A Story And A Fun Game For Children…

and for us too I think.

A group of children were given an exercise. A scene, not very unusual, was put to them. And they were asked to take the story forward.

The scene: A house-owner hears noise coming from the back of his house. When he opens a creaky door and walks to the spot, he finds a girl standing under the mango tree frantically signalling to her friend atop to come down quickly. On the ground there were here and there a few half-eaten ripe mangoes taken from the tree.  The man, tall and hefty, looks menacingly at the boy trapped visibly up in the tree at a height too risky to jump down and flee.

After a while they were called in turn to present their conclusion. Here’s a selection from the many stories presented:

**

The boy on the tree said to the owner: Sir, we were not stealing your mangoes. See, we aren’t carrying any in our hands or bags. You know between us we had argument before coming here on who is the biggest land-owner around here. I was saying it was you. And I knew I was right. My friend here was not agreeing to it. I decided there was a way to convince her. I climbed up this tree and was showing her how far the lands owned by you stretched on all sides – like the palm tree seen there in the distance stands on the eastern corner of your property and so on. That’s when you came here. If you allow me, I’ll show her the rest.

**

The trapped boy gathered his wits quickly and said to the owner standing below: Dear Sir, we were passing by your yard talking among ourselves about an upcoming outing on Sunday. That’s when heard a racketmade by a bunch of squirrels feasting on the mangoes.  And if the fruit they bit into was a little less than ripe, it was discarded and they moved on to try another. Look at all these fruits half-eaten lying on the ground – it’s all their doing. We could not bear to see those luscious fruits so dear to you being ruined by these pests. So I said to het I would climb up the tree and drive them off. And that I did and as I was coming down, you came here, Sir. We were anyway planning to come in to tell you about all this. Surely you, a large-hearted person, wouldn’t be sending us back empty handed?

**

The boy said to the owner: Sir, we’ve no idea why you look upset. We were passing by minding our business when your man standing over there called us in. He said his master would pay if we could pick off the tree a bag full of mangoes, waving a cloth bag at us. We accepted the assignment. I went up, plucked the fruits one by one and dropped them down for him to catch and put away in his bag.  When the bag was full, he signalled me to stop. Taking the bag, he went this way promising to be back in a jiffy with our payment.  I was climbing down when you came inwe were expecting your man with the money as promised. Don’t know who you are. If you’re the owner, kindly pay us what you owe and we’ll be gone before you turn your back. You wouldn’t gyp a couple of kids of their legit earnings, would you?

**

Interesting?

End

Source: Based on a short piece read in Dhina Thandhi, a Tamizh daily, several years ago. Image from Elango Velur Thiruturaipoondi Tiruvarurஇயற்கை மற்றும் பசுமை and artstation.com

Vikram And Betaal – A Story For Children

Vikram Aur Betaal or Vedalam stories are well known and the staple of many a story teller, grandma’s included.

It is originally based on ‘Betaal Pachisi’, written nearly 2,500 years ago by Mahakavi Somdev Bhatt. These are spellbinding stories told to the wise King Vikramaditya by the witty ghost Betaal.

The fabled King ruled over a prosperous kingdom from his capital at Ujjain. He had immense love for learning as well as for adventure. He was brave, fearless and with a strong will. Everyday he received many visitors who always brought gifts for him. Among such visitors was a mendicant who presented the King with a fruit on every visit. The king would hand over the fruit to the royal storekeeper. One day while handling the fruit, it broke and from the pop came out a ball of brilliant ruby. The surprised King ordered checking all the fruits, and, yes, from all of them yielded a fine ruby. He decided to meet the mendicant. However, the mendicant set a condition that the King must meet him under a Banyan tree in the center of a cremation ground beyond the city, at night, on the 14th day of the dark half of the month.

The King met him as decided. Asked the mendicant why he was doing this. There upon the mendicant said there was a task that only a King like Vikramaditya could accomplish. The King had to visit the northern-most corner of this ground where he would find a tree immeasurably old. There would be a corpse hanging from one of its branches. He must fetch it for the mendicant; for, the mendicant was seeking certain occult powers he would get only if a King brought down this specific corpse to him and if he practiced certain rites sitting on it.

Vikramaditya, obliged the mendicant. He would remove the corpse from a treetop and carry it on his shoulder. En route, the spirit in the corpse (Betaal) would narrate a story to the laboring King and on completing the story Betaal would pose a query. If he (the King) knew the answer, was bound to respond lest his head exploded into a thousand pieces. But if he did speak out, he would break the vow of silence and Betaal (in the corpse) would fly back to the treetop, leaving the King short of his destination! The King would go after the ghost and start all over again. And so on and on.

