March 24, 2015 1 Comment
Inspired by Herbert Rappaport and image from the net.
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July 23, 2012 7 Comments
It was clear something bothered the man.
The Guru called him to his side and asked:
‘You want to tell me something?’
‘Yes…I have to confess, I’m not religious.’
‘That’s not unusual.’
‘So much disease, deprivation, hate, chicanery, crime, and wars… killing innocents all around.
‘Not sure if anyone is in charge here. This cannot be god’s – if there’s one – creation. I don’t believe in god, worship or prayer.’
‘You’ve a point.’
‘I don’t believe in karma and rebirth…and, in swarga (heaven), narak (hell) or moksha (eternal salvation). Life is here and now. Who has seen after-life?’
‘So much you don’t believe in. You believe in anything…anything at all?’
‘Not sure if I do. With so much suffering, inequities…’
‘Alright – is there anything you want to believe in?’
‘Well, if you put it that way…in goodness of man, perhaps, whatever is left.’
‘That’s here, not other-worldly and a good enough religion to go after, my friend.’
September 29, 2011 3 Comments
A short story for children:
The massive Tree, its girth rivaling a banyan and the branches reaching out at least a hundred feet, stood at the edge of the village beyond the water tank, set back from the high-road to the town. A host to many generations of birds and small animals – the unassuming Sparrows safely nested in the lush branches of the Tree while the Parrots in brilliant green and the Squirrels in their brown-grey fur made home in the numerous holes in the vast trunk. It was never by mistake a Parrot entered the abode of a Squirrel or the other way round!
All day long, the air was filled with the muted chatter of the Sparrows, punctuated by the occasional exuberance of the Parrots and the bouts of noisy drumming by a pair of black-plumed Woodpeckers that kept the Tree free of wood-boring insects.
The Tree ensured its lodgers had access to a generous year-round supply of juicy fruits.
I had almost forgotten all about him and how could I? There was a wise old Owl that kept the night-watch from the high branches of the Tree.
That wasn’t all. The Tree had visitors too. From the village came bathers to sit down and chat away under the Tree before and after their bath in the tank. On some days, there was even a traveler or two from the high-road pausing to rest under its shade.
But the Wind was a regular. It all started long ago when the Tree was young and growing:
‘You’re very fortunate – you get to see so many places. Here I’m standing rooted to this place.’
‘You’re the lucky one getting to stay put. Do you see there is no rest for me at all? All the time I have got to be on the move, or I’m dead.’
‘Well, I’ll lend you the fragrance of my flowers and fruits – you may carry them with you wherever you go.’
‘I’ll clean up all the grime off the leaves, remove the dead ones, and give a good massage to your tired limbs.’
And the Tree and the Wind became thick friends ever since.
It was an idyllic world until one morning…
The Wind brought the news. The heartless village Chief had, in a meeting, proposed to auction the Tree for its wood. It was expected to fetch a good price, enough to build a community center and more. And the auction was scheduled in a couple of days.
The Tree froze speechless. How could they come up with a thought like this? When the news reached them, the birds and the animals sinking their beaks and teeth into the juicy pulp of the fruits with customary gusto, drew back like from hot coal. Everyone was horrified pale. Life without the Tree was unthinkable.
But what could be done now? They felt quite powerless before the juggernaut – man’s self-interest in disregard of his eco-mates. Hours of deliberations yielded no solution. The Tree, in utter despair and mindful of its lodgers, advised them to move out to a safer place and leave it to face its fate.
They were not the one to give up. While chewing on the crisis, finally someone suggested they wake up the wise old Owl and consult him.
So they did. And they saw, for the first time, a glimmer of hope.
It was the day of the auction. The Bidders from the village and the neighboring had gathered under the Tree. There was a quick inspection poking the Tree here and there, asking a question or two.
The birds went very quiet.
As the Bidders were waiting for the Chief to come in, from nowhere a strong gust of wind blew in knocking the turbans off the heads of a couple while others barely managed to hold onto theirs. Not an auspicious beginning, it was felt.
The Chief arrived with his ‘records’ man. After a short preamble the bidding commenced.
‘A 1000 rupees.’
