The Vanity

While Brahama-Dutt ruled Banaras, Bodhisatva was born as Guthila. He was a great expert in playing the veena. At the age of sixteen, he was recognised as an unrivalled master of that instrument in the whole continent, so the King of Banaras appointed him as his Court Musician.

Several years later, a batch of traders left Banaras for Ujjain for trade purposes. Thanks to Guthila, even the common folk of Banaras had a well-developed taste in veena music, and the traders, having, at last, reached Ujjain, thought of treating themselves to some music. They told the merchants of Ujjain, “We are anxious for music. Can you kindly arrange for the best veena player of Ujjain to entertain us? Money is no consideration.”

Now, Moosil was considered the best veena player in the city of Ujjain. So he was engaged in entertaining the traders from Banaras. Moosil arrived with his veena at the place where the traders from Banaras lodged. He adjusted the strings of the veena and started playing. He played for a long time, yet there was no indication that the traders were enjoying the music. Moosil tried various types of music, but they all left the listeners cold.

“Good sirs,” Moosil said to them at last, “I’ve been playing the veena to the best of my ability, but you don’t appear to derive any joy from it. Is it that my music does not appeal to you?”

The traders from Banaras looked at one another in surprise. “You have been playing!” one exclaimed. “We thought you were tuning the strings.”

“We thought there was something wrong with the instrument!” another.

Moosil’s face fell at these words, and he felt humiliated. “No doubt,” he said to the traders, “you’ve heard to a greater Master of veena than myself; on that account, you’ve failed to be impressed by me. May I know who that Master is ?”

“Is it possible that you have never heard of Guthila, the great Master of veena and the Court Musician of Banaras ?” the traders asked Moosil.

“Is he a much better player than I?” Moosil asked incredulously?

“Pardon us for saying it, but compared to him, you cannot be classed even as an average player of the veena,” the traders replied.

“In that case,” Moosil said, “I shall not rest till I am recognised as a player equal to Guthila. You need not pay me anything for my performance.”

That very day Moosil started for Banaras. Having arrived there, he went to see Guthila. “Sir,” he said to the Master, “I came from Ujjain. I am called Moosil. I’ve come to learn from you the art of veena playing. I will be your pupil till you make me as good a player as yourself.”

Guthila agreed to teach him. Moosil stayed with Guthila, learnt his lessons at home and accompanied him to court.

Several years went by. One day Guthila told Moosil, “My son, your education is over. I’ve taught you all I know about the veena playing. Now you can go back to your country.”

But Moosil did not want to return to Ujjain, where people had no good taste for real music. Was he not considered a Master there, even when he was a poor player? His ambition was to become the Court Musician for the King of Banaras. Now that he knew as much as Guthila, he was entitled to such an honour. Moreover, Guthila was getting on in years, and soon, he will be too old for the job.

Having thought along these lines, Moosil said to his teacher, “Sir, I’ve no desire to leave Banaras. Since you certify that I know all you know, kindly get me engaged at court.”

Guthila broached the subject with the King.

“Because he has been your pupil so long,” the King said, “I don’t mind engaging him at court. But I shall pay him half what I have been paying you. If he is agreeable, he can take up the post.”

When Moosil heard this, he was disappointed instead of jumping with joy. How was he inferior to Guthila? Why should he be paid only half the pay Guthila was getting?

Vanity made Moosil blind to reason. He went straightaway to the King and said, “Your Highness, it appears that you wanted to engage me as a Court Musician on half pay. It is unfair since I am as much a musician as my teacher, and my teacher himself can vouch for it.”

The King was annoyed by this talk. “I was aware,” he said, “that you were the Master’s pupil, but I was not aware that you were his equal. Nor will I believe it without proof.”

“Your Highness can put me to the test,” Moosil submitted.

“Well,” said the King, “I shall arrange a competition in veena playing between you and your Master. You shall be engaged on full pay if you prove yourself equal to him. But if you fail the test, you shall have nothing. Do you agree?” Moosil agreed.

A competition performance was arranged. Both Guthila and Moosil tried to excel with each other. Guthila broke one of his veena’s strings and played on the remaining strings only. Seeing this, Moosil, too, broke one of his strings and went on playing. Soon Guthila broke one more line, and Moosil, too, broke one more of his strings. Presently the last string of Guthila’s veena was broken, and Moosil broke his last line.

Now came the climax. Guthila could still produce notes and music on a broken string, while Moosil was utterly incapable of making even a single note.

The entire court cheered Guthila and booed Moosil. Because of his vanity, Moosil was thoroughly disgraced. He lost all chances of being engaged in court. That very day he left Banaras for Ujjain.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *