Each one, Teach one

This is not a fictional story. It is a real life incident and was a very sensational news in most news channels.

Gaurav tried to concentrate on reading the book he had bought for his field trip from college. His college had arranged for a trip to a village as his course in the Agricultural University demanded such visits to rural areas. He could not concentrate at all because of the continuous mooing of a cow. The cow kept moaning and groaning.

A few people had already gathered around the cow. The cow was not very young to be called a calf and not too old to be called a grown up cow. Gaurav could not resist the emerging curiosity and walked to the place to find something unbelievable. The cow was actually crying near a dead body. It was fighting against the people who were standing around the corpse. Whoever tried to move near the dead man was attacked with its horns.

Gaurav was bewildered. He had never seen a cow guarding a corpse. The cow went on licking the man’s face and kept moving the lifeless face as if trying to wake him up from deep sleep. A few people could not control their emotions and cried. Gaurav enquired, “What is happening here? Why is the cow so protective? Is the man its master?”

There was a middle aged man who moved aside from the crowd and told Gaurav, “Son, are you from the city? These kinds of suicides are common in this village. This man lying here is a farmer from the nearby village, who could not repay his debts. He was totally helpless and resorted to this kind of death. He had come to meet the zamindar but had to return empty handed. This farmer had nothing to mortgage; neither a house nor an animal nor a tractor. In the present days, a farmer’s suicide has become a cliche. It has become so common that nobody is willing to spend time to pay their last respects to that poor soul. This is the 5th farmer who has ended his life in the past 9 months.”

Gaurav felt restless. His question was not fully answered. He asked again, “Sir, this cow…..??” The man replied, “This cow was once this dead man’s property. He bought it from the market with loads of love and affection. He took care of it like his own child. After 4 months his crops perished and he was forced to sell the cow. He sold it to the zamindar of this village. Today, when the cow saw its owner at the zamindar’s house, it must have recognised its master and let itself loose from the shed.

I recognised the cow because I was the one who fixed a nominal rate for the cow so the farmer could get a decent amount. From the froth near his mouth we presume that this man must have consumed some poison. His fingers have the smell of rat poison. Now, this cow does not want us to touch its owner and refuses to admit its owner’s demise. Come let’s go and do something.”
Gaurav was electrified not with shock but with the strong love of the cow. He could do nothing other than stand and watch the pathetic situation.

In ten minutes the farmer’s son arrived in a stranger’s moped. A good samaritan had given the boy a lift. The boy was not older than Gaurav but looked very weak. He wore loose clothes. His face was stained with dried up tears. Fresh tears rushed out when he saw the corpse. For a moment he did not understand the presence of a cow till he looked at it with keen attention and called out, “Lakshmi…. Hey Lakshmi is that you? Did you see your master? Lakshmi, my father is no more.” The boy wept very badly.

The cow stood and watched the young master trying to wake his father. After a few minutes the cow sat down near the corpse, placed its head near the master’s face and mooed softly. The spectators could not control their tears.

When the priest arrived, the cow had to be moved. The villagers did not budge. The son caught hold of the cow and looked around. He saw Gaurav. Gaurav had an immediate understanding with the poor chap. He held the rope of the cow. “Brother, will you please lead the cow to the cremation ground? She will not stay back unless she witnesses everything. I am sorry, brother”, said the son with folded hands.

Gaurav didn’t hesitate. He immediately agreed. A long line of around 30 people walked to the crematorium. This had never happened before. A farmer’s last rites was mostly attended only by his wife and children. Because of Lakshmi a crowd of 30 people paid their last respects to the hands that had fed them with health and nutrition.

At the end of the day Gaurav had learnt a vital lesson. This lesson was not taught to him even in his University. That day he had learnt to respect a farmer’s life even after the farmer’s demise. Advanced technologies are futile and worthless if the farmer is disrespected. After getting back to his hometown he had a full day seminar session with all his department students. A crowd of 150 students were educated about the challenges faced by farmers and how such incidents are viewed as mere newspaper articles and not as an issue that calls for an immediate solution.

Farmers are our food providers. They are like the Prophets of Mother Nature. Farmers are epitomes of selflessness and diligence. They keep the least for themselves and provide the best for the country. India stands proud as an almost developed country only because of agriculture, which is our nation’s backbone.

Agricultural Universities teach the subjects in the best way possible but one factor which could be added along with materialistic development is the analysis of case studies of poverty stricken farmers. The ways and methods to enhance the quality of a farmer’s life should be a part of the syllabus. The love that was discovered in the cow’s heart will be found in the hearts of many. Animals understand the meaning for the word “gratitude”.

Gaurav believed in the concept of Each ONE, Teach ONE. He played his role well. When will you?

Agriculture is our nation’s backbone. It is upto all of us to take good care of the backbone. If we don’t, then the entire nation will be in a state of permanent and irreversible paralysis.

Can life be refurbished?

Little drops of water leaked from the roof of the dark den-like house. The drops had formed a small pool on the table. The wooden table was a feast for the termites who had occupied Geoffrey’s house ten years after he occupied it .

As soon as Geoffrey saw the pool he staggered with quick steps with a cloth in his hand. He threw the cloth on the water before it could reach the items kept on the table. The things that were stocked on the table were not new. A few were rusty. A few had only half of their physique. There were a few things which looked new. They were refurbished and were ready to put to use.

Geoffrey was in such a hurry to reach the table that he did not notice the water collected on the wooden floor. He would have slipped with his face down but his newspaper hawker was just in time to catch him by his hand.

