Bhupendra Prasad had spent a huge sum on his only son’s wedding which had been celebrated with pomp and splendour.
A few weeks after the wedding, Bhupendra, wanting to test his daughter-in-law’s intelligence asked her: “Can you guess how much I spent on your wedding?”
“About the cost of a sack of rice,” said the woman.
Her father-in-law’s mouth dropped open in astonishment.
“The cost of a sack of rice!” he spluttered. “You foolish girl, I spent a fortune on your wedding!”
The woman said nothing.
“She’s a nitwit,” thought Bhupendra. “A nitwit! My poor son!”
A few weeks later, while they were all going to a relative’s wedding they met up with a funeral procession.
“Who has died?” asked Bhupendra, stopping a mourner.
“Is it just one corpse or a hundred?” asked his daughter-in-law.
Bhupendra, greatly embarrassed by his daughter-in-law’s question, walked away without waiting for the mourner’s answer.
Presently they came upon labourers working in a field.
“Looks like you had a good harvest!” shouted Bhupendra.
“But are you reaping this year’s harvest or last year’s?” asked his daughter-in-law.
“Your wife is mad!” said Bhupendra to his son. “Mad! She talks nonsense!”
“Don’t pretend you don’t know!” roared his father. “Didn’t you hear the silly questions she asked!”
“Her questions may not be as silly as they seem,” said his son. “Why not ask her to explain?”
Bhupendra did not say anything. But later when he found himself alone with his daughter-in-law he decided to act on his son’s advice.
“Tell me,” he said, “what did you mean when you asked the mourner whether they were carrying one corpse or a hundred?”
“Some men have scores of dependents,” explained the young woman. “When such a man dies many lives are shattered. His dependents die with him, in a way. That is why I asked the mourner whether they were carrying one corpse or a hundred.”
“What did you mean when you asked those labourers whether they were harvesting this year’s crop or last year’s?”
“These labourers are perennially in debt,” explained the daughter-in-law. “I was enquiring whether they were working to pay off last year’s debt or had paid it all and were beginning anew.”
Bhupendra now realised that his daughter-in-law, far from being a nitwit, was probably cleverer than he was.
“One last question,” he said. “Why did you say I spent only the equivalent of the price of a sack of rice for your wedding when you know full well I spent a fortune?”
“What you spent on the essentials of the marriage amounted to only a few hundred rupees,” smiled the young woman. “The rest you spent to uphold and enhance your prestige. In other words, not on the marriage but on yourself.”