There once lived a great mathematician in a village outside Ujjain. He was often called by the local king to advice on matters related to the economy. His reputation had spread as far as Taxila in the North and Kanchi in the South. So it hurt him very much when the village headman told him, "You may be a great mathematician who advises the king on economic matters but your son does not know the value of gold or silver."
The mathematician called his son and asked, "What is more valuable - gold or silver?" "Gold," said the son. "That is correct. Why is it then that the village headman makes fun of you, claims you do not know the value of gold or silver? He teases me every day. He mocks me before other village elders as a father who neglects his son. This hurts me. I feel everyone in the village is laughing behind my back because you do not know what is more valuable, gold or silver. Explain this to me, son."
So the son of the mathematician told his father the reason why the village headman carried this impression. "Every day on my way to school, the village headman calls me to his house. There, in front of all village elders, he holds out a silver coin in one hand and a gold coin in other. He asks me to pick up the more valuable coin. I pick the silver coin. He laughs, the elders jeer, everyone makes fun of me. And then I go to school. This happens every day. That is why they tell you I do not know the value of gold or silver."
The father was confused. His son knew the value of gold and silver, and yet when asked to choose between a gold coin and silver coin always picked the silver coin. "Why don't you pick up the gold coin?" he asked. In response, the son took the father to his room and showed him a box. In the box were at least a hundred silver coins. Turning to his father, the mathematician's son said, "The day I pick up the gold coin the game will stop. They will stop having fun and I will stop making money."
The bottom line is
Sometimes in life, we have to play the fool because our seniors and our peers, and sometimes even our juniors like it. That does not mean we lose in the game of life. It just means allowing others to win in one arena of the game, while we win in the other arena of the game. We have to choose which arena matters to us and which arenas do not.
Contributed by Mr. Seshadri Srinivasan