The Swindlers

In a particular country, there were two swindlers. They wandered from village to village in the guise of monks, claiming they could drive away spirits and ward off evil with talismans. People believed them and gave them money. The elder one posed as the Guru while the younger called himself his disciple. But they shared their evil gains equally between them.

Cheats must always be on the move. So our swindlers did not stay together in the same village for two days. If they were in one country for one month, they shifted to another country the next month. Yet their ill fame followed them close on their heels. Indeed, they met one of their victims in a particular village; the victim raised a hue and cried. The culprits were suspected, questioned, beaten well, and finally pushed out of the town.

After this, they parted company and went different ways. The Guru walked on for several days and came to a city. He went to a public choultry, sat cross-legged upon a pial, and closed his eyes, pretending to be in penance.

Soon a band of idlers gathered in front of him and watched him curiously. After a time, the monk opened his eyes and smiled at his audience.

“Who are you, sir?” the onlookers asked him. “Where do you hail from? What miracles can you perform?” and so on.

“What are we not capable of?” the swindler asked in return. “We can cure any disease with a pinch of powder. We can ward off any evil with a talisman. We can drive away the wickedest of devils!”

At once, he began to do business. Many people took his powder, while some asked for talismans too. He collected money from all, saying it was for the monastery at Hardwar.

Soon the crowd became huge, but all the people did not do business with the swindler because they were not sure they would get their money’s worth. At that moment, the disciple arrived on the spot. Seeing the Guru, he ground his teeth in rage and said, “You are here again; you cheat?” Then he turned to the crowd and shouted, “Good people, don’t believe this man. He is a big hoax. Until recently, I pretended to be his disciple and assisted him in his scams. I am done with him forever. I pray you not to be fooled by him!”

Most of the people believed. in the disciple. “How surprising! What a rogue! We were nearly taken in!” they said. But those who had already bought powder and talismans from the monk now turned to him and said, “Sir, why do you let him speak such nonsense? Permit us to give him a good hiding!”

The Guru passed his hand over his beard and said, “Poor fool! Don’t touch him. Leave him to his sins!”

This only angered the disciple still more. “So you would say !” he said to the older man. “I know all about you. I will reveal everything about you if anyone dares to lay hands upon me!”

People began to feel that the newcomer had the truth on his side. Perhaps the first One was a swindler. While suspicion invaded their minds, the accused monk stood up and exclaimed, “You fool, you go too far. You hope to deceive these people with your empty words. But you do not realise that there is One who can reveal the truth better than you! If I am a swindler, may this roof fall over my head! And if you are lying, you will suffer the consequences!” So saying, he took some water out of his bowl and threw it at the disciple.

At once, the disciple fell sideways like an axed tree, kicked his legs about for a while and lay stiff and still.

“He’s dead! He’s dead!” everyone shouted. “Insult a holy man, and you are doomed!” some said. “The fool thought that the other One was just a common monk. Now he knows!” said others.

Some others approached the Guru and said, “Sir, spare the fellow’s life! After all, he was an ignorant fool!”

The Guru appeared to relent. He took out a talisman, tied it around the disciple’s arm, and said, “We forgive you!”

The next instant, the disciple opened his eyes as though he had woken out of his sleep. Then he sat up and looked round in bewilderment. He got up weeping, fell upon the Guru’s feet, and lamented, “Pardon me, master!”

“You are pardoned this time!” said the guru. “Go your way. Never abuse holy men again!”

The disciple stood up, dried his eyes and went away. The business started again. Almost everyone bought a talisman from the monk, and the monk made a decent amount of money.

Later the Guru left the city, and the disciple joined him. They shared the money equally and separated again to enact the same drama in another place.

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