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Chapter 11: A Journey from Fiction to Reality

Nasruddin used to teach. He was a Sufi master; he had his own disciples. They were going on a pilgrimage, and as they left their campus they had to pass through the main city. And he said to his students, “Listen, I don’t want any trouble. And whatever happens to other people, that is their business. You have to be silent and quietly following me.

They said, “Naturally we are going to follow you. Why are you saying all this to us? We are not concerned with the street and the shopkeepers - they are doing their thing. We have nothing to do with them.”

He said, “You will have.but you are not allowed to do anything.” The students could not understand what was going to happen, but soon they understood.

As Mulla Nasruddin rode on his donkey they all felt that it was going to be really great trouble - because he was sitting front-side back. Now to follow such a man. First, he is sitting on a donkey, and you have to admit to people that he is your master. Secondly, he is sitting in a wrong way: his back is where his front should be, and his front is where his back should be.

And sure enough, businesses stopped; customers, shopkeepers gathered. Everybody was laughing and everybody was asking, “What is the matter with this man? Whenever he comes into the city there is some trouble with him. Now he is not doing anything to anybody so you cannot say.it is his donkey, and he has the absolute birthright to sit any way he wants to sit, but why should he do this? This is not done.” And the students are feeling very embarrassed to be followers of such a man.

Finally one student gathered courage and asked, “Master, please let us know the secret: Why are you doing all this? You are becoming a laughingstock, you are making us a laughingstock.”

Nasruddin said, “First thing: I will explain to you afterwards the reason why I am sitting in this way. But the basic thing is, Nasruddin cannot pass through any street without being recognized.”

Even Mohammedan women were turning aside their veils and looking. There was not a single person around; whoever heard that this was happening rushed to the street, everything stopped.

Nasruddin said, “This is how I love it. This is the basic, real reason. Now I come to philosophy: the philosophical reason is that if I sit in the normal way, my back will be to your face. That is insulting. And I am a master, no ordinary teacher; I cannot insult my disciples.

“The other way is: to avoid this situation you should move ahead of me, but then your back will be towards me. That is even worse. The disciples are insulting the master; this cannot be allowed. Now tell me, what should I do? This is the only scientific solution to the problem: I am facing you, you are facing me. Neither am I insulting you nor are you insulting me.

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