Amulet of Virtue (The Cure of Corruption) - A Satirical Story byHarishankar Parsai (English Version)
A Satirical Story by Harishankar Parsai(1924-1995)
Translated from the Hindi “Sadachar Ka Taweez”
Translated from the Hindi “Sadachar Ka Taweez”
Uproar arose in a certain kingdom that corruption had spread wide.
One day the king called the courtiers and said, “The people are crying out that corruption has spread out all around. But, I’ve not been able to see it till this day. Tell me, if any one of you has seen it!”
The courtiers replied, “If it hasn’t been seen by Your Highness yet, then how can it be seen by us?”
The king said, “No, it is not so. Sometimes that which is not seen by me may perhaps be seen by you. For instance, I never see bad dreams, but you may be seeing them.”
The courtiers replied, “Yes, we see them; but, that is just a matter of dreams.”
The king said, “Still, search the whole kingdom and see if you can find corruption anywhere. And, when you find it, bring me a sample of it so that I can also see what this thing looks like.”
One courtier replied, “Your Highness, we won’t be able to find it. We have heard that it is very subtle and fine. Our eyes are so much used to seeing the Majesty of Your Highness that they can’t see subtle and microscopic things any longer. And, even if we happen to see corruption, we will see your reflection on it for the image of Your Excellency fills our eyes. However, there is a tribe in our land, who are called “Experts”. This tribe has a certain collyrium (eye cleanser) that they apply to their eyes and are able to see even the subtler things. My request is that Your Highness handover the job of finding corruption to these experts.”
The king sent for five men from the “Experts” tribe and said to them, “I have heard that there is corruption in our kingdom. But, we do not know where it lives. I appoint you to find this thing, and when you find it bring it to me. If it is too great, then only bring me a sample of it.”
The experts started their investigation from that very day.
After two months they appeared before the King’s Court again.
The king asked, “Experts, is your investigation completed?”
“Yes, Your Majesty!”
“Did you find corruption?”
“Yes, quite a lot!”
The king extended his hand, “Bring it to me and let me also see how it looks like!”
The experts replied, “Your Majesty, it doesn’t come into the grip of hands. It is not corpulent but subtle and imperceptible to the senses. But it is widespread all over. It is omnipresent everywhere. It can’t be seen but can be felt.”
The king fell into deep thought. He said, “Experts, you say that it is subtle, imperceptible, and omnipresent. These are the qualities of God. Is corruption God?”
The experts replied, “Yes, Your Highness! Now, corruption has become God!”
A courtier asked, “But where is he? How can he be felt?”
The experts replied, “He is everywhere. He is in this courtroom. He is on the King’s throne.”
“On the throne”… saying this, the king jumped off his throne and stood up.
The experts said, “Yes, Your Highness, he is on the throne. The bill that was paid last year for painting the throne was a false one. It was twice the amount incurred. The middle man ate half the money. Corruption is widespread in your administration and is chiefly in the form of bribe.”
When the king heard this, he became worried and the ears of the courtiers stood up.
The king said, “This is a matter of great concern. We want to eradicate corruption totally. Experts, can you tell me how to wipe this out!”
The experts replied, “Yes, Your Majesty, we have also found the solution to it. In order to eradicate corruption, the King will have to make a lot of changes in the Law. First of all, all opportunities for corruption must be removed. For instance, if there is a tender, then there is a contractor. And, if there is a contractor then there is bribe for the authorities. If you abolish the tender, then you also wipe off the bribe linked to it. There are likewise many other things. We must investigate the reasons behind men taking bribes.”
The king said, “Okay, you leave your entire plan here. We and our Court will look over it.”
The experts went away.
The king and the courtiers read the Plan for the Elimination of Corruption. They brooded over it.
The brooding took several days, and by and by the king’s health began to deteriorate. One day, a courtier said, “O King, your health is deteriorating due from worry. These experts have put you in encumbrance.”
The king replied, “You are right, I can’t sleep through the nights!”
The other courtier replied, “We should commit such reports to the fire! Why should anything destroy the sleep of the King?”
