By Roshan Shah, WordForPeace.com
One day, a farmer was strolling along the banks of a river near his house when he saw a big, ripe fruit bobbing up and down in the water. He hadnt seen that sort of fruit before. He leapt into the river and caught hold of it. He swam back to the river-bank and then, cutting open the fruit, he hungrily gobbled it up.
But hardly a moment later, a thought suddenly assailed him. It wasnt your fruit. It was from someone elses tree, and you ate it without his permission. It is stealing the thought roundly scolded him. To make amends for the wrong youve done, you must apologise to the person from whose tree this fruit came from.
No matter how hard the farmer tried, he could not expel this thought from his mind. He felt so bad for what he had done that he knew he wouldnt be at ease unless he made amends for it. Try as hard as he might, he just couldnt deny his conscience.
Almost at once, then, the farmer set off from his house, in search of the person who owned the tree from where the fruit had come. Since the fruit had been floating down the river, the farmer knew that the owner must live in a village that was located upstream. And since the fruit was very unusualthe farmer hadnt ever seen anything like it beforehe knew it wouldnt be very difficult to spot the tree it had come from as well as the person to whom the tree belonged.
After trudging up the river-bank for a couple of hours in the hot afternoon sun, the farmer chanced upon a huge tree which was laden with dozens of fruits of the sort that he had eaten earlier that day. It was the only such tree in the area, and so he knew that the fruit that he had eaten earlier that day had come from it. The tree stood on the edge of the same river that passed by the farmers field, and the fruit must have fallen into the river and floated downstream.
A few yards from the tree stood a little hut. This must be the home of the owner of the tree, the farmer thought, and he went up and knocked on the door.
Yes, come in, he heard a friendly voice say.
When the farmer entered the hut, he saw before him an old man seated on a cot. He had a round, smiling face that shone with a beautiful light. The farmer at once knew that he was in the presence of a man of God.
Ive come to apologise to you, sir, the farmer stuttered as he sat down on the ground beside the old man. I ate a fruit that I found this morning even though it wasnt mine. Its from your tree, and so I have come here to seek your pardon.
The man smiled, and placing his hand on the farmers shoulder, slowly said, Ill pardon you, but on one condition. Do you want to know what that condition is?
Yes, yes, sir, the farmer eagerly replied. Ill accept any condition.
The condition is hmmm the condition is that you must marry my daughter, said the man.
Now, the farmer was single and he had no intention of getting married in the near future. But since he had given the old man his word, and the man seemed a man of God, he agreed to his proposal.
Alright, sir, he said. I accept that.
Oh, but it isnt as simple as it sounds, the old man continued. I must tell you that my daughter is blind and deaf. Moreover, she has no limbsneither hands nor feet. She was born like that, you see. Now, tell me, do you still accept my condition?
You can imagine how shocked the poor farmer was! He kept silent for a long while, wondering if he hadnt spoke too soon. But then, breaking his silence, he said to the man, Ive given you my word, sir. If it is Gods wills that I should marry your daughter, I will, and nothing can stop that from happening.
Fine. It is your decision, son. Dont say that I forced you into it, the man replied.
And so, that very evening the man arranged for his daughter to marry the farmer. There was great celebration in the village. Everyone seemed jubilanteveryone except for the farmer.
The custom in these parts was that the groom couldnt see his bride until after the marriage ceremony was over. And so, when the old man had finished conducting the ceremony, he led the farmer (who was now his son-in-law) to his hut in order for the groom to see his wife.
And do you know what happened next? Lo and behold! When the farmer approached the hut, he saw before him an angelic-looking woman, with a face full of light, just like her fathers, standing by the door. She gracefully greeted the two men with folded hands as they entered, and she demurely followed after them.
Who is she? the curious farmer asked the old man in a whisper so that the woman could not hear. He couldnt help thinking, for just a moment, how nice it would have been if this woman were his wife, not the woman who couldnt see or hear and who had no limbs that he had just got married to.
Why, shes my daughter and now your wife, the man replied matter-of-factly.
My wife? But didnt you tell me that my wife was deaf and dumb and had no feet and hands? the farmer asked, completely taken aback.
The man burst out into a hearty laugh. Youve passed the test, my son, he cried out. You have proved yourself to be a very noble and honest man, a man of conscience, a man true to his word, and hence truly worthy of my daughter.
Yes, the old man proceeded to explain, I didnt lie to you, son. My daughter is indeed deafshes deaf to gossip. Shes also unable to speakincapable of speaking ill of anyone I mean. When I told you she has no hands, what I meant was that shes so gentle that she wont hurt even a fly. And when I said she has no feet, I meant that Im confident that she wont ever go astray but will always walk on the straight path. She is the most suitable wife for a fine man like you.
You can imagine how elated the farmer was! He at once fell at his father-in-laws feet. Then, the old man lifted him up and held him in a tight embrace.
From then on, the old man, the farmer and his wife lived together in their little hut by the river, where that majestic tree with the unusual fruit still stands strong.
This tale is based on a story that was related to me by Saif ji, a middle-aged man from a village in Assam, who works as a guard in the apartments where I live. Everyone, no matter what her or his walk in life, has at least one such story like this to relate. You, too, could ask someone you know to tell you a story with a moral like this one, which you might like to share with others.