Accounting Karma (A Story For Children)

Watch out…you may be hit with it even if you had nothing to do with the act if you’re not careful. .

An old story brought back in WhatsApp:

Sagarworld com

It was a Friday. As customary, the King was out on the palace grounds under a shamiana performing anna dhaanam, distributing with his own hands food to the poor and the needy.

Presently at the head of the food line was an old man bent with age, hunger writ on his face.

Just then an eagle flew overhead holding its meal by its claws – a serpent. In a desperate struggle to free itself from a certain death the serpent spit out its poison. No one noticed a drop of it falling down through a netted air-vent in the shamiana’s canopy into the large anda of rice porridge being served out.

The old man received a generous helping of the porridge with a kind word spoken by the King.

No sooner he stepped out, overcome by hunger, he partook some of the porridge, his unsteady hands spilling much of it on the ground. Even before the little went down from the mouth to his stomach, the old man was stricken with convulsions and he dropped dead right there for all to see.

Elsewhere in the Heavens…

The venerable Chitragupta, the eternal book-keeper was vexed. The eagle was simply returning home after the hunt, holding the prey with its claws, to feed its young.  It had not anything violating its dharma. The serpent was only trying all it could to escape a certain death. The king had no knowledge of what had happened as he went about doing his good deed. Under the circumstances, to whom should he debit the karma of causing the death of the hapless old man?

Unable to resolve it satisfactorily, Chitragupta took the matter to his master, Lord Yama, the god of all dharma and death. Yama heard him out and advised him to wait for some more time; surely, he would get his answers.

In the afternoon a small group of Brahmins, returning from a pilgrimage to Kashi, came into the city.  Informed of the King’s anna dhanam, they reached the shamiana, only to find it completely deserted with no living soul anywhere in sight. Unaware of the morning’s happening, they suspected, given the prosperity evident all around, perhaps the King ran out of people to give and hence had gone back to his quarters.  While speculating on their next move, one of them suggested they should still try to meet the King in person. He would not send them back hungry. Also they could present him with a few of the gangai-chombu’s (small copper vessels filled with water from the Ganges and sealed at the mouth) they carried with themselves for people back home who were not fortunate to make the trip. The King was sure to like receiving them, a rarity in his land.

They located a fruit vendor at a distance and asked her directions for the King’s quarters. She obliged them pointing out the way. They thanked her and set themselves about when she called one of them and said in hushed voice:

’You all appear to be innocent out-of-town folks. Sad it would be to see you landing in trouble. And, don’t ever tell anyone I cautioned you. If you must and when you do meet him – I’ve no idea why you wanted to – don’t ever touch the food the King may offer you. Think of some ruse to say no. If he doesn’t like someone’s face, without a twinge of conscience he would poison his food. And who is to say he would like your faces? Just this morning I saw with my own eyes…’

At that instant Chitragupta in the Heavens was greatly relieved. Just as his master had said, now he knew whom to debit…




Source: Image from




The Story Of A Cobbler And A Punditji in Kashi (For Children)

Part 1

Those were the times Kashi was a great seat of learning where pundit’s, vidwan’s and acharya’s flocked to learn, debate and settle arguments in theology. A living city that goes back in time farther than recorded history, shrouded in countless myths and incredible legends…

And, our story here is about a punditji, presently hurrying towards the ghats of Ganges for his daily bath when a strap on his footwear gave way. Dragging his feet through the street, he ducked into a side-lane where he knew he would find a cobbler, an old man, plying his trade close to the waters of Ganges.

The old man took the punditji’s footwear and repaired it fit for use.

cobbler er

When the punditji offered him money for his services, he politely declined:

‘Sir, I have sworn to do at least one good deed every day. What could be better than being of service to a learned man like you?  This would be my deed for the day.’

The punditji would not accept: ‘Old man, I cannot remain indebted to you for what you’ve done. With time the debt would grow many times over if I let it remain outstanding. So, here, take this money which is yours…’

‘Sir, if that be so…I ask you for a favour.’


