One night, a lonely horseman was traveling through a desert. For miles and miles, he could only see sand dunes and silhouettes of desert vegetation. No living creature was in sight. He rode on hoping to see someone along the way. He didn’t know where his destination was…He didn’t know where this journey would take him…He didn’t know what lay beyond this dreary desert…He looked up at the dark sky as if for an answer.
Suddenly he heard a loud commanding voice, “Get down from your horse and gather as much as you can.” The galloping horse came to an abrupt stop throwing him onto the sand. It took him some time to come to his sense. He regained his composure, got up and looked around. There was not a soul in sight. Was he hallucinating? But why did his horse stop? And what did the voice want him to do? Gather what? What was there to gather in this God forsaken desert? Sand? Rocks? Desert thorns?
He dismissed the voice as an illusion, got on the horseback and continued his journey. Out of the dark came the thundering voice again. This time, it sounded almost like a threat, “Get down from your horse and gather as much as you can or else you’ll regret it later.” The horseman could not ignore the voice this time. He felt there was something in it. Reluctantly he jumped down from his horse and looked around. What do I gather now?” he said. The voice came again, “Gather whatever you can. Gather as much as you can or you’ll regret it later.”
He took his saddle bag and filled it with the rocks scattered around. He took as much as his saddle bag could hold and continued his journey.
After riding for hours, he spotted the faint light of a motel. He rode towards it, relieved to find a shelter for the night. He checked into a cheap room he could afford. He threw his saddle bag on the couch, spilling its contents all over the floor. He laid down his haggard self and drifted off to a peaceful slumber after the long and mysterious journey.
He woke up with a start at daybreak. The wee hours of the morning had let in a faint streak of light through a small opening in the heavily curtained window. His room was shimmering as though a thousand splendid suns had just risen there. He looked around and discovered that the disgusting rocks, strewn all over the room the night before were now glittering like divine lamps lit from heaven.
It was then he realized that these were not mere rocks but diamonds, the most precious rocks found beneath the surface of the earth.
He had failed to recognize their worth in the dark. His momentary joy gave way to regret and disappointment. Alas! If only he had picked up more! He quickly dressed up, gathered his precious treasure and rode back along the same route that he left behind the night before. He rode for hours and days, but he couldn’t find the place. There was no going back. Disappointed, he just continued his journey. He had to be content with whatever he had.
Dear readers, each one of us in our lifetime has been a lonely horseman riding in the dark more than once and have heard voices in the dark. The voices of our parents, teachers and mentors have continuously demanded and commanded that we gather as much as we can. At times, we just ignored them or did what we could with reluctance. We’ve regretted later for what we missed and cried over lost opportunities. By then we would have already moved on to a place from where there is no return.
Opportunities have knocked on our doors more than once, and we dismissed them as mere noises, irritating interference just like the horseman dismissed the voices in the dark. Remember what we think are worthless may turn out to be precious gems. Let’s not discard precious moments, priceless opportunities in the dark hours of our ignorance. Instead, let’s recognize every voice as the voice of divinity and grab the every opportunity that comes our way.
(This story was narrated by my father. Every afternoon, he would recount a story to us sitting on the prayer mat. These thought-provoking stories have lingered with me all through my growing years and have helped my groom myself. Over the years, I’ve narrated these stories to my students. During my tenure as a principal of a school, my morning talks to the students over the public address system started with a story. These stories have helped me keep my dear father alive in my mind. Every time I narrate one of them I feel his presence. This initiative to document his stories is to immortalize him and to let his legacy of storytelling live on through these stories.)
This story was submitted by Munimohi