“What happened sir? What are you doing sir? Please sit down”, said the young man. He gave him a glass of water and wiped the rain water from the floor. As he made Geoffrey sit, he noticed a pile of old goods on the table. He was very curious. He could not leave the place without asking anything about it. He turned and said, “Sir, what are all these things? Aren’t these broken? Why are you wasting your time with these? Are you repairing them? I have seen many such things in a shop where they stock old newspapers. Do you sell them after you refurbish them? “

These were too many questions for Geoffrey. He just said, “I repair old goods. It is my hobby. I dont sell them. I donate them to the poor people.” The young man was astonished. He had never seen an old man working so hard without earning any profit for himself. He said, “If you earn nothing from this, how do you eat? Are you working elsewhere for your daily bread? “

Geoffrey was silent. He hung his head down. He thought for a while and said, “I am an ex-convict. I do not have a job. I donate my goods and if the people give me some morsels, I feed myself on those days.”

The hawker was hesitant for a moment but also realised that Geoffrey was too old to be harmful at all. So he sat in a chair opposite Geoffrey but not very near him. He kept looking at Geoffrey and with immense fear he asked, “Sir, why were you imprisoned? How did you come out?”

Geoffrey was silent for a moment and said, “I stole my master’s bike as I had to rush to the accident spot where my family was crushed beneath the tyres of the lorry. I wanted to save them but ended up caught by the police for stealing the bike. I was imprisoned for 2 years. It was very difficult to prove that the people below the lorry were my family members. When I was finally released from prison I had no one to befriend me and was refused employment anywhere. Whenever I see these old goods I empathize them. I see myself in them.

They are all rejected and disposed of by society just like me. I was never given a second chance. I repair these only to give them a second chance. Though they may not be as good as they were when they were brand new, they will be helpful for the needy.

I made a mistake. I agree that what I did was wrong. I deserved punishment but I feel I also a second chance. I never got the second chance. The blackmark in my life is like a hole made by a nail on the wall. The hole can never be removed. The damage made by the nail is a permanent one. It can never look original just like my repaired goods.” Geoffrey covered his face with his palms and wiped off the water from his cheeks that had dripped from the roof.

The newspaper hawker got up. He had no comments at all. All his curiosity was cleared. He took a cloth and wiped the floor. He wasn’t scared anymore. He took a ladder and helped Geoffrey fix the roof. All that he understood that day was, no person is bad or dangerous and every person who commits a mistake deserves a second chance.

He made it a point to visit Geoffrey everyday and help him donate his refurbished goods to more people in the society.

Is Article 2 just for you?

Ohhh this retired life is so boring. How have these other old people managed for so long? How are they able to laugh and be merry? Look at that old man he doesn’t even know his name. He says a different name each time. The doctor said a name which I can’t remember even if I hear it a hundred times. Sounded like aaalzeee… oh whatever!

Ouch!! What is that sound? My ears!!! Did someone just pass away? Why is someone whining? Wait …. Hey, that’s my cousin Bob. What happened to him? He was alright yesterday though he couldn’t walk very briskly. We had breakfast together, damn it. What is happening here? Oh… wait. Why is that man crying? Now I understand. Bob did not die. The way these people are behaving Bob did not die. He was euthanized. The handler is weeping. Poor Bob. I wish he had more strength in his legs.

How much I hate this euthanization. These human beings follow this inhumane practice. Euthanasia is defined as the act of humanely ending the life of a living being in order to end extreme suffering. For us euthanasia is very decently called as “putting to sleep” or “putting down.”

Yes, my name is Pistol. I am a proud retired K9 dog.

I belonged to the K9 unit and served for 11 long years. Many police departments and the Army around the country employ special K-9 units.The Army generally uses Labradors, German Shepherds and Belgian Shepherds, depending on the altitudes and weather and also by the nature of the given assignments.

My team and I assisted officers in finding missing people and searching for evidence at crime scenes. All of us underwent heavy training to be true partners to our human companions who are referred to as handlers. We worked tirelessly along with them and followed them like their shadows. K9 dogs are used for infantry patrol, tracking, explosive detection, guarding bases, and casualty detection in times of disaster.

Just like our handlers, even we have retirement. We are incredibly well-trained yet we face unintended consequences because of the undefinable stress. We too experience anxiety and depression. Few of my colleagues who had retired from the police force exhibited negative behaviors like aggression, separation anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. It is heart wrenching to see them suffer.

That is exactly when we require additional training in retirement and sometimes even re-socialization. We need to be rehabilitated. We were never given that benefit till Robby’s Law was signed by then-President Bill Clinton. Under the new law, which still stands today, dogs retiring from service in law enforcement or the military can be adopted by their handlers or other service members or the general public.

When police dogs retire, they can be adopted by their handlers or by the general public. I wonder why many people don’t agree with it. It is such a beautiful way of expressing gratitude to us who have toiled all our youthful days. By age 7 or 8 or sometimes up to 11, we are ready to hang up our K-9 badges and spend our remaining years relaxing. We don’t want to be killed.

We will be wonderful guide dogs and keep the neighborhood or city safe. I think many are not aware that there are organizations that work to help former working dogs, including putting us in good homes.

During an interview which took place in this K9 retirement home where I am presently kept, a reporter asked an officer, “Why don’t you rehabilitate the dogs after they retire? Why do you euthanize them?” The official cited a weird reason. He said, “Security concerns. Since the dogs are familiar with the base location, it will not be good if they end up in civilian hands.”