‘I sit on the banks of ma Ganga and earn a living from attending to her devotees coming here for a bath. I’ve done very little in return for the mother. Please offer these coins to ma Ganga when you take bath. Won’t you do this for an old man?’

‘Why don’t you do it yourself? You look alright to walk.’

‘You know as well as I do, Sir, a cobbler cannot commit the sin of stepping up to ma Ganga and letting her waters touch his feet. I’ve already collected sins enough to see me through a couple of births…’

‘Okay, okay, will do.’

The learned man entered the waters waist-deep, gently offered the coins with some words of prayer and proceeded to take dips.

Turning back, as he made towards the ghat, he felt a touch on his shoulder.

He turned around. A hand – it could not have belonged to anyone on this earth – had shot out of the waters, offering him a beautiful gold kangan.

A dazed punditji took it without a thought like a man under a spell. Within the few moments he needed to gather his wits the hand had disappeared under the waters. He understood – it was ma Ganga’s blessings in return for the coins he had offered.

Truly the divine-looking kangan belonged to the old man. He went looking for him, but was not to be found at his place.

The punditji, running late for his sessions, thought of reaching it to the cobbler later.

When he returned home for lunch, he narrated the strange incident of the morning to his wife.

One look at the kangan, the lady almost swooned. Wearing it on her wrist, she stood before the mirror and saw herself in different poses like a bashful bride with the tiny bells on the kangan tinkling to divine music.

She made it clear to the husband she had no intentions of parting with it now or ever.

The learned man tried in vain to impress upon her who was the intended recipient.

He even told her wearing the gorgeous kangan would arouse the suspicions in the minds of the neighbours, aware of their modest living and meagre means. They might even bring it to the notice of the authorities.  And no one would believe his story.

The mention of the authorities was an ‘Ah’ moment for the wife. She came up with a ‘brilliant’ idea that would solve the problem for them – if they took the kangan to the royal court and presented to the Raja, he would be delighted and was sure to shower them with gifts.

The punditji did not stand up against her idea.

On the following day, the couple had none too difficult access to Raja’s durbar where things went exactly like the lady had envisioned. A connoisseur of art and craft, the Raja held the kangan in his hands like it was some rare fragile flower, admiring the fine piece of jewellery, while the queen squealed in delight. A gift, it was, verily fit for none other than the royalty.

The couple were thanked profusely and gifts heaped on them for the priceless piece they had brought.

As the happy couple made their way to exit, the Queen turned to her spouse:

‘My Lord, wouldn’t it look fabulous if I had a matching Kangan for the other hand too? I’m sure the punditji would be able to procure it for me from wherever he got this one.’

Part 2

It was not the merely gifts that weighed the punditji down as they returned home.

The wife was unfazed: ‘What are you worried about? The Raja has promised us even more if only…’

‘Don’t you understand? From where and how do I get it a second kangan? And if I don’t, be assured we won’t be seeing daylight rest of our living years.’

‘Frankly I don’t know why they call you a scholar. It’s so simple…go to the cobbler again with another strap of your footwear broken – that’s easy to arrange. And tell him, ma Ganga was mighty pleased with his offerings yesterday. He’s sure to…’

‘You’re right, I must be an idiot of first order to go along with your cocky ideas. Now I know exactly what I should be doing…’

Disregarding remonstrations of the wailing lady, he gathered all the gifts the Raja had given into a bundle and hit the street as though even a moment’s delay might cause his fickle mind to change to wicked ways. Frantically he went in search of the cobbler; found him at the same place resting after lunch under the shade of a nearby tree. The punditji grabbed his hands, sobbed out the entire story as it was and placed the bundle at his feet as though he was unburdening himself of all the guilt. And desperately sought his help; for, he still had to get the second kangan for the Raja.

