In the days of yore, there lived a wealthy old man who believed his final moments were drawing near. In preparation for his journey to the great beyond, he summoned his sons to his side, ready to bequeath his considerable fortune to them. With a generous heart, he divided his property, granting each of his offspring a share.
However, the old man's expectations of departing this world were rather premature. Several years passed, and he lingered in a world that had grown colder and crueler. As the years wore on, the old man found himself burdened not only by the weight of age but by the ungratefulness and callousness of his sons. What ingratitude they displayed! Once, they had vied to shower their father with affection and filial piety, hoping to earn his favor and, perhaps, even more of his fortune. Now, having obtained their inheritance, they cared little for his presence. In fact, the sooner he departed, the better. To them, he had become nothing more than an unnecessary drain on their resources.
For the old man, this heartbreaking transformation of his beloved sons into selfish, uncaring individuals became a source of profound sorrow. Day by day, he bore the loneliness of his vast, empty house and the weight of his unappreciated existence.
One day, the old man encountered a close friend, and in the warmth of their trust, he unveiled the heavy burden of his troubles. His friend, genuinely moved by the old man's predicament, assured him that he would ponder a solution and return to offer his advice. True to his word, the friend returned a few days later with a plan, which he revealed as he placed four bags filled with stones and gravel before the old man.
"Listen, my dear friend," he said, "I suspect that your sons may discover my visit today and inquire about it. To allay their suspicions, you must tell them that I came to repay an old debt, and that you are now several thousands of rupees richer than you once believed. Guard these bags diligently, and do not let your sons come anywhere near them as long as you live. You shall see a remarkable transformation in their behavior. Farewell for now, and I shall return soon to check on your progress."
Indeed, as soon as the young men caught wind of their father's unexpected windfall, their attitudes underwent a remarkable transformation. They became exceedingly attentive and sought to please their father more than ever before. This newfound filial devotion persisted until the old man's final days, when the bags, left unopened, piqued their curiosity. Eagerly, they tore the bags apart, only to discover that the promised wealth concealed within was nothing more than rocks and gravel.
And so, the old man's clever ruse brought about a valuable lesson. The ungrateful sons learned the true worth of family, and in the end, the stones and gravel turned out to be the most precious riches of all.
Source: Folktales from Kashmir (1893)