Kallu Mian and his wife Mumtaz lived in a village near the present day town of Barabanki. Their home was a mud-and-thatch hut atop a hill. Kallu was a shepherd. Every morning, winter or summer, he took his flocks to graze in the woods nearby. His sheep did well on the fresh green grass. Come shearing time, they gave him enough wool to make several blankets. Kallu sold the wool for good money and he and Mumtaz lived comfortably the whole year through.
But one-year disaster struck. First one and then another and yet another of Kallu's sheep fell ill. Herbs and potions did not help. In a week's time the entire flock was dead. Kallu was shattered. He was worried had no other means of earning a living.
Weighed down by worry, Kallu spent many days sitting before his hut, a picture of despair. Shearing time came and went. The little money he had put by was soon gone. Every few days Kallu would go to town, sell some of his possessions, raise a little cash and buy some food. His shoes were worn down. Both he and Mumtaz were in need of new clothes. But there was no money.
One day, when Kallu was fretting his heart out over the loss of his sheep, Mumtaz had an idea. She called out from inside the hut and suggested that they plant a crop.
The idea appealed to Kallu. But there was no spade in the house to dig with, for everything of value had been sold to buy food. There was only a silver necklace that Mumtaz still wore around her neck. Now she took it off and gave it to Kallu to pawn it to the moneylender. With that money they intended to buy some seeds and a bag of flour too. Meanwhile she went and went to the neighbours and borrowed a spade.
Kallu did as he was told. Upon returning home he fell to digging with all his might. The earth was bone dry and it took him all morning to dig up a small patch. But just as he was about to go in for his midday meal of dry chappatis and salt, his spade struck metal. Hands trembling with excitement, Kallu began to clear the earth near the object. Finally he uncovered a large brass handi (vessel). The handi was empty. But as Kallu bent down to peep into it, his tobacco pouch slipped out of his pocket and fell in. Beside a few shreds of tobacco, the pouch contained five one rupee coins, left over from the money that the Mahajan had given him for the necklace. Kallu saw the pouch fall but he did not give it a thought.
Thrilled to bits, he yelled at the top of his voice and called out to his wife. Mumtaz came dashing out of the hut, still holding a pair of tongs, for she had been making chapattis. Her face lighted up when she saw the handi. They thought there is a treasure in that vessel. She bent forward to peep into the handi. As she did so, the tongs slipped from her hand and fell in. She put in a hand to take out the tongs, but in place of one pair she found two. She also found a second pouch containing, like the first, a few shreds of tobacco and five one rupee coins.
Mumtaz and Kallu stared at the things goggle-eyed. When the truth suddenly dawned on them, Kallu was all for grabbing Mumtaz and dancing a jig there and then. But Mumtaz had other ideas. She ran inside the hut and came back with an old and tattered blanket. This she stuffed inside the handi and took out two old and tattered blankets. Even the holes were identical in shape and size. Mumtaz was so excited she began to jump.
For a start, Mumtaz put in two tobacco pouches and took out four. Next she put in four and took out eight. Next she put in eight. Very soon they had a small pile of one rupee coins, to say nothing of the stack of pouches. Eyes shining with happiness, Mumtaz gave Kallu some of the money and asked him to get her necklace back. She also asked him to bring some clothes and sweets to celebrate.
Having packed off Kallu to the market away went Mumtaz to the nearest neighbour to borrow a couple of potatoes. When Kallu came back, he found his wife perched on top of a mountain of potatoes and grinning from ear to ear. He asked her to come down and get her necklace. In her excitement Mumtaz slipped, rolled down the mountain of potatoes and landed right inside the handi. Gallant as ever, Kallu ran to pull her out. To his greatest surprise there was another Mumtaz inside the handi, struggling to get out. Kallu went forward and helped her out too.
Both the Mumtaz stared at each other in stunned silence. His real wife was very angry at his stupidity. Shouting at him she pushed Kallu. So angry was she that she gave Kallu a mighty push and there, he also landed inside the handi.
Now there was real trouble. Kallu I scrambled out of the handi, only to be followed immediately after by Kallu II. Mumtaz stared from one to other, utterly bewildered. But not for long, for she was a woman of ideas. She knew what to do. She suggested that the two couples separate and set up separate houses on the other side of the hill.
No sooner said than done. Kallu and Mumtaz helped the newcomers build a second hut of mud and thatch on the other side of the hill. When the hut was ready, Kallu and Mumtaz popped all their possessions into the handi, one by one. And the duplicates they handed over to the newcomers. So, in time, instead of one, there were two huts on the hill. And much to the amazement of the villagers, both huts were exactly alike in every detail, down to the couples who lived in them.