N was thirteen, the only child of his parents in a small village.
Most of the time, he felt rejected and alone.
He loved a girl, but she did not love him back. His father was full of disapproval. His friends bullied him. He could not buy what he thought would give him pleasure. He was ashamed of urges which were only beginning to sprout in him.
Because he suffered and was in pain, N felt that the world of humans in its entirety was a place of suffering.
He could not see a way to come out of his suffering except through struggle, a struggle to be accepted and respected and loved by the human beings around him.
Because he hated those who insulted and rejected him, he hated to even contemplate the struggle to win their approval. He did not want to play "their game".
Today his family was away for an errand.
He went inside his house. He would play his own game.
He gave significance to his dolls and books. He started to talk to himself, in the absence of anyone who accepted him.
As the evening came, and the night fell, he felt proud of having not needed anybody during the day.
He picked up a book titled Kathopanishad. As he tried to read and understand it, he went further inside his house, to his small room where he would hide and read it. The book told the story of a child like him, with a name like his own.
As months went by, he spent more and more time sitting in a small corner of his room.
Years passed and he became a man. He did not know the working of the world, and was usually lost in his thoughts.
During the day, as his mother and his father asked him to do something, he thought it agony to again get up from his corner, out of his room, and out of his house into the street.
One day as he was going to the village market, he saw the picture of a holy man pasted on a wall. The holy man lived in the mountains and was inviting seekers who sought the supreme wisdom.
The next day, N became a monk, left his home, and started on his journey to be with the holy man.
After a grueling journey, he finally reached the holy man's abode. The holy man received him warmly, and without any hospitality or delay, they sat face to face, looking into each others' eyes.
N asked the holy man, "How do I attain to the supreme bliss?"
The holy man smiled and kept quiet.
N asked the holy man again, "How do I find fulfillment and enlightenment?"
The holy man smiled and kept quiet.
N started crying and asked him for the third time, "How do I escape from this cycle of birth, life, pain and death?"
The holy man gave him some water to drink and asked him to rest for a few days.
After seven days, the holy man and N again sat face to face.
This time, the holy man asked N, "Why have you come here, and not your friends, or your family?"
N answered, "Because they are ignorant and content in their miserable lives."
The holy man asked N, "And why were you not content?"
N answered, "I went within my house, where I started to seek the supreme bliss."
The holy man looked at N for a long time, and said, "What you seek is found if you do not seek anything outwardly. Do you seek anything outwardly?"
N waited fifteen years to answer, "No."
The holy man, now frail and old, whispered in response, "What you seek is found if you do not seek anything inwardly. Do you seek anything inwardly?"
N was perplexed. The path was a conflicting one: To stop seeking so that one attains to one's goal that one seeks?
He asked the holy man, "How does one stop seeking inwardly?"
The holy man answered, "By being content with what one is," and passed away.
N had never known contentment. Now himself an old man, he wearily walked back to his own home. As he reached it, he saw it was now decrepit and utterly worn.
As he sat on the stairs at the entrance of his house, he looked at his hands, now the hands of an old man, with innumerable wrinkles and lines.
He turned his face around and saw a portrait of his old parents hanging on a wall of the house. His parents had passed away many years back.
He was surprised at himself that he had never really looked at their faces and into their eyes, the way he had looked into the eyes of the holy man.
The portrait was an old one, from the days when he was still living with them, and it showed the mildly nervous and smiling faces of a couple, who seemed neither ecstatic nor melancholy, nor did it appear that they were seeking anything. They seemed content with their lot in life.
Silent tears started streaming down his cheeks, and through his tears, he saw a few children playing in the street. One of them had lost a round of marbles and was on the verge of crying.
He got up, walked up to that child, and lifted him into his lap and while kissing his forehead with his old lips, whispered, "I will give you some new marbles tomorrow. But if you want to cry, cry here, don't go inside."