In my childhood days, I was very fond of listening to stories. In winters, after having my dinner and praying Isha, I would like to crawl into my loving grandmother’s lap and pester her to tell me a story. At first, my grandmother would try to avoid it by creating the common excuse of sleep. But, because of the never-ending insistence as I portrayed, she shifted through her brain and selected one tale from her memory filled with old stories. The same thing happened that day too; and she said, “I have one story from Arabia for you, listen very carefully”. I took her words very seriously and patiently waited to listen the story, sitting next to her with obedience and attention. She cleared her throat as usual and began to tell the story, A Cheat in A Disguise!
There once lived an old man in a small village of Arabia. He was a very pious and God-fearing man. He owned a horse which was very healthy, fast and charming. He used to adore him very much. That horse was dearer to him than his own life! He took good care of him in every aspect. He fed him healthy food, and for himself, took whatever food he found in his hut. He would ride and wander around his village riding his horse.
The fame of the horse was spreading to the surrounding villages, towns and cities. Some people were willing to buy that horse at any cost. But the man was not willing to sell his horse at any price.
One day, hearing appealing qualities of the horse, a wealthy merchant from a big city of Arabia travelled to the village to buy the horse. He offered to pay any price that was asked and was willing to pay a handsome amount. But the old man refused to sell his horse.
The merchant was a very experienced man. He had seen the world. He realized that he could not buy this horse with his wealth alone.
He was disappointed, but at the time, he was seen off, he stated very confidently,” whatever I wish for, I will get in any way possible. ”
As time went by, the elder man forgot about the merchant and his last statement.
One day, the old man had to travel to the city to tend to some work. On the way he passed through a forest, he spotted an old man. The man was crawling very slowly on the narrow path with great difficulty. His face was covered and he wore rugged and torn clothes. He also looked as if he was ill. He explained his worries very humbly to the old horseman and asked for help to reach his destination.
The horseman was very kind hearted and full of pity and sympathy. He felt very sorry for the sick man. He dismounted his horse and helped the sick man climb on the horse’s back.
As soon as the old man rested on the saddle of the horse, he removed the clothes covering his face and said, “I told you, whatever I like, I’ll get it at any cost! I’m the merchant to whom you refused to sell your horse. It is my skill and intelligence that you yourself have given me the reins and ownership of your horse.”
The kind owner of the horse was shocked upon encountering such an unexpected situation. He never even thought or imagined of such unfortunate events. He glanced up at the sky and then proceeded with a deep breath of gentle temper.
“Now, this horse belongs to you. I will not ask you to give it back. I happily gave you the horse cherished more than my life. But I beg you very humbly, if someone asks you anything about this horse, tell them that I gifted you this horse with my own will.”
The deceitful merchant said, “Why should I say that? I got it with my skills of cleverness and brilliance!”
Hearing this,the real owner of horse explained in an extremely serious tone:
“If you say that you have got this horse from me, disguised as a sick and needy person by fooling me, then people will not trust a real needy person.
People will no longer believe any one when they hear about worries and troubles of people like you. The society will look at every needy person with suspicious eyes.
No one will feel sorry for anyone, No one will help anyone, No one will sympathize with anyone, No one will do good for anyone.
People will lose faith in kindness and goodness, also, people will not feel sadness or suffering, sympathy or helplessness for anyone else!!!”
(Writer is ex IBS Officer in AIR/DD and Sahitya Akademi National Award & Delhi Urdu Academy Award winner Urdu Laureate)
Email: [email protected]