The tiny key in the asparagus soup

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Authors introduction

These are not my own stories. These are ancient stories. I do not claim even an iota of originality. The original authors are buried in oblivion, but the successors are following in the footsteps of their predecessors with gorgeous embellishment. I, too, have indulged lavishly in my own way of embellishment. Long live my humour-wisdom-flooded predecessors, who loved anonymity.

May these tales liberate us from the heavy dryness of the mind, and may they transform the dryness of the mind into an ever-blossoming fountain-ecstasy.

— Sri Chinmoy

Wisdom is wealth

There was once an old man who was very rich and very honest. Over his lifetime he had worked very hard to make money in order to be able to support his family and give them a comfortable life. But, unlike him, his two sons were very idle. They hated to work and instead did nothing but waste their father's hard-earned money. The man felt so sorry that his sons had turned out this way. He thought to himself, "At this rate, these good-for-nothing sons of mine are liable to spend all my money while I am still alive. Then, how will they support themselves after I am gone? It is such a shame. There must be something I can do to turn them into responsible men."

Suddenly, a brilliant idea flashed across the man's forehead. He said to his sons, "I have something to tell you. My father, your grandfather, gave me a large sum of money before he died, and I want you two to have it. Many, many years ago, I hid the money at a particular place, far away from here. I did this so nobody would suspect anything and the money would be safe. The time has now come for me to tell you where it is hidden. My sons, I will soon die. If I tell you where the money is, you can go now and dig for it. You will have it to share, so that you can live comfortably after I am gone."

The brothers were thrilled with the news. Following their father's instructions, they began their journey on foot, taking a small amount of food with them, but no money. They walked and walked, stopping to rest and eat from time to time. But their destination was farther away than they had realised.

Soon, the brothers had eaten all the food they had brought with them, and they had no money to buy more. They were becoming very hungry, so they started begging for food from door to door.

When they came to one house, the owner said to the brothers, 'Why beg for food when you could earn some money instead? You are strong young men. I will be happy to give you work and pay you for it."

So the brothers did some work for the man and, after getting paid, they resumed their journey. When they were hungry, they stopped and bought some food with the money they had earned. Every few days, when they ran out of money, they would take on more work for other people. In this way, they were able to cover a considerable distance.

One day, when the brothers were looking for work, they happened to knock at the door of a very rich man who offered them a large salary if they would accept jobs with him. So they stayed with him for two months, and at the end of that time, the rich man gave them a large sum of money for their labour.

The brothers once more continued on their journey and, at long last, they reached their destination. Upon arriving, they immediately began digging as their father had instructed. But, alas, no matter how deeply they dug, there was absolutely no sign of money at that spot. They could not believe their father would tell them a lie. He had been so compassionate to them all their lives.

Disappointed, the brothers returned home. True, they had money in their pockets, but it was money they had themselves earned, not the fortune they were expecting to find.

When they reached their home, the younger brother said to the father, "We never knew you were such a liar! There was no money where you said we would find it. How could you tell us such a lie in the evening of your life? We went all that way for nothing. How could you fool us like that?"

"No, Father is not a liar, and we did not travel all that way in vain!" the older brother countered. "We did come back richer than when we set out. Father made his money by working hard, and now I can see that by sending us off on this journey, he hoped we would learn the value of hard work so we could be successful like he is. When we were hungry and in need of food, rather than begging, we learned the value of honest work. By earning money, we were able to feed and take care of ourselves. Is it not clear that in this way. Father taught us a great lesson we otherwise would not have learned?"

Hearing these words from his older son, the father embraced him, exclaiming, "You are right, my son. I am so proud of you for the progress you have made. Now I am giving you all the money I have on earth. Wisdom is wealth, and you have come back with wisdom in abundant measure. You did find the treasure I was hoping you would find. That was the only treasure that was waiting for you in that faraway place. I never buried any money there, or anywhere else for that matter! You have found the treasure. To you I give all my money as a reward."

