Across The Waters Sans Boat Or Bridge – A Children’s Story Of Tenali Raman’s Wit And Wisdom

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The pehalwan from the north was an instant hit. People dropped their jaws watching his amazing acts of physical prowess – he would have a couple of heavy-built locals stand on his out-stretched arm, pull a tree clean off the ground with bare hands or bend iron bars.

It was only a matter of time before he drew the attention of Krishna Deva Raya’s court where he was invited for a display of his strengths before the royalty, senior officials of the court and special invitees. A part of the beautiful palace garden was set up for the show. As a standard courtesy extended to all artistes, on arrival important dignitaries ere personally introduced by Raya to the pehalwan with a few words on who they were. When it was Tenali Raman’s turn Raya went overboard waxing eloquently about his wit. Not given to sharing the stage with anyone else, the pehalwan looked at Raman’s unremarkable presence in a traditional attire, his body language making no secret of where he stood on brawn vis-a-vis brain.  Raya noticed it right away and made light of it cautioning  the pehalwan not to get on the wrong side of Raman.

Introductions concluded, Raya went back to his seat and the pehalwan to his position for commencement of the show. In his opening act he came out cradling a baby, a little large-sized, in his arms; his audience amused at this light-hearted start – a L or XL bear mad with buzzing wasps held in an embrace would have been a more satisfying sight! Soon he was handling the baby like it was a soft-toy, tossing it from here to there, standing it up on his little finger in a ‘Krishna’s Govardhana’ pose, tossing it up overhead and catching it quite nonchalantly. It was in fact a toy for all to see setting everyone at ease – there was no danger to any life. Just when people began to wonder where it was going a wooden table was brought in; and a few of his people joining from the sidelines climbed atop and jumped up and down like they were standing on hot bricks, no one knew why. Were they trying hard to crash the table and failing? The pehalwan holding the baby effortlessly in one hand walked up casually gesturing them to get off. Once the table was clear, he dusted the top with his towel and showing great care and concern laid the baby on its back on the table, seemingly ending the frivolous miming act that no one really understood or even cared.

And perhaps readying himself for his second act, the pehalwan stood a little to the front of the table, taking time to wipe copious sweat streaming off his body. For the first time a few of the onlookers were intrigued – all that sweat in playing with a toy?

Suddenly there was sound like something was crumbling. Next moment they all saw the table crashing down and the baby landing with a thud bringing in a rush the people  who had earlier stomped on the table. They struggled to lift the baby out of the pile of splintered wood. They could not. They devised a rope around its waist and tried to pull with more men joining in to help. The baby wouldn’t budge. All this while the pehalwan stood unperturbed, his face slowly breaking into a hint of a smile.  Finally he stepped forward and shoving aside his men grabbed the baby by its crown and held it aloft on his palm for all to see like it was no more than a soft-toy.

When the penny dropped – this was no ordinary baby to defy the utmost exertions of many and neither was the pehalwan’s feat – he earned a generous round of applause.
And so followed many acts of sheer physical strength that left his audience awe-struck. Like carrying a human pyramid on his shoulders, holding back Raya’s chariot pulled by his prized horses…More than once Raya was seen to be enjoying himself visibly conveying his appreciation. And, so were his guests.

A great show-man he was, the pehalwan played out his acts knowing well how to ratchet up the tempo to a crescendo in a cycle only to be followed by another cycle more challenging, and another, keeping his audience right through on the edge of their seats.
In a final act, he lifted a massive cannon ball of iron and heaved it straight off the palace gardens (of course, landing safely).

As the ovation died down, it was time for Raya to honor the performer suitably and reward the pehalwan with gifts.

Just then, Tenali Raman got up from his seat.

‘My lord, I’ve a small request to make of our esteemed guest. I’m sure it would be easily accomplished compared to the awesome display we saw today.’

The pehalwan confusedly looked at Raya.

Raya gave his nod.

‘Thank you, my lord, for your kind indulgence,’ Raman bowed.

‘It’s like this. Here it is, no cannon ball, only a small piece of cloth. I would like to see it thrown across this stream only a few feet wide. That’s all,’ Raman offered it to the pehalwan with insincere deference.

It was an artificial stream arranged to flow through the garden, fed from the fountains.