As the name ‘Betaal Pachisi’ suggests the Betaal told the King twenty-five stories. However, looking at the determination of Vikramaditya, Betaal finally disclosed the true motive of the mendicant. The mendicant’s plan was to practice certain rites sitting on Betaal (in the corpse) but he would also kill the King to get all powers to rule over the world. This put the King on the alert. In the end Betaal proved to be right and the mendicant tried to kill the King. However, Vikramaditya outwitted the mendicant and killed him.

Over a period of time many more episodes were added by imaginative story tellers that it grew into a big collection it is today. The stories piqued the young minds with those questions coming up at the end and the King’s intelligent responses.

Here’s one based on a vague recollection of the plot-line of a story I had read many decades ago in, yes, where else but Ambulimama (Chandamama):

**

Part 1

Once again, Betaal spoke up from the shoulders of Vikramaditya: ‘Hey, King, why are you engaged in this infructuous and risky enterprise?’ Eliciting no response from the King, Betaal continued: Looks like you are not going to be dissuaded. Okay, let me once more tell a story to take your mind off this tiresome task you wouldn’t give up. And, as always, ending with a question for you. You know well you answer it wrong and lose your head or you answer it right and you’re right back where you started. Here you go, listen carefully.

Once upon a time the kingdom of Kasigarh in the northwest was ruled by King Jayachandra.

The land was fertile fed by a perennial Himalayan river coursing through, the harvests bountiful. The subjects were content and happy under the fair and just rule of their King.

No surprise the neighboring kingdoms cast their covetous eyes on Kasigarh though no one made any moves.

All this changed when the evil Ugrasena came to power in the neighboring kingdom of Sooryadhara. It all began with sporadic incidents of their villagers, emboldened by the support of its soldiers, stepping over the borders and stealing cattle. Soon it became more frequent and escalated to harvesting standing crops on this side of the border. Resisting villagers were beaten up blue and chased away.

The news of these incidents of transgression reached Jayachandra along with a plea for protection from the affected.

Independently the King also received news from his sources in Sooryadhara of Ugrasena secretly mobilizing his forces for action against an enemy unspecified.

He was alarmed at these developments. The pacific minded King did not command a large army of soldiers to confront in conflict the much larger and powerful neighbor. He immediately sought the counsel of his ministers. It was decided to send out without delay an emissary to talk peace, even concessions, and restore normalcy on the borders.

The emissary returned snubbed – he didn’t even get an audience with Ugrasena.

By now the intentions became clear. Jayachandra had no option but to gather his forces together for a possible action, fully realizing they were far fewer and no match for their foes-to-be.

Not satisfied with the arrangements he had made, the King called for a session with his ministers on what else could be done to strengthen their defenses.

Many ideas were put forth. Of them, the ones deserving more serious attention were:

Could they buy peace? But then at what price? Also Ugrasena did not seem to be in a conciliatory mood. May be they should reach out to those advisors if any who had his ears.

Did Ugrasena make any powerful enemies they could tie up with? After all an enemy’s enemy is a friend.

Could they hire mercenaries to bolster their numbers? Were there any other force multipliers they could bring to bear upon the offender?

These were pursued with haste only to draw a blank at the road’s end. All, categorical no-go’s. They were not able to identify such advisors with access to Ugrasena who was rearing for some bare-faced aggression and nothing less. The kingdoms around Sooryadhara were all small like Kasigarh and would not dare to get into a confrontation. And, there were not many mercenaries around available for hire to make a difference to the numbers.     

Luckily this was when monsoon broke out over the land providing them some respite. For another couple of months, the river – a natural line of defense – swollen with stiff currents would be almost impossible to cross, the land would be rendered too boggy under their feet for men and horses.

But to what avail? While the gods for their part had done their job, the men still hadn’t a clue on how to save themselves from a certain defeat and depredation lying in wait.

The days rolled by.

With the rains showing signs of weakening, clearly time was running out for them.

Meanwhile, the subjects, becoming aware of their looming misery, began packing up and moving to safer places. The deserted streets – only making it easy for the enemy to march to the palace for the denouement.

And then one morning

Part 2

A commoner stood before the palace wanting to meet the King, claiming he could save the kingdom!

His clotheswere not of an itinerant.

