The well lay close to the road. To wayfarers it was holier than the holy Ganges. The wearied travellers rested here for a while, refreshed themselves with cold water and were up again for the next stage of their journey. A philanthropist had also built a small hut there and placed in it a bucket and rope along with a glass or two for convenience of travellers. Almost all the travellers who happened to pass by that way made use of these utensils and quenched their thirst.
One day there came a traveller. He saw the well and went upstairs. He found all those things one needed to draw water from the well readily available. He was feeling extremely thirsty but strangely enough, he chose to sit there without bothering himself to draw water from the well. His eyes were fixed upon the road obviously waiting for some one to come. After sometime he saw a man coming. His eyes glistened.
It is difficult for a traveller to resist the temptation of a cool shade in the scorching heat of June. In addition to this, if one can get cool water as well, the temptation becomes all the more irresistible. As soon as the traveller drew near, he climbed up the steps and was greeted by the waiting traveller who, after pausing for a moment or so, requested the newcomer to give him a glass of water as he was very thirsty. The newcomer replied, “Why should you feel thirsty when all the necessary tools-a bucket, a rope, and a glass, are at your disposal? Take up the bucket, tie it to the rope, haul the water up and quench your thirst.” The first traveller said, “What you say is correct but how can I haul the bucket up from the well? I am the son of a rich man. If someone happens to notice me drawing water from the well, will it not effect my prestige adversely?”
“Brother!” replied the new-comer, “I have walked all along in the scorching sun. I too feel extremely tired and thirsty. My throat has already become dry and it has become almost impossible for me to speak any further. But strangely enough I find myself in the same predicament which holds you in its grip. If you think it below your dignity to haul the water up from the well, how can you expect me, a son of a Nawab, to do so? I am far more superior to you in rank and designation.”
The rich man’s son was quite convinced of the sincerity of the words that came out from the mouth of the Nawab’s son. But what could he do? He couldn’t help him either. How can a man who is himself thirsty quench the other man’s thirst? He stared at the Nawab’s son with helpless eyes and beckoned to him to sit by his side.
Now both of them began to wait for a man who could enable them to quench their thirst. The wind blew gently causing the leaves of the trees to move to and fro. Sometimes the travellers confused the murmuring sound of the leaves with that of the foot-steps of someone approaching towards them. They had only one picture in their mind and that was of a man who, they imagined had arrived there and was now stretching his hand with a glass of water. And at last there came a man, His very sight gladdened their hearts. They were proud to note the success of the power of their will.
The sky, the land, the sun, the shade, the water and the air are meant for all. Man has tried to occupy the land and the sky by building houses. Now he is striving to extend his authority over the sun, shade, water and air as well. Nevertheless they are so common that no one can exercise complete control over them. The water was in possession of the well but the well was in no one’s possession. It was meant for the use of all. The thing that belongs to someone cannot be used freely while that which is public binds everyone to it with a sense of attachment.
As soon as the traveller who had come there saw the public well, he went up unhesitatingly in order to drink water. He saw the two travellers sitting there already. They appeared very eager. Their faces showed that they were of noble descent. He sought permission from the two and sat beside them. He said in an humble voice, “May I know the reason of your being so anxious?”
This query filled them with a sense of assurance. They thought that he was a kind man and was filled with compassion for them on account of their anxious countenances. They were convinced that he would help them.
They said, “Brother! the tiresomeness that your face exhibits dissuades us from saying anything to you but we con not help it either. We shall have to say about it to you. The fact is that we are very thirsty. As there is no one to draw water from the well, we are worried. It will be very kind of you if you can help us to drink water.”
Tries “This was exactly I had expected from you before I came here”, said the third traveller in an amazing tone. “As soon as I had seen you, I thought I would get some water as already there were two travellers. Have you not even drawn the water?”
“If we had done so, why should we have remained thirsty?” they replied. He inquired of them if there was any difficulty in doing so. They said that though there was no one who barred them from doing it, they were, however, confronted with a problem. He asked them to explain it to him. The first traveller said, “I being the son of a rich man cannot draw water from the well.”
The second traveller said, “If he cannot draw water, how can I, a son of a Nawab, do so?”
The third traveller said, “I too have a similar problem. I am the son of a shah (a businessman). Let me know whether it befits a person like me to draw water from the well. “No! No, you must not do it,” exclaimed the two travellers together.
The three travellers had left the burden of their homes behind but the burden of status still weighed heavy on their head. Water is the most urgent need of human life, nevertheless they were being deprived of it because the false notion of dignity had come in their way. They were growing restless without water but it was difficult for them to get it unless they were prepared to break the traditional thread of false concepts. All the three now diverted their attention towards the road. They heard the sound of the approaching foot-steps and were alarmed, After a few minutes, a man was seen coming from the west. He climbed up the steps and saw the three travellers sitting there already. He stepped forward without being mindful of their presence, tied the bucket to the rope and had just begun to drop it into the well when the three travellers stood up and came close to him. They said, “Brother, you have come here after all, driven by our fortune.”.
“How can you say that your fortune has brought me here?” inquired the fourth traveller. They replied, “We have been feeling restless due to intense thirst. So far no one has come to our help to enable us to drink water. We owe it to our fortune that you have come.” The fourth traveller could not comprehend what they meant. Frowning upon them he said, “Gentlemen! you have every thing a rope, a bucket and a glass at your disposal. I fail to understand why you are feeling thirsty when you have the necessary aids at your disposal to help you to quench your thirst.”
“We have everything necessary for the drawing of water but we haven’t a man who can do it for ourselves”, they said sadly.
“Do you not possess hands?” he asked.
“We do possess them”, they all said in one voice, “but we are not born, to draw water from the well.”
“Then, what are you born for?” the fourth traveller inquired.
”To drink the water which has been drawn by someone else”, was the reply.
“Oh! God, how long will these people pull on with their lives devoid of the spark of manliness,” said the traveller aloud to himself.
”Those who are born with a fortune will always live in this manner.”
“Does a man’s status diminish when he does his work with his own hands?”
“Yes! it does.”
“Who is great, then?”
“He who does not do his work with his own hands and makes others do it for him?” “May I know who you are?”
“One a richman’s son, the other a son of a Nawab, and the last one, a son of a businessman”, they replied. He let the bucket go into the well as he talked, drew water hastily and commenced his journey after sipping it out. On the other hand they were still longing for it. He turned down their request on the ground that he was a reactionary and giving water to others did not come under his duties. The three travellers began to whisper to one another, “The number of reactionaries is increasing day by day nowadays.”
The forth traveller retorted on them by saying that the reactionaries would continue to be born till the world is inhabited by persons like them.