Too full of himself with the adulation showered on him, the pehalwan, seemingly exasperated  at the ridiculousness of the exercise, snatched the piece of cloth without a thought from Raman’s hand, made a mock show of bending down under its weight and then, crushing it in his hand, threw it across the stream with all his might as it were. He felt it was quite beneath him to even turn around to check on the outcome. Alas, for him, the piece of cloth, as it would, sailed through the air no further than a couple of feet  before being blown adrift by the mild breeze and dropping down in a crazy swirl into the stream.

Raman was at hand giving the stunned pehalwan another piece of cloth. Again, the result was no different. It was then the pehalwan realized the impossibility of the situation and his own folly in making the attempts.

When a third piece was offered, he shoved it back into Raman’s hands with a gesture that said: ‘All right, Smarty, I got suckered in.  It’s now your turn; try getting out of it, eh?’

Raman was clumsy dropping  the piece of cloth to the ground. He then picked it up, rolled it into a ball, muttered some mantra’s and sent it across the stream. And lo, there it sailed all the way like a cannon ball landing on the far side almost going out of sight.

How did he do it? When and from whom did he learn mantra’s? Raya was dazed as everyone was. The pehalwan fared the worst looking like someone punched him hard in his gut knocking him out of breath.

But first things first. A large-hearted and wise Raya did not allow Raman’s side-show to take the shine off the pehalwan’s hitherto awesome display of muscle power, bestowing on him the honors, words of praise and gifts rightly due to him. A mortified pehalwan made his peace with Raman – no use crossing swords with a guy who pulls potent mantra’s from his scabbard.

It was then Raman leaked out the secret of his mantra’s – there was no mantra’s, no secret. The ball of cloth that he threw across the stream had a pebble inside making the flight perfectly possible. He had picked it up along with the cloth that he had dropped on purpose.

Why did Raman let the cat out of the bag?

If it were not debunked at the earlies, he feared, people including Raya would want him on occasions to invoke those and other mantra’s for causes right or wrong. He would be held up to ridicule for failures, much worse, his loyalty questioned, despite his protestations of innocence and ignorance.

At this the pehalwan could not help laughing over his own imbecility and Raman’s wit. Preparing to leave the town, he gifted his emblematic silver bracelet to Raman and invited him to his home-land to learn from him some real mantra’s.

End 

Source: www, animationxpress.com

When Vidakandan Meets Kodakandan…A Story For Children

Kodakandan was known for not giving away while Vidakandan, his perfect foil, for not giving up.

A number of tales hang around the two just as with Akbar and Birbal, Tenali Raman and Krishnadeva Raya….

This one is about one of their earliest encounters before they teamed up in activities that never did their mothers proud:

The annual fair attracted large number of visitors as always, mainly farmers, from neighboring villages.

The business was brisk for the traders in stalls peddling their wares – clothes, toys, utensils, appliances, groceries…And there were other attractions too – fancy photo-shoots, games and rides and eateries.

Like dog attracts fleas, so these fairs pulled both the Kandan’s prospecting for easy meal.

This time, Kodakandan set himself up like a vaidya (medical practitioner) offering rare herbs and medicines to cure a variety of ailments from common cold to terminal cancer.  He put up a sign outside that said: “Baba from the Himalaya’s: Get your treatment for Rs 50, and if not cured, get back Rs 100!” The lure was risk-free for him  simply because he usually prescribed a treatment that would run for several months to show while the fare wound up within ten days; whence he would ostensibly ‘return’ to his habitat in the Himalaya’s to continue with his research and meditation.

On the second day of the fair, by a quirk of fate, Vidakandan found himself standing in front of Kodakandan’s table and tent, reading the sign. This was god-sent it seemed after an unusually prolonged dry spell of no ‘fish’.

He went in seizing the chance with two hands: ‘Anna, I’ve lost all taste in my mouth. Can you please help me?’

‘Not after you’ve come to me, Thambi (little brother). Kutta, please bring medicine from the green bottle and put three drops in his mouth.’

‘Aaagh!! — This is kerosene!’

‘Congratulations!  I told you – you’ve got your taste back. That will be fifty rupees.’

An annoyed Vidakandan went back the next day after a sleepless night figuring to recover his money.

‘I’ve lost my memory, Anna. I can’t remember much.’

‘Kutta, please bring medicine from the blue bottle and put three drops in the patient’s mouth.’

