There is an ancient story… Two beggars, one was crippled and could not walk, and the other was blind but could walk. Of course, they were competitors. Begging is a business where there is continuous competition – you don’t know which beggar owns you. When I came to know it, it was a great surprise. Because I was traveling continually, I was coming and going to the railway station so many times, an old beggar had become accustomed – in fact, he had started taking it for granted – that whenever I came back from a journey, or went for a journey, he was entitled to have one rupee.
In the beginning he used to be grateful. When I, for the first time, gave him one rupee, he could not believe it – Indians don’t give rupees to beggars. But slowly, slowly, everything becomes taken for granted. Now it was not a question of gratitude, it was a routine. And I could see from his eyes that if I didn’t give him a rupee he would be angry – I was depriving him of a rupee.
I never deprived him, but one day I was surprised: the old man was gone, and a young man was sitting in his place and he said, “Don’t forget that one rupee.”
I said, “How did you come to know about the one rupee?”
He said, “You don’t know… I got married to that old beggar’s daughter.”
Still I could not understand, “If you got married, where is the old man?”
He said, “He has given me the whole area of the railway station as a dowry, and he has given me all the names – your name is the first name. You have been giving him one rupee each time, whether you enter the railway station or you come out.”
I said, “This is a revelation, that beggars have their territories.” They own it. They can give it as a dowry to their sons-in-law. I said, “This is great! Where is the old man?”
He said, “He has found another place near a hospital, because the beggar who used to sit there has died. And he looks old, but he is a very strong man. Nobody wants to fight with him.” Beggars are also in continual conflict to own the clients, customers.
Both the beggars were born enemies, but one day… They lived outside the town, in the forest. In the middle of the night, the forest went on fire. There was nobody to save them. The cripple knew that the fire was coming closer and closer, and all the trees were going to be burned; but he could not walk. And the blind man felt intense heat rising. This was for the first time they spoke to each other in friendly terms: “What is happening? – you have eyes, you can see.” And they came to a compromise, forgetting all their fights of the past.
The blind man said to the crippled one, “Sit on my shoulders, so that we become one man. I have enough strength to carry you, and you have eyes to see where to go, where to find a way out of this constantly increasing fire.” And they were both saved.
The whole town was awake and they were worried about the beggars, but nobody was courageous enough to enter the forest to find out where they were. They knew that one could not walk. They knew that the other could not see, but they had not thought of the possibility that they could become one. And when they saw them coming out of the forest alive, they could not believe their eyes. What a miracle had happened!