The Wise Villagers

There was once a large village that lay near a wide river. The land was rich and fertile, and the people who lived there were happy and wealthy. They had no enemies and lived peacefully. They troubled no one and no one troubled them.
Not very far away from the village there was a town. One day the people of the town held a meeting. They gathered in the marketplace to discuss a plane for a new road. The road was going to be built between their town and another one, about fifty kilometers away. A large map of the area was studied, and a rout was soon worked out. The people decided how much money they were going to spend on building the road.
Following this meeting, work began and the news of the road reached the people in the village. Some of the villagers got together and went to find out more. When they reached the town, they went straight to the office of the District Officer and looked at the map.
When they returned home, they called a meeting of the villagers. One of the men who had seen the map said, ‘friends, today some of us saw the map of the new road. It is going to pass close to our village. It will go through some of out best fields, and they will be destroyed. How can we stop this road?’
The villagers were very angry. They sat in the meeting for a long time, but at last they thought up a plan.
A week after the meeting, a man from the town came to the village and found a great crowd of people beside the river. The man from the town was curious. He went over to where the people had gathered. He squeezed through the crowd and saw an amazing sight. There were seven men standing on one bank of the river and seven men on the other. They were holding a thick rope stretched across the river. In the middle someone had tied a cup.
‘What are they doing?’ asked the townsman. ‘They are taking water out of the river,’ replied a man standing close by.
‘With a cup?’ asked the townsman. ‘Oh yes,’ replied the man.
‘But it will take hours to get a bucketful,’ said the townsman.
‘Yes,’ said the man. ‘It is slow. But we always get water out of the river like this. It’s a slow way, but it always works.’
The man from the town was very surprised indeed. He scratched his chin and said to himself, ‘These people are all mad!’ When he got back to the town and told all his friends about what he had seen in the village, they laughed and laughed.
One or two of the man’s friends just could not believe that people could be so stupid. So, the next day, two of them set off to the village to see for themselves. When they arrived at the villege, they found a huge crowd of people standing round a tall tree. The trunk of the tree was nearly two meters wide. Two men were busily working on the trunk.
Each had a small penknife in his hand and was cutting the wood. They were working so hard that the sweat was pouring off their foreheads. ‘What are they doing?’ asked one of the men from
the town. ‘Why,they are cutting down the tree,’ replied one of the villagers. ‘Can’t you see?’ ‘With penknives?’ asked the townsman.
‘Yes,’ said a villager in the crowd. ‘We always cut trees down with penknives.’ ‘But it will take a year or two,’ said the townsman. ‘Yes,’ replied the villager. ‘aiat is slow, but it is a good method. It always works.’
The men from the town were quite astonished. They went back to the town. The stories about the villagers and their odd behaviour spread like wildfire. ‘Those people are quite mad,’ the townsfolk said.

The news even reached the District Officer. ‘What’s all this about?’ he asked. ‘Are the villagers really mad?’
‘Yes, indeed they are,’ replied his chief clerk. ‘They take water out of the river with a cup, and they cut down trees with penknives! They’re quite crazy.’ ‘Are they dangerous?’ asked the District Officer, nervously.
‘I don’t know,’ replied the clerk. The following day the District Officer, and a few of the other important people of the town went to the village to find out more. When they got there they saw a long line of women walking to and from a large anthill. Each woman was carrying a basket. The first woman in the line stepped up to the anthill and took an ant from the moist earth. She put the ant in her basket, and carried it away. ‘What are they doing?’ asked the astonished District
‘They are carrying away ants,’ replied a man standing nearby. ‘Why?’ asked the District Officer. ‘Because ants are very dangerous,’ said the man. ‘They eat everything. We must carry them away.’ ‘But, one in each basket!’ cried the District Officer. ‘That’s ridiculous!’

‘We always do it that way,’ replied the man. It’s slow, but it’s a good method. It always works.’ When the District Officer returned to the town, he called a meeting. ‘I have been to the village,’ he announced. ‘The people there are quite mad.
They take water out of the river with a cup; they cut down trees with penknives; they carry ants away, one by one. They are lunatics. Don’t go near them.’ ‘But, sir,’ said one of the secretaries. ‘Our new road is going to go right past that village.’
‘Then change the plans,’ roared the District Officer. ‘We can build the road along the top of the hill. It must not be constructed near that village!’ So the road was built along the top of the hill and did not go anywhere near the village. The people of the village ploughed their fields and went back to their undisturbed way of life. They were not mad at all; they were very wise.


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