The Anthropologist and the Elder

by Mohamed Imran Mohamed Taib

An anthropologist one day entered a village and wanted to study the religious beliefs of the people living in the village. He was looking for an interviewee. But because of the culture of respect for the elders, he first approached the wise council of villagers.

“What kind of informer are you looking for?” asked one of the village elders.

The anthropologist replied, “Someone, anyone, who can tell me about the beliefs of the people of this village. Preferably someone young and qualified.”

The wise council turned to each other, murmuring a name here and there. Finally, they quietened down and one of them spoke.

“We know of someone. Speaks very well. Able to tell you what you need to know about our practices here.”

“Very good. Can you introdu….”

“Wait, wait….” the elder interrupted the anthropologist. “There is something you need to know about him.”

“What is it, O Respected One?” (For they call the elders in the council as that.)

The elder looked at the oldest-looking one amongst them. He was probably over a 100 years old. Long white beard and a face full of wrinkles. He was probably the most senior, most wise and most respected. They called him the Grand Old Man.

The Grand Old Man was stroking his beard all along. He was deep in thought. There was a long silence. Everyone’s eyes were fixed on him. The anthropologist was anxiously waiting for him to speak.

Finally, the Grand Old Man spoke. “Yes…. You could interview this young man. I am sure he will speak well.”

The anthropologist heaved a sigh of relief. That’s the endorsement that he needed. The rest of the elders nodded in agreement.

“But…. you must know that this young man is…”

“Is what, O Grand Old Man?” the anthropologist interrupted, almost impatient.

“He is…. a good Slamin”. Slam is the name of the religious belief of the village. A Slamin is someone who believes in the Slam religion.

“Ah, exactly what I’m looking for,” the anthropologist interrupted again.

The Grand Old Man stopped him from saying anything further with the gesture of his hand.

“Yes, yes. This young man,” continued the Grand Old Man. “A good Slamin…. He doesn’t go around doing bad things. He doesn’t fool around, doesn’t fall to temptations…He helps people, he is honest. A very, very good Slamin. This is what he tells people.”

The elders were all nodding, with a sombre look. The room was tense.

“But there is something you need to know… One very small flaw that we noticed.”

“What is it, O Grand Old Man?”


And the Grand Old Man burst out laughing. The whole room laughed. And they laughed and laughed non-stop. Except the anthropologist, who was left confused… until a minute later. And then he laughed with them. He is wise now.

This article was originally published on FaceBook and reproduced with permission.

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