The villagers were looking forward to a grand wedding. Dhanadatta was a rich man, and he was going to celebrate the wedding of his only daughter.
Hari Sharma was equally excited. “At last you are going to have a sumptuous meal, Manduka,” he said to himself. Aloud.
“Why do you talk to yourself?” scolded his wife.
Hari Sharma had the habit of talking to himself whenever he was nervous. But he didn’t want to admit this to his wife. “Because I want someone to talk to me. Who will talk to a fellow with no money? So, I talk to myself,” Hari Sharma snapped back.
“And why do you address yourself as Manduka?” his wife was curious to know.
“As a child I used to hop like Manduka, a frog. My mother used to call me Manduka affectionately.”
His wife hugged him. “Don’t lose heart, my darling Manduka. One day you will be rich and famous.”
Hari Sharma, however, had lost all hopes of making money. “At least I can have a rich man’s meal at the grand wedding,” said Hari Sharma to himself.
But to his shock, Hari Sharma received no invitation for the wedding. His wife persuaded him to attend the feast. “Dhanadatta must be very busy with the wedding. It must have slipped his mind. Surely, he will be happy to see you at the wedding,” said his wife.
Hari Sharma was poor but he had his pride. He refused to attend the wedding, uninvited. “You can go, if you want. But don’t expect me to join you.”
To his disappointment, his wife took his advice and went to the wedding.
“Poverty brings dishonour. Your own wife will not respect you, Manduka” said Hari Sharma to himself, as he took a walk in the wood.
Meanwhile, the wedding party had arrived. The arrival was greeted with the bursting of crackers, beating of drums, music and dance. As the bridegroom dismounted the horse, someone burst a loud cracker. The poor horse trembled. No one noticed the frightened horse as it trotted away.
Meanwhile, Hari Sharma was nearing a pond in the woods, which was to the west of the village. Suddenly he heard the hoofbeats of a horse. He took one look at the animal, and knew it was frightened.
“Poor lamb, why are you trembling?” Hari Sharma said as he patted the horse. This seemed to soothe the horse which started following Hari Sharma.
Hari Sharma took the horse to the pool and made him drink water. He splashed some water on it and gave it a gentle massage. He gathered some grass and put it before the horse.
“Rest here. No one will disturb you,” said Hari Sharma as he patted the horse.
Then realizing that it was getting late and his wife would be worried, he decided to return.
When he returned home, his wife was back from the wedding hall. She was eager to share with him all the gossip she had heard.
“Dhanadatta is worried. The horse for the groom is missing,” said the wife. “He sent his men in search of the horse. Nowhere was the horse found. The groom’s side will surely take this as a bad omen.”
“Dhanadatta should consult a good astrologer,” Hari Sharma said forgetting all about the horse he had seen. “He can predict where the horse is.”
“That’s the first thing Dhanadatta did. He consulted the astrologer Shastriji,” said the wife.
“Is he any good?” asked Hari Sharma.
“Do you know a better astrologer?” asked the wife.
Hari Sharma kept quiet.
“Wasn’t your father a famous astrologer?” his wife probed.
Hari Sharma nodded his head.
“In your younger days, you did study astrology, didn’t you?” his wife persisted
“It’s an old story, forget it,” snapped Hari Sharma.
“You can tell Dhanadatta where to find the horse!” his wife exclaimed.
“Who will bother to ask my opinion. I’m nobody, a village bumpkin,” said Hari Sharma bitterly.
“Somebody is going to ask you. Soon. Be ready with an answer,” said his wife as she left for Dhanadatta’s house.
Dhanadatta had tried asking every astrologer, but couldn’t find the house. Finally, he knocked at Hari Sharma’s door. He begged Hari Sharma to use his knowledge of astrology to locate the missing horse. “Please do not hold it against me that I didn’t invite you to the wedding. Pardon me and please help me,” said the rich man.
Hari Sharma was pleased with the attention he was getting from Dhanadatta.
“What was the colour of the horse?” Hari Sharma asked.
“Jet black with a patch of brown across its body,” said Dhanadutta eagerly.
Hari Sharma closed his eyes.
“Its tail?” he asked.
“A mixture of black and brown.”
Hari Sharma remembered the horse he had seen near the pond.
“What’s the name of the bridegroom?” asked Hari Sharma. He himself didn’t know why he had asked this question.
“Purna Chandra Datta,” answered Dhanadutta.
Hari Sharma muttered some calculation. Again, he did not know why he did it.
“At what time did the wedding party arrive?” he asked.
“As the sun set,” said Dhanadatta.
Hari Sharma muttered some calculations. He knitted his eyebrows in concentration and counted on his fingers as Dhanadatta waited with his heart palpitating.
“Send your men to the woods in the direction of the setting sun. Let them go as far as the pond where they can see the reflection of the moon. And if they look out carefully, they will find the horse near the pond,” said Hari Sharma in a ringing tone.
Dhanadatta ran to organize a search party. The horse was found exactly where Hari Sharma had told them.
The wedding took place the following day. Hari Sharma was treated with great respect and was given handsome presents. He was introduced to the bridegroom’s father as the renowned astrologer. The guest, who was a senior official serving the king invited him to visit him in the capital.
Hari Sharma’s wife beamed with joy at the turn of events. Hari Sharma was happy that he had won the respect of all. Yet he felt little uncomfortable. He knew in his heart that he was lucky to have spotted the missing horse. It had nothing to do with astrology.
Little did he know the adventures he would soon face because of this misunderstanding.
Adapted from the Katha Sarit Sagara.