In a village dry with drought, there was a farmer who went one morning to his field, intent on digging up a well. Just as he was about to thrust his shovel into the earth, an elderly neighbour, hailed him over and asked what he was doing. Hearing the farmer’s plan, the neighbour shook his head wisely.

“My son, let me advise you. Please dig at that spot near the large oak tree. It will lead you to a rich source of crystal clear water. My grandfather once told me that the ancestors of this land had long ago calculated the exact spots for water flowing deep in the ground but unfortunately they could not uncovered these. The place near the ancient tree is one of them.”

The farmer gratefully thanked his neighbour for the invaluable advice. He began his work and put all his energy into it. After much effort he had reached twenty feet into the ground. It was a hot day so he paused for rest and wiped his brow.

Just then it happened that a roof thatcher passed by. He asked what was going on and started shaking his head as soon as he heard that the farmer was searching for water.

“You´re digging in completely the wrong place my friend. What a waste of time! You should dig about a hundred metres to the east. There you will easily get water.”

The farmer was puzzled. He scratched his head as he looked to the east. It seemed true. The hole he had dug showed no signs of moisture and the roof thatcher was convincing.

The farmer began digging a new hole in the eastern direction. He spent the rest of the day tunnelling downwards and reached ten feet deep by dusk. He was tired and began packing his hoes. As he was leaving the field, the woman who ran the local bakery walked by. She looked with disbelief at the farmer.

“What have you been doing? Surely, you’re not trying to dig a well over there?” she said.

The question pinched the farmer who wasn’t sure how to respond.

Before he could say anything, the lady said, “If you want to find water then take my advice and dig twenty metres to the west of that mango tree. It will be softer soil and you’re bound to hit clean water quickly.”

The lady was known for her delicious breads and she spent all afternoon giving customers suggestions about home remedies for colds and coughs. She was trusted by everyone, so the farmer decided to dig a new hole as she had instructed. He worked into the night until he had ploughed several feet deep. Tired and cold, he stopped to go home to rest.

The next day when he returned, the farmer found his best friend sitting under the oak tree chewing straw and looking into the horizon. The friend chuckled as the farmer approached him.

“Friend, what are you doing digging wells in silly places?” said the best friend, waving at the field. “You need to dig right here in the centre.” The man skipped over to the spot and pointed downwards. “Here is the best place for finding water; perfect according to the sun’s direction and the blowing wind.”

The farmer looked at his friend searchingly and rubbed his forehead. He set about digging a new hole in the centre of the field.

As the week passed, people came every day to offer different suggestions. The farmer followed each one and eventually the field was pockmarked, though no water was found. On his tenth hole, the farmer looked up to see the elderly neighbour, who had first recommended the spot by the oak tree, stroll by. The old man took in the state of the field and the exhausted farmer.

“My young friend, you have worked so hard and made so many small holes! If you had persevered with your effort and focus at the first spot you would have certainly found water by now!”