‘They are low-balling it. The wood is teak like and my guess is it will easily fill up three cart-loads,’ the Chief muttered inaudibly into the ears of his assistant.
Before the next bid was shouted out, suddenly, as if on a cue, there was a minor commotion from the Squirrels gathering at the base of the Tree, purposefully drawing the attention of a Bidder standing closest. As his eyes came to rest on what he saw, for a moment he was speechless. When he regained his tongue, he cried excitedly: ‘Look here, look here, I know for sure – it wasn’t there before.’
Another Bidder, also drawn to it, exclaimed: ‘This is a miracle!’
A third Bidder joined: ‘A clear sign of disapproval from the Gods.’
In a short while they all had seen it. They hurriedly conferred among themselves and turned to the Chief resolutely: ‘Drop it, Chief. We are mercifully saved just in time from committing a grave sin.’
As a vexed Chief walked up to see what made the proceedings go awry, advice came from the eldest among the Bidders: ‘Chief, let us bring offerings, light a lamp and get the priest to do the pooja and build a decent shrine here.’
The Chief too was awe-struck when he saw a panel of a clear likeness to Hanuman freshly carved in relief on the bark at the base of the Tree. There were even flowers and fruits strewn about in the front as offerings.
As the Bidders dispersed, the Tree let out a sigh of relief and thanked, from the bottom of its heart, the Woodpeckers, the wise Owl, the Parrots and the Sparrows, and the Squirrels and not forgetting the Wind that embraced them all in cool comfort.
Hanuman is the son of Vayu, the Wind God.
http://nagpurbirds.org/ has these beautiful photographs and a whole lot more of our feathered friends sighted in and around Nagpur.
June 25, 2011 5 Comments
Many, many years ago there was a woman called Unanana who had two beautiful children. They lived in a hut near the roadside and people passing by would often stop when they saw the children, exclaiming at the roundness of their limbs, the smoothness of their skin and the brightness of their eyes.
Early one morning, Unanana went into the bush to collect firewood and left her two children playing with a little cousin who was living with them. The children shouted happily, seeing who could jump the furthest, and when they were tired they sat on the dusty ground outside the hut, playing a game with pebbles.
Suddenly they heard a rustle in the nearby grasses, and seated on a rock they saw a puzzled-looking baboon.
Whose children are those?’ he asked the little cousin.
‘They belong to Unanana,’ she replied.
‘Well, well, well!’ exclaimed the baboon in his deep voice. ‘Never have I seen such beautiful children before.’
Then he disappeared and the children went on with their game.
A little later they heard the faint crack of a twig and looking up they saw the big, brown eyes of a gazelle staring at them from beside a bush.
‘Whose children are those?’ she asked the cousin.
‘They belong to Unanana,’ she replied.
‘Well, well, well!’ exclaimed the gazelle in her soft smooth voice. ‘Never have I seen such beautiful children before,’ and with a graceful bound she disappeared into the bush.
The children grew tired of their game, and taking a small gourd they dipped it in turn into the big pot full of water which stood at the door of their hut, and drank their fill.
A sharp bark made the cousin drop her gourd in fear when she looking up and saw the spotted body and treacherous eyes of a leopard, who had crept silently out of the bush.
‘Whose children are those?’ he demanded.
‘They belong to Unanana,’ she replied in a shaky voice, slowly backing towards the door of the hut in case the leopard should spring at her. But he was not interested in a meal just then.
‘Never have I seen such beautiful children before,’ he exclaimed, and with a flick of his tail he melted away into the bush.
The children were afraid of all these animals who kept asking questions and called loudly to Unanana to return, but instead of their mother, a huge elephant with only one tusk lumbered out of the bush and stood staring at the three children, who were too frightened to move.
‘Whose children are those?’ he bellowed at the little cousin, waving his trunk in the direction of the two beautiful children who were trying to hide behind a large stone.
‘They…they belong to Una…Unanana,’ faltered the little girl.
The naughty elephant took a step forward.
‘Never have I seen such beautiful children before,’ he boomed. ‘I will take them away with me,’ and opening wide his mouth he swallowed both children at a gulp.
The little cousin screamed in terror and dashed into the hut, and from the gloom and safety inside it she heard the elephant’s heavy footsteps growing fainter and fainter as he went back into the bush.