I have only one question. If retired human officers are trusted, why not us? Why does law protect only human beings?

Article 2 of the Human Rights Act protects your right to life. This means that nobody, including the Government, can try to end your life. It also means the Government should take appropriate measures to safeguard life by making laws to protect you and, in some circumstances, by taking steps to protect you if your life is at risk.

What about us? We are more faithful and more intelligent than anyone else. Do not end our lives. Hand us over to caring hands who will need us. Please allow us to enjoy our retired life in peace.

Presently I am waiting for my handler who agreed to adopt me. He got injured on our last assignment. I hope he gets back soon from the hospital. I am lucky. I hope many of my other colleagues also get to live a happy retired life.

The Exodus

“I went to the nearby mall to get a sturdy travel bag and a lightweight suitcase which was advertised with an offer in the newspaper. I must have gone for just two hours. When I returned home, which housed around 5 to 6 members, it looked empty. There was something different. My parents and other members were there but something was gone. Oh yes, so many things were gone.

The flowers from the garden were missing. The vegetables which were also grown by my grandmother were half gone. The bright garden looked gloomy and colourless!

When I was leaving I could smell so many tasty dishes and savouries. My favourite snack items were also getting ready. Now, the aroma is lingering inside the house but the eatables are out of sight!

Daddy loves to make terracotta pots and small wooden furniture. If I was not wrong he had made so many colorful pots and small cute decorative furniture for our living room. Now, why don’t I find a single one in the store room? Wasn’t this the place where he stored all his creations?

Hey.. my uncle had brought 20 cans coconut oil from his own farm. I don’t find them either. They were meant for all of us. This is so weird. I should ask grandfather about this.”

Dhruv went to his grandfather’s room. His grandfather was busy counting the gold coins which were produced in their own gold workshops. “Hello grandpa”, said the bewildered Dhruv. “What are you doing? Weren’t these kept aside for Teenu’s wedding?”

The grandfather chuckled and said, “Oh these cannot stay here anymore, I am planning to sell it to a famous gold jewelry shop. Teenu’s wedding can be managed without these.”

Dhruv got irritated. With a frown on his face he said, “But why grandpa? Why should we suffer when we have everything? By the way, why are all our things missing? Where are the vegetables and pots and the oil cans? Won’t we need them? If we give away everything to the outsiders what will we do? How will our house have sufficient food and prosperity? It is so shocking that you want to give away the gold also!” Dhruv was almost on the verge of breaking down.

The grandfather was silent. He appreciated his grandson’s concern. He said, “You don’t worry we will manage. It is our destiny to produce everything and not enjoy the fruit. We give more importance to other people’s satisfaction. We want everyone in this world apart from our family members to be happy and prosperous.”

Dhruv got angry. “I totally disagree with grandpa. This is not fair.” Immediately grandpa said, “If this is not fair, then how do you feel that your decision is fair. How do you feel that it is fair to get complete education from your motherland and go away elsewhere? You made use of all her resources of food and water and now you want to give your services to another country? How fair is that Dhruv? Your country is like your home. You are not able to withstand when home made things are sold despite the deficiency in the house. How do you think it is correct for you to give your homemade intelligence and experience to a foreign country when your own country needs your service. It needs your knowledge and wisdom. It needs your energy.

If you feel what you have decided is right. Then we are also right. An intelligent and experienced surgeon like you is required in our own country. Don’t you realise that? Do you also realize that you have become a victim of brain drain?

Dhruv was stunned. He could not utter a word beyond what his grandfather said. He had become a victim of brain drain. He realised his mistake. He was leaving his motherland seeking a higher standard of living and more advanced technologies. When his own country required capable doctors he wanted to provide his services to a foreign land. He also understood that his whole family was opposing his decision in a very subtle manner. Though they had had long talks and bitter arguments almost 3 months ago, this time grandfather nailed his decision by putting up a small drama. The entire family supported grandfather.

After a while Dhruv announced that he had changed his plans. He would go to the foreign land for 3 years, finish the advanced medicine course and get back to his motherland to set up a hospital and serve his countrymen. The family agreed with a cheer and a tear.

Dear friends,
Brain drain is a slang term indicating substantial emigration or migration of individuals. A brain drain can result from turmoil within a nation, the existence of favorable professional opportunities in other countries, or from a desire to seek a higher standard of living.

Over the years, thousands of talented youngsters from various domains have left their motherland to upgrade their knowledge or financial status or in search of better opportunities. This migration was considered as a badge of honour or a feather in the cap.

Little did they realize that after their upgradation they had to get back to their own land and share the benefits with the land that fed them. After living a comfortable life the youngsters become selfish and enjoy a life of luxury all by themselves. It has become a cliche when old and unattended parents lament about the unbothered nature of their children in a foreign land.

Brain drain can be reduced by many initiatives taken by a country to discourage citizens from leaving. They can give the citizens a reason to stay in their own motherland by providing better jobs, more opportunities and a higher standard of living. The idea of a welfare state where a family’s basic needs of education and health will be taken care of at quite an affordable price will be too good an offer for anyone to refuse. Facilities provided by overseas universities can be adopted in all countries uniformly. Brain drain happens when people observe a difference in quality.

Sadly, the nation is busy in increasing the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and not the Gross National Happiness (GNH), sometimes called Gross Domestic Happiness (GDH). This is a philosophy that has been religiously followed by the government of Bhutan. It includes an index which is used to measure the collective happiness and well-being of a population.

