Deepawali came. We were all in the best of spirits. Daddy had brought a lot of fireworks for us to bum. It was all there on the shelf. We were told that we could play with it only on Deepawali-night—the Night-of Lights. We were all getting impatient. Among ourselves we were planning to take from the bundles at least a few of the noiseless ones, and try them secretly.
Gopu was deputed to take them from the shelf since he was the tallest among us and could easily reach the shelf if he stood on Daddy's table. Chandran could procure a match box because his brother was a smoker and so many match boxes were there always in his room.
We were all ready for the thrilling adventure. If we were caught, no doubt, we would all be punished-but the joy of it, and our impatience, made us forget the pain of possible punishment.
As we were thus discussing and deciding to act, in came my Uncle, with his ever mischievous smile and his all-seeing, sparkling eyes. We were afraid that he might have overheard our secret plans. But we were sure that he would not go and report such matters. He was always with us, we were sure of that.
Uncle came in and we all temporarily forgot our plans. We shrieked our welcome, and cleared a seat for him, and we all sat around him. He sat leaning on the wall and was laughing away to himself. We all started giggling. His laughter was so contagious. Soon all of us were laughing-and yet, none of us knew why we were laughing.
Then Raghu asked, "Why, Uncle? Why are you laughing so much? What is the matter?" Uncle said, "I was reminded of a story just now, so I laughed." We all got very eager to hear the story. "Please tell us the story," we pleaded.
Uncle settled himself comfortably, cleared his throat, and started "Once a man had a very intelligent servant who felt that his Master was a fool, and so he never obeyed any orders. He never did what he was told. The kindness of the loving Master always found excuses for the servant's disobedience.
"One day, the cow did not return home as usual in the evening from the grazing ground. Naturally, the Master was concerned and wanted to send someone in search of the cow which had perhaps strayed away and got lost in the forest.
"He called his servant and said, "Kittu, you go and search for the cow. She must be somewhere near the grazing ground. Maybe she went into the forest seeing taller grass there." The boy immediately went out.
'The whole evening the Master waited. But Kittu did not return. Early next morning the Master was really worried. Now both the cow and Kittu were lost. Consoling himself with the thought that the faithful servant would come any time now with the cow, the Master sat on the front porch of his house and kept looking out into the fields. Now and then he would get up from his seat to gaze down the long road. It was getting noon.
Finally the Master lost his patience. He locked the house and started walking towards the grazing-ground in search of Kittu and the cow. Halfway along the way he saw his cow coming along, and she was headed for home. Now the cow was safe. "But where is Kittu? I must search for him. He is such a faithful servant. He must still be searching for the cow. Poor boy/" thought the kind Master and walked on.
As he was walking along in the hot mid-day sun, he saw Kittu, sweating and panting, running and running allover a field. The Master was afraid that the poor boy must have gone mad! He approached the field and called, "Kittu, Kittu!" At the sound of his name, Kittu stopped and recognized the Master. He slowly came to where the Master was standing. Anxiously the Master asked, "Poor boy, what has happened to you? Why are you running like this, up and down, round and round, left and
right, all over this empty field, in this hot sun? What are you looking for? You were sent to search for the cow; what are you doing here?"
Kittu sat down on a stone, completely exhausted, and when he got back his breath, through his panting, he said, "Sir, I didn't search for the cow. Because I knew the cow would come back all by herself if she was alive; and if she was dead, or killed by some wild animals, I couldn't search for that dead cow, could I? So, I did not search for the cow."
'Then, what are you doing now?" asked the Master. Kittu looked now very, very intelligent. "I was thinking. As I thought, I discovered three great, rich*treasures in these parts." The innocent Master became interested. "What treasures? Where? In these parts? Three treasures? Where are they?"
'That is it," continued Kittu. "One must be underground, somewhere here; another must be under the hills, in the jungle, in some place; but the third treasure, I don't know where it could be. So I was running to find it. By sitting down quietly I could never find where the treasure was-could I?"
'The Master bursts into laughter-as I laughed just now," said Uncle, and we were shocked! We were so suddenly jerked out of the story-world!!
"What?" we all asked in chorus.
"Yes, that Kittu was so very intelligent that he would not obey the orders of his kind and wise Master. Kittu felt that he was more intelligent than anyone else. To him all others were fools. In fact, ei;ery fool thinks this way. He thought to search for the cow was stupid, and so he started searching for the treasure, of which he knew nothing." Uncle paused and we were listening-and thinking.
"Children," continued Uncle after a while, "generally think they are wiser than their kind fathers and loving mothers. They think that they know more than their gracious teachers and elders. So they plan to disobey, and they do "Kittu-acts." They often are as wise as Kittu."
In the silence that followed the story, only Gopu had the courage to put into words
what we all wanted to ask. "Uncle! So you heard all about our plans? How long were you there, listening to our...~
Uncle started to laugh again, as loud and long as when he had entered the room; only now and then would he stop to say, "Kittu, the wise . . . Kittu, the wise . . ~ and again he would laugh. We, too, laughed-loud and long. And we all got laughed out of our folly!
Whenever we again think of stealing the fire-works and plan to bum them secretly, someone will say, "Kittu, the wise," and we all repeat, "Kittu, the wise." Someone will start running madly and wildly around the room, all over-and all of us will laugh when we remember the mad running: Kittu, searching for the treasure, he knew not where!! Now we dare not disobey our elders, and be "Kittu, the wise."