The old man was moved to tears, his voice choked: ‘Is that what my ma…she did? Really, for this man? That kangan…it would’ve looked best ma wearing it herself. I would readily give my life to have a darshan of her fully decked in such ornaments…you know, If you had at that moment prayed to her, Sir, she would have, I’m sure, blessed you  with her darshan in full form…’

Composing himself in a few moments: ‘Sir, what can I say? And what can I do to help you? If anyone can, it would be only she, ma Ganga.’ Pointing to the bundle, ‘An old man like me has no use for these trinkets – I already earn my two meals a day, by ma’s mercy. If I may suggest, kindly take this bundle and offer it to ma like you did yesterday. Seek her forgiveness from your heart and, I’m sure, my ma won’t let you down.’

That day there were not many witnesses to the strange sight of a fully clothed punditji standing in the waters of Ganga early afternoon and saying prayers. And even fewer, in fact, none saw the man of meagre means making offerings to the river, way above his station.

varanasi A-man-bathing-in-Ganges-River-Varanasi-Indai

Feeling greatly relieved, literally and mentally, by acting out the cobbler’s suggestion, he returned empty handed for his evening chores. He knew the storm that awaiting him at home would spend itself harmlessly in a while, but his predicament with the Raja was something different; and here, ma Ganga was his only hope.

With that comforting thought, he slept peacefully that night, greatly aided by his wife’s silence – she was too cross to talk to him, for letting the riches slip away from their hands.

Indeed a tumultuous day it had been.

Part 3

The day began like any other day, but not for long.

Just as the punditji finished his morning pooja, there was a knock on the door.

It was the royal guards with Raja’s summons to the court.

A knot formed in the pit of his stomach and was doing somersaults.

Still he managed to retain the air of confidence about him given by cobbler’s words as he got ready to leave.

A wife being a wife she decided to go along. After all the Raja would find it a bit more inconvenient to be harsh with a man accompanied by a helplessly dependent woman.

On the way to the palace, he suppressed the tremble in his gait with difficulty; once inside the palace, without much ado, they were swiftly taken to a private audience with the Raja.

The Raja meant business, it seemed. The kangan was sitting pretty on a silk covered silver plate right before him. The Queen was not to be seen by his side.

The brave front the punditji had sported all this time fell away before the Raja like ghee on a hot tava.. Without even looking up, he began stammering out his incredible account of how he came by the kangan, expecting the Raja to blow up in disbelief any instant.

Predictably he was interrupted before long. ‘Punditjiji, spare me your tale. No need to explain,’ far from being a wrecking-ball, the Raja’s voice was inexplicably laced with sympathy. The kind Raja suspected as much and wished to save the learned man from being compelled to concoct stories to save himself: ‘It has already been hinted to me how this kangan came into your possession though I may not know the details yet…And, importantly, you need not go searching for a second one for me. I know where it is and it’s very unlikely you can’t get at it.’


‘Yes, because it’s still with its rightful owner who is not likely to part with it…Ganga ma herself told me all of it.’

What was happening here? Too much and too fast for their grasp. The punditji and his wife looked at each other all too flummoxed.

The Raja filled in: ‘Yesterday night, I had this strange dream…Ganga ma herself appeared before me and said this kangan was the one from the pair worn by her and she wanted it back for herself as wished by one of her ardent devotees whom she cannot deny. She did hint at how she let this one go from her in the first instance…So, punditji, I plan to offer the kangan back to Ganga ma this evening. I ask both of you to be present at the ghats. And you, especially, to perform the ceremonies!’

He brought the meeting to a close: ‘You may go now to get the preparations underway for the evening with the assistance of my staff. ‘Yes, I forgot to tell you this…for some reason she wanted to accept the kangan from your hands, no one else’s, not even mine. And also she said you’re forgiven; for, you’ve suffered enough – she didn’t elaborate on what the offence was or the punishment.’

For the first time ever since he had gone to the cobbler for mending his footwear a couple of days ago, the punditji was breathing easily as though a boulder sitting on his chest had been removed.

They returned home in silence. There was time yet to warm up for the evening of rituals and revelry.





Source: Based on a story from a Tamizh fb forum that I’m unable recall presently. Images from and

I Had A Bone To Be Picked


We were returning from our vacation in Jordan and Egypt, flying on the last leg: Bahrain – Mumbai.