If every country takes an initiative to provide equal opportunities and technology then every citizen will remain in his country forever. This cannot be done only with one person’s thinking. All youngsters and millennials have to co operate and strive hard for their motherland’s progress.

Moving to a country for exposure or higher education is not wrong. But settling there forever with selfish motives is a cheap act. Even the migratory birds come back to their own country. When birds can come back, why can’t human beings? What starts as emigration ends as an exodus. An exodus will empty a country and lead to its gradual extinction.

This Independence Day let us decide to save our motherland from perishing because a country without its countrymen is like a house without family members and a garden without its plants Emigration should never become an exodus.

As you sow, so shall you reap

Shankar walked slowly with his 5 gallon- plant watering can. He was very careful not to spill the water. He got down the steps, wiped his leg in the doormat, wore his garden slippers and walked up to his menagerie of flowering plants. He had built a gate with a trellis which had varieties of climbers climbing onto them. His retirement plan was right in front of his eyes. He had been a French teacher at a reputed school for around 32 years. He had worked all through his life very passionately. His other immense passion was towards plants and their cultivation.

As he was pouring water on the dahlias, he saw a slight movement amidst his banana trees. He was undeterred as he presumed the reason. His garden had recently become a hideout for an 11year old neighbor boy, Vivek.

Vivek was Shankar’s neighbour from the next street. He was terribly weak in his studies; especially in the new fiends called Physics, Chemistry, Botany, Zoology and the worst of all French. New subjects were only new rivals to Vivek. He could not decipher any of those subjects from any angle. His father could not understand his son’s problem completely. Both parents were farmers in the nearby district. Vivek’s father thought that his son was lazy and too playful. Vivek’s mother tried helping him as much as possible but some subjects were like Greek and Latin to her.

Shankar knew the boy’s difficulty. He had spoken many times to Vivek and found out that Vivek had already decided that he was unfit for studies and was really a duffer as nicknamed by his classmates.

That day he had come to his hideout because he had failed in 2 subjects and wanted to escape from his father’s scolding and thrashing. Shankar called him inside the house this time. He had made some ginger tea for himself. He offered half a cup to Vivek. “Hey Vivek, why are you so scared? This is almost the 4th time you are running away from your father. How many days do you think you could continue doing this? Last year you said science diagrams were a problem. What is it this year?”

Vivek took a sip of the aromatic tea and lifted his grievous eyes. He said, “Everything is tough, sir. All subjects are difficult; especially the 4 science subjects. Maths is split 2 two papers and so I don’t find it tough. Sir, at least these science subjects are in English but sir my worst enemy is French. I don’t understand the head or tail of it. My father wanted me to learn a foreign language. He said I would have a better future if I knew one. Father doesn’t realise that it is very difficult for a duffer like me to even learn subjects written in English.” As he said the last line, a tear rolled down his cheeks.

Shankar could empathize with the child and patted Vivek’s head slowly. He had experienced the same situation from many of his own students as they were always scared to learn a foreign language.

Vivek suddenly realised that Shankar was a teacher and that too a French teacher! He sat near Shankar and said, “Sir, I shall pay you a small fee from my pocket money given by my father. I get 3 rupees a day. I can give you 50 rupees sir. 30 rupees I require for purchasing some stationery item.”

Shankar only smiled. He checked if the tea cup was empty. He held Vivek’s hand and led him to his garden. He said, “Vivek, come let us get some fresh air. By the way, who says you are a duffer? You are intelligent, dear. Duffers will never be able to learn any subject. You are good at Maths, you don’t have difficulty in reading and writing. You are not a duffer, dear. You need to give some time to yourself.

Now see these plants. There is a saying in English, “Your mind is a garden, your thoughts are the seeds. You can grow flowers, or you can grow weeds”.
You can tend your mind just as your father tends his farm, but instead of growing carrots or tomatoes, you have to grow your brain. Many people like you feel that intelligence was just something people were born with. But the fact is our brain is more like a muscle. It can grow and get stronger. This will happen only when you use it. It will grow when you learn all your subjects.”

Vivek had a shocking expression. He looked perplexed too. He gazed at Shankar and asked, “Do you mean to say my brain will grow if I learn all the subjects? Will people stop calling me a duffer?”

“Of, course,” said Shankar. “You can grow your brains through practice, hard work and determination. Always remember your brain and a garden like this is very similar. A garden is a great place to cultivate growth. Obviously a garden will have weeds too. They are the negative thoughts that have taken root to grow! You have a weed in your mind that you are a duffer with very less brains. Remove the weed and water your mind with positive thoughts, concentration and you will automatically find the result. And as far as French is concerned, I shall teach you. You should promise to attend your school classes well. I will only assist you. The fees shall be your pass marks in your other subjects. The higher you get, the higher my fee will be. If not, you will be paying this old man with very less money.” Shankar showed a puckered face to the 11 year old child who looked so relieved. The child could not help hugging Shankar before he left.

As the child hopped down the street with joy, Shankar looked at the plants and flowers and said, “I hope you met your new friend. His name is Vivek.”

The next morning Shankar woke up early and travelled to the nearby district where Vivek’s father worked in a farm. Shankar could not identify him very easily but through word of mouth Vivek’s father, Dharampal was located. At first, Dharampal did not understand anything. After Shankar introduced himself and explained the reason for his visit, Dharampal had a concerned look.