At this, the younger brother became furious and started fighting with his older brother. The father tried to stop them, but alas, in the heat of the moment, he had a heart attack and died on the spot.

Seeing their father dead, the two brothers became miserable. So they made a compromise. They said, "For Father's sake, from now on let us work very hard to make money the way he taught us. This is the way to make ourselves rich. And from Heaven, Father will be happy that we have become rich the honest way, through hard work, as he did."

The forgetful boy and his strict mother

One day a little boy named Jimmy, who was about eight years old, went to school. There were quite a few students in the classroom, and they were having a spelling lesson. The teacher was asking the pupils if they knew how to spell 'laugh'. At that moment, Jimmy asked his teacher, "May I use your phone, Sir?"

The teacher said, "What happened, Jimmy? Are you not feeling well? Is anything wrong? Are you missing your parents?"

"No, no, no! It is not that at all," Jimmy replied.

"Please tell me if anything is wrong. You can use my phone, but I shall be happy if you tell me why you are calling your parents," said the teacher.

"I want to speak to my mother. Last night she became furious with me, since I forgot to take my sweater home from school. She scolded me and insulted me. She said to me, 'Jimmy, listen to me. You are always forgetting something wherever you go. Last week you left your hat at Grandma's house, and I had to drive all the way back just to pick it up. The day before yesterday, you left your lunchbox at school. Yesterday you left at school your textbook that you needed to do your homework. Today you have left your sweater! What am I going to do with you?'

"I promised my mother that I would try harder from now on, but she said, 'No, Jimmy, I must become very strict with you or you will never learn. Today you must bring back your sweater. If not, I will not allow you to come home. I have told you time and again that you must take better care of your things. Today I am drawing the line. Either bring your sweater back home after school or do not come home tonight.' Can you imagine how strict she was!"

The teacher said, "That is just her love for you, Jimmy. She is trying to help you."

"Whatever the reason, I am in big trouble now! I have not been able to find my sweater anywhere. School will be finished in just 30 minutes, so I need to phone my mother to ask her where I am supposed to go now."

The budding poet and his unique poem

A budding poet was very eager to become a great poet. He worked very, very hard on a poem contrasting his wonderful dreams with his stark reality. He spent hours and hours to get precisely the right words, the right metre and the right tone. Then he mailed his poem to a very prestigious magazine. The magazine specialised in modern poetry, and he was hoping that his latest and finest poem would be printed in that magazine.

Alas, in the middle of the night, the poet woke up and got the shock of his life. He came to realise that instead of sending in the poem, by mistake he had submitted his last grocery bill! It listed all the food he had bought from the grocery store; 2 pounds of cauliflower at $1.27/pound for $2,54; 1 pound of Swiss cheese for $4.97; 1 bag of chocolate chip cookies for $2.97 and so on! He was utterly horrified.

The budding poet went to the magazine editor with his poem in his hand. He pleaded, "Please, please, forgive me! Forgive me! I was not trying to insult you in the least. I did not mean to send my grocery bill to you. Now I have brought you my real poem. That was just a foolish mistake of mine."

The editor looked at the actual poem and said, "I am sorry. My magazine is only for modern poems. The poem you have brought with you today is quite nice, but it has such a common theme and such predictable metre and rhymes. But, my dear friend, the poetic masterpiece that you submitted to me by mail is ultra-modern. Never in all my life have I seen such an expressive poetic creation that perfectly captures the daily lives of countless millions of people! I have already submitted it for publication. Your poem will appear shortly. As I have never seen, read or heard another poem like yours, I immediately accepted it. Please accept my heartfelt pride in you and congratulations to you."

The tiny key in the asparagus soup

A couple went out to eat at a very fine French restaurant. It was their wedding anniversary, and they were looking forward to a quiet gourmet meal. They ordered many appetisers, a fresh salad, cream of asparagus soup, roast duck and chocolate mousse.

