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The Six Important Questions in Life.



Long long ago, there was an honest man named Ruldu, living with his beautiful wife, and old mother. He used to labour all day in his farm, so that he had a good harvest each year. Ruldu loved his wife dearly, and would take her into confidence in all matters. She was the Queen of his little home.  Ruldu had a dear friend, Ramu who was an easy going man. Ramu loved doing nothing, and his parents were tired of him. They would tell him how his friend was so good, while he wasted his time. Even Ruldu tried to talk to Ramu to work, but his words went to deaf ears. Ramu was his childhood friend, so he couldn’t just leave his friend ruining his life.
Ramu had a deep passionate attraction for Ruldu’s wife. But was unfortunate that he saw her only after she had married his friend. Or he would have married her himself. Ramu stayed a bachelor and his unhealthy life-style made it difficult for his parents to get a girl from a wealthy family. Even some of the poor families, who knew him turned down his parents offer. Ramu was sad, but he knew that his love lay elsewhere. He wouldn’t ever be satisfied with his wife.
Ruldu would work hard in the fields, and Ramu would go sometimes on the pretext of meeting him to his house. He was greeted by Radha, Ruldu’s wife. Radha had been a beautiful girl, and was the centre of attraction among her friends. She got all the attention, from her friends and men. She longed for excess love. But here she was like an imprisoned bird. Her beauty seemed to be snared and go in waste. Nobody to appreciate her, the lively girl turned dull. He husband didn’t give her enough time, and when in the evenings he did come, he was too tired to think of any romance.
Ramu noticed the dullness in Radha’s life, and decided to exploit his friend’s generosity for his own gain. Ramu would praise Radha’s beauty, and would help her in the household work. It was something that developed in their hearts, and it was difficult to say who initiated the first step; for their relationship was something that wouldn’t be approved by the society. Radha cheated on her husband as did Ramu cheat on his best friend. They would make passionate love in Ruldu’s absence.
It happened that like all bad things that tries to keep itself covered but someday gets exposed, Ramu and Radha’s infidelity got exposed. Ruldu had been bitten by a snake while he was working in the field, and he had quickly returned to his house, only to find his naked wife in the arms of his best friend.
It was the snake venom or the betrayal, we do not know – but Ruldu swooned and fell. His last scream and thud brought out his friend. He rushed to check what had happened, and found Ruldu lying unconscious on the veranda, frothing from his mouth. He realised, that he had been bitten by a snake.
It was Ramu’s chance. He just let his friend die. The word spread that Ruldu had been bitten by a snake and had died. Now those who die after being bitten by snake are buried. So, Ruldu was to be buried. It happened that an ascetic chanced to pass by, on the ground that Ruldu was to be buried. Seeing, the dark blue corpse of Ruldu, the ascetic said, “He is not dead. The poison has made him unresponsive, but he is still alive. I can revive him.” It was Ramu’s turn to feel uncomfortable.
He said, “O holy Sadhu. It is unwise of you to rescue someone from the dead. It can harm our little village. 

What has happened is Kaal. Let Kaal play its role!”

The wise ascetic smiled at him. “Well, Kaal sent me to him, for it is not his fate to die now.”
Ramu was helpless. Ruldu’s old mother and the villagers welcomed the ascetic decision. Ramu watched with fear, as the ascetic revived his friend. It was his end for sure. The ascetic used herbs and chanted mantras, and after a while Ramu regained his consciousness.
He was weak, and the ascetic asked his old woman to take care of him. “Stay with your family till you are strong. If you want to know the secret of life and your existence, you can seek me. I live in the topmost mountain in the Himalayas.” Saying, the ascetic left him.
It would take some time for the venom to finally wear off. Ramu looked after his friend, but couldn’t meet his eye. He fell on his feet, and asked for forgiveness. Ruldu was quiet, and didn’t speak anything on the subject. He seemed changed after he had recovered. He was lost in thoughts. His wife had the feel of guilt about her. She was in a dismay, about what he would say. But he didn’t speak a word. Seeing how his wife and friend cared for him during his recovery, he forgave them.
After Ruldu had found his strength, he one night disappeared from his home. He took a journey to the Himalayas, hoping he would find the ascetic who had revived him, for he really wanted to know the secret of his life and existence. And he would ask the ascetic, ‘When it was better for him to die, why he had revived him?’
Ruldu, walked many miles, and crossed mighty rivers, whence he came upon a dark deep forest. It didn’t frighten him, for he was already a dead man within. As he traversed through the forest, he came upon a clearing. It was the hut of a hermit, who had been doing penance for 12 years. Ruldu stopped, to find the hermit looking at him. “I see you have finally come. You are the answer of my penance.”
Ruldu was surprised.
“Answer me this question, and I will be relieved. 

What is the bitterest thing that is sweet?”