‘Oh, no, you don’t, that’s kerosene!’

‘Congratulations! You’ve got your memory back! That will be fifty rupees.’

Vidakandan left angrily and came back after a couple of days, more determined than ever to settle scores with Kodakandan.

‘Anna, your medicines are a miracle. My eyesight has become weak – I can hardly see anything! I’m sure I can get it back with your help.’

‘As long as you have a fifty on you, Thambi, there isn’t much this Anna cannot handle. Kutta, bring medicine from the red bottle and put three drops in his eyes.’

‘I still can’t see anything, Anna, Please do something.’

‘Just hold. Kutta, bring medicine from the yellow bottle and put three drops into his eyes.’

‘Anna, it’s no better…’

This went on for two more rounds apparently doing little to improve Vidakandan’s eye sight.

A crest fallen Kodakandan finally admitted: ‘Well, I don’t seem to have the right medicine for your eyes presently. As promised, here are your hundred rupees.’

‘But this is only a fiver…’

‘I knew the medicine was right. Only you were getting a little impatient. Congratulations! You can see now.  That will be fifty rupees.’

Vidakandan knew he was licked. He would rather wait for his day.

End

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: Inspired by Jerry Lambert

An Unequal Contest In A Forest (For Children)

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Shasha was a young rabbit, grey in color, adopted by other animals when she was a baby.

She was frisky, friendly and intelligent too, liked by everyone but two – the two that made fun of her. One was Mahisha, the bull, strong in body with long horns and a bit boorish. You too would be if all you ha was a tail to whack off the pesky flies buzzing around his unreachable back. And Durchara, the sad and sleepy looking crocodile that animals were wary of. Of course he was neither sad nor sleepy. While meanie Mahisha would say: ‘How I love to play ball with you – you’ll make a nice furry one to kick around,’  Durchara would come up with: ‘One of these days I would like to take you around to interesting places you must never miss – most of all, inside my tummy.’ One had to be careful with him especially when he was not in good humor or he was hungry.

Impetuous young Shasha was not one to take things lying down – whenever she saw, she would tease them, of course, from a safe distance. Finally she would always dart off into the bushes saying with mock solemnity: ‘Just wait for the day you’re going to see how strong Shasha is!’ She was quite blithe about it with no idea what she would do and how she would make it happen.

The old Ulooka, the wise owl, and Kaaga, the crow, took up on themselves to be Shasha’s guardians keeping a close watch over her day and night. They knew about the pests that Mahisha and Durchara were and were thinking about fixing these two for good. At last they knew how. They were sure Gaja, the elephant would oblige them with what they needed.

On their next meeting, Shasha invited Mahisha for a trial of strength: ‘If you wish to see Shasha in true colors, come here to this place near the mango tree this Sunday morning.’

So an intrigued Mahisha presented himself at the appointed place and time

He saw before him a thick rope, retrieved by Gaja from an abandoned lumber-shed, lying on the ground running from where he stood to somewhere out of sight beyond the thick growth of bushes.

‘Mahisha, you hold this end of the rope in your mouth and I’ll be tugging at the other end out there. Let’s see who is stronger. Are you game?’

‘You kidding? One jerk – I’ll have you where I want…at my feet. Try something different. I want it to be fair.’

He relented finally when Shasha assured him of her seriousness.

Kaaga as the referee started the count-down at the top of his voice as Shasha wished Mahisha luck and dashed off to her position beyond the bushes.

On zero, the rope went taut grabbed at both ends.

Mahisha, going about it like a walk down the garden, even before he could register it in his head, saw his body dragged several feet forward.  What was happening? This wasn’t going the way it should. Was Shasha being aided by some spirit getting into her body? In any case he quickly recovered from the initial surprise and stood his ground. With a grunt that made all the animals in the forest stop in their tracks for a moment, Mahisha, now all ready for this strange trial of strength – he would figure it out later, slowly regained his position and was even gaining on Shasha.

Well, it wasn’t for too long before the tide turned again and Mahisha began yielding ground. He was all sweat and snort.

This push-pull went on for a while until the rope, frayed by constant rubbing against thorny bushes, snapped. An exhausted Mahisha, frothing at the mouth, was shot backwards like a shooting star in the skies to be finally stopped by a tree trunk. He lay helplessly spreadeagled, holding fast in his mouth one end of a long piece of rope.

