A Comedy Of Errors

In one of the many villages of India, a man called Sankar was a priest in the temple dedicated to Lord Shiva.

Sankar was very pious and godly, which won him the respect of everyone in the village.

Daily, well before daybreak, Sankar used to go to the river just outside the village to have a bath. On his way home, he had to pass a vegetable garden, and he was in the habit of picking a few vegetables for his daily requirements. He did not consider this stealing because he reasoned that if the gardener had been there at that hour, he would have gladly given him a few vegetables. But Sankar was wrong in thinking this because his unintentional thefts gave rise to grave consequences.

The gardener noticed the thefts and decided to find the culprit by keeping watch in the vegetable garden for one night.

On his way home after his prayers, Sankar went into the garden and picked four brinjals. The gardener hearing the sounds Sankar made, ran up to him and gave him a significant blow on his head with a cudgel.

Sankar was stunned and uttered, “Hey, Shiva! Hey, Shiva!” he fell heavily to the ground.

The gardener could not see who the thief was in the darkness, so he fetched a lamp and had a look at the prone figure. He was horrified to find that the thief was the priest Sankar and that he had dealt him such a heavy blow. The gardener tried to revive Sankar, but the priest appeared quite lifeless. The gardener did not know what to do and was afraid he would be hanged for murdering the priest. So he decided to flee for his life.

Sankar did not die. He had only been stunned by the blow. The cool morning breeze soon brought him back to his senses, and he remembered all that had happened. He thought the gardener had gone to the village to get all the villagers to see the thief and thus expose him. Rather than face the disgrace of being called a thief, Sankar immediately fled the village.

When Sankar still had not returned home by noon, his wife began to search for him. She went to the temple, but he was not there. All the villagers joined in the search too. Finally, they found his bag on the banks of the river and concluded that he had been carried away by the undercurrents in the river.

Later, it was noticed that the gardener was also missing, and the fire remains were found smoking in the corner of his garden. When the villagers raked up the embers, they found some bones amongst the ashes. Putting two and two together, they concluded that the gardener had murdered Sankar, burnt his body, and fled from the village.

The gardener was charged with murder, and people were sent out searching for him, but he could not be found.

A year he was passed by. In the guise of a Sadhu, the gardener had been wandering all over the countryside. At last, the longing to see his wife and children was too great to resist, so he returned to his village in disguise.

He soon learnt that he was charged with the murder of Sankar and that they were still searching for him. He also knew that no one had found the body of Sankar. The gardener realized that Sankar must have revived from the blow and be hiding somewhere. He decided to try and find Sankar.

Now Sankar had also been wandering about in the guise of a Sadhu. And so it was only a matter of time before the two came across one another.

The gardener recognized Sankar at once and asked him, “Sir, Are you not Sankar, the priest?”

Sankar became speechless with surprise for a moment and thought, this great sadhu seems to know everything.’ He decided to make a full confession to the sadhu.

“Holy Sir,” he said, “I stole some vegetables from a garden and was knocked unconscious by the gardener. To avoid the shame of being known as a thief, I ran away from my village and have been, ever since then, in this guise.”

The gardener listened patiently and then said, “I am that gardener, and I am in the same predicament as you because of hitting you on the head. Good Sir, unless you appear alive in Our village, the charge of murder against me will not be withdrawn. I long to be with my wife and children again, so please let us hurry home.”

The priest and the gardener went back to their village. They told the surprised villagers that they had both been suddenly smitten with a desire to go on a long pilgrimage and how they had decided not to say to a soul about it.

Now that their pilgrimage was over, they returned home and were very sorry for all the trouble they had caused the villagers and the sorrow they had brought to their respective families.

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