Ruldu thought, and said, “Forgiveness. It was bitter forgiving my wife and friend. But now I realise it was the best thing for me, as I travel this wide world without any guilt on my conscience.”
“Ha, that’s exactly I needed to learn instead of doing penance,” said the hermit. “I couldn’t forgive myself after killing my wife and her lover. And so I did penance for 12 years. I think you have answered my question. I need to forgive myself, and move back to my old life.”
The hermit gave Ruldu, a talisman that would guide him further. “You will come across a steep mountain cliff. There will be no way. But then if you talk and coax the mountain to talk, it will ask you a question. If you answer it to its satisfaction, it will make way for you.”
Ruldu was grateful to the hermit for the advice and moved on. He crossed the forest and there was a mighty mountain before him. It rose like a steep shining wall before him. Climbing the mountain was almost impossible for him. He had to coax the mountain to talk. So he shouted, “Hello!” And ‘hello’, ‘hello’, echoed back to him.
“Are you dumb?” he shouted. ‘Dumb’, ‘Dumb’, the mountain echoed. It sounded like the mountain was mocking him. Ruldu understood the mountain was playing a trick on him. All the bad things were reflected back to him.
“I am mighty, the mountain is small,” he shouted. This time to his surprise the mountain didn’t echo back. He waited to hear his echo. And the mountain spoke.
“Thou little human, how can thou compare thyself to a mighty mountain?”
“I am sorry, O’ mighty mountain, I didn’t mean to belittle thee. I wanted a pass, as I am seeking an ascetic who lives high up in the Himalayas. If only thou could let me!”
“I shalt let thee pass, little man. But thou has to answer this question of mine. 

What is the sweetest thing that is bitter?”

Ruldu thought for a moment and said, “Revenge. Revenge is very sweet in the beginning, but eventually turns out to be bitter. The hermit I met sought his revenge, but felt guilty after he had his revenge. And maybe, I would have felt the same if I had my revenge.”
“Hmmmm. Correct answer,” boomed the mountain. “Revenge destroys the inner peace of a man. Repentance and guilt is all that is left of him. You have given hope to me to stand here till eternity, without seeking revenge from the one who cursed me to be a mountain!”
And suddenly the mountain vanished, and in there stood a fine young prince.
“I was cursed by a sage, to become a mountain while I was hunting. I had disturbed his meditation, and was arrogant and proud. A deer which I was hunting had sought refuge with the sage, and the sage refused to give it to me. So I swore to behead him, and he cursed me and made me a mountain. It has been years being a mountain, and I almost lost all hope that ever I could resume my human form, until you came and destroyed the curse.”
Ruldu listened to the prince in amazement. The prince gave him a ring, and said, “This will keep the evil eye away from you. As you go further you will come across a great river.  It will ask you a question, for crossing it safely and if you answer it correctly, it will let you pass or else it will swallow you up, when you reach the middle of it.”
Ruldu took his path while the prince took his own. He walked for a long time, and it was dusk when he came up to the banks of the river. He looked around; there was no bridge, and no boatman. So, he decided to swim across the river. As he stepped into the water, there appeared a big whirlpool in the middle of the river, and a gurgling loud voice spoke,
“Stop O’ children of Adam, or I will swallow you up. Answer my question, and then I will let you pass safely.”
Ruldu stopped, and said, “O Great River! I am ready to answer your question.”

“What keeps a man alive in the darkest hour?”

Ruldu thought and replied, “It is Hope. Hope keeps a man alive in the darkest hour. It was Hope, which kept the prince alive in spirits when he was a mountain. Hope, is as much necessary for existence as is God or man will fail miserably.”
“Correct reply,” the river churned, “You may pass.”
The river turned still and Ruldu swam across until he reached the middle of the river. Suddenly, the river grew turbulent.  Ruldu wondered, if he had answered the question wrong. A big whirlpool formed, and the river croaked,
“There are no fishes and water creatures living in me. People call me a dead river. A man once promised to tell me why I was a dead river. But he crossed me and reached the other bank safely, and then said a human sacrifice would make me a live river. So, I am going to swallow you up.” 
Ruldu was dismayed by the treachery of the river. He felt his end had come, and only his wit could save him.
“O Great River,” said he. “My sacrifice will go in vain, because I am more of dead. I was meant to be buried or floated into the river, because a snake bit me. It was an ascetic I am going to meet, who revived me, and it is his soul that is in me. If you take my life, you will be all the more cursed for I am but a walking dead!”
The river stopped. The whirlpool that had formed itself into a big mouth to swallow him disappeared. The river didn’t want to be cursed, so it said,
“Ask the ascetic a solution so that fishes and aquatic creatures reside within me.”
Ruldu promised, and he quickly swam to the other bank. But as he looked back, he saw fishes and snails swimming in the river. Soon, tortoises and other aquatic creatures appeared in the water. If he hadn’t acted wisely, the river would have grown a wrong impression that human sacrifice was necessary to be alive.
It had grown dark, and he looked around. Far in the distance he could make out a faint light glowing. He decided to walk towards the light. As he neared, he saw that the light was coming from a small window of a hut. He knocked the door, and an old woman over hundred years old opened it.
“I am a traveller,” said he. “I want rest for the night.”
“Well, guests are gods for me,” said the old woman. “But, I ask a question to everyone who comes here. If you can answer it correctly, I will serve you well and you can leave tomorrow or else you have to stay all your life here as a caged bird.”
The old woman was a witch. Travellers who came to her wouldn’t be able to answer her question. She would change them into a bird, and keep them caged. Thus she had several companions over the years. There was another old woman inside with her who said nothing, but just fed the birds.
The witch asked,

“What once lost can’t be found again?”

