Kids Corner


The Good Bargain

Translated from Punjabi by BIMAL KAUR



From the chapter, "Kharra Sauda", in Guru Nanak Chamatkar, by Bhai Vir Singh.


Mehta Kalu, Guru Nanak's father, was very keen that his son should take up some regular work. He was extremely unhappy that sometimes, for days, Nanak would neither talk nor eat, but sit quietly in his room, and on other days, he would wander away into the nearby woods and talk to the ‘sadhus’ and ‘fakirs’ who stopped to rest there.

After thinking for some time, Kalu ji called his son and said, “Nanak, you are my only son and I have dreams of you becoming a successful businessman. Till today, you have not decided how you wish to earn your livelihood. Your strange and moody behaviour is causing a great deal of unhappiness to your mother, sister and me. I can arrange some trade for you so that you can have regular income. Then we can be content that your future is secure.”

Nanak listened quietly and then, very gently said, “O Father, forgive me if I have disappointed you. What is happening is not of my doing. But I shall try and do as you say.”

Mehta Kalu was happy at this response. “My son is coming around to my way of thinking. Now is the time to involve him in some regular business,” he thought. Patting him on the back he said, “I have seen that you are not interested in farming so, I suggest, that you take up trading. In the next town, there is a big market from where you can buy items cheaply and then sell them here, in Talwandi, at better prices. In this way you can, very soon, build a large trading business for yourself.”

Nanak: “ But Father, I don’t know anything about this work.”

Kalu ji: “Don’t worry, my child. I will send an experienced man along to help you. To begin with, take a small amount of money and make your purchases accordingly,” and he gave him twenty rupees. Nanak bowed his head and said, “As you wish, father.”

He then left with Bala, one of their most trusted workers.

About ten miles from Talwandi, there is a small town called Choorhkhana.

Bala suggested that they should go there as it had a large market and they would get a better variety of goods to choose from. As they neared the town they passed through woods with a pond at its centre.

In this quiet and beautiful spot, they saw a group of sadhus, wearing only loin cloths and with ash rubbed all over their bodies. Some were sitting cross-legged in meditation, a few were standing on one leg; two of them sat with their arms raised. All these were ways of doing ‘tapasya’, to concentrate the mind on remembering the one Almighty God. Their leader, Mahant Santrein, was sitting on an animal skin, with his eyes closed.

Nanak approached him and spoke in a soft voice, “O Holy man, how is it that in this cold season, you are wearing no clothes. Also, I see no signs of food being prepared. Have you given up all these things because of your faith?”

The mahant smiled and said, “ No, but we try and make our needs as less as possible so that we can control our bodies better. One day we have to leave this world and all that is in it, so where is the need to run after worldly goods? This is also the reason why we do not stay long in one place. We want to remain detached so that we can leave without a pang.”

Nanak: “Sant ji, when was the last time you and your companions had something to eat?”

Mahant : “Young man, we do not beg for food. We are always busy with our meditation and prayers. Whenever God sends food, we eat. A passer-by had left some fruit and milk for us some time ago.”

Nanak's heart was filled with compassion. He thought of the money in his pocket. “Why don’t I use it to feed these simple, God-fearing people? What better use for it than to relieve their hunger?”

Quickly, he took the money from his pocket and placed it in front of the mahant and said, “I have this money with me. Please, use it to get food.”

Mahant : “You are very young, but you have a warm, compassionate heart. Your father must have given this money to you for a special purpose. I would not like you to get into any trouble. Please don’t worry. God will take care of us.”

Nanak smiled and said, “Our bodies were created to bear pain and our hearts to feel love and concern for the suffering of others. Money is there to serve us. The chance to do a good deed comes rarely. Please, accept this and use it to alleviate the pain of hunger.”

Mahant Santrein looked at Nanak in astonishment. Such wisdom and humility from one so young! He saw the shining forehead and the luminous eyes and felt a thrill run through him. After a short pause, he said, “If this is what you wish then we humbly accept. But, we have no use for money. Please, bring us food.”

At once, Nanak and Bala hurried into the town and bought milk, ghee, flour, vegetables and fruit. Returning, they laid them in front of the mahant whogratefully assured him that his companions would cook them.

Bidding them farewell, Nanak and Bala began their return journey to Talwandi. Some time passed in silence, then, Nanak's thoughts turned to his father and how he would react when told that he had neither the original amount nor any profit to show, but had used the money to feed some hungry sadhus.

Turning to Bala, Nanak said, “What shall I tell my father? He will never accept that what I did was a profitable deal.”

Bala: “Sir, I am not at fault. When you offered them money, I signalled to stop you. Later in the market, I again requested you not to spend the money. I could not do anything more; after all, I am only a servant. Now you will have to face whatever happens. But please, save me and don’t let any blame fall on me.”

The rest of the journey passed in silence. On reaching Talwandi, Bala hurried to his house, but Nanak sat down near a dry pool in a leafy grove where he spent the night.

The next morning, when Mehta Kalu heard that Bala had returned alone, he became very agitated and quickly called him. Trembling with fear, Bala narrated the whole incident and added, “I tried my best to stop him, but being only a servant I could not do much. He was worried about your reaction, so did not come home but spent the night near the dry pool.”

Mehta Kalu was furious. Being a worldly person, he had no time to think beyond the job at hand, or to care for the pain of others. His son had dared to disobey him! However noble his intentions, his son deserved to be punished!

