There was someone banging the door. Moolchand was annoyed and yelled, “I am coming! Wait a few seconds…”
Moolchand opened the door and was surprised to see the King’s men at his doorstep. The messenger handed over a scroll to him and waited. Moolchand read the scroll and his face lit up. He was to deliver a consignment of goods within two months to the location that the King had ordered. He would be paid a premium price. The King wanted nothing less.
* * *
“I need the job very badly sir. My wife is seriously ill and I need the money to pay for her care. The medicine man is very expensive!” pleaded Natwarlal.
Moolchand pondered. Natwarlal was a trustworthy man with a family here. He could definitely use him to deliver the consignment.
“I have other people waiting to take this. If I were to give this job to you, I will only pay you 80% of what I would pay the others. Are you willing?”
Natwarlal nodded his head in agreement. His sick wife was his priority and he was ready to sacrifice some cash for a job that would keep him busy for the next two months.
“Ok. You will be paid by the King’s treasurer when you deliver the goods. Your family is collateral for me until you return with the cash. Collect your dues on delivering the cash to me!”
* * *
Natwarlal left the village in the bullock cart on the long journey with the King’s consignment. It was a perilous journey. Halfway through, he was waylaid by dacoits. They beat him black and blue and left him when they found out that he did not have any cash.
One of the bullocks fell down while navigating a treacherous path and injured its legs when he was about two weeks away from his destination. Natwarlal had to trade that bullock for another one at a nearby village and he was lucky enough to find a buyer. The bullock he got was much smaller and weaker than the one he had earlier, but at least he could move on with his journey.
He was worried about meeting the time commitment.
* * *
Natwarlal reached the outskirts of the city. He could see the huge construction work going on. He was happy that he had reached on time. The King loved his wife very much and was building a monument for her. King Shahjahan called it the Taj Mahal in memory of his queen Mumtaz. The King’s consignment of white marbles from Rajasthan, one among the many hundreds from all over the country had finally made it to Agra.
“Deliver the marbles there and collect your cash!” ordered the soldier at the checkpoint.
* * *
Natwarlal was happy to return back to his village. He gave the cash to Moolchand.
Moolchand counted the cash and was happy that everything was in order. He then gave Natwarlal his due.
Natwarlal counted his money and was surprised to find it less than the 80% that he was promised. He was seething with anger. “It looks like I am being paid less. That is not fair.”
“When you were away, your wife died. We couldn’t hold her until you returned, you know. So, I paid for the funeral. I have discounted those charges from your wages!”
Natwarlal fell to the floor and cried inconsolably. Even the hard-hearted Moolchand was shaken by Natwarlal’s grief.
After a few minutes, Natwarlal gathered himself up and said, “I would like to buy some marble for my wife’s tomb with this money. Can you help?”
“Yes,” Moolchand nodded his head.