As always, I had an aisle seat owing to my bulk and the need to go toilet often (a diabetic). And I am also prone to painful cramps in the legs if I don’t stretch them often enough. The poor wife got the middle seat. For the first time, I found her twisting and turning uncomfortably in her seat. I made a mental note to get her also an aisle seat hereon. A young man, perhaps employed in the Gulf and returning home on a break, occupied the window seat on far left, next to my wife.

It was two-hour flight, I think. Weary from a long mid-night wait at Bahrain, we were dozing almost as soon as we flopped into our seats, aided by the aircraft’s turbulence-free lulling cruise.

Sometime later, the lights were switched on. Air-hostesses emerged from the galley, ahead of the food-trolleys, hand-carrying food-trays to those who had ordered special meals.

Not very hungry, we pulled our folding-tables down ready to receive our Asian-Veg meal (acronym’ed AVEG, could be taken for average!), planning to take not more than a bite. When we did get our trays, to our dismay, it was not very diff from what was served earlier in the Cairo – Bahrain sectorpeas-rice-dhalpaneer as the main course, a bowl of semi-cooked chana, a sweet dish and the ubiquitous bun. Led me to think: ‘Bring out a recipe book for AVEG meals, these chef’s, their wits strained, will grab them like hot gulab jamuns.’

I don’t know if you have noticed: We L and XL folks can hold ourselves back very well as long as we don’t sit at the table – believe it or not, we can actually say ‘no’ to food!. Once seated or food is thrust on us, well, we are different people. So, I ended up taking a little more than a bite. Once done, tidied up both our trays and waited for them to be cleared. Very early in my employment, I had learnt our plate, at the end of our meal, should never look like a couple of hungry dogs had fought over it. A South Indian meal plate with its gravy-based dishes is apt to look like just that, given our proclivity to leave food behind under the mistaken notion a clean plate shows us up as a glutton or worse, the host did not feed us enough. .

The trolley finally reached a couple of rows ahead of us. That’s when my wife leaned onto my left and said hush-hush: ‘Now, don’t touch that one.’

Now which one was that?

Just for a moment, her eyes darted to the tray before the young man to her left.

I understood: ‘But why?’

‘You know what he ordered?’

‘Yes, some chicken stuff. I heard him ask for it.’


Ah, now it was getting clearer to me. What I normally do is to take the tray from the traveler in the window seat and give it to the hostess to save her from leaning into and bending over all the way to haul in the tray.  This time she did not want me to even touch the tray and, inadvertently, its contents that had been a chicken once or at least a part of it.

‘Come on, I’m only going to hold it at the edges.’

‘Oh, how can you ever…how can you be so sure?’

There was no time – the trolley had reached our row by now and the hostess was ready to collect – to remind her about the occasions we have unavoidably eaten at restaurants serving food of both kinds. And am sure they did not use separate kitchens, utensils, plates…Why, many of them would have even used the same oil to cook.

So, I handed over the two trays, my wife’s and mine, carefully avoiding any spillage. And withheld my customary assistance in the transport of the third, for preserving domestic bliss.

Just when the hostess was putting away the last, we hit an air-pocket. For a moment she lost her balance. With practiced ease she was quickly back in control but not before depositing a piece from the tray onto my lap. Suddenly I was a freak with 207 bones, one of which from a different species, in an exoskeleton!

She deftly cleared the extra bone restoring my normalcy – one second it was there, it was gone like magic in the next. The hostess made light of it with a short apology said with a big smile and moved away.

Well, the magic was not fast enough, good enough to escape dear dharmapatni’s (wife’s) notice.  She stiffened in her seat, her ire welling up and not finding a target.

Didn’t our man Murphy say something about a buttered toast falling? It was unwise to bring it up presently, I thought.

Just imagine, you feel hopping mad and you cant take it out on anyone or anything! Poor lady, there isn’t much one can do, firmly belted to the seat and boxed in from both sides.

