Arjuna and Chaminda were close friends. So close as if they were one soul in two bodies. Childhood friends, they were.
Their selfless friendship was an example for others. They had grown up and had their separate businesses. One day they decided to unite their businesses into one and work as partners.
They did it and their united business worked wonderfully. They became very rich and lived like wealthy persons. A time came when both friends got married almost at the same time.
They continued their friendship and partnership for seven or eight years. Then Arjuna's heart started changing. He was no more old faithful friend. He began cheating in business and playing fraud. Chaminda was honest and simple person. He never suspected any foul play by his friend. Arjuna used to keep the accounts of their business. He showed loss after loss and kept stealing the money. The day came when Chaminda was no more partner in the business.
Arjuna had usurped the entire business. Chaminda never expected such fraud from his friend whom he had so trusted all his life.
He was so shocked that he stopped talking to others. No one ever after that saw him smile or laugh. It worried his wife. They were financially facing great hardship. To make things worse Chaminda fell ill.
His wife showed him to the doctors and vaids. But the treatment didn't work. It was some mysterious disease which the doctors could not understand. Chaminda was becoming weaker and weaker.
Meanwhile, Arjuna was a happy person. He had collected great wealth through frauds and was now doing roaring business of his own. He had loaded his wife with jewellery. The people knew how he had defrauded and cheated his friend Chaminda. He had become an example of treachery. But no one openly spoke against him for fear. One day. Chaminda's cousin brother Somaratne came from the city to see him. The condition of his brother pained him. Chaminda's wife pleaded. ‘Brother' Do something about your cousin brother. No local treatment is working for him."
Somaratne learnt entire story from his sister-in-law. He remarked, ‘Sister! Doctors can’t have the cure for Chaminda. It needs some other treatment."
Somaratne thought that Chaminda was infact suffering from pain of getting betrayed by a trusted friend. So, Chaminda would not get well until Arjuna came to him and apologized. Chaminda’s wife said that it was impossible since Arjuna had become very arrogant and rich. And that Arjuna would not care for poor people like them.
Chaminda assured her that he would make the impossible thing happen. He would do it without money, claimed. Somaratne put his plan in action the very next day.
Arjuna was going to his shop on his horse. He saw that a person looked at him and laughed.
Arjuna was puzzled by it. A little ahead some people stood talking. When he passed by them, one of them looked at him and said something to the others. They all burst out laughing.
Arjuna suddenly felt that everyone was looking at him and laughing. He thought that perhaps his turban was too tilted. As he tried to correct it he almost fell off the horse unbalanced.
At his shop, when he was trying to open the lock, a small boy passed by laughing at him. It angered Arjuna. He called the boy to him and barked, ‘Why did you laugh?"
The boy giggled, “For nothing.’ And he went away.
Today, Arjuna’s mind was not in business. He fretted over the laughing mystery. He examined himself closely in the mirror from all angles to see any flaw that could make others laugh. He found nothing wrong.
During the noon, a bearded trader came to his shop and struck a big deal. Arjuna was not within himself that day. He was upset due to the laughing incidents. The bearded trader twice or thrice caressed his beard and began laughing at Arjuna. Then he got up to go and said, "We shall finalize the deal some other day.'
He went away still giggling. Arjuna thought that may be something was wrong with his beard. He examined his beard closely but found nothing out of place.
Next day, when he went to work he noticed people whispering about him and laughing. He suspected that they were talking about his dishonest acts. He tried to catch the whispers but couldn't hear a single word.
Now he would see people whispering and laughing at him wherever he went. He was very puzzled.
Angered by it, Arjuna decided not to take it lying down and to hit back. The next day, when some one laughed at him he yelled at him, "Mad’ Utterly mad!"
The other man repeated back those words. Arjuna was mad with anger. Within a week situation became such that whichever way he turned people yelled, "Mad… Utterly mad!" It made him really mad and he began acting like a mad man. His business suffered And he was sick.
On that day, big Zamindar’s son was getting married. All the people of the village were invited at the feast. Arjuna also arrived in his finery. Somaratne was also there. Somaratne whispered into the ears of the Zamindar, "Won t you meet the richest man of the village? The man over there with the beard thinks that he is bigger Zamindar than you are."
Zamindar was in jolly mood. He took it as a joke and caressed his own beard. Then he looked towards Arjuna and said with a laugh, ‘Him? He is a good man.'
Arjuna realised that the person who whispered into Zamindar's ears was same one who had laughed at him first of all. Then, others had started laughing at him. Today Zamindar too laughed at him.
Arjuna realised that the man was behind the laughing mystery. Was he complaining about him to Zamindar? Or was something wrong with his beard? What? What??
Arjuna tried to get to Somaratne but he had vanished.
The next day, Arjuna shaved off his beard and set out to find Somaratne. He wanted to know what Zamindar had said about him and why he had laughed? He saw Somaratne going ahead. Arjuna rushed to him and asked about the previous night’s incident.
Somaratne replied, “I will tell you what Zamindar said about you on one condition. You will do something that I ask."
Arjuna said, "Don’t ask for money. Whatever else you want of me shall be done.’
Somaratne took Arjuna to the small hut where now Chaminda lived. Chaminda lay sick on a cot. Somaratne said, "First, seek forgiveness of this man."
Arjuna. at once said to the sick man, ‘Forgive me." The sick man sat up with an effort. A faint line of smile appeared on his skinny face. Now Arjuna recognised him to be his old friend Chaminda. His friend’s pitiable condition gave a shock to Arjuna. His conscience woke up and he felt sorry for his misdeeds.
Somaratne revealed to Arjuna that the Zamindar had spoken good of him. Arjuna repented and again asked Chaminda to forgive him. The friends embraced each other.
Chaminda regained health and both the friends remained friends for ever.