Once Raja Krishnadevrai and Tenalirama were talking when the king asked: “Tenali! Tell me, persons of which caste is normally more intelligent and shrewd and who are rather simpleton as a class?”
Tenali immediately said: “Your Majesty! The businessmen as a class are more intelligent and shrewd and the Brahmins are generally simpleton.”
“How can you say so Tenali,” asked the king. “Brahmins are supposed to be more learned and wise and hence more intelligent. And businessmen are generally uneducated and hence not much wise!” “No Sir! I can prove the veracity of my contention provided you don’t interfere” Tenali said. The king agreed.
Next day Tenali went near the Rajguru (the royal priest) and said religiously: “O Rajguru! The king wants your choti (the lock of hair at the crown traditionally left unshaven even when tonsure ceremony is performed among orthodox Hindus). Are you prepared to have it shaved?
Now, Rajguru was visibly disturbed. How could he get his choti shaved off which was the sign of his religious faith. The Rajguru was very proud of his thick and soft choti and was not prepared to have it shaved. He said: “Well, Tenali! I have maintained my choti with great efforts. How can I have it shaved?”
“You can get any price you want for it,” Tenali gave the offer.
Now Rajguru was in a fix. He wanted a good price for his choti and never wanted it given free. He also wanted to pretend that he gave great value to his choti. At last he said: “Since it is a royal order, I can have my choti shaved. I don’t want to defy the order. But you will have to give me five gold coins in return?”
“No problem! You can get them easily!” And against five gold coins the Rajguru allowed the barber to shave off his well-maintained and well- nurtured choti. Now Tenali sent for the biggest businessman of the town. That fellow too had a big and thick choti. Tenali said to him: “The king needs your choti, for some reason. Are you prepared to get it shaved off?”
“Everything of the state is our king’s property including our lives. His Majesty may take it whenever he wants. But please remember one thing that I’m a poor man,” the businessman said.
“Don’t worry,” assured Tenali, “You’d get the price you demand for your choti!” “That’s very kind of you, but…” the businessman said hesitatingly.
“What but…” Tenali said annoyedly “Actually the issue is very delicate,” began the businessman cautiously, “It was for this choti that I had spent ten thousand gold coins in my daughter’s marriage. You know my choti symbolises my prestige. Last year when my father died and I had to spend five thousand gold coins again in his funeral ceremony for the sake of this choti only. My choti is quite valuable,” caressing his choti. “It means for this choti you had to spend fifteen thousand gold coins. All-right, you have the amount from the royal treasury and let the barber shave it off” declared Tenalirama.
When the gold coins were paid to the businessman, the barber was called in, who began to wet the businessman’s choti. And as the barber took out his razor, the businessman said in an authoritative tone: “Be careful, you barber! You know, this choti is the king’s property now. Deem it as if you’re shaving off the choti of Raja Krishnadevrai?”
The king was sitting nearby and watching this ceremony. Hearing the businessman’s remark, he lost his cool. It appeared downright insulting to him to hear someone refer to the shaving of his own choti. The king said in a thundering voice: “Throw this impertinent businessman away by kicking him at his bottom!” And the businessman was thrown away. But he didn’t mind, as he was richer by fifteen thousand gold coins.
Later, Tenalirama told the king: “So, Maharaja! Didn’t you see the cunningness of that businessman? He not only received the fifteen thousand gold coins but also managed to keep his choti intact. Where as our Rajguru, the ace-Brahmin allowed his choti to be shaven off for only five gold coins!”
The king had to admit that Tenali’s contention about the shrewdness of the people belonging to the business class was right!