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Three Scholars

2006-07-14 00:26

  Once upon a time, there were three young friends who lived in the Ashram of guru.

  The guru had many disciples and he taught them many things; but what the three friends loved most was the art of performing miracles. The guru had a stack of manuscripts, which explained the art. The three read them keenly.

  Sometimes, in the dead of night, when all were asleep and all was quiet, they would gather the necessary articles and practice their voodoo.

  “Boys, try to be good, try to be wise, try to seek the truth in all things. Why waste your time and talents dabbling in magic and miracles? They would never lead you anywhere near your goal!” the guru told them time and again.

  But the guru's warning fell on deaf ears. The time passed and the three friends learnt to perform a variety of miracles. They were amazed at their wonderful achievements.

  “The whole world ought to have a taste of our power. Why don't we go out and dazzle the people with our miracles?” proposed one of them. The other two were taken up with the idea. “Yes, yes, let's do so,” they supported their friend.

  “Please allow us to tour the region,” they said to the guru, standing before him with their folded hands.

  “I'm afraid that the time is not yet ripe for you to wander by yourselves! Said the guru.

  “What! Aren't we grown-up enough for that? Please don't refuse us the permission, O guru, for we are quiet capable of taking care of ourselves. Praise of our talents would reach your ears before long. And to be sure, as we grow in fame, you too would not be forgotten, for we'd not hide the fact that we are your disciples!” assured the three friends.

  “Don't bother about giving me any credit,” advised the guru. “If go you must, take our Bhola with you. Look upon him as one of your brothers. And pay attention to his counsel should he give any.”

  Bhola was an illiterate chap who served the guru. The three scholars did not relish the idea of taking him along as their companion. But the guru had already given his orders with an air of finality.

  They soon set forth on their journey. “We are on our way to fame,” said one. “And wealth too,” said the other. “Who knows if we'd ever return to the Ashram? The world might very well make gurus of us!” said the third.

  They talked of the secrets they had learnt-how to sprout a pair of wings on a frog-how to change a string of rope into a serpent-how to tame the imps and make them dance. Occasionally they cast a look of contempt at Bhola. He walked silently behind them, carrying their luggage.

  The road would through a forest. It was noon. They chose the cool shade of a huge tree to sit down under and ordered Bhola to cook their lunch. Bhola got down to work.

  But the friends were in no mood to pass their time idly. One of them saw some crumbled bones scattered around the tree.

  “Let me bring these bones together and make a complete skeleton out of them!” he proposed enthusiastically.

  And he lost no time in chanting hymn and sprinkling a little water on the bones. Lo and behold! The disjoint bones come together. They made the skeleton of a tiger. The beast, when alive, must have been big enough to fight a lion.

  They were agog with excitement. They danced around the skeleton and sang their own glory.

  “I can endow it with flesh and blood!” announced the second friend.

  Upon hearing all this, Bhola stopped cooking and stood up, looking horror-struck.

  “Don't act like fools! He shouted at them.

  But who would listen to him? Only a few birds tittered and flew scurryingly away.

  The second friend chanted his hymn. To their great amusement, the skeleton grew into a robust carcass.

  “Do you wish to see what I can do?” asked the third friend. And excitedly he shouted out the answer himself, “I can breathe life into it!”

  “Do so by all means! It will be such a charming pet!” exclaimed the other two.

  “Don't, for heaven's sake!” cried out Bhola. “Don't forget that you have promised to win fame for yourselves and our guru. Let's leave the carcass here and proceed to the locality. You can perform your miracles before crowds who will appreciate them.”

  “The tiger, once restored to life, will feel so grateful to us! How wonderful it's being to see it behaving before us like a dog, wagging its tail and licking our feet. People would be amazed! We'd be looked upon as gods!” the friends continued to exclaim, in total disregard of all that Bhola said.

  Bhola looked for a tall tree. He climbed it as soon as he found one. He had just reached its top when heard a lusty roar.

  Yes, the third scholar had breathed life into the carcass and the tiger had just stood up. It yawned and stretched its limbs. Then it looked around and gave out yet another roar, more lusty and terrific.

  Before long its roving eyes fell on the three friends. Instantly it sprang upon them. It was easy for the beast to do so, for the scholars stood huddled together, shivering like reeds in the wind.

  The scholars were crushed under the beast immediately. It sat on them and devoured them with what seemed to be a century's hunger.

  Bhola was back in the Ashram by evening. When the guru heard his report, he shook his head sadly. “How unfortunate!” he sighed.

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