A Visit to a Strange Land
A Visit to a Strange Land
MANY YEARS AGO, in a certain, land, there lived an old merchant and his son, Arjun. One day, the merchant told Arjun, “My son, here are two horses of high pedigree. I have reared them with care and in a country where there is scarcity of good horses, they should fetch very good price. To the far south lies such a country. Now that I am old, I am unable to travel so fat But if you are brave enough to undertake a long journey through unknown lands, you can take the horses to the King of that southern country and, I’m sure, he will be pleased to give you a very high price.”
Arjun was full of enthusiasm at the prospect travelling to distant lands. But his father cautioned him: “Remember; never go westward. If you do, you may step into a certain land known as the Land of Rogues. No outsider has ever returned from that land happy. I too had been once there. But the price I paid for my folly was too high for me to ever forget it.”
Arjun begged his father to narrate his experience.
The old man, after a sad pause, said, “Do you remember playing with an elder brother when you were a child? Twenty years ago I went on a trading mission and visited several places. I took along your elder brother who was only twelve years old. I thought that visiting different land and observing the way people lived would be a good education for him.
“On our homeward journey, wrongly advised by some people, we missed our way and entered an unfamiliar country. It was evening. We passed our night in a roadside inn. From the way people talked and behaved I suspected that we had come to the Land of Rogues. Many travellers had warned me against visiting it. So I was anxious to leave it as soon as possible.
“Early in the morning, as I was paying the inn-keeper, his brother came running to us. He was wailing and bemoaning his wife fate. He held me responsible for his giving birth to a still-born child. I was taken aback. The rogue claimed that when I dismounted from my horse the previous evening I was breathing very heavily. A tiny insect, which was flying out of the inn, changed its direction under the impact of my breath. It flew into the room when fellow’s wife sat. She was about to deliver her child. The insect flew into her nostril. She sneezed and as a result her unborn child died.
“Before I could answer such an absurd accusation, a crowd gathered around us. Everyone supported the rogue. I stood helpless. They snatched my son away from me, as they insisted that I was responsible for the death of the rogue’s son. My poor son must be serving” as their slave to this day.”
While recounting the incident the old merchant wept. Saddened by his father’s sorrow, Arjun said reassuringly, “Rest assured, Father, I will never go near the Land of Rogues.”
Arjun left for the country which lay to the far south, taking the two beautiful horses with him. After a few days, he came to a river-bank. The river was in spate and the ferryman-refused to carry the horses in his small boat. He insisted that if Arjun went westward, he would come across a boatman with a bigger and stronger boat.
Arjun proceeded westward. Suddenly a cyclone burst forth. He looked in vain for shelter. Then he saw a column of smoke rising from the other side of a nearby hill. Holding his two horses and with great difficulty, he climbed the hill. The cyclone had just subsided. Looking down, Arjun saw a village. Since he had come a long way westward, it occurred to him that the village could be a part of the Land of Rogues. He decided to turn back. But curiosity got the better of him. What sort of people lived in this fabled land? He leaned forward from the edge of the hill to have a closer look. His foot slipped on a piece of loose rock and; he fell down – and down he rolled right into the village. His horses galloped down and stood by his side.
An old man who was passing by came rushing to him. Arjun stood up. Fortunately he had suffered nothing more than a few bruises. However, he was pleased to see that the old man was looking at him with some concern. He thought, “Even if this happens to be thefabled Land of Rogues, there are people here who show some concern for others.”
Arjun was just about to thank the old man when suddenly the old man started crying. He had just found a frog crushed to death under Arjun’s weight.
“O my sweet little frog, O my child,” wept and lamented the fellow, “how am I to avenge your death?” As he cried many villagers gathered. They spoke to the old man in a strange language. Then, turning to Arjun, they explained that the old man, who had no child, had adopted the frog The domesticated frog was famous for his dutifulness and devotion to his father. No wonder the old man felt utterly heartbroken and forlorn at the demise of the land’s most wonderful frog.
Very soon a number of villagers joined the old man in his wailing. Arjun did not know what to do. He wanted to leave the place at once. He asked the people, what would pacify the old man.
The old man suddenly spoke out, “Give me one of your horses.”
“What? A horse for a frog?” Arjun questioned angrily
“Young man, I do not understand you. Can a horse ever be more valuable than a son?” The rogue questioned showing great agitation.
Arjun had to surrender one of his excellent horst to the rogue. With a heavy heart, he left the village. But as it was difficult for him to climb the hill again, he walked a short distance to see if he could find a pass through the range of hills to the other side.
the foot of the hill. Let the old man roll down from the top of the hill as I did and fall upon my frog-son and kill him.
“That is quite fain No one can doubt the wisdom of this proposal,” said the King.
The old man was by no means prepared for this. Without another word, he returned the horse to Arjun and left.
Then it was the one-eyed man’s turn to state his case. In his own defence Arjun replied, ‘;My Lord, my father undoubtedly had very strange hobbies. One of them was to collect people’s eyes. In fact there are hundreds of eyes in our store-room. I am prepared to return this gentleman’s eye. But it is not possible for me to find the correct eye unless I take his remaining eye and match it. So I propose to dig out his eye and take it back with me. Soon I will be able to return both his eyes intact.”
“A very sensible idea,” said the King. Needless to say the one-eyed man returned the horse immediately and did not show the least interest in getting back his lost eye.
Then the stranger said to Arjun, “I will accompany youtill the border of this country to ensure that you are not harassed any more.”
While they walked along and chatted, Arjun discovered that the stranger was none other than his lost brother. The rogue arid his wife who had kept him as a slave had recently died. Since then, he had waited for an opportunity to return to his land. Being familiar with the tricks of the people of the land, he knew how to deal with them.
Both the brothers left the Land of Rogues. They went south, sold their horses at and very high price and returned home. Their father declared himself the world’s happiest man.