The service was extremely refined. The salad and appetisers were served with a flourish and were most delicious. Then the cream of asparagus soup was brought out in a large silver cauldron and served at the table into beautiful bowls.

The husband and wife were just about to eat their soup when, all of a sudden, the wife noticed a tiny key inside her soup. She got furious and screamed at the waiter, "How careless you are! Do you have any idea what I have just found inside my soup? A key! Can you imagine! What kind of restaurant is this? You have the most beautiful bowls, plus the most delicious food, but you have put a key in my soup. I am simply shocked at your carelessness!"

The waiter replied, "You are calling me careless? You should be proud of yourself!"

"I should be proud of myself? How preposterous of you!"

"Yes, you should be so proud of yourself for not swallowing my key! I have been looking everywhere for my key. I am extremely grateful to you for finding it. I am more proud of you than you can imagine, and you should also be extremely proud of yourself. How easily you could have swallowed my key by drinking all the soup without carefully looking!"

The wife was speechless. She simply gave a half-smile and continued to eat.

What is fifty cents plus fifty cents?

A little boy named Raghu went to school as usual. His teacher was asking questions of all the students, one by one. They were all types of questions, from art to math to English.

"Renuka," the teacher said, "please tell me, what colour do we get by mixing together red and blue?"

"Green?" asked Renuka.

"No, sorry," said the teacher. "Does anyone know the answer?"

Several students voiced forth, "Purple, purple!"

"Right! Excellent! Now, Ila, your turn," the teacher continued. "How many lines does it take to draw a square?"

Ila replied, "I know the answer! Four!"

"Correct," said the teacher. "Ajit, if your mother's sister has a baby boy, how are you related to her child?"

"We are in the same family," answered Ajit.

"That is true, but how are you related?"

"He is my aunt's son."

"Right. He is your cousin."

"Oh, yes, you are right."

Then the teacher asked Raghu, "Suppose yesterday your mother gave you fifty cents. Then, a few hours later, your father gave you fifty cents. How much will it be?"

"It will become a tennis ball," answered the little boy.

The teacher was baffled. "How can that be?" she asked.

"Since fifty cents and fifty cents make a dollar, I would immediately go and buy a nice tennis ball!"

The teacher laughed and said, "Ah, I see! Wonderful, Raghu, wonderful!" The teacher was so pleased with Raghu's answer that the next day she gave him a new tennis ball.

Your watch or your ring — but not your wife!

A husband and his wife went out to eat at an Italian restaurant. The couple ate pizza, eggplant parmigiana, Italian ice cream and more to their heart's content. They were very satisfied with the meal.

Then the husband wanted to pay their bill. He reached inside his back pocket for his wallet. Alas, he had left it at home! He said to the waiter, "Can you imagine, I forgot my wallet! I am going home right now to bring you the money. In the meantime, my wife will be here."

The waiter went to speak with his boss. After a lengthy discussion with the waiter, the owner came to the table where the husband and wife were sitting. He said very compassionately, "Sir, I can understand how you are feeling right now. I am very sorry, but I must decline your kind offer. After all, I am also a businessman. I need something more valuable than your wife. I must have either a ring or a wristwatch."

"What! How dare you insult my wife!" answered the furious husband. He made a fist with his hand and was about to hit the owner when his wife intervened.

"Please, dear, do not hurt this man! After all, his food is excellent!" pleaded the wife.

"All right! All right! But how can a ring or a wristwatch possibly be more valuable than my dearest wife?" the husband asked the owner. "Even just one week of her cooking is far more valuable than any ring or wristwatch you could ever buy!"

The wife was very pleased with her husband's flattering and fiery words.

"But, Sir, I already have a wife!" answered the owner. "I definitely do not need two wives! One wife is more than enough, especially if you know what my wife is like! But I do not have a wristwatch, and my wife can always use another ring. Honestly, I must have something much more valuable to me than your wife!"

