The Fakir And His Message
It was a cloudy day. The time was well past sunrise yet it was dark and gloomy. The old fisherman looked up at the sky, shrugged, picked up his net and walked to the river where his boat was anchored.
As he was getting into the boat he noticed an old man wearing ochre robes sitting quietly with his eyes closed by the river bank. He seemed blissful, lost in contemplation. The fisherman did not want to disturb him. So he turned in his direction, bowed in respect with folded hands and went off to catch some fish.
He thought to himself, “I hope I can catch enough soon and return before it starts raining”. And that day the gods heard his prayers and chose to respond favourably. He caught in a few hours what he used to in the whole day. He returned with his basket full of fish and his heart full of gratitude.
He noticed the fakir exactly as he saw him in the morning; sitting in the same spot with his eyes closed and a faint smile on his lips. The fisherman thought he must be hungry and since he returned very early decided to give the fakir the lunch he had packed for himself.
The fakir gracefully accepted the offered food but insisted on sharing it with the fisherman and not eating it all by himself. He explained to the fisherman that his body needs very little food for sustenance as he does not work a lot. The fisherman liked the fakir’s humour and sat by him sharing a meal and a conversation.
The fisherman was astonished by how he was able to explain complex philosophical concepts in a way the even he, an uneducated man, could understand. He spent several hours asking questions and listening to the insightful answers that the fakir proffered with a benevolent smile and utmost patience. Before he left for home, he bowed down before the fakir and touched his feet. He wondered if the fakir’s presence that morning has anything to do with his luck.
He told his wife about the events of the day. She said, “You should have invited him home for dinner. He might have blessed this household and turned our luck”. The fisherman agreed to do that the next time he saw the fakir.
To his good fortune the fakir was in the same place and same state as he saw him on the previous day. He turned towards him, bowed respectfully and went off on his job. And the events of that day seemed to follow the same pattern of the previous day. He again shared his lunch with the fakir and conversed at length. Before he left he requested the fakir to accompany him to his home for a meal and some rest. The fakir gently rejected the request explaining how he, having given up his body’s identity, prefers to stay in open spaces and avoid households.
As the story of the fakir spread through the tiny fishing village a few more people started visiting him to seek his blessings and listen to his words. The fakir too kindly accepted a little food and answered the questions asked by the people. He would spend time with them thus until sunset and would leave requesting them not to follow him. And the people respected his wishes lest he get upset and stop visiting the river bank.
This went on for a few days until a group of pilgrims stopped by the river for some water. They spotted the crowd and went to see what was happening. They were awestruck by the fakir’s composure and discourse, and thought that they found a master before completing the pilgrimage. So they spent the next few weeks by the river bank and listened intently to the master’s message.
Soon the fame of the master and his message spread beyond the tiny village of innocent fishermen and rich, educated folks from neighbouring towns started visiting with their offerings and their problems seeking the fakir’s blessings. They believed he had mystical powers that could solve all their problems. They had no time to listen to the fakir, they would just pay obeisances, place the offerings at his feet and leave.
The fakir gently rejected their offerings saying he has no use for them and requested the villagers to take what they wanted before leaving the place at sunset. Despite his objections soon there was a soft mattress on the floor and a tiny thatched roof at the place he sat. There was another group that started singing the praises of the fakir and worshipping him according to their religions. The fakir silently tolerated all this to avoid hurting their sentiments.
One day one of the villagers asked him a question and the fakir started answering. But his voice was drowned by the praising and singing devotees. Soon enough the villager and the fakir realised there was no point in conversing and fell silent. That was the first time the villagers saw a frown on the face of the fakir.
The next day the fakir did not return to his spot. The villagers and the pilgrims who enjoyed listening to his kind and wise words were disheartened. One of the devotees who used to lead the singing shouted loudly, “Look at the flowers on the cushion where the master sat. The master’s body transformed into these flowers and his soul ascended to the heavens. We must bury the flowers and build a temple here”.
Soon enough there was a temple, devotional singing, devotees worshipping the idol by offering money, flowers, fruits, food items and clothes at the feet of the idol. There were also shops that sold articles of worship around the temple, a parking lot for leaving the vehicles, tiny restaurants that sold food to the worshippers who visited from afar. There was, in fact, a whole new town around the spot.
Some were ecstatic that their prayers were answered after visiting the temple, some were dejected that they were not. However, they continued their worship. Each day someone prescribed a new way to worship the fakir, each day there was a new event that brought more people to the temple.
But the villagers and the pilgrims who spent time conversing with the fakir never returned. The fakir too never returned.
Nobody remembered his message, even those who spent days at the temple worshipping his idol. It was lost amidst the prayers and the songs, the elation and the despair.
The loss was immense but nobody seemed to realise or even care about it, except the few who understood, cherished and lived by his message.