One dark night an impoverished fisherman trespassed into a large private property with a clear intention of stealing fish from the pond, inside. As soon as he threw his net into the pond the owner woke up from his slumber and asked his guards to check if someone was trying to steal his pet fishes.
The thief, petrified by approaching guards, left the net on the scene and ran for his life. The guards chased him relentlessly. Just before he was to get exhausted he saw a bonfire. Suddenly he had an idea. He pulled off his turban and smeared some ash from the bonfire on his body and sat below a tree meditating. Mistaking the thief for a Sanyasi the guard continued their search elsewhere; they were, obviously unsuccessful in nabbing the culprit.
When they returned their master they mentioned about a holy man meditating with the confines of the property. Thrilled to hear of a noble soul within the limits of his property he approached the sanyasi, touched his feet and left quietly. The impostor, thrilled by the success of his plan, spent his night there. Next morning moment before he was about to leave the impostor saw a young couple with their infant approaching him. Perplexed, he found them touching his feet to seek blessings for their newborn.
The visitor kept flowing in. People sought him also with delicious food and gifts. The situation continued for a couple of days. This forced him to contemplate. “How strange! I am not even a real Sanyasi and yet these people show me so much respect. How much greater would be the respect if I was a real sanyasi?” he said to himself and eventually he sough the path of wisdom and became a real sanyasi.
Postscript: Some many find similarity with THE GUIDE – novel penned by RK Narayan. However, this story is much older and has been part of Indian folklore for ages.