It was not until much later that Unanana returned, carrying a large bundle of wood on her head. The little girl rushed out of the house in a dreadful state and it was some time before Unanana could get the whole story from her neice.
‘Alas! Alas!’ said the mother. ‘Did he swallow them whole? Do you think they might still be alive inside the elephant’s stomach?’
‘I cannot tell,’ said the child, and she began to cry even louder than before.
‘Well,’ said Unanana sensibly, ‘there’s only one thing to do. I must go into the bush and ask all the animals whether they have seen an elephant with only one tusk. But first of all I must make preparations.’
She took a pot and cooked a lot of beans in it until they were soft and ready to eat. Seizing a large stick and putting the pot of the food on her head, she told her little niece to look after the hut until she returned, and set off into the bush to search for the elephant.
Unanana soon found the tracks of the huge beast and followed them for some distance, but the elephant himself was nowhere to be seen. Presently, as she passed through some tall, shady trees, she met the baboon.
‘O baboon! Do help me!’ she begged. ‘Have you seen an elephant with only one tusk? He has eaten both my children and I must find him.’
‘Go straight along this track until you come to a place where there are high trees and white stones. There you will find the elephant,’ said the baboon.
So the woman went on along the dusty track for a very long time but she saw no sign of the elephant.
Suddenly she noticed a gazelle leaping across her path.
‘O gazelle! Do help me! Have you seen an elephant with only one tusk?’ she asked. ‘He has eaten both my children and I must find him.’
‘Go straight along this track until you come to a place where there are high trees and white stones. There you will find the elephant,’ said the gazelle, as she bounded away.
‘O dear!’ sighed Unanana. ‘It seems a very long way and I am so tired and hungry.’
But she did not eat the food she carried, since that was for her children when she found them.
On and on she went, until rounding a bend in the track she saw a leopard sitting outside of his cave-home, washing himself with his tongue.
‘O leopard!’ she exclaimed in a tired void. ‘Do help me! Have you seen an elephant with only one tusk? He has eaten both my children and I must find him.’
‘Go straight along this track until you come to a place where there are high trees and white stones. There you will find the elephant,’ replied the leopard, as he bent his head and continued his toilet.
‘Alas!’ gasped Unanana to herself. ‘If I do not find this place soon, my legs will carry me no further.’
She staggered on a little further until suddenly, ahead of her, she saw some high trees with large white stones spread about on the ground below them.
‘At last!’ she exclaimed, and hurrying forward she found a huge elephant lying contentedly in the shade of the trees. One glance was enough to show her that he had only one tusk, so going up as close as she dared, she shouted angrily:
‘Elephant! Elephant! Are you the one that has eaten my children?’
‘Oh no!’ he replied lazily. ‘Go straight along this track until you come to a place where there are high trees and white stones. There you will find the elephant.’
But the woman was sure this was the elephant she sought and stamping her foot, she screamed at him again:
‘Elephant! Elephant! Are you the one that has eaten my children?’
‘Oh no! Go straight along this track—-’ began the elephant again, but he was cut short by Unanana who rushed up to him waving her stick and yelling:
‘Where are my children? Where are they?’
The elephant opened his mouth and without even troubling to stand up, he swallowed Unanana with her stick and the cooking-pot in one gulp. And this was just what Unanana had hoped for.
Down, down, down she went in the darkness, until she reached the elephant’s stomach. What a sight met her eyes! The walls of the elephant’s stomach were like a range of hills and camped among these hills were little groups of people, many dogs and goats and cows, and her two beautiful children.
‘Mother! Mother!’ they cried when they saw her. ‘How did you get here? Oh, we are so hungry.’
Unanana took the cooking-pot off her head and began to feed her children with the beans, which they ate ravenously. All of the other people crowded round, begging for just a small portion of the food, So Unanana said to them: ‘I haven’t got enough for all of you. Why don’t we help ourselves and get out of the elephant’s tummy? Once out of here, I’ll invite you all to a feast at my place tonight.’ They asked her how that was possible. She said: ‘All of you bang against the tummy walls with your feet and with all the strength you can.’
