A Fisherman's Net And Wit – A (Very) Short Story For Children

King Khusro of Persia was very fond of fish. One morning he was sitting on a terrace with his wife Shirin when a fisherman came in and presented a fish to him. It was large and of a rare kind. The king was quite pleased. He summoned his servants and ordered them to pay a hundred silver pieces to the fisherman.

Shirin was annoyed that the king was gifting away so lavishly. As soon as the man went out of sight and hearing, she said, ‘Look, a hundred silver coins for a fish? Ridiculous. You’re setting up a precedent – you’ll be expected to pay on this scale for all time to come. Now call this man and return the fish to him on some pretext and take the money back.’

‘But dear, it doesn’t become of a king to ask for the money back. Let this pass for now.’

‘This shall not pass. There’s a way to deal with it without appearing to be mean. Call him and ask if this fish is a male or a female. If he says it’s a male, ask for a female and if it’s a female, ask for a male, and cancel the payment.’

Not wanting to displease his dear lady, the king acting upon her counsel called the fisherman back and asked him the question.

The fisherman bowed before the king and said, ‘This fish, my lord, is both male and female, lays eggs all by itself.’

The king burst out laughing. And quite instinctively ordered another hundred silver coins to be given to the fisherman.

As he walked out with the bounty, the man dropped a silver coin that fell and rolled out of sight.

The man stooped down searching high and low for the missing coin. Quite a while later, he managed to find it which he put away safely with great care.

All this happened in full view of the royalty reposing on the terrace.

‘What a mean guy? See how he goes down looking for one measly coin instead of letting it go for some poor man to find it!’ Shirin observed.

The king called the fisherman back and berated him for his meanness:’…with all those coins from me, yet you were not generous enough to let some miserable chap find one…’

The man bowed before the king: ’My lord, if my king picks up from dust a fisherman like me worth nothing, is it any wonder I pick up a coin fallen to the ground? Also, the coin on one side has my king’s image engraved and his name inscribed on another.  How could I abandon the coin to be found god know when if ever. And what is to prevent someone carelessly step on it?’

Amused by his cleverness and wit, the king offered him another hundred silver coins!

The lady had no further counsel to offer in the matter.

End

Source: A story in Chandamama, August, 1955, lightly edited. Image from financialexpress.com

Colorful Royapettah

Ain’t we cute though smallish?

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Vetchi in glorious pink (common name: scarlet ixora, scientific/latin name: ixora coccinea)

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Aptly called Flaming Blossom!

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Erukku (common name: the crown flower, scientific/latin name: Calotropis gigantea). Among other uses, their latex is applied to poison arrow tips!

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Perungali (common name: Champa White, Chameli, Frangipani, scientific/latin name: Oleander family). On Marina Beach in the evening – would you believe they stood under the sun all day long without wilting a wee bit?

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Walking past without pausing to say ‘Hi’? No chance!

Popping up on small shrubs, from Oleander family?

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From Calathea family? The broad leaves make them suitable for low-light environs like indoors.

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Like White Angels Trumpets, the flowers hang down from trees in bunches. But far from being ‘trumpets’ they have well-formed petals at the end of a long thin stem. Weak fragrance.

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And who are we?

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Sights And Signs On Streets Of Chennai

Observed during a recent visit in Dec’19:

What is Scary Harry doing lurking round the corner weeks after Haooween?

Fooled you! Actually a parked two-wheeler in its head-to-toe cover!

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Has nothing to do with punching-bags, boxing….it’s a shop to mend flat tyres.

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Intriguingly stops short of naming who should hang for the mess in Andhra!

Nothing as serious as that – it’s an eatery offering Andhra cusine!

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Well, we have no issues with that as long as he doesn’t get racuous about it!

Not to worry, Balaji is not one of those loquacous chaps. It’s a fast-food eatery offering chaats like bhel puri, pani puri….


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Obviously you had one job to do, that you didn;do well.

Modi-ji (Indian Prime-Minister where everyone’s buck stops), you goofed – there’s no sign instructing citizens to deposit into the bin.

End

A Story Told Of A Story Not Told

I had timed it. The walk from Royapettah (near Anna DMK office) to the end of Radhakrishnan Salai on the Marina Beach took an hour up and down. At a pace allowed by a pair of sticky eyeballs and an asthma playing up now and again.

The morning traffic on the Salai was light. Not many pedestrians either. I took to the small strip about 2 to 3 feet wide available between the side-walk and the outermost road-lane. While it offered a level surface – the side-walks are all ups and downs – and a free stretch save an occasional parked vehicle at this hour, one had to, however, constantly look out for not-so-uncommon rogue two-wheelers speeding down from the front on the same stretch.