Under the circumstances, never mind it wasn’t your doing, one can never be too careful. ‘Remove yourself without delay to safe distance,’ is the sage advice given by those in the know. Not very practical within the confines of an aircraft flying full. Engaging in activities like watching a movie, reading in-flight mag, solving a Sudoku or talking apps to a fellow-traveler is tempting fate according to the same sources. And never ever look into her eyes – that ‘s fatal, we’re told. Left me with little choice but to get some shut-eye, not figuring in the taboo list. Happy to report perfectly satisfactory outcomes on all fronts.







Source:  Inspired by a recent experience that came quite close. Image from

A Morning At The Bank


This morning, I was at the bank. Two tasks to accomplish: find the balance in the joint account in the name of my daughter and wife – this was not accessible online, and draw some money from the ATM, located also on bank’s premises.

I went up to the lady at the Inquiry counter – surprisingly there was no queue. Gave her the account’s check-book I had carried and asked to know the balance. The lady read the names on the check-book and looked at me. And said she cannot disclose. I knew what it was: I was not the account-holder; hence she would not divulge. But then they were my wife and daughter and what more, I had their check-book to show. I explained. She stood her ground.

At that instant, much as I hated admitting, strictly speaking, she was in the right.

Not off to a good start, I was annoyed. The old murphy syndrome was playing out: You see a loose end of a string and you tug happily. That’s when you find its other end is tied to an elephant, an African kind. I pulled out in a huff, ‘thanking’ her for being so helpful in a slightly raised voice, not waiting to see/hear her reaction.

Went to R, my personal banker – yes, marked as a Preferred Customer I was privileged to have one (is it really a good thing you’re liked by your bank?). I knew he would help me out – he always did. He was not on his seat. Called him on his cell. Got an SMS saying he would call me back in about ten minutes. Maybe he was tied up with another customer.

So, I could turn to my second task. Shouldn’t be taking long.

Did I hear someone laugh?

Going up to the ATM always made me nervous, not being a frequent user. Which way to insert the card? I never seem to remember. After repeated wrong insertions into the slot – am I glad they have not built these machines yet to emote annoyance and irritation – I managed to withdraw cash, helped by a youngster in the adjacent booth who appeared to have mastered the art of negotiating with these machines. He imparted wisdom with a rule: the card must be inserted with the magnetic stripe on the face down and to the right.  Or, was it to the left? Whatever it was, it worked. I’ll figure it out when it’s next time.

Here I must break off to go onto one of my favorite rants: After all this talk of UX (user-experience) industry-wide, why in the world would they allow for so many ways of inserting a card into a slot? Shouldn’t they polarize it in some manner with a notch or something so there’s only the right way? Or print a marker on the card itself or a picture on the machine.

Before you dismiss me as machine/automation-challenged retard, let me call in a ‘friend’: Richard H. Thaler – an American economist, Distinguished Service Professor of Behavioral Science and Economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, many other titles and positions and an awardee of 2017 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for his contributions to behavioral economics. Impressed? In a recent address on ‘Choice Architecture, he cited the example of the design of the Paris subway card, which, expecting errors, allows users to insert it into an electronic turnstile in any of four ways to gain entrance to the subway. “Compare that to exiting the parking garages of Chicago,” he said. “You have to put your credit card in and there are four possible ways up, down, left, right and exactly one works. This is the difference between good and bad design.”

So, you see, I’m not an alien😊 More than you, I needed to be reassured myself.

But I’m digressing.

Let me get back to the intrigue-loving ATM machine. Withdraw cash I did, but those were all high denomination notes that are not easily accepted for smaller transactions. So, I went back and queued up for changing the notes, smartly shunning the longer and sluggish one meant exclusively for seniors.

When I emerged victoriously from accomplishing task 2, I was in two minds: should I wait at the bank for R to return or to run a few other errands first and check on the way back? I decided to follow the latter.

