The Brahmin and the old woman17

One day a high-class Brahmin went to the Ganges for a dip. On that particular day he was supposed to go to court, and he was late. So he could not spend as much time as usual bathing in the Ganges.

After hurriedly taking a dip, he was on his way back home when all of a sudden he heard someone say, “Hello, hello, can you spare a moment?” It was an elderly woman.

The Brahmin said, “Yes.”

The woman said, “Today my house priest could not come and there is nobody to conduct our house puja today. Without a Brahmin, how can my daily house puja be performed? You are a Brahmin, so will you do me a favour? Will you come and do the puja? Our house deity will be displeased if he is not worshipped today. And I never eat without worshipping our presiding deity. So please come.”

So the Brahmin said to the old lady, “Yes, I am coming.” And he followed her to her house.

The Brahmin was well-educated. He was a great scholar who knew Sanskrit and even the scriptures well — far better than the Brahmin who usually conducted her pujas. He did everything. It took him an hour or so.

After he was finished, the lady said to him, “Now I wish to reward you. I would like to give you something from the puja. I will give you a fee, and also I wish you to take some coconuts and bananas. Please take.”

The Brahmin said, “No, no. I cannot take this.”

“No, you have to take this,” the old lady said. “You have done me a favour, so you have to take money from me. You have to take fruits from the puja.”

But the man said, “No, I cannot do it. I am very grateful that I was able to help you, but I cannot accept any fee.” Then the Brahmin ran away.

The Brahmin happened to be the judge of the Calcutta High Court. He was a great scholar, a great pandit and a very great judge of the High Court. His name was Sri Gurudas Banerjee. The lady didn’t know who he was, but he himself knew who he was and what he was. Even though he held such a high post, he still regarded his duty as duty.

GIM 57. 15 January 1979