Story in a Nutshell

“Crossing the River” written by Manoj Das, is a short story about a village milkmaid and her true faith in the Lord and His power. The story explores the fact that a person who preaches the power of Prayer and God for his whole life, is himself unable to believe the result of one’s prayer by the Supreme Power.

Apart from demonstrating the miracle of faith, the story also draws a contrast between scholarship and innocence, between the knowledge which scholarship secures, but remains a mere theory and the knowledge that works through one’s complete faith and surrender to the Lord.

Moti, A Poor Milkmaid

The story begins with a landlord, who had commissioned a poor milkmaid, named, Moti, to supply a tumblerful of milk to the Pundit everyday in the morning. The milkmaid, Moti, was supposed to discharge her duty after crossing the river with the help of a ferry boat and then she return home in the same boat. As a sign of respect, the milkmaid used to fall flat on the ground, whenever she met the Pundit.

She did her duties sincerely even on rainy days and when people showed sympathy on her condition and her everyday struggle of crossing the river to supply milk, Moti used to defend the Pundit that it was an honour for her to do service under such a knowledgeable and sincere Pundit. She was extremely happy and felt privileged on serving such a great pundit. She vowed that even if the landlord failed to pay her for the milk and her labour, she would not fail in her duty.

Pundit Needs Milk Before Sunrise

One day the Pundit asked Moti, whether she could bring him the milk at least an hour before the sunrise for only a month as he was under a vow for performing a certain ritual for which he needs the milk early. Moti enthusiastically assured Pundit for serving him at the exact time. However, the next day, she failed to deliver the milk early in the morning and when she reached, it was already daybreak.

She gave her reasons for being late that she was present on the bank of the river long before sunrise but it was the boatman who did not turn up early even though she had informed him of the need to go across the river while it was still dark. The boatman said that there was flood and it would not be possible for him to ply the boat in darkness.

The ceremony of promise, which the Pundit had taken ended after some days. He thanked Moti for her sincere duty and dedication she served to him. He appreciated her for the pain she had taken to wake up in early hours of the morning, milking the cow, crossing the river and supplying it to him.

She asked if she could go back to the old routine of delivering milk after sunrise to which the Pundit agreed. But the Pundit suddenly remembered about the flood and the boatman. He realised that the boatman had also helped her in delivering the milk, so he blessed the boatman too.

There was no Boatman!

He told Moti to inform the boatman that he was happy about his service to him. On his remark, Moti informed that she had not disturbed the boatman at all, because she knew he could not come at early hours in the morning. The Pundit was astonished and asked her who drove the boat, for which she replied that she did not need any boat as she had used the secret words of the Pundit to cross the river.

Moti told him in a low voice that the Pundit, who remembered hundreds of pages of sacred books had forgotten the secret that he had passed to her earlier. She uttered the name of Lord Vishnu and walked on the river. She claimed that the water level was only till her ankle, so she could walk easily.

Pundit is Shocked

The Pundit was totally shocked and asked how the river could be just ankle-deep, especially during the flooding season. He added that even during the hottest summers, there was enough water in the river for boats to sail. Picking up her pot, Moti stepped into the water and moved on. The Pundit almost fainted while seeing her cross the river walking with ease.