The Merchant of Seri (the Golden Plate) is an interesting story from the Jataka Tales.

The Merchant of Seri

The Merchant of Seri
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This is another nice story from the collection of Jataka Tales. Once upon a time, there lived a merchant of Seri, who sold brass and tin ware. He used to go from place to place, in order to sell his products. He was usually accompanied by another merchant, who also sold brass and tin ware. The second merchant was greedy. He wanted every thing for free and if he bought something, he paid as little as possible.

One day, when they went to a town, they divided the streets between them so that none of them interferes in each other’s marketing. Both of them moved through the streets they had chosen and called, “Tin ware for sale. Brass for sale”. People came out of their homes and traded with them.

There lived a poor old woman and her granddaughter in a house. Once the family had been affluent, but now a golden plate was the only expensive item left with them. The grandmother didn’t know that it was a golden plate. However, she had kept this plate because in the old days, her husband used to eat from it. It was placed on a shelf among the other pots and pans not in the regular use.

The greedy merchant passed this house, calling, “Buy tin ware. Buy brass utensils”. The grand-daughter heard the cries and said to her grandmother, “Grandmother, please buy something for me”. The old woman replied, “Child, we are too poor to buy anything. Even, I don’t have anything to trade”. The girl said, “We have one old plate. Let’s see what the merchant will offer for the old plate. We don’t use it often and perhaps, he will take it and give us something that we want”.

The old woman called the merchant at the door-step of her house. She showed him the plate and said, “Sir, will you take this plate and give something in return to this little girl”. The greedy man took the plate and scratched its backside with a needle. He found that it was a golden plate. He hoped that he would fetch it without paying anything. He said, “Does it worth? Not even a half penny”. He went away throwing the plate on the ground.

The other merchant was passing through the houses. It was decided that either of them could go through any street, which the other had left. The merchant passed through the same house and called, “Buy tin ware. Buy brass utensils”. The little girl heard the cries and asked her grandmother to see what the merchant would give for the plate.

The old woman said, “My child, the merchant who came earlier, went away throwing the plate on the ground. I have nothing else to offer in trade”. The girl replied, “Grandma, that merchant was bad-tempered. This merchant looks nice. Ask him, might be he’ll give some small tin ware”. The old woman accepted the idea and asked the girl to call the merchant. The girl showed the plate to the merchant.

As soon as the merchant took the plate in his hands, he came to know that it was of gold. He said, “This plate can’t be afforded with what all I have here. This is a golden plate. I am not rich enough to buy it”. The grandmother replied, “But, a merchant who came here a few moments ago threw it on the ground saying that it was not worth even a half penny and went away”.

The merchant said, “It was worth nothing to him. If you value it, take the dishes you want to take”. The little girl took some dishes of her choice but the merchant was not satisfied with the offer. So, he gave all the money and his wares to the old woman. He required eight pennies for the transport, so he asked the old woman for it.

The old woman readily gave him the amount. The merchant took the pennies and left the place. He quickly went towards the river and paid eight pennies to the boatman, to take him across the river. Soon, the greedy merchant went back to the house of the old woman. When he reached the desired house, he called up the girl and said, “Bring that plate and I will give you something for it".

The grandmother replied from inside, “No. You considered the plate worthless, but another merchant has paid a huge price for it and taken it away. It is a golden plate”. Thus, the greedy merchant got angry and left the place. He cried, “Due to this other merchant, I have lost a small fortune. That was a golden plate”. He ran down to the riverside and saw the other merchant in the boat. He called loudly, “Hello, Boatman. Stop your boat”.

The merchant in the boat asked the boatman not to stop. Accordingly, the boatman didn’t stop. The merchant reached the city which was on the other side of the river. He sold the golden plate and got enough money for his living. So, he lived happily thereafter.

Moral: Honesty is the best policy.