The king said, “But what shall we do? You have also studied the Plan for the Elimination of Corruption. What is your opinion? Can we bring it into force?”
The courtiers replied, “Your Highness, this is not a plan, but trouble. How many reversals and upheavals will this create! How many difficulties! The whole Law will turn topsy-turvy. There are new problems that will arise from any attempt to change what’s already going on. We must devise a means by which we can eradicate corruption without changing anything.”
The king said, “This is also what I desire. But how? My Great Grandfather used to know magic; but I know none of that. Now, it is you people who must search for some solution!”
One day the courtiers brought before the king a hermit and said, “Your Highness, we have brought this great sage doing penance in a cave. He has made an amulet of virtue. It is perfected through chants and on being worn turns the wearer immediately into a virtuous person.”
The hermit took out an amulet out of his bag and gave it to the king. The king looked at it and said, “O hermit, explain me about this amulet in detail. How does one become virtuous by wearing it?”
The hermit explained, “Your Highness, corruption and virtue are from the spirit of man; not from without. When the Creator creates man, he fits in one spirit the voice of truthfulness, while in the other he fits the voice of falsehood. From this voice arise the calls of truth or falsehood, which are also known as the “Voice of the Spirit”. A man always works according to the voice of the spirit. Now, the question is how do we suppress the voices of falsehood and dishonesty that arise from the spirit of some people and bring out the voice of truthfulness instead out of them? I meditated on this for quite a many years and now have made this amulet of virtue. Whoever wears this on his arm will become virtuous. I have tested it even on dogs. When I tied this amulet around the neck of a dog, he stopped stealing bread. The thing is that, from this amulet come out voices of virtue. When someone’s spirit begins to call out voices of dishonesty, then the power of this amulet strangles the throat of such spirit and the man begins to hear the voices of truthfulness from the amulet. He is duped into thinking that these voices are the calls of his spirit and is inspired towards virtuous action. This, O King, is the secret of this amulet!”
There was a stir in the court. The courtiers got up one by one and began looking at the amulet.
The king became happy and said, “I never knew that there were such miraculous hermits in my kingdom. O Great Soul, we are very obliged to you. You have taken away our trouble. We were so much troubled by omnipresent corruption. But we don’t just want thousands but millions of amulets. The Government will establish a factory for the production of amulets. You shall become the General Manager of it and will oversee the production of the best amulets.”
One Minister said, “Your Highness, why should the Kingdom be burdened with it? I suggest that you give the tender to the hermit. He can get the amulets prepared by his society and supply it to the Government.”
The king was happy with the suggestion. The hermit was given the tender to produce the amulets. Immediately, he received some 50 million rupees to start the factory.
Newspapers ran the news “Discovery of the Amulet of Virtue!” “Factory to Make Amulets Opened!”
Millions of amulets were made. By order of the government, every government servant received an amulet on his arm.
The king and courtiers were very happy that such an easy solution to the problem of corruption was finally found.
One day, the curiosity of the king was awakened. He thought, “Let me go see how this amulet works!”
He changed disguise and went to the office under camouflage. That date was the 2nd of the month. The employees had received their salaries only a day ago.
He went to an employee and talked of some business and began to give him a five rupee note.
The employee shouted at him, “Get out of here! Bribery is sin!”
The king was very pleased. The amulet had turned the employee into a virtuous man.
After a few days, again, he changed disguise and went to the same employee. The date was 31st, the last day of the month.
The king again showed him the five rupee note, and this time the employee took it and put it into his pocket.
The king caught hold of his hand and said, “I am your king! Have you not worn the amulet of virtue today?”
“Your Highness, I have worn it. See here!”
He rolled up the sleeve and showed it.
The king was confused. How did this happen?
He placed his ear on the amulet and listened. From the amulet, some voices were calling out – “Hey, today is 31st; take it, at least, today!”
“The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45, NIV)
WHAT YOU ALLOW TO GET STORED IN YOUR HEART IS WHAT MATTERS!
THERE IS NO MAGICAL WAY OUT.
THERE IS NO MAGICAL WAY OUT.