Shasha was declared as the winner.

Strangely Durchara also conceded defeat at the same time in an identical contest with Shasha unknown to Mahisha. He was found in a helplessly grotesque pose on a sand bank by the riverside, holding fast in his mouth one end of a long piece of rope.

From that day Mahisha and Durchara looked at Shasha with new found respect.

Till this date they could not could put the two pieces of rope together to guess what had happened on either side of the bush on that day.  Could you?

End

Source: Adapted from tamilsirukathaigal.com

The Interview (100 Words)

When the grueling physical finished, two candidates made it to the face-to-face.

Hiring

The first guy went in.

Family background and social affiliation checked out; and, now on health and habits.

‘When do you go to sleep and when do you…?’

‘Oh, all of seven hours. Luckily, no kids’

‘What I wanted to hear.’

‘Yes…can’t say about him,’ throwing his hand back to the guy waiting outside.

‘Eh?’

‘He’ll probably tell you – has disturbed sleep and wakes up groggy. Advised him to see a doc’

‘You know him?’

‘Oh, neighbors, sort of.’

 

The other guy joined as a night watchman.

 

End

 

 

 

Source: Adapted from net and slide from slideshare.net/quintonstoneking/disney-interactive-proposal-team-beta-group

A Tale From A Mango Tree (100 Words)

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The Wise One chatted up: ‘A Guru has come into the village.’

‘I know,’ said the Mango Tree.

‘You know? How?’

‘They rested right here under on their way to the village.’

‘Oh…last evening, had gone to the hut where he is staying…a steady stream of people kept up going in.’

‘Hear any wise words from him?’

‘No, there was no pravachan. Just people fussing about…he seems to enjoy all their attention and adulation…just like us.’

‘Well, his way of staying connected with the world for what it is, I would think. And be reminded, yes, he’s just like us.’

End

 

The Best Time Of My Life

Thanks to Ray Mitchell for pointing me to this piece from Joe Kemp.

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It was June 15, and in two days I would be turning thirty. I was insecure about entering a new decade of my life and feared that my best years were now behind me.

My daily routine included going to the gym for a workout before going to work. Every morning I would see my friend Nicholas at the gym. He was seventy-nine years old and in terrific shape. As I greeted Nicholas on this particular day, he noticed I wasn’t full of my usual vitality and asked if there was anything wrong. I told him I was feeling anxious about turning thirty. I wondered how I would look back on my life once I reached Nicholas’s age, so I asked him, “What was the best time of your life?”

Without hesitation, Nicholas replied, “Well, Joe, this is my philosophical answer to your philosophical question:

“When I was a child in Austria and everything was taken care of for me and I was nurtured by my parents, that was the best time of my life.

“When I was going to school and learning the things I know today, that was the best time of my life.

“When I got my first job and had responsibilities and got paid for my efforts, that was the best time of my life.

“When I met my wife and fell in love, that was the best time of my life.

“When we came to Canada and started a family, that was the best time of my life.

“When I was a young father, watching my children grow up, that was the best time of my life.

“And now, Joe, I am seventy-nine years old. I have my health, I feel good and I am in love with my wife just as I was when we first met. This is the best time of my life.”
.

End

 

Note from author: October 2008 update: Just a little background to this short story. After I had that conversation with Nicholas in 1990, I would share that conversation with people, who were anxious about their upcoming birthday. The birthday that usually represented the next decade in their lives. After approximately 4 years, someone advised me to send it to “chicken Soup for the Soul”. It was subsequently selected for their upcoming “5th Portion”. By the time it was published I had moved and attended a different Fitness Center. I never knew Nicholas’ last name and will probably never know if he, or anyone of his family members were aware that he inspired so many people with his philosophical comment on life. Interestingly, his commentary flowed out of him completely without taking time to ponder. Eighteen years later, he may still be with us or has passed on. Hopefully, he, or someone close to him will have made the connection.

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A Tale From A Mango Tree (50 Words)

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Rushing past the Mango Tree, the Wind mocked: ‘Don’t you feel sorry you can’t move, go places, meet people…?’

‘No more than you do, my friend’ the Tree shrugged and smiled, ‘when you can’t stand for a moment and savor the beauty of those places and people on your way.’

End