Taking Bala with him, Kalu ji hurried to where Nanak sat. His wife, Tripta ji saw all this and feared for her son’s safety. Quickly, she called to her daughter, “Nanaki, go after your father! Run and protect your brother. You are the only one who can control your father’s wrath. Go, my child, run!”

Kalu ji, red-faced and furious, reached the spot where Nanak sat serenely with eyes closed, his face aglow with the love of his Lord, his forehead shining with spiritual joy.

Grabbing his arm roughly, Kalu ji dragged him off the ground, shouting, “Where is the money? Where is the profit you were going to make? You wastrel ! Why don’t you say something !”

Nanak stood quietly, with his head bowed. Suddenly Kalu ji lifted his hand and slapped him across his cheek. His anger more inflamed, he raised his hand yet again and slapped him on the other cheek.

A crowd had collected, not in sympathy but to watch the action being played out. Suddenly, a murmur broke out as Bibi Nanaki pushed her way to where her father stood. Putting her arms around him, she pleaded, “O Father, please, don’t hurt my brother, my innocent, God-like brother.”

Now some people moved forward to restrain Kalu ji and Nanaki quickly went to her brother and held him in a close embrace. Even in that moment of tension and anxiety, she felt a thrill run through her at his touch. Nanaki had thought that she had reached in time to save her brother, but when she saw his bruised cheeks and the tears sparkling on them, she fell down in a
faint. Her maid, who had been sent after her by Mata Tripta ji, quickly revived her. Holding her brother close, Nanaki turned towards home, tears falling continuously from her eyes.

Meanwhile, Mata Tripta ji was too restless to wait at home and leaving the front door wide open, she walked as quickly as she could towards the dry pool. On the outskirts of the village, she met her daughter and son. Seeing his bruised face, she too burst out crying. She took him in a tight hug, tenderly caressed his back and head as if to remove all the pain inflicted on him.

In a soft voice, she whispered “My darling son, don’t worry. No one will say anything to you. You can do whatever you want, just be happy and let me see your laughing face at all times.”


Some people went to Rai Bulaar, the ruler of the state, and narrated the whole incident to him. He was a gentle and fair ruler with a spiritual bent of mind. He had developed a deep love and reverence for Nanak. On an earlier occasion, he had urged Mehta Kalu to take great care of his son and never ever to be harsh with him.

He was extremely grieved that in his rule a refined spirit, who was so near to his Creator, could be treated in this harsh manner. He sent a couple of his attendants to fetch Nanak. One look at his face and Rai Bulaar promptly left his seat and took him in a close embrace. Though a tough warrior,he wept like a child. His throat was so choked that he could not utter a word. After a while, he controlled himself and moving to the divan made Nanak sit beside him.

In a pleading voice he said, “Forgive me, that I have failed to protect you from harm, you, a messenger of God, a picture of forgiveness and love!”

Yearningly, Rai Bulaar looked at Nanak’s face, sometimes feeling a father’s tender love and sometimes the reverence of a devotee.

Just then Mehta Kalu came up, accompanied by Rai Bular’s attendants. Rai Bulaar, who had been so angry a while ago, was in a much softer mood due to his love for Nanak, so he addressed Kalu ji in a gentle voice, “What have you done now, Kalu? Made me a partner in your crime? How can you be so unfeeling towards your only son ! Not only that, he shows all signs of being someone special, a holy soul ! You could have come to me and I would have gladly given you the money.”

Kalu ji: “Rai ji, I am your servant and you are my master. I don’t want to appear rude, but this boy has only caused me losses and heart-ache. You have heard about his latest deed. He did not even try to do some trade but promptly gave away the money. Had he earned a profit and then given a part of it away, I would not have minded. But he did not show any sense. To teach him a lesson, I slapped him. What wrong have I done?”

Rai Bulaar could see that Mehta Kalu was not able to understand what he was saying to him. So he sent everyone home.

After a few days, Jairam, Nanaki’s husband, came to see Rai Bulaar.

Rai Bulaar: “I want to talk about Nanak with you. I believe he is a messenger of the Lord, a divine light shines through him. Sadly, he is not being treated rightly here. You have known him for some time now; what do you think about him?”

Jairam: “I agree with you. I too, see a pure light when I look at him.”

Rai Bulaar: “That makes me very happy. I only want that he should be left alone to follow his Master’s wishes, but his parents want to make a successful worldly person out of him. Hence, I thought it would be best if you take him to live with you and Nanki in Sultanpur.”

Jairam: “It would be an honour to have Nanak live with us and I can well imagine Nanki’s joy when I give her the good news. Give me a little time to talk it over with Father (Kalu ji) and to make some arrangements, then I shall take Nanak with me.”

[Edited for]

October 29, 2011

Conversation about this article

1: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), October 29, 2011, 2:36 PM.

Bimal, in this good bargain, you have a present too. This comes as a tiny conspiracy between Editor Sher ji and your Sangat Mama ji. Happy Birthday, with lots of love.

2: H.A.S. (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), October 31, 2011, 10:18 AM.

Nice article, but may I suggest one thing - please don't refer to Guru Nanak as "Nanak". He was Guru from the time of his appearance on earth, we should give due respect when referring to our Gurus. This way you will also instill this respect in the readers.

3: Gurdip Kaur (New York, U.S.A.), October 31, 2011, 11:30 PM.

Guru Nanak came to guide humanity. May each and every Sikh learn the Guru's teachings and remember him in all thoughts and actions.

4: Simran (Oceanside, California, U.S.A.), June 24, 2012, 3:59 PM.

Thank you!

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