The Three Wishes
By Karuna Kumar
Shankar was a poor fisherman and Lakshmi was his young and beautiful wife. They lived in a small hut near the sea. Shankar managed to earn a little money on the days he caught some fish but there were days when he could not catch any. On such days, Shankar and Lakshmi got little to eat. They were both quite disgruntled with their lot in life. Shankar never stopped complaining about how cramped and uncomfortable their hut was, how dirty and ragged his clothes were, how little he had to eat and how hard he had to work. And Lakshmi simply yearned for all the good things of life – a beautiful house, fancy clothes and ornaments, servants and good food.
One day, as was often the case, Shankar went fishing but was not able to catch any fish. The sun began to set but his fishing net was empty. Shankar began to fret, “What’ll we eat today? Oh, I hope we don’t have to starve yet again.”
Just then, he felt a strong pull at his net. His spirits lifted. “I seem to have got a nice big catch”.
But when he pulled his net out of the water he was disappointed to see that there was only one fish and a tiny little fish at that. Suddenly he noticed something amazing. The fish was the color of gold and shining like the sun. As Shankar looked on mystified, the fish began to speak. “Please save my life,” it said. “Please throw me back into the water. I am the King of the Sea.”
“The King of the Sea!” Shankar was alarmed by the very idea. He opened his net and the fish fell back into the water.
At once, the water became the color of gold. Shankar watched spellbound as the mighty King of the Sea rose up from the waves and spoke out loud, “Thank you fisherman. I can grant you three wishes in return for your kindness. Come to the sea-shore and call out to me whenever you want anything.”
Shankar bowed happily and replied, “Thank you, King of the Sea. But I need to talk to my wife before I can tell you my first wish. I’ll be back soon!”
Shankar was elated. He ran back home to Lakshmi and told her excitedly, “The King of the Sea came into my net today and I saved him by throwing him back into the water. And he has granted us three wishes so we can have all the things we want now.”
Lakshmi was thrilled. “Oh, how wonderful! Don’t you think we should straightaway ask the King of the Sea to give us some respectable clothes at least?”
Shankar was delighted by the idea. “I’ll do just that,” he said. “And I’ll ask him for some ornaments as well. I’m sure that will please you.”
So Shankar rushed back to the seashore. He stood at the edge of the water and called out, “O King of the Sea! Please come and bestow upon me the wish you promised.”
Immediately, the water turned the color of gold and the King of the Sea rose up from the water, “Yes, Shankar. What is your wish?”
Shankar answered eagerly, “Lakshmi and I would like some decent clothes and ornaments.”
The King of the Sea replied, “Go back. Your wish has come true.”
Shankar looked down and noticed that he was now wearing a fine set of clothes. A long gold chain dangled from his neck and there was a gold ring on his finger. He rushed home to see his wife adorned in a beautiful sari and gold ornaments. She was happily examining her many gold bangles. When she saw him, she called out, “Shankar! Look! How gorgeous these bangles are! Oh, how fortunate I am!”
Shankar and Lakshmi were content for just two days. Then they began to moan again. Lakshmi complained incessantly about her housework while Shankar lamented all day about the amount of work he had to do just to catch a few fish. Finally Shankar decided that he would go to the King of the Sea and ask for servants who could help them with their daily chores.
So Shankar rushed again to the seashore and standing at the edge of the water, called out, “O King of the Sea! Lakshmi and I both need some servants. Please grant me my second wish.”
At once, the water became the color of gold and the King of the Sea ascended from the waves and said, “Your second wish too is granted. But be careful. Remember you have only one more wish left so make sure you do not become too greedy.”
Shankar went back to his hut to find Lakshmi lying on a mat while a maidservant massaged her feet. One servant was busy with the cooking. Another was mending his fishing net while yet another rushed forward with a mat for him.
Lakshmi beamed up at him from her mat, “Oh, Shankar! Isn’t this life wonderful? For the first time in my life, I feel so relaxed.”
Shankar also lay down on his mat. He closed his eyes to savor the pleasure of the moment as one of the servants took off his slippers and began to massage his feet.
Life now seemed blissful and trouble-free for Shankar and Lakshmi. But it was only a week before they began to grumble again. They began to whine that their hut had become even more cramped and uncomfortable with so many servants. Then Shankar thought of asking the King of the Sea for a bigger house. Lakshmi was overjoyed at the idea!
So Shankar rushed once more to the seashore and standing at the edge of the water, called out, “O King of the Sea! I want you to give me the third wish you promised. We need a bigger house so can we have that now?”
Again the water turned the color of gold and the King of the Sea appeared from beneath the waves. “This wish too is granted,” said the King of the Sea. “But I warn you again. Greed will bring about your downfall and give you nothing but unhappiness.”
Shankar hurried back home to find Lakshmi standing outside a big fine house. “Look at our lovely house, Shankar! Now we have everything we always wanted.”
Shankar was pleased too. “Yes, I am satisfied. We have everything now.”
But their satisfaction did not last long. After a few weeks, Lakshmi told Shankar, “Do you know that in spite of our fine house and servants, the village women still call me a fisherman’s wife? It makes me feel quite humiliated.”
Shankar reacted immediately. “Yes, they still call me a fisherman too. We need to do something about that. We need to be treated with more respect. I’ll tell you what – I’ll go and tell the King of the Sea to make me a king. Then the village women will have to call you a queen.”
Fantastic though the idea seemed, Lakshmi was afraid. “Shankar, aren’t the three wishes you were granted over? I really like the thought of your becoming a king but I’m not sure we should ask the King of the Sea for anything more.”
“Don’t be afraid,” said Shankar. “I saved the life of the King of the Sea. Surely he cannot refuse me this one last wish.”
Shankar then walked back to the seashore and called out, “King of the Sea! Grant me one more wish. Make me a king and my Lakshmi a queen.”
But this time the water did not turn the color of gold. This time the King of the Sea did not appear. Instead the waves rose up high and the sky turned dark and menacing even as an angry voice arose from the water, “Go back Shankar! You’re too greedy! You’ll lose everything. But I hope you’ll both learn a lesson.”
Shankar was stunned. As he walked home sadly, he noticed that he was again wearing his dirty ragged clothes. When he reached home, he saw that Lakshmi was standing outside their dilapidated mud hut, wearing her old torn sari. The house, their beautiful clothes and ornaments, the servants were all gone. With tears in her eyes, Lakshmi told him, “We should never have been so greedy. We should never again ask for more than we have.”
From that day on, Lakshmi and Shankar became contended with whatever they had and for the first time in their lives they became truly happy.