He was taken to the court where the King and his ministers had assembled to ‘stir up a pot that had no stew.’

Asked to explain, he said he had a cousin, Shailendra, a great sculptor, taught, according to family sources, by none other than Vishwakarma himself up in the Himalayashis stone-works were so life-like.

Wait, is this the time to talk abouthis audience stopped him in irritation.

But he had not finished yet. Known only to the family, Vishwakarma had also blessed him with the siddhi – art, science and mantra – of breathing life into his pieces in stone!

Truly incredible! Was this possible? But what was it to their current predicament? His audience silent, incredulous and unclear yet where he was heading with this…

Thinking for his audience he said: ‘Just imagine, he makes a few fearsome monsters like fire breathing dragons and then

Suddenly the fog lifted. They gasped in comprehension. That’s itif that was possible, good heavens, it would completely turn, nay, overturn the table on Ugrasena and his forces. They couldn’t but smile seeing visions of the invaders fleeing in fear, death in their eyes like the proverbial bats out of hell.

Without further ado, at the King’s bidding, the man took them to Shailendra’s workshop.

Shailendra was taken aback to see the royalty suddenly appearing at his doorstep.

When he learnt about the purpose of their visit, he was even more aghast. He had never talked about it to anyone – of course the family knew about it – and, worse, he had never put it into practice even once before.

When he so expressed himself, the King pleaded with him to do it for the sake of the kingdom and all its subjects. And if he failed in his efforts, no harm would come to him, he was reassured.

Needless to say Shailendra finally agreed to undertake the exercise for the larger good of the people. 

On the following day, the plan was discussed in detail: What kind of monsters? How many? Where to position them? Etc.

And, Shailendra was left alone to chip away without any distraction.   

When done to perfection, his wards (in stone) were moved to their appointed station.

They waited for the assault to commence.

The rains had ceased, the river tame and the ground dry – just right for the invaders.

And then it happened

Part 3

To cut the long story short, the plan worked flawlessly exceeding their expectations.

The invaders ran for their lives and did not stop until they were far back into their land – for long after, they were in a daze muttering incoherently, their eyes fixed in fear and disbelief.

The job done within a few hours of action, the monsters now stood at their station lifelessly serving as a permanent and nightmarish reminder for the aggressors to stay away for now and ever.

The King showered Shailendra and his kin with lavish gifts. Made him a minister in his court. Allotted him living quarters within the palace.

It took a week or so for normalcy to return, people coming back to their abandoned homes, etc.

And then, Shailendrawent missing! Nowhere to be seen, neither in his new quarters nor in his old workshop. Nor anywhere in the kingdom.

All attempts to trace him failed.

It was rumored he was sighted by some, sneaking away on a horse-back heading for the hills under the cover of darkness.

So, my friend, that’s the story, concluded Betaal.

Now the question for you: Why did Shailendra walk away from all that one could dream of achieving in one’s career and life – recognition, honor, awards, wealth, royal patronage, etc. etc.? Think well before you respond. You well know it’s either your head or a repeat of a burdensome task for you. Over to you, Sir.

Vikramaditya broke his silence: The lesser of the reasons was he worried about being unceremoniously sacked very soon for non-performance as a minister – he was never equipped for it, but the King wouldn’t listen. The main reason however was: Though the King himself was fair and just presently, Shailendra wasn’t sure if the next request for his siddhi would necessarily be for public good. Power – more so, this kind of power – was very likely to corrupt. The sculptor may not have the choice to refuse – that’s why, he took the easy way out.’

Betaal lauded the astute King for his intelligence and flew back to his abode leaving the King short of his destination.

End

Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vikram_Aur_Betaal, merisaheli.com and Cambodian lions.

We Did It….Well, Almost

Not many days to go.

When the contractor doing the interiors handed over, it was a flat, small at some 600 to 700 square feet, with nothing but bare walls, smelling of fresh paint.  

Got down to work right away – it was a race against time.

We began with an AC for the bedroom.

Should we get it from Satya at Luz or from Ratna at Panangal Park, both highly recommended.  Brand: Blue Star, Samsung, LG, Whirlpool or…? Capacity: Would one ton suffice or to be safe….Type: Split or window mounted? Power consumption: Two-star rated or three? Color: Would purple go with the rest of the decor?

And then followed, with choices galore, Washing Machine, Fridge, Double Bed with accessories, Couch for guests, Water Purifier, Food Processor and Rice Cooker.

