In Karnataka there was a venerable pandit called Sudh-mati. Having spent forty years of his life in studies at Banaras, he thought of marriage in his fiftieth year. Because he was a well-read man, he easily found a wife.
This man naturally had a number of students with him. His young wife was a guileless innocent creature. She freely talked and joked with her husband’s disciples and Sudh-mati began to be tormented by suspicion regarding his wife’s conduct.
Torn by fangs of suspicion he decided to seek peace by running away from home. One night he left and early in the morning his disciples discovered his flight. Four of them who were very anxious to study under this learned man; at once started in search of him and overtook him in a certain village.
“Why are you after me? “Said the learned man to his disciples. “I am dissatisfied with my wife’s conduct hence going away.”
“What is wrong with her conduct?” the young fellows asked their teacher. “She is like our own mother, so kind to us. What made you suspect her? In any case we are determined to be with you. We want you alone for our teacher.”
The learned man was glad to know that his suspicion was groundless. He started back home along with his four disciples. On their way they arrived at a town. The sun was already hot and all of them were tired.
To have some rest they sat right on the road and began to fan themselves. There were shady pails in front of all the houses alone the road but it did not occur to them to seek their shelter.
presently a lady came along the road. She had a water – pot in her hand. She was going to the well. She saw the men resting on road and inquired “Who are you, gentlemen?”
“Mother, ” they replied politely, “we are foreigners.”
You are not foreigners,” said the lady. Then she went away.
The five of them looked at one another in surprise. When they saw her returning, they said “well then, we are way-farers.”
“No,” she said. “You are not way-farers”. Then she went away.
When she went by on her second trip to the well, they said, “Will you please agree that we are traveller’s?”
“I won’t, “said the lady and she passed.
The disciples talked over the whole thing among themselves and came to the conclusion that this lady was a very wise women indeed and they must find out who they really were. So, they stopped her as she was going home with the water and asked her, “You see, we are really fools, but….”
She did not allow them to finish. She smiled and said, “No, no. You are not fools either.”
“Then,” said the young boys in anguish, “for heaven’s sake do tell us who we are!”
I shall tell you who you are, “replied lady. “But it is time for you to be having a bath and mean. First, follow me to my house and prepare your food.”
They were not aware of the fact that they would be needing a meal quite soon. They were very happy at the invitation. The lady took them to her house, showed them the kitchen and told them, “My husband has gone to read purana to the king. He will be returning by noon. He is suspicious man and you must finish your bathing, praying and eating before he returns.”
The guests agreed to do so, but, lacking worldly wisdom they went on bathing and praying at their own tedious pace. The lady’s husband turned up long before the guests departed.
The Brahmin was indeed a very suspicious man. He had long suspected his wife of being unfaithful to him. He made several attempts to catch her red-handed but failed. Now he was convinced that he caught his wife red handed. He saw some men in kitchen and locked the door from outside. He then went round the house and saw his wife busy in another room. He locked this room too.
Then he went to the kind. Seeing the Brahman returns so soon, the kind asked him what the matter was.
O’King, I told you again and again that my wife is immoral. I requested you to punish her. But you insisted upon proof of my wife’s faithlessness, if you can come with me. She has hidden five lovers in the kitchen, ” said the Brahman.
Very much upset at this news the king followed the Brahman to his house. The Kitchen door was locked and the five frightened innocents were seen huddled together like rabbits.
“Who are you my good men?” the king asked them.
“If we knew that, said the stranger, “we need not to come here. The good lady of the house promised to tell us who we are after we had our food.”
They told their tale to the king who was now convinced that they were quite as innocent as the lady whom her husband suspected unnecessarily.
He then asked the Brahman to bring his wife out.
“Dear lady, “said the king, “I know you are innocent. But tell me, why did you deny that strangers were foreigners?”
“Sir,” said the lady to the king, “while going for water I saw these man sitting and taking rest right on the road, while there were pails and shade all along the road. I knew they were innocents and, in order to have a pretext for inviting them to my house, I asked them who they were. And they said that they were foreigners. Now those who talk our own language cannot be foreigners to us. So, I denied their statement.”
“That is true enough,” said the king. “Why did you deny that they were way-farers and travellers?”
“Because,” replied the lady, “way-farers know where to rest and travellers use a road for travelling along.”
“I see,” said the king. “Why did you object to their saying they were fools? Fools they certainly were!”
The king saw her hesitate and encouraged her, saying, “Do not be afraid. I shall see that no harm comes to you. Clear my doubt please.”
“Sir,” the lady said, “however ignorant of the world and its ways, it is not proper to call learned and guileless men fools. In my opinion that word should be applied to one who suspects how wife of hiding five lovers together in the kitchen at the time of midday and a king who believes it and comes in person to see for himself this evidence of a woman’s faithlessness.
The king bent his head in disgrace. The Brahman said, “O king, punish me for being a victim of foul suspicion.”
“O, King”, said Sudh-mati coming forward, “I too had been polluted with suspicion. I deserve whatever punishment you give to this brahman.” He narrated his tale to the king.
At least. in future,” said the king “you’ll do well to treat your wives with respect.”