And they did, creating a huge ruckus kicking and stomping with their feet. Some of them poked the insides with their horns. Unanana too joined them putting the stick to good purpose.
The groans of the poor elephant could be heard all over the bush, and he said to those animals who came along to find out the cause of his unhappiness:
‘I don’t know why it is, but ever since I swallowed that woman, I have felt most uncomfortable and unsettled inside.’
The pain got worse and worse. The wise fox suggested: ‘Why don’t you put your trunk deep into your mouth and induce a vomit? You’ll be rid of whatever isn’t agreeing with you in the tummy.’
The distressed elephant followed the fox’s suggestion, let out one giant roar of vomit and dropped like a wet rag in exhaustion, Unanana, her children, the animals and the people were spewed out like a fountain and they fell into a nearby pond. They quickly swam to the shore clean. It was a large assembly of dogs, goats, cows, men, women and children, all blinking their eyes in the strong sunlight and shouting for joy at being free once more.
The little cousin was delighted to see them, for she had thought they were all dead. And that night they had a feast and merry making as Unanana had promised. The animals and the people came in dressed in their best. The animals barked, bleated or mooed their thanks, while the human beings gave Unanana all kinds of presents in gratitude to her for setting them free, Unanana and her two children were no longer poor.
The naughty elephant troubled them no more.
This is a South African children’s story taken from the book “African Myths and Legends,” retold by Kathleen Arnott. A number of animals is cleverly woven into the story. At these points, the narrator could add more on these animals without straying too far from the story-line.
It is edited only so far as to keep the elephant alive! If you liked it, you may wish to check out the book.
I came across this story at a site I subscribed to: http://backyardzoologist.wordpress.com/ – an informative and an instructive site passionate about animal life, big or small and their protection. Thanks to the blogger Tippy Jackson for the story and the appropriately interspersed pictures.
If any copyright laws are inadvertently violated, the post will be removed as soon as it is brought to attention.
June 9, 2011 2 Comments
Here’s another one on ‘Garden’ – four over hundred words.
‘Look at the chinar-lined vistas, blooming flower-beds, shallow terraces, smooth sheets of falling water, and wide canals studded with the stepping stones. Beautiful! Breath-taking! If only man had created this world…’
‘Well, our four-legged friends, also the finned and the winged ones, would be very nervous about it. They would want to be more than ending up as garden curios, gawked at in zoos, farmed for meat, or reared as house-pets, assuming they don’t figure in circuses or in labs anymore.’
‘Animal rights, eh?’
The stray dog behind them morosely thought, ‘Forget it, he wouldn’t have another man around to share his world and women.
The Shalimar Gardens in Srinagar was built by the Mughal Emperor Jahangir for his wife Nur Jahan, in 1619, and later, extended on the order of Emperor Shah Jahan. ‘Shalimar’ meant ‘Abode of Love’ or ‘House of Joy’.
On sighting these Gardens, the Emperor was believed to have recalled Amir Khusrau’s farsi couplet:
‘Gar firdaus bar rue zameen ast / hameen asto, hameen asto, hameen ast’
If ever there is Paradise on Earth / It is here! It is here! It is here!
June 9, 2011 2 Comments
A hundred and five words on ‘Garden’ in response to Aheila’s challenge at: http://thewriteaholicblog.wordpress.com/.
The Garden is an intricate blend of nature’s bounty and subtle human creation, a celebration of aesthetic expression and appreciation, a forum for seamless dialogue between the creations of man and nature inviting interaction and exploration, an ideal retreat for public leisure and awakening of human sensitivity to the environment.
Touch the rocks, partake the fragrance, feast on the landscaping, hear the rustle of the leaves, the bubbling streams and call of the birds, and savor the fruits right off the trees!
An evocative bouquet that awakens the mind to the beauty of life, to a grateful prayer for the gift of the five senses!
Well, I had never looked at a garden before in these terms. Was bowled over by this alluring imagery.
Would the real be a climb-down? Perhaps, not. This is about ‘The Garden of Five Senses’, a project of Delhi Tourism and Transportation Development Corporation.
Visit http://www.vigyanprasar.gov.in/5senses/develop71a.htm for the original and more.