Just as I was heading for the exit, I sighted the ‘helpful’ lady at the inquiry counter gesturing animatedly to get my attention. Now what? I had asked, she had refused, that’s it – never mind she was right. Had nothing more to do with her. Didn’t want anything more to do with her at least for now. Warily I took a couple of steps towards her and then I saw – my heart skipped a few beats; she was holding my ‘life’ in her hands, a small leather pouch containing my credit cards, PAN (copy), Aadhar (copy), house keys and a few other in-use id cards.  It must have fallen out of my shoulder-bag during my intense communion with the ATM.

She gave it to me without a trace of resentment in her eyes, voice or gestures…worse than shaming.

I thanked her more than a couple of times with as much grace I could muster and came away. It wasn’t easy. Missed asking her name or who brought the pouch to her.

Moral of the story? Well, simply, it’s a reminder we need from time to time: It pays to be polite and helpful in a world where for good part of a day we are either serving or served.




A Pebble Sinks To The Bottom

Monday morning.

All signs were it was working! Door open, fan whirling overhead, he ready on his small stool.


One of those days.

So, I made it to the lift instead of the stairs as was customary, saving me an arduous climb.

A great start for the week.

‘Looks like all the planets are aligned in a line, today.’

My jest was ignored. Quite unusual.

He pulled the door shut and silently pressed ‘3’. I was upwardly mobile with a jerk.

‘What happened? Not well?’

He shook his head.

The lift crawled to a stop on the 3rd floor – too much damping; I never forget my R-L-C circuits.

As he held the door open for me, he mumbled, shaking his head: ‘He had told me two days ago…it was a grave wrong…’

Before I could ask him anything, the bell intruded rudely – someone on the ground floor leaning on the button. He stepped back into the cage, shut the door and descended.

After a week out in the field, the pile-up tied me down at my desk until about 11-00. Got up to stretch my legs and pick up some coffee from the canteen.

That’s when I heard.

On Friday, climbing the stairs, S had collapsed on the 2nd floor landing.

Didn’t help rushing him to the hospital in seven minutes flat.

He was a senior, in his forties. Nice chap, I had heard. Never got closer than exchanging ‘hello’s’ in passing.

Why did it happen? Conjectures were many: Well, his dad also had passed away young. Must be in the genes…No, he had some ailments, but he resorted to alternate medicine instead of going to the good old (allopathic) doctor on the main street…Don’t forget the pressures at work-place…

An indescribable sadness enveloped me. Decided to pack up early.

On the way out, saw the lift ready for use at the base. Door open, fan whirling overhead, the stool however sitting dolefully out on the landing. He wasn’t around to finish what he was saying.

I waited for the bus (public transport) just outside the main gate of our Industrial Park.

Looking around idly, those imposing cloth banners splayed between poles near the gate, up there for some time now, caught my attention, crazily flapping – strong winds were trying to and nearly succeeding in blowing them off their ties.

As I boarded the bus a worrying thought occurred: What if those lengths of cloth were suddenly blown onto and tangled with the traffic on the road? Won’t they cause accidents?  Almost certainly. Quite an ironic start it would then be for the ‘Safety First’ campaign – loudly proclaimed by the banners – planned by the Park and its scheduled inauguration by a VIP. Don’t they know causing accidents through negligence is regarded as a crime by law, besides being morally guilty?

This was quickly pushed aside by the melancholy thought about a life that was wasted.


Days rolled on.

Yes, the stool went right back in to seat a new man.

Incidentally, today is one of those days.






Source: Based on a real-life incident. Image thru

Animation In Stone!

The Masculine Epic

This is an image of a ‘spy’ captured and tortured by Ramses 2 (1303 – 1213 BC; reigned 1279 – 1213 BC), to reveal the enemy plans in the imminent Battle of Kadesh.

The victim looked like Ravana with multiple limbs. I was curious to know if there were some links to or similarities with Ramayana.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. Our guide, a Phd in archaeology, clarified: It was the artist’s way of showing the victim shaking with fear at the hands of the mighty Ramses 2!

According to many accounts, Ramses 2 did not exactly cover himself with glory in this battle with Hittites, contrary to the story of valor and success he tells about himself on the walls of the Abu Simbel temple!

