Fakir quickly entered a nearby house. The owner of the house, an old man, was sitting quietly, smoking. "Who are you?" he called out when he saw Fakir enter.

Fakir: "I am an ascetic."

Old man: "Ascetic! Come into the light; let me see you."

The old man pulled Fakir into the light and studied his face intently as if he were reading a book with much difficulty. The man muttered, "He is my Makhanlal. The same nose, the same eyes ... only the forehead seems to have altered, and the lovely face has become covered with beard and moustache."

The old man caressed Fakir's face and said, "My son, Makhan." The man was Soshticharan.

Fakir said in surprise, "Makhan! My name is not Makhan. Whatever my name was in the past, I am now called Chidanandaswami. You may even call me Paramananda if you wish to.

Soshti: "Son, you may call yourself Chide (flattened fried rice) or Paramanna (rice boiled in milk with sugar) now, but you are my Makhan (butter). How can I forget that? Son, why did you renounce the world? You lacked nothing. You have two wives; if you don't love your elder wife, the younger one is there. The house is also full of children; you have shamed your enemies by fathering seven daughters and a son. I am an old man; how long will I live? The house belongs to you."

Fakir winced. Aaaah! Even hearing these words made his flesh creep.

But, soon, he grasped the situation. He thought it would be a good idea to hide here as the old man's son for a few days. "I will escape from here after father, failing to find me, goes away."

Fakir's silence convinced the old man that he was indeed Makhan. He called his servant and said, "Keshta, go and announce to everyone in the village that my son, Makhan, has returned."


In a short time, the villagers crowded Soshticharan's house. Most neighbours agreed that the prodigal son had returned, but a few felt doubtful. Most people had come eager to see a father reuniting with his lost son, so they were annoyed at the disbelievers. They felt the disbelievers were only trying to spoil the fun. These disbelievers would go to any length to claim that a 14-syllable verse was a 17-syllable one; they must be muffled. The skeptics believe neither in ghosts nor in exorcists. They only try to point out flaws in a good story. They are all atheists, the lot of them! It is okay if you don't believe in ghosts, but it is heartless to disbelieve that an old man has found his lost son. Anyway, the skeptics became silent after getting snubbed by the majority.

The neighbours sat around Fakir and, without caring two hoots about the grave expression on his face, began making various comments. "Hey, our Makhan has become a hermit. He is an ascetic. All his life, he played the fool, and now, suddenly, he has turned into a sage."

The words stung high-minded Fakir, but he could only swallow his pride and suffer in silence. One of the neighbours almost pressed against him and asked, "Hey, Fakir, you were so dark-skinned. How did you become fair?"

"By practising yoga," Fakir said.

"Yoga has such marvelous benefits!" everyone said.

"The benefits of yoga are mentioned in the sacred texts as well," one of the villagers pointed out. "When Bhima tried to lift Hanumana's tail, he could not move it an inch. How could the tail be so strong? Well, that was the power of yoga."

Everyone had to agree this was true.

Meanwhile, Soshticharan came and said, "Son, you must now meet with your wives."

Till then, it had not occurred to Fakir that he would have to meet the women in the house. Soshticharan's words hit him like a thunderbolt. He remained seated for a long time, suffering the taunts of the neighbours. He said at last, "Father, I am a hermit. I cannot go to the women's quarters."

"In that case, I request all of you to leave," Soshticharan told the neighbours. "I will fetch my daughters-in-law here; they are eager to meet my son."

The villagers went away. "I must make good my escape now," Fakir thought. But, then, he realized it would not be a good idea; the moment he stepped out of the house, the villagers would chase and hound him like dogs. The unfortunate man, therefore, remained seated silently.

When Makhan's two wives came up to him, Fakir bowed his head and said, "Mothers, I am your son."

As soon as these words escaped Fakir's lips, a hand with bangles zipped past his nose like a sword, and a shrill voice said, "Hey, you unfortunate old fellow, who are you calling your mother!"

Another voice, which was a few degrees higher in pitch and threatened to shatter the neighbourhood's peace, said, "Blind man! You should have embraced death instead of uttering such words."

Fakir was not used to hearing his wife speak in such colloquial language; he was dismayed. He folded his hands humbly and said in a pitiful voice, "You're mistaken. I will stand in the light here; look at me closely."

"I have looked at you enough; all that looking has worn my eyes out. You are not a small child. You were not born today; you cut your milk teeth long ago. Do you know how old you are? Just because Yama has forgotten about you, does that mean we should also stop thinking about you?" the first wife said. The second wife repeated the same things.

One cannot say how long this one-sided domestic conversation would have continued — Fakir had lost the power of his speech and stood silently with his head bowed down. Soshticharan, after hearing so much shouting and seeing villagers gather outside, entered the room to investigate. "Ah! It is so pleasant to hear this babble. The house used to be so quiet in Makhan's absence; absolute pin-drop silence. Today, from this noise, you can tell that Makhan has returned," he said.

"Please save me from your daughters-in-law," Fakir said mournfully.

Soshti: "Son, you are feeling somewhat uneasy because you have returned after such a long time." Turning to his daughters-in-law he said, "Dears, go to your quarters now. Makhan is here to live always; I will not allow him to go away anywhere."

After the ladies left, Fakir told Soshticharan, "Mister, I can understand why your son renounced the family. Please accept my respects and good wishes. I am leaving."

The old man immediately began to wail piteously. The neighbours heard him and thought Makhan was beating his father. They came rushing and told Fakir they would not tolerate such hypocritical saintliness; he must behave like a gentleman's son. "He is not a sage; he is a deceitful heron," someone commented.

Because of his imposing appearance owing to his serious countenance, the bushy crop of facial hair, and the black woolen scarf around his face, Fakir had, till then, not had to hear such unpleasant things. Anyway, the neighbours became vigilant so that Faklir did not try to flee again. Even the zamindar offered his support to Soshticharan.


Some useful links for
your career:

  • Union Public Service Commission - www.upsc.gov.in
  • IIT-Kharagpur - www.iitkgp.ac.in
  • Indian Statistical Institute - www.isical.ac.in
  • Indian Institute of Technology Madras - www.iitm.ac.in
  • Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad - www.iimahd.ernet.in
  • Indian Institute of Mass Commission - www.iimc.nic.in
  • IIT Bombay - www.iitb.ac.in
  • Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad - www.ismdhanbad.ac.in
  • Birla Institute of Technology, Ranchi - www.bitmesra.ac.in
  • Central Institute of Fisheries Nautical and Engineering Training - www.cifnet.nic.in
  • Indian Institute of Information Technology, Allahabad (Deemed University) - www.iiita.ac.in
  • Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Kochi - www.cmfri.com
  • Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai - www.tiss.edu