you.” After this scolding, he showed him the door.

Thrown out of the house, the boy went to another city and began his life afresh. One day, a neighbour asked him, “What is your name and where have you come from?” And he replied:

“What’s duly his, a man receives.”

To a second inquirer he gave the same reply. Then on all who questioned him, he gave the same answer. This is how he came to be known by his nickname of Praptavya (this Sanskrit word means the same line that he was reciting to indicate his name).

One day the young and beautiful princess named Chandravati stood in her palace, looking out over the city. She saw a prince, extraordinarily handsome and charming, and immediately fell in love with him. She told one of her maids, “It is your job to see that both of us meet today.” So the maid went straight to the prince and told him, “I have a message for you from princess Chandravati. She says she will die if you do not meet her today.”

On hearing this, he said: “But tell me where and how I can see her. How can I enter the palace?” And the maid told him, “Come to the palace at night time and you will see a rope hanging from the high wall. Climb and jump over the wall with the help of rope to reach the upper story of palace.” And he replied: “If you have it all settled, I will do my part.” With this understanding the girl returned to Chandravati.

But at night time, the prince developed cold feet and thought, “It isn’t right to have a hidden affair. Moreover one must not do things that bring dishonour or that cause disadvantages.” So after careful thought, the prince decided not to meet the princess and stayed back at home.

But Praptavya was roaming through the night and saw the rope hanging down the wall of the royal palace. Curious to know what it is, he went up the rope that took him inside the princess’ bedroom. The princess mistook him for the prince and served him dinner and with great ecstasy told Praptavya, “I have fallen in love with you at the very first sight. I am yours. You are in my heart and nobody except you can be my husband. Why don’t you realize this and talk to me?” And he replied:

“What’s duly his, a man receives.”

When she heard this, she realised her mistake, and she sent him down the rope in a hurry. So he left the palace and went to a rundown temple to spend the night.

There at the rundown temple, a policeman arrived in a short while to meet up with a criminal friend. He ran into Praptavya and feared that his secret meeting would become public. He asked Praptavya who has was. Praptavya answered:

“What’s duly his, a man receives.”

When he heard this, the policeman said: “This temple is deserted. You can go to my house and sleep there tonight in my bed.” The merchant’s son agreed to the proposal.

At the policeman’s house, his young and beautiful daughter Vinayavati had asked her lover to come and meet her secretly in the night. When Praptavya came there following the policeman’s advice, Vinayawati mistook him in the darkness for her lover. She married him according to Gandharva tradition. Noticing that Praptavya did not utter a word all along, Vinayavati asked, “We are now married, even yet you do not talk nicely with me. Why not?” Praptavya replied:

“What’s duly his, a man receives.”

On hearing this, Vinayavati thought: “This is what one gets for being careless.” So she asked him to leave at once.

As he walked along a street, he saw a marriage procession entering the city led by the bridegroom named Varakirti. So Praptavya joined the procession. The bride, a wealthy merchant’s daughter, was standing at the door of her father’s house near the highway. She stood on a raised step under an awning provided for the occasion, and displayed her wedding finery.

In the meantime, an elephant went berserk. He had killed his mahout, had got beyond control, and was headed towards the marriage party. The bridegroom and his party were scared out of their wits and fled the scene.

In this crisis Praptavya saw the girl, frightened & all alone, and with the words: “Don’t worry. I will save you,” manfully reassured her, and put his right arm around her. With great courage and presence of mind he approached the elephant with a stick and began to threaten him. And the elephant, as was fate’s doing, actually went away.

Later on Varakirti returned with friends and relatives, too late for the wedding; for another man was holding his bride’s hand. He addressed the merchant, “Sir, you have pledged the hand of your daughter to me. But I see that you have given her away to someone else.” The merchant replied, “Sir, I don’t know anything. I was frightened by the elephant, and I ran too. Let me ask my daughter.”

Then he turned and questioned his daughter about what was going on. And she replied, “This brave man saved me from deadly peril. I owe my life to him. I won’t marry anyone but him.”

It was now dawn and hearing the commotion, a great crowd gathered in the early morning. The princess Chandravati heard the story of events and came to the spot. Hearing the rumours, the policeman’s daughter Vinayavati also visited the place. And the king in turn, learning of the gathering of a great crowd, arrived in person, and said to Praptavya: “Tell me everything without fear.”
And Praptavya said:

“What’s duly his, a man receives.”

This verse rang a bell in Chandravati’s head. She remembered what happened in the night and said “Even God cannot break this law.”

Vinayavati also recalled the events of the night and said “There is nothing to regret nor be surprised.”

And hearing all this, the merchant’s daughter said “Nobody can take away what destiny gives me.”

The king now knew everything. He then gave away his daughter in marriage to Praptavya together with a thousand villages. Since the king had no son, he also anointed Praptavya as the crown prince. The policeman & the merchant too married their daughters to Praptavya. And the crown prince lived happily ever after with his three wives.

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