The sun beat down on him as he staggered through the desert; his lips cracked, his mouth dry.
“Water, water, how I need water,” he thought. It had been so long since he’d had water.
Yet still, he carried on the path in the desert. He knew it was the right path, that it would bring him to a lake of cool, clean, clear water – and that there would be trees to provide shade. But he didn’t know how long the path was, how long it would take to get there. It could be days, it could be years. He had already been walking for so long!
Every now and then there would be voices from the sides of the path. “This way,” they’d say. “Come this way, I know a different path to the lake, an easier one.” But he didn’t listen, even though some were the voices of old friends. He knew those paths were roads to nowhere.
Onward and onward he walked. Then he came over a small sandy hill, and saw in the distance to his right a lake, with Than Shwe himself standing by it.
“Come off the path, come to my lake,” said Than Shwe.
The man stopped and looked. There was a lake. It was small, and the water was muddy. But it was a lake, and it had been so long since he had had a drink.
“Come, come to my lake,” said Than Shwe.
There were some people with him. Some were foreigners, some he didn’t know, there were even some old friends. “Come,” they said, “come this way. Come to this lake, the path you are on is so long. This lake is here now, you can rest here before heading for the other lake.”
“Ok,” he thought, “I’ll go. I am so thirsty, and even though the lake is small and the water is muddy, something is better than nothing.”
He left the path and walked to the lake. At last. Water.
He arrived at the edge of the lake, sank to his knees, and dipped his face in the lake to drink.
But instead of being able to drink, his nose hit sand. The water was on the surface only, not deep enough to drink from. But he was so desperate. He sucked the muddy water from the sand, and for a moment there was the wonderful feeling of water on his cracked lips and dry tongue.
But, almost immediately after, there was a pain in his stomach. The water was not just shallow and muddy, it was also bad, and it was making his body ill.
The pain got worse, and he curled up on the damp sand, holding his stomach.
Than Shwe started laughing.
“Oh no,” thought the man, “what have I done? I knew the path to the lake, but I came here instead, but the lake wasn’t real, and now I am sick. I don’t know if I can find my way back to the true path. If only I had the courage to stay on the path."
As for Than Shwe, he kept on laughing and laughing.