He said, “Yes sir, Vivek is not studying much. In 6th standard he has to spend more time with his books. In almost all tests he commits a lot of mistakes. I have instructed my wife to keep reminding him to study. I am scared sir. I am sorry he has disturbed you, sir. “

Shankar immediately said, “Committing mistakes in the beginning of the year is not wrong, Dharampal. Mistakes are like the fertilizers which you use for your farm. Mistakes will help him to develop. Do not scold him too much for the few mistakes he makes this year. He is just introduced to 4 new subjects. Please give him some time.

Don’t you give time for your plants to grow? You can’t force any plant to grow. You can provide proper growth conditions. In the same way, do not pressurize Vivek to learn anything. Just provide him with your support. Plants and children cannot bloom overnight, sir.

When you help him in this way, Vivek will surely do well in his studies. I will help him with French. When he finally does well you will get the same happiness as you get when you see your farmland full of well grown crops ready to be harvested.”

Dharampal looked at Shankar with gratitude. He realised the undeniable truth that plants and human beings are alike in many ways. If nurtured well with love and care both will give wonderful and fruitful results.

A friendly advice

After a very long time I had an expensive wish;
A wish to see my world from the clouds through the mist.

I took my princely savings and was waiting for my turn to buy
And my eyes scanned through the rates put up on a display nearby.
My heart skipped a beat to see the different rates
I didn’t know how they decided the class and rates.

Did business people alone travel in business class or was an ordinary man also labeled a businessman?
Was a rich fat bloatocrat alone given the executive class
Or will I also be allowed to enjoy the luxury of class?

I stood pondering over these conflicting thoughts when I spotted a bird flying near me.
She came from nowhere. Did everyone see it or was it only me?

This little canary yellow bird perched on my shoulder
She looked deep into my eyes with twisted neck and wondered
Why does this human being want to spend for her humiliation
She cant afford luxury she will face discrimination.

She has enough money for an economy class but her eyes are set in the business class.
Her eyes are set on the business class but her heart is seated in the executive class.

Oh these human beings can never be satisfied
They have to learn their lesson for greed and self pride.

The bird pulled my ear and gave it a twist.
She flew from my shoulder and went near the list.
Her feathers kept beating the economy rates
I understood her advice and didn’t become a bait.

Very often our minds fall a bait to style and luxury
We forget our limits and fall into pits beyond recovery.
Always measure your cloth length before you cut it out
Wise people think twice and then act without a doubt.

And so I listened to my friend’s advice and got a ticket for the economy class. Unfortunately my friend was so right. I entered the aeroplane like any other person and was attended by the flying crew in the best way possible. They made me comfortable with food and water. The plane was the same, the destination was the same but the biggest difference was with my fellow travelers. When I moved about in the plane to the washroom I had weird people who had mean looks. I overheard one person say, ‘God knows why these cheap people have to come here to our washroom’. I turned a deaf ear and returned to my seat but could not fail to notice the discrimination of the world.

An aeroplane is where a fraction of the world meets. No two groups of people are of the same profession or financial status. People are meant to travel together and enjoy the lovely travel above the sky. There is discrimination not only on land but also above the clouds! I really wished I was that canary bird who had complete freedom to fly wherever she wanted. She didn’t have to get tickets nor face such humiliation.

Nature taught a lesson to such mean people when she rocked the aeroplane with her fear filled turbulence. When the captain announced the presence of a storm I was sadistically pleased to see the look on those faces. Every passenger spoke to the other one and tried to get help in some way or the other. The scientist spoke with the teacher who travelled and the aristocrat spoke with the humble church father. There seemed no class difference when the goal was only one. To Live and Let Live.

Riches and luxury are meaningful only as long as we live. Currency becomes meaningless when you dont have a day to enjoy. This journey amidst the clouds was the best I ever had. I witnessed the way differences melted in the bright sun amidst the beautiful sky.

Hide and Seek

Sometimes we limit our life’s choices to two paths with one answer; “right” or wrong.” We weigh each side with their supporting points and conclude with the result that favours us the most. We hate to get disappointed and end up compromising with our morale values.

The choice may not be completely right or completely wrong. It will be impossible to justify our decision in ‘black and white’ but we will find some justice in the ‘grey areas’. The grey area doesn’t deal with justice. It always deals with the emotion called ‘mercy’. Here is a person who enjoys life in his grey area.

Jobin and his uncle Thomson were walking down the road along the beach. The waves hit the rocks and the spray of cool water fell immediately on Jobin’s face. He did not care to wipe the water pellets. Instead he showed his face to the sea and challenged it, “Come on, come on try wetting my full face by the time I complete walking this stretch of land.” Thomson smiled and patted his nephew’s head. Jobin seemed to be in competitive spirit. He looked like a boxer on the ring who challenged his opponent with his every move.

Thomson was walking Jobin from school. It was a long weekend and Jobin’s parents decided to let their son spend his weekend with his uncle. Thomson asked, “Hey champ, how was school? You seem a bit too brisk for the last day of the week. Are you up for a boxing practice? I have repaired our punching bag.”

Thomson loved boxing. He wanted to be a pugilist but his parents did not support him. After a few years of self learning, Thomson resigned to the destiny of being a normal office goer. After a few years, Thomson continued his passion with his ever enthusiastic nephew, Jobin.

Jobin was short and he was just 10 years old. Thomson was very tall. Jobin wished to grow as tall as Thomson and become a renowned pugilist. Jobin raised his head, looked directly into his uncle’s eyes and said, “Ohhh yess, I really want to practise boxing and become stronger. I want to be strong enough to beat up a gang of boys in my class. Oh how much I wish they would get badly hurt so that they would not be able to play their favourite game anymore.”

