SHERIARJI THE WANDERING DERVISH
Part 2 of 3
After a weary journey of months he reached Karachi where he remained for one month. Then he started out again on foot. Once, while in a desert with a painful sore on his foot, he was nearly dying of thirst and he could not go a step further. He dragged on repeating the name of God until he fell unconscious to the ground.
When he opened his eyes again he saw before him a venerable old man and a strong youth. They carried leather bags filled with water. The old man spoke to him saying, "Why have you come here? Why should you trouble God by acting foolishly? Now go on your way and you will come across a hut occupied by an old man who will give you something to eat. Then proceed in the direction opposite to the hut and you will reach a town."
Refreshed and revived Sheriar was ready to continue his journey as directed. He turned to thank his guides and helpers but found to his utter astonishment that he could see no one on that vast stretch of sand surrounding him. The two men had disappeared. In awe and gratitude he realised the two men had been sent to his rescue by God, and kneeling down he offered a prayer of thanks.
Sheriar continued on his way and came to the hut where he found the old man who gave him some bread. Eating half of it he put the rest in his bowl, tied it in a cloth, and went on. After a time he reached a wide river that he could not cross as he was unable to swim. Without losing heart he rested on its banks and soon fell asleep.
After some time he was awakened by the musical sound of camel bells and saw a caravan approaching the river. He inquired of the drivers how they intended to cross the river. When they replied that the river was wadeable on camel-back, he asked them to take him with them. For this service they demanded a sum of two rupees, but he had not even one coin with him so they refused to take him.
It was beginning to get dark and Sheriar was wondering how he would cross the river, but his faith in God never wavered. Being hungry he took out the remaining piece of bread to eat. Just then he saw a number of fish swimming by the edge of the river where he was sitting; forgetting his hunger he broke up the piece of bread into crumbs and threw them to the fish. Whereupon he heard a voice close to him say, "What are you doing here?" Looking up he saw a tall stout man standing by.
When he heard Sheriar's plight the stranger burst out laughing and said, "Why there is no need for you to go through the waters of the river. There lies the way to the town, you blind man! Come, I will guide you." And to his great surprise Sheriar now saw a carriageway right across the river that he had not perceived till then. He followed the mysterious stranger across it and when he wanted to thank him, he was told, "It is not I you have to thank!" When they reached the opposite bank, he said to Sheriar, "Come with me. I shall myself take you to the town."
It was dark by this time and in about half an hour they were in the streets of a town. His guide took him to a shop and left him there and was seen no more. After a while Sheriar was dumbfounded to hear that this town was sixty miles from the river they had crossed and the distance had been covered on foot in half an hour. Once again he was convinced that he had been helped by a heavenly guide.
Sheriar continued his wandering and had many adventures. In the fifth year of his life in India, when he was in Gujarat, he had to cross a forest reputed to be haunted. He had been warned not to go into it. But he started out just the same. To his astonishment however much he walked through the forest he found himself again and again in the same spot. He gave up the attempt.
Then he had to cross a stream, his guiding staff sank deep in the mud, and he could not advance. So he stood there praying and after a while he was able to cross without mishap. Whilst travelling in the hills he met an old man sitting in meditation with very long eyelashes. The old man asked the young traveller what he wanted and he seemed pleased with the answer, "I want nothing."
GLOW International, Aug 1985, pp. 13-14, ed. Naosherwan Anzar
1985 © Naosherwan Anzar