This day I made it to the Beach and was returning when I saw him, a rag-picker, some ten feet ahead of me carrying a not-so-heavy sack thrown over his shoulders.

Even at my pace, I was able to catch up with him in a minute or two. In fact I went a couple of steps past him and then turning around I saw him. I judged him to be in early forties, but life had messed him up to look older. He was mussed up hair, unshaven and uneven stubble, high cheek-bones, a shirt that had more grime than fabric with the top buttons open or absent showing a chest just about covering the rib-cage. No chappals (foot-wear) and a lungi doubling up at the knees and wrapped around at the waist as southerners are seen to do. A full-body bath must have been weeks or months ago. He was sure-footed in his walk, his alert eyes looking all around for paper, boards, plastics that our honourable fellow-citizens deposited on the side-walks, road, anywhere.

The neural network in my head hummed and cleared him as safe. Had to be careful for a good reason: On the same stretch an year ago one morning in my walk I saw a destitute and unsound woman sitting on the side-walk and looking lost. Thinking money meant nothing to her, bought some idli’s and vada’s from a street-vendor. When I went near and offered her,she turned squarely to me and let out a loud stream of abuses, not all intelligible. I was both scared she might turn violent and embarrassed at the attention I was drawing from passers-by. Totally unprepared for the situation, quickly withdrew myself, feeling both sorry for her and helpless.  

Presently I slowed down, waited for him to pull up alongside and tapped on his shoulder. He was startled, perhaps unaccustomed to be accosted in this manner.

Still a little unsure of how he would react, took out a tenner and said: ‘Keep this, it’s for you.’

His gritty face slowly gave way to a smile. He set his sack down, took the rupee-note from me and folded his hands.

I could feel my sugar going down with no biscuits or toffees on hand. With another fifteen minutes to reach the base, decided to move on and not engage him in a talk as is my wont. Just then, noticed something I had not seen before. My friend of the morning had a black string tied in several strands on one of his legs just above the ankle. Already on the move, asked him what it was.

I heard him tell me, it was to ward off evil eyes!! Like the raksha we wear on our wrists.

As said I did not have the energy to pause and ask. Unfortunate, but, yes, missed drawing out a story lurking there – so the mystery endures till date who did he think was envying his lot! And why did he tie the raksha around the leg and not on the wrist as customary.   

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PS: 1. Subsequently I did find at a least couple more, not rag-pickers, wearing it on their legs. May be it’s a practice followed in certain communities 2. The image is from The Hindu. For some reason, I did not feel comfortable about taking a snap of him.

The Sparrow Knew – A Parable

Once in a village there was this farmer tilling his land from dawn to dusk.

His hard work was amply rewarded as the crops thrived and in time, laden with grains, ready for harvesting.

In the middle of the field a sparrow had built its nest. And by now with its brood of two little chicks.

One day when their mother was away, the little sparrows overheard the farmer telling his son: ‘We’ll begin the harvest from tomorrow early morning. I’ve called in our neighbours.’

When the mother returned in the evening, the alarmed chicks related the conversation and said they should move right away.

The mother becalmed the chicks: ‘Yes, we must move, but not yet, there’s time, I assure you.’

Next day morning,

Like the mother sparrow said the harvest did not begin.

During the day, once again, the little sparrows overheard the farmer telling his son: ‘Son, get ready, we’ll commence harvesting from tomorrow early morning. Our relatives have promised to help.’

In the evening when the mother heard from its chicks, she was unperturbed. ‘Not yet,’ she said.

The following morning,

There was no move to towards beginning the harvesting.

On this day, the farmer told his son: ‘Tomorrow, keep yourself free and ready. You and I – we’ll do it ourselves.’

In the evening, the mother and her chicks flew away to find a new home.

End

Source: moral stories and image from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Paws)

Getting Others To Do For You

The man counted the currency note bundle given by the cashier. He felt it was short by a note.

‘M’m, could you kindly load it in the counting machine and check it out for me?’

The cashier sounded impatient, her manner less than friendly‘Why, is it less…..look I’m busy, don’t have the time. Why don’t you count it yourself carefully once, twice, eh?

‘No, M’m, I think there’s a note or two in excess.’

The bundle was hastily snatched from his hands, counted on the machine multiple times and given back.

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It works when a service-delivery-chain is drawn into the transaction with stakes enlarged beyond the transaction!

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Thank Your Friends For…A Never-Before Tribute

Dont recall anyone ever speaking about his friends in these terms. Thinking about it, it does seem true – I mean the first part.

Words of an embittered shaayar (a poet):

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” It’s friends keep you young, Sir.

While,

The Offsprings inquire about the Will.

And, the Relations, about your Status (achieved in life).”

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End