And this, despite the fact in those days there were no elections for him to win!

It’s the surmise of the historians he did it to prop up the morale of his people.

Here’s one more:

battle-of-kadesh Abagond - WordPress com

The artist conveys the speed of the racing horse through time-lapsed snaps of its legs!!

A similar technique is employed elsewhere for an entirely different purpose:

IMG_5910 Temple Of Horus

This panel in the Temple of Horus shows porters bearing a boat, a frequently used motif/metaphor in the land of Nile.

How many of them at the back? Would you say 3, in a file?

Rows Temple of Horus

Look closely at the folds dropping down in the front of this man’s robe – this has nothing to do with the speed of the marcher. No animation here.

It’s actually the individual robes of 4 of 5 porters marching in a row, only the one closest to us is visible! In all there are 12 to 15 porters out there at the back.

Fooled? So we were!




Source: , and Google

Impossible Made ‘Possible’ – A Tenali Rama Story Never Told Before (For Children)

Tenali-Rama-and-the-Astrologer storyplanets com

Part 1

On a lazy afternoon, Raya was relaxing, taking in the sight and the smell of blooming roses and jasmine wafting in from the gardens beyond with Rama in attendance at his bidding. There were no pressing matters of state to keep him engaged.

Rama knew there was trouble just round the bend.

Well, he wasn’t wrong.

‘Rama, you know we have had some difficult times and luckily, it’s all behind us now. Things are rather quiet, like a bunch of trees standing still without a wind to stir up things. The ennui is becoming increasingly unbearable…killing. I would love for you to kick up some excitement…’

So, there it was…not long in coming, trouble in an alluring disguise!

‘Surely, my lord, if you could share with me what you have in mind…I can then take it from there.’

Leaving the field so wide open for Raya’s whims was absolutely foolhardy…but then there little else he could come up with in the instant.

‘I was thinking about it…mmm…how about this? I would like to see something unthinkable, impossible- to happen before me in real. No magic or tricks, please. Can you have something like that presented to me?’

Rama stood without a word like a naked pole waiting mournfully for the storm to pass.

‘I want to be reasonable…’

Reasonable, eh?

‘Yes, take a week’s time and come back with something interesting…am sure it’s not beyond you…’

When he said it, was it a fleeting smirk on Raya’s face? Saying ‘Son, it’ll do you a lot of good to take a fall  once in a while.’?

Rama put on a false bravado and withdrew himself with due courtesies.

Part 2

Four days had passed, yet he was no nearer to a solution. The real kicker was ‘no magic, no tricks.’

He looked suddenly aged.

Try he did – racking his much-vaunted grey cells, pulling hair off his pate – no luck.

The food lost its taste, sleep a distant memory.

He locked himself up in the house, turning away visitors…

On the fifth day…

It was the day of the week for the maid to come in and clean up.

She was shocked to see a disheveled man far from the sprightly person she had known her master to be. The house was turned upside down…things strewn all over the place. Whatever happened? She was hard put to guess. And it would be impertinent to ask.

Maybe it was from his search for ideas that had eluded him so far?

She took time dutifully returning things to their place. Finally, when she was ready to leave, she turned to him and cautioned:

‘Master, keep the back-door locked even during the day as far as possible till it gets warmer. These are days snakes sneak in for warmth, especially to the kitchens, where they curl up near the hearth. Two days ago, in one of those houses in the East Car Street, they found a large snake…something like fifteen feet long from head to tail…luckily, they found it before anyone stepped on it.  Had to be killed…it was poisonous.’

Given the state of his mind, Rama threw a look of incredulity mixed in equal parts with disinterest. Nonetheless…such a large snake? He abhorred snakes, small or big.  Under the circumstances, he would have bolted from the house as far and fast as his legs could carry him.

The maid offered further proof: ‘If you don’t believe…you know the book-keeper’s house, fourth on our left, the blue one? The girl working there is my friend…she told me.  You may check with her if you wish.’

