Anxious to know what the astrologer was up to, Jihva, a palace maid, had tiptoed to the guest room, and was looking through the window.

Hari Sharma shot to fame as an astrologer when he helped find a missing horse. Only he was aware that finding the horse was purely a matter of luck.

Meanwhile, valuables in the king’s palace started disappearing. It was clear that this was an inside job. But the guards failed to trace the culprit. The king ordered his officials to bring some wise men to the court to nab the thief.

The senior official who had met Hari Sharma at the wedding sent a chariot to fetch the famous astrologer. Hari Sharma was thrilled at the honour. He sat in the chariot with his wife. The whole village came to see them off.

On his arrival in the capital, the official rushed him to the palace. “Your Majesty, this man will catch the thief for us,” he said.

Hari Sharma was taken aback. He had no way of knowing who the thief was. To buy time, he asked for a day. The king asked the minister to lead him to the guest room.

That night Hari Sharma could not sleep. He knew that the next day he would be exposed as an imposter with no knowledge of astrology! The official would lose respect for him. The king would be annoyed with him. Maybe even punish him. He did not know how to wriggle out of this situation.

The old habit of talking to himself returned and he heard himself saying, “O Jihva, what have you done! You are now caught red handed. Get ready to pay for it.” Hari Sharma was so scared that he was blaming his jihva or tongue for its loose talk.

However, he was not the only one who was nervous. The culprit who had stolen valuables from the palace was even more nervous. She had heard officials speaking highly of this astrologer, “Even an ant stealing a grain of rice cannot escape from this man.”

Anxious to know what the astrologer was up to, Jihva, a palace maid, had tiptoed to the guest room, and was looking through the window. Exactly at that moment, Hari Sharma was blaming his jihva, his tongue!

The maid thought he was referring to her. She knocked at the door and fell at Hari Sharma’s feet. “Have mercy. I’m the culprit. I beg you not to mention my name. The valuables are safe. I’ve hidden them under the pomegranate tree behind the palace.”

Hari Sharma was stunned at the turn of events. He recovered his wits and spoke sternly to the lady who appeared to be the thief. “I know where you buried the valuables, you don’t have to tell me. Now that you have confessed I will let you off this time,” he said. “But there is one condition. You have to leave the service of the king.” Jihva meekly nodded her head and left.

Hari Sharma told the king where to find the valuables. The king was delighted when the valuables were found at the exact spot. He rewarded Hari Sharma handsomely and requested him to take office as the Royal Astrologer.

Hari Sharma was happy for the moment. But soon he would face yet another test.

Adapted from Katha Sarit Sagara

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