The Scholar and The Boatman


Long time ago, a famous scholar was invited for a supper by a King of a neighbouring maritime country. Feeling ecstatic, the scholar accepted the invitation.  He asked a tailor to sew him the best clothes. Then he asked a boatman to sail his boat and get him across the sea to meet the King. On the day he was on board, the weather was perfect and the waves were calm.

In the middle of the journey, the scholar, who had become conceited by his achievements, looked at the boatman surreptitiously. He asked, “Can you read and write?”

“No,” replied the boatman.

“Oh, what a pity! You have lost a quarter of your life,” said the scholar with derision.

A sudden torrent appeared, but it didn’t alter the course of the conversation. The boatman kept rowing.

The scholar ventured another question, “Do you know how to trade? Do you know anything about finance?”

“No,” the boatman replied somewhat imperturbably.

“What a pity! You’ve lost another quarter of your life!” now the scholar was pompous.

The boatman did not reply; he kept rowing.

A long deep silence ensued. The scholar thought that being in the same boat with a brainless illiterate boatman was a curse. But he didn’t know what else to do. So he ventured another question, “Do you know anything about horoscope?”

“No,” replied the boatman the third time, without even turning his head to the scholar.

As the boatman said this, the weather became violent. The initially peaceful voyage had now turned into calamity as the tidal waves were rolling viciously. The boat was churning. Both the scholar and the boatman realized that it was going to sink in the middle of the ocean.

At this life-threatening moment, the boatman turned his head to the scholar and asked, “Sir, do you know how to swim? More importantly, can you swim?”

The scholar was shocked. Dumbfounded, he replied, “No.”

“What a pity! Now you will lose all of your life!”

*=On writing this I am indebted to Mas Pungkas Bahjuri Ali=*

33 thoughts on “The Scholar and The Boatman

  1. Pingback: The Scholar and The Boatman «

  2. Reblogged this on talkact+ive and commented:
    I found this interesting story today and I’d like to share it with everyone. There is a lot of lesson in the story and I hope you will take it to heart.

    Cheers!

    • Thank you! If you enjoy this, you may also want to read my other tales: “Two Rupiah Notes”, “Success and Failure”, and “The Palm Tree and The Wind”.

      Thank you for following my blog and I do hope that you enjoy what I have in store.. 🙂

      Warm regards from Down Under,

      Subhan Zein

  3. Again a beautiful and insightful story…..love it….keep penning these stories of life….:)

  4. Sometimes one lesson is all one needs to learn in life, or so it seems – at last the scholar learnt that…his life is a success, compared to many others, it would seem.

    • Thank you for your generous comment, Melita. I’m glad that you love it. Hope you’ll find my other posts equally enjoyable. 🙂

      Best wishes,

      Subhan Zein

    • Maturnuwun sanget, Amanda. Saya senang Amanda menyukainya. Monggo…, pasti blog-nya senang dikunjungi Amanda lagi. 🙂

      Salam hangat,

      Subhan Zein

  5. As. w. w,
    Ceritera ini benar-benar mengesankan dan sangat baik untuk diambil hikmahnya.
    Kunjungan anda disitus saya adalah suatu kehormatan.

    Maaf Pak Subhan saya mempergunakan bahasa indonesia, mudah2an anda belum lupa.

    Terima kasih banyak.

    Blessed be.

    • Wa’alaykumussalam warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,

      Terimakasih banyak, Ibu Meiro. Maturnuwun sanget, nggih.. Saya senang menggunakan bahasa Indonesia kok, Bu. Saya menggunakan bahasa Inggris hanya untuk menyampaikan pesan ke khalayak yang lebih luas.

      Saya senang berkunjung ke Blog Ibu. Dan terimakasih banyak atas kesediaan Ibu follow Blog saya. Semoga Ibu menikmati kunjungan Ibu di sini yah.. 🙂

      Salam,

      Subhan Zein

    • Hi Ankita! Thanks for your wonderful comment! I’m glad you liked it. Please consider reading “Chinese Bamboo and Paulo Coelho” and any of my other poems. Hope you like them too. 🙂

      Warm regards,

      Subhan Zein

    • Thanks, StutiJ! I have posted a question on your blog. I’d like to accept it, so please let me know how to do it. Hehe, 🙂

      Warm regards,

      Subhan Zein

  6. Wonderful story, very well written and with a profound lesson for us all. Reminds me of a story Multatulli tells in his “Max Havelaar” about a stone mason and the sun.

    • Thanks, Steph! I’m a so surprised that you know Multatuli! 🙂 How did you know him, by the way? I haven’t read his book, but I will.

      Warm regards,

      Subhan Zein

      • I speak Dutch (among other languages) but it is not my mother’s tongue (actually my mother is French, my father is English). I learned it at school, while my father was working in Brussels, some years ago..We had Dutch literature and that is how I came to know Multatuli and a lot of other Dutch authors.
        Hope this clears it out a little.
        Love and have a nice day Subhan

    • Thanks, Ian! I’m gald that you like it; and thank you for your wonderful comments. 🙂 We often belittle other people but don’t realize our own greatest weakness. A tragedy! Am sure we all learn something from this.

      Warm regards,

      Subhan Zein

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