‘Yes, certainly,’ said I.
‘Good. Let us now return to your way of chewing your food,’ the old man continued. ‘If you chew in this way as a means to health or for the sake of other attainments, then I shall have to say, if you would like to know my sincere opinion, that you have chosen the worst possible way. By chewing your food so carefully you reduce the work of your stomach. Now you are young and everything is all right, but you are accustoming your stomach to do nothing; and when you are older, owing to the lack of normal work, your muscles will be to a certain extent atrophied. And that is bound to occur if you continue this system of chewing. You know that our muscles and body get weaker in old age. Now, in addition to the natural weaknesses of old age, you will have another brought on by yourself, because you are accustoming your stomach not to work. Can you imagine how it will be then?
‘On the contrary, it is not at all necessary to masticate carefully. At your age it is better not to chew at all, but to swallow whole pieces, even bones if possible, to give work to your stomach. I can see that those who have advised you to practise this mastication, and also those who write books about it, have, as is said, “heard a bell without knowing where the sound came from”.’
These simple, obvious and consistent words of the old man made me completely change my first opinion of him. Until then I had put questions to him out of curiosity, but from that moment I felt a serious interest in him, and began to listen with the greatest attention to everything he said.
Suddenly I understood with the whole of my being that ideas I had hitherto accepted as indisputable truths were incorrect. I realized that up till then I had seen things only from one side. Now many things appeared in quite a new light. Hundreds of new questions arose in my mind concerning this subject.
Carried away by our conversation with the dervish, the doctor and I quite forgot about the rest of our comrades and stopped translating what was said.
Seeing how deeply we were interested, they kept interrupting us with the questions: ‘What did he say?’ ‘What is he talking about?’ and each time we had to put them off, promising to tell them everything in detail later.