The guest house

There was a rich man who had a very big heart. He wanted to have a guest house named after him where everything would be free. So he built a guest house on the outskirts of his village and he hired three persons to look after it: a clerk, a cook and a maid. He paid them well and told them that everything was to be free of charge.

Everything went well for a couple of months. Everything was given for free by the clerk, the cook and the maid. O God, one day a brilliant scheme entered into their minds. They said to each other, “Let us very cleverly start charging something when the next guests come. Although it is free of charge, let us charge something just for ‘wear and tear’. We will say that we would be grateful if they make a donation to pay for wear and tear. But we will tell them that they are under no obligation to pay anything. People will be willing to pay because we are taking such good care of the guest house.”

As time passed, the clerk, the cook and the maid began demanding fees from their guests for overnight accommodations and for food, just like many other guest houses. If someone didn’t give the money, then he was not allowed to stay there.

The rich man was totally ignorant of what was happening and he continued sending money to keep the guest house running. The guests didn’t take the trouble to inform the rich man. They said, “We will stay here only overnight. If we stayed somewhere else, we would have to pay. So we may as well pay here.”

One night a shrewd man came to the guest house. When he was given a bill for food and lodging, he became furious. “How can you do this?” he said.

The clerk answered, “We do it!”

He asked him, “What if someone makes complaints against you?”

The clerk answered, “Let them make complaints. We were advised by the owner just the other day to ask for money.”

The traveller didn’t believe it. So he went to the village where the rich man lived and casually said to a friend he had there, “Once upon a time that rich man was very generous. Now I understand that he has become mercenary. He used to allow travellers to stay for free at his guest house, but now the workers are saying that he wants them to charge money.”

His friend couldn’t believe his ears. “The rich man is still very kind-hearted,” he said. “Who told you this?”

The man said, “I was there last night and they made me pay.”

His friend said, “Please tell some of the villagers that you saw the king’s brother-in-law in the guest house last night. Say that he was appreciating the guest house like anything and that he is planning to stay there for a week.”

When the news reached the rich man, he said, “My guest house is such a humble place, and the king’s brother-in-law is staying there! I must go and honour him.”

In the meantime the traveller went back to the guest house. As usual the clerk asked him, “Did you make a reservation?”

The man said, “No, I do not have a reservation.”

The clerk said, “You have to pay twenty rupees if you want to stay here overnight.”

The man said, “I don’t need any money in this guest house. Here one doesn’t have to pay.”

The clerk said, “If you won’t pay, then go away from here.”

The man ignored him and went into the restaurant. He sat at a table and ordered a meal. At the restaurant there was a sign saying that one didn’t have to pay. But after the cook served him, he asked him for money. The man said, “The sign says that you don’t have to pay for anything.” By that time he had finished eating, so what could they do? They were so mad at him. They were cursing him and they wanted to throw him out.

The man ran upstairs and found a room that was unoccupied. He entered inside and pretended to fall asleep on the bed. When the man who was actually supposed to be in that room came in, he was shocked to find somebody else in his bed. He went downstairs and told the maid, “Look, somebody is in my room!”

The maid came and started insulting the man. She said, “You have not paid. What are you doing here?”

The man said, “Everything is supposed to be free of charge here from the beginning to the end.”

The clerk, the cook and the maid were all about to thrash the man when the rich man arrived at the guest house. He was very surprised to find all the workers arguing with the guest who wouldn’t pay.

The guest said to the rich man, “Sir, you are extremely kind and rich, but your affluence cannot bring you happiness.”

“What do you mean?” asked the rich man.

“You also need wisdom,” said the man.

“In what way?” he asked.

“You are kind and rich,” the man explained, “but you are not wise. These workers of yours are rogues. They have been exploiting your kindness and charging all the guests who come here. I am the eyewitness. I can tell you firsthand how they tried to exploit me. There are other guests here also. You can ask them if I am telling the truth!”

The rich man spoke to the other guests. Some of them said, “We have visited this place quite a few times. Each time we have had to pay for everything.”

The rich man got so disgusted that he fired the three workers and handed over the guest house to the government. He said, “Let the government take care of it!”