The old man and the half-price ticket

An old man went to buy a ticket so he could watch a movie. “Please give me a half-price ticket,” requested the old man.

"Excuse me, but you are an old man," answered the cinema worker. "Do you not know by now that half-price tickets are only for children under 12 years old? You have to buy a full-price ticket."

"I am an old man, but I am telling you the right thing. You are an idiot of the first class!"

The old man and the ticket seller started arguing. "I will never sell you a half-price ticket!" shouted the ticket seller. "How can I possibly sell that to you? Now I am certain you are an idiot! How old are you anyway?"

"I just turned 87 last week! Now give me my half-price ticket or I will not leave your counter!"

The cinema worker replied, "Just who are you to disrupt our entire business? You are certainly acting like a baby, but, unfortunately, the rules are the rules. Do you expect me to break our rules just for you? Then I would be forced to sell every crazy old man a half-price ticket. I repeat: no, no, no and no!"

The old man answered, "You are totally useless! What kind of upstart do you think you are? Did you not learn any manners? Did you not learn to respect your elders? You do not realise that I cannot hear in my left ear. Since I can only hear in my right ear, why should I pay for a full-price ticket? I am paying only for a half-price ticket, since I will be using only one ear!"

The ticket seller was so surprised by the old man's answer that he immediately sold the old man a half-price ticket without saying another word.

Where am I pointing?

A teacher was asking his students many questions on geography.

"Jim, please tell me, what is the capital of Italy?"

"Mr Jeffries, I have no idea," answered Jim. "Does anyone know?"

No one answered. "All right," said the teacher. "I will give you a hint. It rhymes with 'home'."

"Rome! Rome!" chimed several students at once.

"Excellent! Now, Mary, what is the country where people eat the most?"

"United States?"

"No, Hungary, because they are always hungry!"

All the students laughed.

"Seriously now, can anyone tell me the world's smallest country?"

"Liechtenstein?" guessed one student.

"Sorry, no. But I am amazed you can even pronounce it. Would anyone else like to try?"

"The Vatican!"

"Right! Very good."

Then Mr Jeffries brought out a big map and at a particular place he put his finger. He asked one of the students, "Steve, kindly tell me the name of the place where I am pointing."

Unfortunately, Steve was not paying very much attention. He was looking here, there and everywhere — except at the teacher.

Mr Jeffries asked, "Can you not see where my finger is?"

Steve said, "Yes, I know! It is your index finger."

"I am pointing at something," the teacher continued.

"Yes, of course, you are pointing. But I can see it is your index finger that is pointing."

Exasperated, the teacher went on to the next student.

The teacher's puzzling questions

A teacher was asking different students in her class all kinds of interesting questions. The students were answering very well. She asked questions on many subjects: literature, history, current events and math. Most of the questions were like puzzles.

The teacher asked one girl who was very good at math, "If it takes a man twenty days to dig twenty holes, how long will it take the man to dig half a hole?"

The girl replied, "That is very easy! It will take half a day."

The teacher said, "I admire your mathematics, but not your logic. There is no such thing as half a hole! A hole is a hole."

To one excellent athlete, the teacher said, "Jimmy and Joey were playing checkers. They played seven games, and each won five games. How could this have happened?"

The student exclaimed, "I cannot figure it out! If I win five out of seven games, then how can my opponent do the same?"

The teacher answered, "That is the question."

"Wait, I have it! They were not playing each other."

"Right!" replied the teacher, and all the students started laughing and laughing.

A lesson in grammar and marriage

A teacher was asking his students many grammar and spelling questions.

"Martha, you are one of my best students in grammar. Is it right to say, 'Each of the players have smashed the ball'?"

"No, Mr Jones. 'Each of the players has smashed the ball' is correct."

"Very good. Next, can anyone tell me how to spell the word 'find'?"

"I can! I can! It happened to my father just today. F-I-N-E-D," said Philip. "My father was speeding, and he had to pay a lot of money."

