A learned man arrived on the banks of a river. He asked the boatman to take him to the opposite bank. “I’ll give you a rupee,” he said.
The boatman looked up. He could see dark clouds.
“Don’t worry about rain,” the Pundit said, “I have an umbrella.”
The Pundit sat in the boat and the boatman started rowing the boat. He wanted to reach the other side before the weather turned nasty.
The Pundit was a talkative man. “Do you know about movement of planets and stars? Have you studied astrology?” he asked the boatman.
The boatman told the Pundit that he had no knowledge of astrology.
“Oh, no,” the Pundit exclaimed, “A quarter of your life is wasted.” The boatman paid no attention to him. He was looking up, keeping a watch on the clouds.
“Have you studied grammar? Sanskrit grammar?” the Pundit asked.
Of course, the boatman had no knowledge of Sanskrit. “Half of your life is wasted!” the Pundit declared with profound sadness. The boatman was shaken. No, it wasn’t because of what the Pundit had just said. He had seen lightning flash across the sky.
It started raining. The Pundit opened the umbrella and continued to talk. “Do you at least know how to read and write in your mother tongue?” he asked.
The boatman replied that he had not gone to school, and therefore, had not learned to read or write.
“Three quarters of your life is wasted,” said the Pundit. The boatman was now worried as it began to rain heavily. The wind too had picked up.
The boatman turned to Pundit. “The river is getting rough, Punditji. If something happens to our boat, we may have to swim to reach the other bank.”
“Swim? I don’t know swimming!” blabbered the pundit, now frightened.
“Then your entire life is wasted, Punditji,” said the boatman, even as there was ear-shattering thunder.
Next moment, the boat turned upside down, and both were now in rough waters.
The frightened Pundit held on to the boatman, as the young man began to swim.
As they managed to reach the shore, the rain stopped, and the sun came out. The grateful pundit hugged the boatman. Then he asked, “I’ll be staying here for a month. Will you teach me swimming?”
“Gladly, Sir,” said the boatman. “And you can teach me to read and write.”