Meenu was upset. She pouted and sulked and would not talk to Ajji. But how can any child be angry with Ajji for very long? Their grandmother was just too loving and affectionate for anyone to not tell her what was wrong.
       "Ajji, it's been three days, and you have not told a story about a king yet!" Meenu grumbled.
        Ajji nodded. "Its true, Meenu. That was my fault; I should have told you a story about a king right away!"
       "And I want a good, nice king, who does good, nice things for his people - not horrible things like punishing them and jailing them," Meenu sat straight and demanded.
       "All right, dear. Here's a king, just as you wanted....."
         And Ajji began her story.
    King Amrit loved his people and looked after the affairs of his kingdom well. His minister, Chandan, was a wise man who helped the king in his work tirelessly.
     One day, King Amrit and Chanadan were a taking a walk on the terrace of the palace. The terrace offered beautiful views of the surroundings, and they could see far into the distance. They spotted the weekly market from up there, with people in colourful clothes buying and selling all kinds of things. There was plenty to buy and people had money to buy too. There were no poor people to be seen anywhere. The king watched with a smile on his face. He was delighted to see the prosperity of his kingdom. Like any good ruler he was happy when his people were happy.
      He turned to Chandan and said,"See how contented my people are. But I want to check this first-hand by talking to them. Tomorrow, summon people from all walks of life to the court, and I will ask them myself how they are doing." Chandan was used to the king's strange requests, and went off to carry out this order.
     The next day, the king arrived in court humming a happy tune to himself. Seeing all the people gathered there waiting for him, he was even more pleased. He cleared his throat and said in a loud voice,"I have called you here to ask you a very important question. As your king, I need to know if all of you are contented. Do you have enough for your needs? Do you know anyone who is not happy about anything?"
      The citizens looked at each other, thought for a while and slowly one by one they came forward to answer. One after the other they all said how happy they were - their kitchens had enough food, their trades and businesses were doing well, the king had made them feel safe. The farmers had grown good crops and the rivers and ponds were full of fish.What more could they ask for?
     The king became more and more pleased as he heard this. Only Chandan, his minister, watched and heard everything with a frown on his face. Why? What was wrong? Soon he walked up to the king and whispered something in his ear. King Amrit's eyebrows rose up in astonishment. Surely, Chandan could not be serious!But he looked at the minister's face and found no trace of this being a joke.
     He turned back to the court and made a most unusual announcement."I am delighted that all of you have said you are happy. But I want to test this. Tomorrow, I want all the happy people of this kingdom to come and meet me in the royal gardens. But I have a condition. All of you will have to enter the garden from the main gate, walk across and meet me by the gate at the rear of the garden. I will wait for you there. When you enter the garden you will be given a sack each and you pick whatever fruits or flowers your heart desires."
   An excited buzz broke out among the crowd. It sounded like a lot of fun. No one was usually allowed to enter the king's special garden. He had planted trees from all over the world in that garden and it was said to be filled with all kinds of beautiful and strange plants.
    Right on time the next day, everyone gathered at the gate of the garden. At the time the king had told them, the guards opened the gates and handed out the sacks. Men, women and children started roaming around the beautiful garden. They spotted juicy apples and plump mangoes hanging from trees. They picked these till they saw ripe pomegranates bursting with juice, grapes and colourful flowers no one had seen before. People went about picking whatever they wished for and filling their sacks with them.
      But as they walked further into the garden it became wilder, more like a forest, and there they saw trees laden with apples of gold, mangoes of silver and flowers studded with gems and jewels!
     Everyone emptied their sacks of the fruits they had collected earlier and started madly filling them up with these precious fruits and flowers. They all forgot that they had said they had more than enough for their needs at home. Greed took over their minds and all they could think about was adding more and more valuables to their sacks. The fruits which they had picked earlier, and had tasted to be as sweet as nectar, now lay in heaps around- forgotten and left to rot.
    Then with their sacks filled right to the top, the citizens made their way to the rear gate of the garden where the king was waiting. But what was this? To their astonishment they found a raging stream stopping their way. Water gushed down from behind some rocks and rushed over pebbles and big boulders through the garden. The stream was narrow, but the current was strong. There were no boats to take the people across. Clearly, the only way to swim. But how could they swim such heavy sacks filled with gold and silver apples and other fruits?
     The people stood by the stream for a long time scratching their heads. Then one young man did what they all know needed to be done. He simply abandoned his sack by the stream, waded into the water, then swam across to the other side. Slowly the others too followed suit. Sadly, some wailing in distress, they left their sacks filled with what they had thought was the richest of a lifetime, and dived into the stream. Then they walked up to their king- wet, unhappy and angry.
      King Amrit and Chandan watched them trudge up in their soaking clothes. Chandan had a small smile on his lips, while the king looked sad. When they had assembled in front of him, he said,"When I asked you yesterday if you were happy with your lives, all of you said you were contended and did not need anything more. Yet, today I can see the sadness in your faces when you had to leave behind the richest you had gathered in my garden. If you were really happy with your lives, why did you gather the jewel fruits, and why are you so sad now?"
      Everyone looked down, ashamed at their behaviour. Only young man who was the first to cross the stream after leaving his sack behind seemed to be unconcerned. Chandan spotted his cheerful face in the crowd and beckoned him forward. Then he asked,"Tell me, are you not sad you had to leave behind so much of wealth that suddenly came your way?"
       The man said,"I didn't pick the jeweled fruits and flowers. I had picked some of the lovely, tasty fruits and had eaten my fill of them. In my sack I had kept some others for my little daughter who is at home. I had thought she would enjoy these tasty apples and mangoes. But when I saw there was no other way to go across the stream, I did not think twice about leaving my sack by the river. My little girl can get tasty fruits from some other garden too! But I am so happy the king let us all wander around his garden,looking at the trees and plants and animals. He is a great king for having created this place of beauty, and it was a pleasure walking around there.
       Finally a smile appeared on King Amrit's face. Chandan turned to him and said,"Your Majesty, I hope you now realize that people's contentment does not end with having enough food or money. They also need to be truly happy inside. Only then will they not be swayed when they gain or lose wealth. That is a lesson that everyone- whether a king or a commoner - needs to remember."
          The king nodded, as did his subjects. This was a lesson they would not forget in a hurry!
       "Did you like the story, Meenu?" Raghu asked.
       "Oh yes,"Meenu nodded. "But I liked the minister more than the king!"
     "That's true, Meenu," Ajji agreed. "Kings did need intelligent ministers to show them the right path sometimes. Remember Akbar had Birbal, and Krishnadevaraya had Tenali Rama? Why just kings, we all need someone to tell us if what we are doing is wrong. It could be our parents, grandparents, teacher or even our best friend. The important thing is to listen to them and change our ways when needed."