All the other students started laughing. Mr Jones said, "Very good. Some of the trickiest words to spell are called 'homonyms'. They sound the same, but are totally different in meaning and spelling."

The teacher continued, "I can use the word 'happy' or the word 'joyful'. Again, I can also use the word 'funny' or the word 'amusing'. Does anyone know what these kinds of words are called?"

The brightest child in the classroom, Roberta, answered, "These are synonyms, because they mean the same thing."

The teacher was very surprised and pleased that Roberta knew the answer. "What about words that mean the opposite? What are they called?"

"Antonyms," replied Roberta.

"Excellent. Now, Jimmy, please tell me, what is the past tense of marry and what is the future tense of marry?"

The student answered, "That is very easy. The past tense of marry is love."

"What about the future tense?" asked Mr Jones.


All the students plus their teacher broke into a chorus of laughter.

The girlfriend's trickery

A young man named Martin Barnes was in a terrible car accident, and he was taken to the hospital. His mother went immediately to see him and planned to stay with him day and night. Since the case was quite serious, the doctors said that only the patient's immediate family would be allowed in the room.

A young girl came to see the young man. She was not a relative, but she was the young man's girlfriend. She had just found out about her boyfriend's critical condition, and she was frantic. Once she reached the hospital lobby, the girl asked, "Could you please tell me what room Martin Barnes is in?"

The lady at the information desk replied, "Excuse me, but no one is allowed to see the patient other than his immediate family. Do you have any identification with you?"

The girlfriend answered, "Oh, no! I came here when I heard Martin was hurt. Unfortunately, I did not bring any identification. I must see him."

"I am so sorry," the lady said, "but I cannot help you."

The girlfriend thought and thought what to do. She decided to play a trick in order to see her boyfriend.

"Wait a moment," she said. "If I write a message to my brother, then I am certain Martin or his nurse

will allow me to enter."

"Fine, I shall have it sent to the room," answered

the information lady.

Then the girlfriend wrote on a sheet of paper: "I am Susan Barnes, the patient's sister. I would like to see my brother." By using her boyfriend's surname, she was certain that she would be allowed to see him.

The hospital staff delivered the girlfriend's message to the patient's room and handed it to Martin's mother. She said, "Here is my son, but I did not know that I have a daughter! How can this girl say that she is my daughter?"

The mother became extremely angry. On the same piece of paper, the mother wrote, "The day I have a daughter, I will definitely allow my daughter to come. Unfortunately, I do not have a daughter. I have only a son."

Martin's mother did not allow the girlfriend to see her boyfriend. Her trick very nicely backfired.

The brilliant inventor and the hair-raising book

A middle-aged man named Pradip went to a library in order to do research work. He was a brilliant scientist who designed rockets to go into outer space. In his spare time, Pradip was an inventor and had many patents for his novel creations. These included designs for a new type of most delicious ice cream to help people lose weight quickly, for a lady's sari that could automatically change colours and patterns every few minutes, and for a car that could become very, very tiny with only one passenger inside or grow to accommodate one hundred passengers.

Pradip had a new and thrilling idea. He wanted to make a flying bicycle. He was studying at the library for hours and hours, reading everything he could about bicycles, planes, motors and more. At one point, Pradip asked one of the librarians, "Can you please tell me where I can find books on the latest innovations in aeroplanes? I am trying to do something most significant, but I need a few technical tips."

The librarian replied, "Certainly, Sir. Let me go look for the latest books I can find."

In a few minutes, the librarian returned and gave Pradip a few books. She said, "Here are several new books that I hope will be useful to you." Then she pointed to one book and said, "This super-excellent book has just arrived. It will help you tremendously, and it is an absolutely hair-raising book."

The scientist happened to be wearing a hat. Upon hearing what the librarian said, he immediately took off his hat and said to her, "Look here. Madam. Can you not see that I have no hair? Now, please let me know how my hair will rise."

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