There was a village zamindar who was nice, kind and honest. He had lots of land and also a very large barn, where he used to keep grain. One day, while walking in front of his house, he saw a few pieces of grain on the ground. He bent down and started picking them up.
Two travellers happened to be passing by. They said, “We heard that you are a very, very rich man, a very kind man and a very generous man. Now what are you doing? Why are you not asking your servants to pick up these bits of grain? Again, it is only very few kernels — six or seven. It is not even worth asking your servants to do it. Why are you picking up this grain at all? On the one hand you are so generous, but now you are acting like a miserly man.”
The zamindar said, “I am not miserly; I am generous. But why do I have to waste anything? I don’t want to waste even a single kernel of grain. When it is necessary, I show my generosity. But when it is a matter of being economical, why should I waste even one piece of grain? Today I will waste ten bits of grain, tomorrow twenty and the day after tomorrow many more.”
One of the travellers said, “Yes, but we thought that you were collecting the pieces of grain as if they were the most precious jewellery, most precious gold coins. So inwardly we were laughing at you. But we see that you are right. It is good to be economical. Now we shall go.”
The zamindar said, “Since you are passing by my house and you have said that I am kind and so forth, let me be hospitable to you. Why not stay and eat with me, and then go?”
The travellers went to eat in the zamindar’s house. He said to his guests, “Usually I don’t serve anyone because I have so many servants. But I like you two; you seem to be very nice people. So let me serve you.” Then the zamindar brought them a plate containing ten gold coins instead of food.
The travellers said to him, “What are you doing? How can we eat gold coins? Have you brought this by mistake or for some other special reason? Is it out of your generosity that you are doing this? You are really kindhearted and compassionate. We are so grateful. But the thing is that now we are very hungry. This is not the time to get gold coins. We can’t eat them.”
The zamindar said, “Oh no, I am showing you fools something. When I was collecting the pieces of grain, you laughed at me. You acted as though they were not valuable whereas gold coins were valuable. I have brought you these gold coins to show you that everything has its own value at the proper time. Gold coins are valuable, true. But you can’t eat them. When you are hungry, you don’t think of gold coins — you want to eat food. At that time, grain is even more precious than gold coins.”