Two women were fighting over a child. “He is my child, leave him alone,” cried the lady in the red sari. The poor child was too young to speak.
“No, he is mine,” cried the woman in the green sari.
Soon a crowd gathered.
The village elders took the quarreling women to a wise man. The village wise man asked the lady in the red sari, “What do you have to say?”
“He is my child, Sir. I was bathing in the river and had left my son on the bank. This woman lifted my child and ran away. I hurriedly dressed and ran after her,” said the woman.
The wise man asked the other woman to explain.
“She is a liar, Sir. I was the one bathing in the river. He is my only child. She came there, picked him up and ran. Luckily I could catch her,” said the other woman.
Villagers who were watching this drama did not know whom to believe.
The wise man got up. Using a twig, he drew a line on the ground. He asked the two women to stand on either side of the line, and placed the child in the middle. As instructed by the wise man, one woman held the child’s left hand and the other, his right hand.
“Now listen to me carefully,” said the wise man, “Both of you need to pull the child to your side. The child belongs to whoever drags him over to her side.”
The woman in red sari pulled the child hard with all her might. As the child cried in pain, the other woman, let him go.
“He is mine,” the woman in the red sari shouted in triumph, even as the other woman broke down in tears.
“Wait,” said the wise man turning to the villagers, “Who do you think loves the child more? She who pulled the child to her side or the one who let the child go?”
The villagers answered, “She who let go loves the child more.”
The wise man took the child away from the woman in the red sari. “Only a mother can have a tender heart for her child,” he said.
He handed the child over to the real mother who hugged the child. The child lifter was given a strict warning and allowed to go.
Adapted from a Jataka tale.