Thomson was shocked and hurt. He loved boxing but never wanted anybody to use it as a weapon to sate personal vengeance. He did not like his nephew’s attitude. He immediately said, “Whoa …. Whoa… my boy. Be careful with your words. What is this that I am hearing from you? Who taught you to swear and cuss? Why would you wish something ill for anyone? You should remember that we are surrounded by little fairies who make 2 lists. One list has your good deeds and the other has your misdeeds. You will be blessed or punished by the fairies according to the list.”

Jobin was old enough to understand the meaning of morality but not innocent enough to believe in fairies. Thomson continued, “Never wish ill for anyone, Jobin. If possible, wish for something good.” Jobin sulked. Thomson continued, “Fine, now don’t show me that long face. Come, let me take you to a place.”

Saying so, Thomson took Jobin to a restaurant. The restaurant was very crowded. They entered the restaurant and Thomson led him to a seat from where they could see the customers. They did not order anything. Thomson kept looking at the doorway as if he was expecting someone. Jobin was perplexed. He looked at his uncle with inquiring eyes and asked, “Why are we here, uncle? Aren’t you going to order anything? Why…” Just then Thomson bade Jobin to keep quiet and pointed at the doorway.

An old man entered and sat on the table nearest to the doorway. He was not dressed as decently as others. Poverty was explicitly written in his attire. He went to the counter and ordered his meal. As the restaurant was very crowded, no one took interest in anyone’s looks. All that mattered was an order and a bill. The old man received his order, ate to his heart’s content and left the restaurant without paying the bill. Jobin searched for the manager of the restaurant. Surprisingly, the manager was looking at the man leaving the place. After the old man left, the manager just smiled to himself and continued his work.

Jobin was shocked. He looked at Thomson with a confused look. Thomson smiled. Jobin said, “Uncle, what is this? Who is this? Why did he not pay? Why didn’t the manager ask him to pay? ”

Thomson did not utter a word. He walked out of the restaurant and gestured to Jobin to follow him. Jobin’s mind got properly stimulated. He thought his uncle was going to fight with the old man. He even recollected a few punching moves and prepared his tightened fists for a fight.

When they reached a corner of the street near a park, Thompson stopped Jobin from moving further. He only said, “Look”. The old man was talking with all the people who got out of the park. He held a photo in his hand. His animated talk brought a smile to almost everyone’s faces. Thompson held Jobin’s hand and went near the old man. The old man greeted them with a smile and said, “Good day Sir, I hope you are having a nice day. I would love to make it better by suggesting the best place for your lunch. It is this restaurant.”

The photograph was not a normal photo print. It was a newspaper cutting. It had the address and the picture of the restaurant from where the old man had just returned.

The old man continued. “Sir, I eat there regularly and have never felt better. Please try eating there. I hope many people visit the restaurant and enjoy their meal. Long live the prosperity of the restaurant.”

Thomson did not say much. He nodded and said, “Sure, Grandpa, I will.” They walked away and Jobin kept looking at the old man with his head turned away from his body. Thomson said, “Jobin, now you should have understood why the manager kept quiet. The crowd in the restaurant was mostly because of the effort put in by the old man and the good wish he had for the restaurant. The old man had the happiness of getting lost in the crowd to eat a scrumptious meal and the manager had the secret pleasure of respecting the old man’s hard work. Somehow the old man was responsible for the prosperity of the restaurant and he deserved the meal which he secretly earned. Little did the old man realise that it was a known secret.”

Jobin was silent. He couldn’t agree completely with his uncle. He said, “No uncle, the old man can actually get permission and pay for his meal. Well… maybe he didn’t have money and didn’t want to beg. Anycase I get my lesson. I shall never wish ill for anyone or have any vengeance in my mind. But someday the old man will have to pay for his meals; maybe not in full but at least a portion. His hide and seek game will not last long.”

Thomson was both happy and proud of his nephew. He was very glad to be the teacher for a disciplined pugilist of the future.

A short message

I knew it. I knew it. I was right. I told you, dad. I had all my doubts. I have watched so many series like Dr House and The Good doctor. I am almost a medic. I can identify a person’s illness with his symptoms and reactions. I may not be a great diagnostician as Dr. House but I knew very well that the old man was not stable and would faint any moment.”

Nicole came out of the hospital bragging to his father who was a simple man. Nicole’s father was between jobs. A year ago Nicole’s father had experienced a stroke. Though he could not speak very clearly, he had almost recovered completely. There was no problem walking or working yet he never tried believing in himself.

They had just admitted an 85year old man named Itsuki to a hospital. Itsuki was wobbling around the shelves of the departmental stores where Nicole and his dad had gone to purchase a pack of biscuits. Nicole kept nudging his dad and repeated, “Dad, dad, that old man is not well. Shall we help him? He may faint, dad.” Nicole’s dad did not mind his son’s words as his mind was preoccupied with the tension of making ends meet for the following month.

As Nicole was looking at the old man, suddenly the old man fell on one of the shelves bringing down a rack of biscuits with him. He landed with a thud. The old man became unconscious. Nicole and his dad admitted him to the nearest hospital.

Though Nicole felt satisfied with helping the old man, he could not be at rest till he found out the reason for his unconsciousness. Nicole did not feel comfortable in leaving the old man alone. There was something about the old man which led Nicole back to the hospital. He said to his dad, “Dad, I shall spend at least this one night with the old uncle. I am old enough. I am twelve and I can manage on my own. There is no one to look after the uncle. I shall come home tomorrow.” Nicole’s dad had confidence in his son. He got him a bottle of water and bade good night.

