Once a scholar who was travelling to a town across the river, approached a boatman for a ride.
The boatman said, ‘I cannot take you now. The clouds are dark and it is going to rain.’
The scholar said, ‘I am not worried about the rain. Don’t you see I am carrying an umbrella?’
At the scholar’s insistence, the boatman seated him rather reluctantly in his boat and started rowing. The scholar began a conversation. ‘Have you studied about the weather changes? Do you know about space and planets?’ The boatman shook his head.
‘Oh no, you have wasted a quarter of your life!’ exclaimed the scholar.
The boatman did not reply but kept on rowing feverishly, constantly throwing worried glances at the clouds.
‘Have you studied grammar?’ the scholar proceeded to ask, oblivious of the boatman’s anxiety and the deterioration in the weather. When the boatman replied in the negative, the scholar was aghast. ‘You have wasted half your life!’ he declared.
The boatman jumped. But it was not because he was shaken by what the scholar had revealed to him; it was because of the lightning that flashed across the sky.
When it began to rain, the scholar opened his umbrella and continued his query, remarking on the wasted years of the boatman’s life. The rain turned heavy and the wind became stronger too.
Now the boatman warned the scholar, ‘If the river gets rougher, we might have to abandon the boat and swim.’
‘Swim?’ asked the petrified scholar. ‘I do not know how to swim!’ he screamed.
‘Then your entire life is wasted!’ exclaimed the boatman and jumped into the river as the boat upturned. The boatman managed to help the scholar and bring him safely to the shore.
As the thunder roared, the lightening flashed and the rain poured, all the grateful scholar could do was look up at the boatman with sheer admiration in his eyes. He thought, ‘I owe my entire life to him.’