Ancient Sanskrit tale translated and retold by U. Mahesh Prabhu
Once upon a time a merchant was travelling with his caravan to another country for business. In due course, they arrived at the edge of a severe hot desert. They were informed by locals that during the day time the sun heats up the fine sand until it’s as hot as charcoal, so no one can walk on it – not even bullocks or camels! So the merchant hired a desert guide, one who could follow the stars enabling them to travel at night when the sands cool down.
Some time later, after eating their evening meal, and waiting for the sand to cool, they started out again. Later that night the desert guide, who was driving the first cart, saw from the stars that they were getting close to the other side of the desert. Unfortunately, since he had overeaten, he accidentally dozed off. Soon the bullocks who, of course, couldn’t tell directions by reading the stars, gradually turned to the side and went in a big wide circle until they ended up at the same place they had started from!
In the morning people realized that they were back at the same spot they’d camped at the day before. They lost heart and began to worry. Since the desert crossing was supposed to be over by now, they had no more water and were afraid they would die of thirst. They even began to blame the caravan leader and the desert guide – “We can do nothing without water!”, they complained.
The Merchant realized that, “If I lose courage now, in the middle of this disastrous situation, my leadership has no meaning. If I fall to weeping and regretting this misfortune, and do nothing, all these goods and bullocks and even the lives of the people, including myself, may be lost. I must be energetic and figure a solution, somehow.” He, then, began walking back and forth, trying to avert this disaster.
Remaining alert, out of the corner of his eye, he noticed a small clump of grass. He thought, “Without water, no plant could live in this desert.” So he called over the most energetic of his fellow travelers and asked him to dig up the ground on that very spot. They dug and dug, and after a while they got down to a large stone. Seeing it they stopped, and began to blame the leader again, saying “This effort is useless. We’re just wasting our time!” But the tradesman replied, “No, no, my friends, if we give up the effort will all be ruined and our poor animals will die – let us stay optimistic!”
As he said this, he got down into the hole, put his ear to the stone, and heard the sound of flowing water. Immediately, he called over a boy who had been digging and said, “If you give up now, we will all perish – so take this heavy hammer and strike the rock with all energy you’ve got.”
The boy lifted the hammer over his head and hit the rock as hard as he could – and he himself was the most surprised when the rock split into two and mighty flow of water gushed out! Suddenly, all the people were overjoyed. They drank, bathed and washed their bullocks, cooked their meals and prepared for the journey ahead. This time they reached their destination without further troubles.
Before they left, they raised a high banner so that other travelers could see it from afar and benefit from the water following in the desert.
Observation: Leaders are those who can stay calm and figure out a solution to the most unusual problem and then get his people to believe in him before implementing it. Raising a flag for other travelers to benefit from the well was a sign of responsible humanism. While it’s important to seek one’s own profitability it’s equally important that one looks after his own men and does at least some good for the world around.