Nicole ran to the old man’s bed and watched him breathe steadily through the oxygen mask. Nicole read the patient history pad which had scant details. After a while a nurse replaced the history with another paper. This time the sheet had a lot of details. It also had the patient’s name! The old man was Itsuki. He was Japanese. Itsuki was a heart patient. He was diagnosed with arrhythmia. Arrhythmias are irregular heartbeats. His heart used to beat too quickly or too slowly, or have an erratic pattern. Irregular heartbeats caused him complications like chest pain and dangerous blood clots.

Nicole wondered how the hospital managed to get Itsuki’s details when he was still unconscious. He called the nurse and asked her for which she said, “Don’t you know Mr. Itsuki? He is a philanthropist. He is a very close friend of most of the doctors of this hospital. He is a man with a generous heart. Unfortunately his heart does not cooperate with him. Do you know why he was there at the departmental store? He had come to get provisions for the workers at the slum.”

Nicole was bewildered. He did not know whether to be surprised or feel proud of helping an important celebrity or sympathize with his critical health condition. He could only say, “Please tell me more about him.” The nurse was very eager to talk about Itsuki.

She said, “I cannot tell you everything about Mr Itsuki. Mr Itsuki is from Okinawa. He was a farmer for many years but I have known him for only 20 years. Our first encounter was at the orphanage where Itsuki had come to teach the children the importance of plants. Mr Itsuki had brought many saplings and garden tools with him. He had also brought a banner with him which had the picture of a bonsai tree. I kept looking at it. I had never seen a tree that was so short.

Mr Itsuki noticed my curiosity and said, ‘Child, this is a bonsai tree. Have you seen one before?’

I immediately nodded my head in disapproval. Mr. Itsuki held my hand and led me to the next room where he had kept the wonderful tree on a pedestal. He had preserved the tree with him since the time of the World War. Have you heard of the story of master Masaru Yamaki?

On August 6th 1945 the U.S. B-29 bomber called the “Enola Gay” had just dropped the world’s first atomic bomb over the city of Hiroshima, at a site just two miles from the Yamaki home. Yamaki and his family survived the blast, as did their prized bonsai trees, which were protected by a tall wall surrounding the outdoor nursery. For 25 years, one of those trees sat near the entrance of the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum at the United States National Arboretum in Washington D.C. The tree serves as a reminder of the continued peace between the United States and Japan.

In the same way Mr. Itsuki had preserved the bonsai from the time of war. He kept it as a reminder of the way of life. Infact, very few people knew that his name Itsuki also meant tree in Japanese language. I asked Mr Itsuki, “How long will this tree live? Why is it so short? How did you keep it alive for so many years?”

He pointed at the tree and said, “Child, this bonsai is stronger than you or me. Do not judge the strength of the tree with its size. When everything turned to ashes, these trees had the strength to withstand the explosion. The strength of this tree is found in its roots. However much you try to damage the trunk or the branches, the bonsai will survive the external injury as its true strength lies in the roots. The bonsai taught me an important lesson; to stop relying on external factors for being successful and solely depend upon our inner strength.”

I blinked at what he said. I had misjudged the strength of the bonsai by looking at its size. Mr Itsuki taught the children the way of planting trees and requested the child to give their tree their own name. Itsuki gave me a sapling and today I have grown it into a huge tree. He wanted every child to realise their inner strength as found in the roots of any tree.”

Nicole was dumbstruck. On hearing about the greatness of Mr Itsuki, he could only thank his lucky stars. He spent the night at Itsuki’s bedside with pride and deemed it an honour to serve such a great man. Unfortunately, Mr Itsuki did not survive to meet Nicole. He passed away while he was asleep.

Nicole was disappointed when his father came to the hospital. Nicole’s father understood his son’s situation and decided to attend Itsuki’s funeral. After the rites were done, Nicole took his dad to the room where Mr Itsuki had preserved the bonsai and narrated the legacy behind the tree in an eager tone. He did not like to see his father sitting idle at home. He wanted his father to try his hands on any job and continue to work by realising his inner strength.

Nicole’s father understood the message which his son was trying to deliver. He decided to take the message and strive hard in his life. The next day the duo went to a nursery and purchased a bonsai tree. Below the tree was a small board which read

Human life is short and so am I.
Don’t judge by my size, my real strength is hidden inside.

Speak the language of the silent

No way. Are you able to hear yourself? You don’t seem to make sense at all. Think of something else. You will never have my consent for this decision of yours.’ This was the initial reaction of Dr. Kaisie’s family members when she expressed her desire to learn sign language after she completed her MBBS at a reputed college.

Her attitude towards life and human beings was different from the others. She did not like the stereotypical way of living. She wanted to do something different and make a difference in the lives of many. Kaisie was brilliant and very studious. Ergo, her parents wanted her to continue her Master’s in medicine.

When all her colleagues specialised in advanced medicine, Kaisie wished to learn ASL. American Sign Language (ASL) is one of the most widely used languages in the United States, and the fourth-most studied second language at American universities. At least 35 states have recognized ASL as a modern language for public schools, and hundreds of colleges and universities in the United States are offering ASL classes.

ASL is a visual language with its own grammatical rules and semantics. It is unique in that its beauty, unlike spoken languages, is seen rather than heard. Kaise was drawn towards ASL for its beauty and the emotional response that she would receive. She had decided to become an interpreter for the differently abled.

