The Kashmiri shawlA merchant made a trip to Kashmir. This merchant dealt in Kashmiri shawls. Among other purchases, he bought a very costly embroidered shawl and he took it home to Calcutta. When he told his wife the cost of the shawl, she said, “It is so expensive! Who will buy it? You have to make some profit.”
The wife’s brother also happened to be present. He said, “What have you done? You have wasted so much money! Now who is going to buy this shawl from you? I thought you were a smart merchant, but this extravagance proves otherwise.”
Then the merchant interrupted him. “Enough, enough!” he said. “You are an idiot, and your sister is another idiot. I am in between two idiots.”
His wife said, “Soon it will be proved who is the real idiot.”
Her brother chimed in, “It is not difficult to see who is the real fool in the family!”
Then the merchant said to his brother-in-law, “Look here, you just have to do what I tell you to do. Then you will see that I have made a sound investment.”
The brother-in-law said, “Anything that you want me to do, I will do, but I am absolutely sure that you are not going to get the price that you have paid for that shawl.”
The merchant said, “All right, listen to me.” Then he whispered something to the brother-in-law.
A few moments later the village jeweller was passing by the house. The jeweller was quite rich but, as usual, he was very stingy. The merchant called out to him, “Please, please come here.”
The jeweller said, “I have no time now to come in. You know that I am not interested in your wares.”
The merchant begged, “Please step inside just for a moment. I want to show you a very beautiful shawl.”
The jeweller said, “I have no time for this kind of nonsense. I have to open my shop and start my business for the day. Do not bother me.”
The merchant said, “I promise I will not bother you any more if you just come in for a moment.”
The jeweller reluctantly agreed. “All right, all right,” he said. “What bad luck I am having today just because I have seen you!”
Very carefully the merchant unwrapped the shawl and showed it to the jeweller. The jeweller said, “What is this? Why do I need a shawl? You know that I am very strict with my money. I do not waste it on luxury items.”
The merchant said, “I know that, but this is such a beautiful thing.”
“No, I do not want it,” repeated the jeweller.
Then the clever merchant placed the shawl around the jeweller’s shoulders and said, “Oh, you look so beautiful! Please, please do me a favour. You do not have to pay a single rupee. Wherever you want to go today, please go wearing this shawl, and then at the end of the day kindly bring it back. Or tomorrow I can even go to your shop and collect it from you. I will not charge you anything. I promise. You do not have to give me anything. It is unconditional.”
The jeweller had been looking at himself in the mirror, and he could see that he looked quite smart. “All right,” he said, pretending to be indifferent. “I will wear it.”
“On your way home tonight you can give it to me,” said the merchant. “Or the best thing will be for me to come to your shop and collect it. Why do you have to bother to come to my place again?”
So the jeweller continued on his way to his own shop wearing the shawl. He had covered only fifty metres when the brother-in-law suddenly came from another direction and knelt down before the jeweller. The jeweller said, “What are you doing?”
The brother-in-law said, “What am I doing? How fortunate I am today to meet you, Prime Minister! Are you coming from the palace?”
The jeweller said, “You do not know me?”
The brother-in-law said, “I do know you, Prime Minister, and I have heard so much about you.”
“What makes you think I am the prime minister?” asked the jeweller.
The brother-in-law said, “Only the prime minister could have such an expensive shawl. Nobody else would dare to buy something so gorgeous, and I must say, it looks so beautiful on you!”
“I am not the prime minister,” said the jeweller. “I am only a jeweller!”
“No, no, only a prime minister could buy this kind of shawl,” cried the brother-in-law. “It would not look beautiful on any other human being. For some reason of your own, you are not revealing your true identity.” Then the brother-in-law bowed to the jeweller most humbly and went on his way.
The jeweller immediately retraced his steps to the merchant’s shop and said, “Tell me, how much are you asking for this shawl?”
The merchant named a price which was much higher than the price he had paid for it.
“Oh, that is nothing!” exclaimed the jeweller. Immediately he brought out the full amount from his pocket and gave it to the merchant. The merchant’s flattery had worked so well that the jeweller was ready to give the merchant whatever price he wanted. Then the jeweller continued on his way, proudly wearing the shawl. Meanwhile, the merchant went to his wife and brother-in-law and said, “See! Now who are the real fools in the family?”