Rama assured her he’ll and he’ll not – he’ll lock the door to keep away unwelcome guests and he’ll not be checking with the girl. He thanked her for her concern.

After a frugal lunch, he rested on the string-cot and fell asleep almost immediately from mental exhaustion.

It was a fitful sleep dreaming of frightful snakes of all shapes and sizes, slithering, hissing, dancing…with the hoods raised in full glory.

When he woke up sweating, he was happy to find himself in safer surroundings. Why did he have these nightmarish dreams? He abhorred snakes, small or big. Then he remembered – it was all the maid’s doing injecting them into his hitherto-snake-free thoughts.

That was also when a seed of an idea insinuated itself into his mind, no more than a straw for a drowning man.

Part 3

It was the day of reckoning:

Rama reached the palace early busying himself with off-stage arrangements – it needed some.

Close to the appointed hour, the host and the guests had gathered.

Raya was excited like a child at a fair. The royal court, filled to capacity, too was agog with anticipation – what kind of a ‘rabbit’ Rama was going to pull off the ‘hat’? Only ‘rabbits’ and ‘hats’ were expressly forbidden.

When everyone settled down to a quiet, Raya stood up to briefly address the audience:

‘I had asked our resourceful Rama to arrange for our viewing pleasure something we know as impossible, contrary to the laws of nature and yet it’ll happen right before us. No magic or tricks, I had said. So, not an easy task. And here we’re for Rama to show us.’

And signaled for the show to commence without further ado.

A veteran of many trials, Rama got down to business, looking his usual self. He called for Lakshmi to appear in their midst, introducing her as his maid who keeps his house in order.

Lakshmi was both surprised looking at a restored Rama and also visibly nervous standing before the august assembly.

Not wanting to prolong her agony,

‘Lakshmi, please tell everyone here what you know about the snake – remember the one you mentioned it to me in your last visit?’

After a few seconds seemingly to gain control of herself and recall the conversation alluded to, the words came out slowly:

‘Yes, master, I warned you about snakes. I told you how a huge snake had entered one of the houses and was killed before anyone got hurt.’

‘Where did this happen?’

‘In a house on the East Car Street.’

‘Oh, the short street with three or four houses…and when did this happen?’

‘Last Tuesday.’

‘You said it was huge, Lakshmi, how large…’

‘Master, it was about fifteen feet long, measured before it was buried.’

‘And how did you come to know about it?’

‘From my friend Padmini…she knew…’

‘Thank you, Lakshmi, what you shared with us was helpful. You may leave now.’

The audience shifted in their seats still clueless what was this business about snakes. Where was Rama headed?

Next, he summoned Padmini who waited in the wings not aware of her friend’s deposition before her.

Her story matched Lakshmi’s – the house was the same one on the East Car Street, the day was last Tuesday – in all details except one. The snake was ten feet long.

Savitri, her friend, followed.  It was a five feet long snake.

And finally, by the time Saraswati from the house on the East Car Street, the scene of ‘crime’, ground zero, stood before them, the audience kind of knew where Rama was going with it.

The hapless reptile was no more than two feet, she averred.

While chuckles rippled in the audience, something was still missing – after all, exaggeration in any cascaded communication was a social phenomenon not entirely unknown.  They were not sated.

Until Rama supplied them the perspective of ‘the impossible’:

‘My lord and gentlemen of the court, now we know it’s ‘possible’ even for the dead to grow!!’

And, took a bow.

Dead silence in the court for a short while and then commotion, albeit muted. It was mighty clever of Rama to put it to them in the way he did, they reluctantly conceded.

It would be another day, if ever, for them to see what they had hoped for – Rama flat on the mat.

Raya was filled with rage when he heard a voice telling him Rama had actually trivialized his wish.  Then another voice in his head said, ‘Be reasonable, did you really expect a miracle to happen?  What else save a miracle would make an ‘impossible’ happen before you? Rama did the next best thing. Thank your stars he’s on your side.’

Raya got up from his seat and walked slowly to Rama with arms open.





Source: Inspired by a post from Elango Velur Thiruturaipoondi []  and image from