There was a mother who lived with her son and daughter-in-law. This mother was illiterate. She could not read, and she could not even write her own name. But she desired to have a daughter-in-law who was well educated, since her son was well educated. So she was very happy that she had found a well-educated wife for her son.
Now this daughter-in-law was very proud and haughty. She felt superior because she was well educated, while her mother-in-law was illiterate. Usually the story is that mothers-in-law torture their daughters-in-law. In this case, the story was totally different. The daughter-in-law was always showing off, insulting the mother-in-law and ridiculing her because she was not learned. She even went to the length of scolding her mother-in-law. The poor mother-in-law was suffering so much. What a mistake she had made! She had wanted a well-educated daughter-in-law. Now she was at the mercy of the daughter-in-law.
The son was very sad and miserable. He was so devoted to his mother, and he used to scold his wife for treating her so badly. Then the husband and wife would have a serious fight. He did not know how to end his mother’s suffering. This situation went on for years.
One day a letter came, addressed to the mother. The mother was very happy. Unfortunately, she could not read the letter. So she asked her daughter-in-law to read it out. The daughter-in-law immediately started insulting her mother-in-law. She said, “You are such an idiot that you cannot even read your own letter! For everything you need me.”
When the daughter-in-law opened the letter and began reading it, she got the shock of her life. The letter said that a very, very distant relative of the mother-in-law had left her a very large amount of money in his will. The condition was that she would receive this money only when she learned to read and write. The letter also mentioned that in three months or so, the mother-in-law would succeed in learning to read and write. The feeling in the letter was one of genuine encouragement. The distant relative had said in his will, “I really want you to have my money.”
When the daughter-in-law saw what a large amount of money was involved, an immediate transformation came over her. “So much money is at stake,” she said. “You have to fulfil the condition. Will you give me some of the money if I teach you?”
The mother-in-law was so happy that at last her daughter-in-law was talking to her nicely. She said, “Definitely I will give you some of the money. As a matter of fact, I will give half to you and half to my son. Kindly teach me.”
Now everything changed overnight. The daughter-in-law began showing such affection, love and respect to her mother-in-law. Sometimes she would teach her twice a day. The husband could not believe his eyes and ears! How kind and affectionate his wife had become. It gave him tremendous joy to see that the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law had now become the best of friends. The daughter-in-law needed money to buy things for the house and the mother-in-law was determined to keep her promise.
In three months’ time the mother-in-law could read books and she could write her name easily. They were expecting that any day the lawyer of the deceased party would write another letter to the mother-in-law. Finally a letter did arrive. This time it mentioned the name of the person who actually left the money, and it was the son. He had played a trick.
His wife became furious. She felt she had been cheated. Then her mother-in-law said, “True, my son has fooled us, but I still have to keep my promise.”
That night when the son came home from work, his mother said, “Now you have to borrow money from the bank. I want to keep my promise and give it to your wife.”
The poor son said, “All right. Now that you and my wife are on excellent terms, I feel that it is well worth it.” So he borrowed money and gave it to his mother. She then gave the money to her daughter-in-law and everybody was satisfied.
Then the mother made another request to her son. She said, “I want to open a school for illiterate people of my age. For elderly people I wish to have a night class. I am begging you to give me the money to do it. I know how I suffered in the hands of my daughter-in-law when I was illiterate. I am sure there are other mothers-in-law like me who are suffering and who will continue to suffer. So the best thing is to make the elderly women literate so that they are no longer at the mercy of their daughters-in-law.” Her son agreed and this kind-hearted old lady opened up a school.
The daughter-in-law was happy because she had received so much money. The son was happy because his mother and his wife were now on very good terms. Everything ended happily because of the son’s ingenious trick!