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  • Complete Knowledge
  • Intizar Husain and Vishwamitter Adil (bio)
    Translated by Alok Bhalla (bio)

Manohar set out on one path, but ended up taking an entirely different one. He was the son of a Brahmin, but was not interested in his studies. He spent his days in fun and frolic. Seeing him so involved in making merry, his father called to him and said, “Son, we are Brahmins. Knowledge is our wealth. Wisdom is our ornament. A Brahmin must be a man of learning.”

His father’s words pierced Manohar’s heart like a spear. He renounced all his pleasures and bent over his books. He read the Vedas, the Puranas, the Ramayana, and the Mahabharata; he read everything. In a short while, he became a learned man. Then he went to see his father, touched his feet, and stood quietly before him.

His father asked, “Son, what have you read?”

He replied, “I have read everything that has been written.”

“And what about the things that haven’t been written?” The question baffled Manohar.

His father smiled and said, “Son, there is more knowledge locked in the hearts of people than there is in books. And, son, one acquires knowledge from books, but only from a guru does one acquire wisdom.”

When Manohar heard that, he left home and wandered from city to city, sat at the feet of pundits and learned men, heard many discourses, but found no enlightenment. He left the cities of men and set out on the path leading to the forests. He touched the feet of hermits and sadhus, served them faithfully, but was still dissatisfied. He walked deeper into the forests; he walked through thick and dense forests; he walked through the summer heat and the rains; he walked through the dark storms and the cold; he continued to walk farther and farther into the forests. Thorns made his feet bleed, hunger tormented him, thirst left his lips dry and parched. Unconcerned, he kept walking. His soul was restless.

After walking in this manner for ages, Manohar came to a well under the shade of a peepal tree. A beautiful woman was drawing water from it. The shade of the peepal tree, the cool well, and the beautiful woman drawing water—when he saw them, he suddenly became aware that he was thirsty. Thirsty and tired. He sat down on the low parapet around the well.

The beautiful woman saw him and asked, “Stranger, who are you and why have you come here?”

“O woman, I have come from a far-off place and am thirsty.”

“Come, I’ll give you water to drink.”

The woman poured cool and refreshing water into Manohar’s cupped [End Page 41] hands. Once she began pouring water, she forgot to stop because her eyes were riveted on the stranger’s face.

“Enough, woman.”

Only then did she realise that he had quenched his thirst and that she was still pouring water. She stopped and put her vessel aside.

Manohar washed his hands and face, and felt refreshed. He stood up at once to leave.

“Are you leaving?”


“All right, then go,” she said, sounding disappointed.

She watched him till he had vanished from sight. Not once did Manohar turn back to look at her. He was lost in his own thoughts. His soul was restless, and the forest was calling him back.

Still lost in thought, he wandered into another dense forest. There, he saw an old man meditating under a banyan tree. His skin was as dry as leather, his ribs could be counted one by one, his hair was long and white, his beard was thick and tangled. His eyes were closed. Manohar thought that he had finally met a great rishi. Instinctively, he sat down at the old man’s feet. When the birds that had made a nest in the rishi’s hair saw the stranger, they chirped angrily, flapped their wings, and flew away.

The rishi was the well-known Sampoornanandji. He opened his eyes, frowned at Manohar, and asked, “Betey, why have you come?”

“Prabhu, I have come to ask you for something.”



“Fool, you can acquire knowledge...


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pp. 41-48
Launched on MUSE
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