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 hadn’t 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 wasn’t your fruit. It was from someone else’s tree, and you ate it without his permission. It is stealing” the thought roundly scolded him. “To make amends for the wrong you’ve 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 wouldn’t be at ease unless he made amends for it. Try as hard as he might, he just couldn’t 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 unusual—the farmer hadn’t ever seen anything like it before—he knew it wouldn’t 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 farmer’s 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.
“I’ve 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 wasn’t mine. It’s from your tree, and so I have come here to seek your pardon.”
The man smiled, and placing his hand on the farmer’s shoulder, slowly said, “I’ll pardon you, but on one condition. Do you want to know what that condition is?”
“Yes, yes, sir,” the farmer eagerly replied. “I’ll 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 isn’t as simple as it sounds,” the old man continued. “I must tell you that my daughter is blind and deaf. Moreover, she has no limbs—neither 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 hadn’t spoke too soon. But then, breaking his silence, he said to the man, “I’ve given you my word, sir. If it is God’s wills that I should marry your daughter, I will, and nothing can stop that from happening.”
“Fine. It is your decision, son. Don’t 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 jubilant—everyone except for the farmer.
The custom in these parts was that the groom couldn’t 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 father’s, 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 couldn’t help thinking, for just a moment, how nice it would have been if this woman were his wife, not the woman who couldn’t see or hear and who had no limbs that he had just got married to.
“Why, she’s my daughter and now your wife,” the man replied matter-of-factly.
“My wife? But didn’t 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. “You’ve 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 didn’t lie to you, son. My daughter is indeed ‘deaf’—she’s deaf to gossip. She’s also ‘unable to speak’—incapable of speaking ill of anyone I mean. When I told you she has ‘no hands’, what I meant was that she’s so gentle that she won’t hurt even a fly. And when I said she has no feet, I meant that I’m confident that she won’t 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-law’s 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.