With a kind S-I-L helpfully loaning a few essentials, you can well see, many items were still left out like a second AC, Dining Table, TV, Chairs, Curtains, Ironing Table, kitchen utensils….for want of time, money and energy.

Then came the ‘C’ items: mops, brooms, wash-room accessories and supplies, door mats and a few other zillion things (oxymoron? don’t mind it, pls) one could not live without.

All ordered in suitable models and options after visiting multiple shops for choice, suppliers chased for delivery and installation, by a couple of slow-moving, energy-strapped and flightless old birds, largely relying on public transport in an unfamiliar geography!

If this wasn’t DECISION FATIGUE in all glory…all to get that small space up and live-able with a few basic amenities. If I’m may be allowed a bit of exaggeration, it seemed I made more decisions in those few days than in all my years of professional career. Though there was one important mitigating factor: My experience with systems had taught me not to try optimizing to the fullest a design/plan along all its dimensions at once. In this instance it helped us not pushing hard the price ‘needle’, of course within reasonable limits.

We moved in, all set to receive them at the new place:

Day -3: All packing material, cartons carted away. Food and milk supply services arranged.

Day -1: Everything in its appointed place, working and checked. The bedroom attached toilet was a designated ‘dry’ zone for their use. The wet and paperless second toilet was for us. The mosquitoes were denied entry mercifully by the nets on the windows. The fridge stocked up.

All items on the check-list ticked. We slept peacefully.

Day 1: Daybreak.  No problems there.

10 am: The Moment – the kids arrived.

11 am: Everything going swimmingly. Nothing amiss. Deservedly congratulating ourselves.

02-35 pm: Some commotion in front of the bedroom toilet door

02-36 am: I reach the spot. My daughter seen here, there, everywhere.

02-37 am: She to me: ‘Appa, I can’t find – where have you kept it? S is in there. Need the toilet tissue.’

02-38 am: Oh sh#t, am out thru the front door.

…After all is done and said, I haven’t thrown out of the window as yet the sneaky thought of offering it all as a packaged service to many others out there similarly placed and needing help, this time tissue paper thrown in good measure:-)

End

Ignore This Health Warning At Your Peril!!

I do not, though my pater didn’t put me wise to it:-)

From: Robert D Silva:-)

End

Delusions

Sanmargam

Misunderstandings, in these days, are rife and so tragicomical,

every brick believes it carries all the load on the wall.

End

Source: Pinterest

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Road Traffic Accident (< 100 Words)

By jackfielduk in thedrabble:

We are comrades stuck in traffic. Nothing has moved for thirty minutes — it must be serious. Traffic opposite hurtles past, mocking our stationary plight.

The lorry driver jumps down from his yellow cab, speculating through an open window. A distant ambulance wails along the line, cars crabbing away from its path.

Finally, engines wobble into life, piercing our pop-up partnerships. As we crawl past the tangled wreckage, we stare and are thankful it is not one of us, accelerate away, turn up the music and…

…are enemies once more.

End

At Chennai International Airport

As we deplaned at the international airport at Chennai – it was a domestic flight from Mumbai – and made our way to collect our baggage, on both sides of the long walk we were treated to some delightfully eye-catching high-quality art-works – panels in relief, paintings, icons carved in wood…all drawing upon the rich cultural motifs of Tamil Nadu.

And that’s when our good old Murphy’s Law kicked in. Even if the gentleman had not said anything on the subject, I’m sure you’ll know what I mean. Here was art decked out in all its splendor pining for attention and adulation, and for crying out loud, my camera-cum-cell-phone rides in my wife’s handbag, about fifty feet in the lead. Lumbering along with a particularly heavy piece of cabin baggage, I had to be content merely ogling at these art pieces, telling myself may be next time…

Finally, caught up with the lady waiting for me to join at the entrance to the baggage hall.

I set my load on the floor and told her by gestures there was a pressing matter to attend that cannot keep..

Inside the toilet, I finished the business and then by sheer chance looked up.

And saw this:

The poster art, a civic initiative, by itself made sense as the city is presently reeling under severe water shortage this year. But its juxtaposition

May be it’s a brilliant move: Where/How else a message could get undivided attention for even up to a minute or more smack in the face of an audience helplessly glued to their station and at the same time in a relieved frame of mind 🙂

Retrieved my camera and took a shot of the art to ponder over the ways of those creative minds that worked on it – a perfect brain-food 🙂

And a small compensation for not ‘capturing’ those enchanting art pieces?

End