Hannah & the Old Man

in Stories

A young girl, Hannah, lived in a small village. The village was a world in itself.

It was surrounded by lofty mountains and was connected to the world by a couple of passes which opened only once every summer.

Illustration Neha Kumari

People of the village were as beautiful as the place. The glow on their faces was similar to the shimmering snow peaks. Their demeanour was soft and gentle like the breeze.

Having completed her school, Hannah wanted to see the world outside, meet new people and learn new things.

Even though she lived a comfortable life, she did not want to spend her entire life in one place.

The young girl had dreams that she wanted to chase.

She wanted to study in a college or go to a university.

One day, she told her father about her dream.

“But how?” her father asked.

“Even if I want to support you, how will you leave this place?”

He worked on a small farm and didn’t have much money. He earned only enough to feed his family. Travelling to some other part was out of question for him.

In the village, people were self-reliant. Money was not used to buy goods and eatables. Instead, meat was exchanged for cereals, eggs for cotton and milk for vegetables.

People knew how to make goods out of anything.

One autumn day, Hannah took a walk down a village lane.

Underneath a tree along the path, she saw an old man crouched in his black blanket.

Hannah, who was kind, went up to the old man and offered him help.

As the old man lifted his head on hearing the girl’s voice, she realised he was a stranger.

“I have never seen you before. Who are you?” she asked.

“I am a stranger. A traveller from a faraway country,” he said.

Hannah could see he was sad. This made her sad too.

“Why are you sad?” she enquired, settling to sit beside the stranger.

“I spent all my life working. I became rich, was loved and respected. When I grew old, I realised I had not seen enough of the world. So, I decided to travel like a stranger and meet new people.”

“I also want to see the world and meet new people, but unlike you I do not have money. I will be spending the rest of my life here with nothing much to do,” she told the old man.

After pausing for a few seconds, the old man said to Hannah: “I can give you money if you give me your time.”

“If you spend time with me every day and tell me stories about your village, I will give you money.”

Hannah was elated. She quickly agreed.

It is going to be just another exchange, she thought.

The next day and thereafter she spent time with the old man and told him village stories.

Soon, she had enough money to travel.

“I will not be seeing you anymore. I have made enough money, I can travel now. I am rich.”

The old man smiled.

“You were already rich,” he told Hannah.

The only true wealth with anyone anywhere in the world is time, he told the girl.

If you have time, you can convert it into anything you want.

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