Ruldu at once replied, “Trust, once lost can’t be found again. While coming, I lost the trust in the Dead River. I would be foolish to cross it again.”
The witch was satisfied, and opened the door of the hut for him.
“You can stay here for tonight, and rest O weary traveller. As you have correctly answered my question, I will set the men I turned to birds free so they return to their own land.”
Having rested for the night, the next morning Ruldu saw half a dozen men. They thanked him profusely. The old woman who fed the birds turned out to be a beautiful woman, as the first rays of sun fell on her.
“These two men were my suitors,” she said. “But, I got married to a very rich middle aged man, because I wanted all the luxuries of life. However these suitors of mine, thought it unfair that I couldn’t be theirs. And they would meet me at odd hours when my old husband was on business. My husband loved me and trusted me, but I broke his trust. And then it happened that my husband once helped an old woman who was travelling, by taking her in his carriage. And she was a witch, and told my husband about my infidelity. He didn’t believe, and still loved me. But my suitors didn’t like him, and murdered him one night and threw his body on the road. The old woman, who was travelling that way, saw and cursed us. My beauty was gone, and my suitors turned into birds. And ever since I have lived here, hoping someday, someone will answer the witch’s question correctly and set us all free.”
The old witch smiled at the beautiful woman, “I hope you learnt your lesson. Be honest with your next man, for I will always watch you.”
Ruldu, having freed the six men and a woman again took his way. He travelled through the mountain valley, and across thick pine trees, and came upon a set of dark banyan trees. It had hanging roots like thick ropes from its branches. And as he, tried to cross, the roots opposed his path. One of the prop root, wrapped around him like a rope and tied him. Then, it pulled him up to the tree top. There was a group of vultures, and an old large vulture with a red gold crown on his head was seated on the throne of banyan leaves.  
“Ha! There is a human,” said the vulture. “Let’s see if he can answer our question for coming here.”
“Ask your question, O’ king of birds,” said Ruldu. “I will try my best to answer.”
“Okay. If you answer our question correctly, we will let you go freely. And if you fail, you will be hanged on the stem of the banyan, and we will feed on your flesh. 

Who is man’s deadliest foe?”

Ruldu thought for a while and answered from his own experience, “I think it is a traitor friend. A serpent in friend’s skin is man’s deadliest foe.””
The vultures hummed and hewed, and frowned, while the King Vulture looked lost in thought.
Finally he said, “We think you are correct. A traitor friend is more dangerous than a thousand foes. You are free my friend.”
The stems at once relaxed, and Ruldu was set free. Now all he had to do was climb down from the banyan tree. But the vulture king gave Ruldu a pair of wings. “You can fly with these to your destination. I was mourning for my wife’s loss. She cheated with my friend who is the king on the other side of the mountain, and flew away with him to his kingdom. But now I realise I was being foolish, loving her and mourning for her and ignoring my own kingdom.”
Ruldu fixed the wings on his shoulders, and flew off to find the ascetic who had revived him. He lived on the top of the highest mountains in the Himalayas. Ruldu felt the cold air swirl past him, but he kept on flying until he reached his destination.
“O holy sage,” he said.  “Finally, I have come to thee!”
“It is good to see you again,” said the ascetic. “I hope you have come to seek the meaning of your existence and life?”
“Yes,” said Ruldu. “And I want to know why you revived me, when I was dead for sure?”
The sage looked at him intently. “Answer my one question, and I will answer yours. 

What is the saddest moment for a man?”

Ruldu thought, and felt that his wife had cheated him. But he was only sad, after he knew. Was knowing a bitter truth, the saddest thing of a man’s life.
“I am not sure,” said he. “But I think it is getting cheated by the person you love.”
“Maybe you are right,” said the sage. “But be sure, that the saddest moment for a man is when his son is before him and doesn’t recognise his father.”
Ruldu’s face twisted. It was difficult for him to say anything.
The ascetic said, “I was just a young man then, when a group of hermits came and infused the spirit of being a Yogi. I left my wife and you to become a Yogi. It is our curse, that after leaving our family we can’t go back. And here, I am being punished for that decision that my own son can’t recognise me. Your mother knew me when I came to revive you, but I told her to be quiet – for I was an ascetic.”
Ruldu fell on the ascetic’s feet. The ascetic lifted him and hugged him with tears.
He said. “You have learnt a lot in this journey. Humanity is based on forgiveness, love, trust and hope. I hope you learnt your lesson. Now as to know the meaning and existence of life, don’t be a father like me, so that you regret not seeing your son grow up!”

The Six Important Questions in Life. Reviewed by Polymath on 11:41 pm Rating: 5

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