She empathised with children and adults who could not communicate their joy or woes to the mainstream. She had decided to remain a doctor and on parallel lines work with and for the hearing impaired people. Her goal was to provide equal opportunities to the hearing and speech impaired people as enjoyed by the people belonging to the mainstream.

A personal experience had lit this spark in her mind. Kaisie witnessed the struggle between a deaf and dumb girl and an educated adult when she was very young. Kaisie was just 6 years old. The deaf and dumb child knew sign language. The elder woman could not decipher the sign language and gestured a sign of apology to the girl and walked away. The girl was trying to ask the adult the way to the nearest medical shop. The girl could not make any person understand. Kaisie was later informed that the girl was trying to get an inhaler for her father who was an asthma patient. Kaisie did not get further information about the girl or her father.

Kaisie realised that interpreters were of great demand in hospitals, courts, governmental agencies, community activities, and state legislatures. ASL would allow her to communicate with the people of the silent world. Kaisie stood up to her decision and helped thousands of children to be successful in life. Maybe, she did not earn as much as her other medic classmates but the happiness and satisfaction enjoyed by her as an interpreter was worth an invaluable fortune.

Dear friends, we live in a world which is filled with all kinds of din in all forms. We hunt for silent corners where we could enjoy 5 minutes of silence and peace of mind. But in the same world we also have kids and adults who long to hear their own voice and the beauty of their language. There are many unfortunate kids who are forced to compete with the normal mainstream kids. Parents feel it below their dignity to accept their child’s drawbacks. Such children get depressed and feel lost amidst a strange world. Nothing could be more depressing than not being able to hear any sound whilst surrounded by people who keep talking with their minds at fever pitch.

Reluctant parents try to persuade their special children to learn lip reading instead of making an effort to learn the ASL themselves. ASL will enable easier communication with the speech and hearing impaired. French, German and Japanese are not the only languages which could be learnt as an extra ability. ASL can also be learnt by all of us to enable better communication with special people thereby making our lives equally special and purposeful.

Though silence is golden and speech is silver,
Let’s learn the art of understanding silence and make ourselves richer.
People with normal achievements are considered heroes.
But those who speak the language of the silent are surely superheroes.

The Ostrich Syndrome

“Ruskin Bond’s short story, ‘Grandpa and the ostrich‘ was the first thing that struck my mind. Even when grandfather knew that he had to take up a vulnerable journey he did not deter. The valorous grandfather did not let go of the ostrich’s wing till the sudden turn of the ostrich. He put his faith in his dog and trusted his confidence. Neither did he give up on himself nor was he wrong about his undeterred mongrel.

I had also decided to take my confidence and my will power as my companions and strode towards a life filled with thrill and challenges. The path was not a smooth one. It was a rollercoaster ride. I encountered some beautiful leaps and some unexpected twists.

We all do that. We become independent and decide to live our life like a tree. Just like a tree that stands on its own roots we strive hard to stand on our own legs. Trees only know to give. They hardly take anything from human beings, (leave alone their indifference.) I wanted to be a tree. I wanted to be a giver and not much of a receiver.

With firm determination I decided the priorities of my life. It went well until I had a group of the society viewing my life under a magnifying glass like watching a national game. Running commentary and pointless criticisms poured in from all directions. Free advice was always available. Futile gossips and oily speeches turned to sensational talks in luncheon parties.

The society was more worried about settling an already established woman into marital life. Hello… that was my life. They handled my life like a placard in the auction hall. The person with the maximum number of criticism gets the opportunity to taunt and harras the woman.

They said I was an ostrich; a flightless bird who is unable to build nests in trees.

I was supposed to be unfit to set up my family. There is a mythical saying, “Don’t be an ostrich and bury your head in the sand, hoping your problems will disappear.” This myth originated in ancient Rome and is so pervasive that it’s used as a common metaphor for someone avoiding their problems.

Actually the ostriches lay their eggs in holes dug in the ground. To make sure that the eggs are evenly heated, they occasionally stick their heads into the nest to rotate the eggs, which makes it look like they’re trying to hide – hence the myth.

Just as in the ostrich’s case there was a misconception in my case too. The ostrich is a bold bird who bounds and leaps and kicks the predators. Why would such a ninja bird hide from enemies by burying the head on the sand? I had no ostrich syndrome. I had my education to back me up and other more important priorities than marital bondage.

The society was blindfolded with envy and meanness. Society will never know why my head is bent or why my head is held high. Neither the ostrich nor I have to prove what is being protected in our nests. I believe society has more vital jobs to do and better theories to discuss. If you don’t come with me I shall show you how to live a meaningful and purposeful life.”

Dear friends, the above is an extract from a woman’s talk when she was confronted by her own colleagues at her workplace. Her only sin was to remain unmarried. Though she lived in a metropolitan city, the city dwellers behaved like illiterate savages. They had loose tongues and loud mouths. The lady invited all her colleagues to the seminar hall on the pretext of holding a seminar on life skills. The entire crowd was caught off guard. They were dumbfounded by her bold words and decided never to bother a still flowing sea because it is very well known to all that still waters run deep and every pacific sea can untwirl into a tempest. She ended her speech saying

Do not poke your Pinocchio nose into the lives of every person.
God has given two big ears, two bright eyes and just one tongue for one good reason.
Minding your own business and avoiding gossip is the crux of life skills.
Do not intrude privacy to make up stories as nothing kills worse than how a lie kills.