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The young boys and girls were all huddled around the Grand Old Man. During the summer vacation, this was a regular feature at sunset in the neighbourhood. Every evening, he would tell them stories of heroes and battles, of the moon and the stars, of gods and demons, of fantasy and fairylands. That day was the last day of their vacation. The next day, they would all leave for their homes in the city. The old man, a short-story writer of great acclaim in his younger days, said to the kids, “Look here. Tomorrow, you will all leave me and go. I will have to wait for one more year to see you again when you get your next vacation. I do not know when the Lord will call me back. I wrote a small book a few years ago, which is not yet published; a book of stories; stories that will make you great men and women when you grow up. Do you know when you will be truly great? When your heart opens out and embraces the whole world. I shall read out some stories from this book.” There was something in his voice that day, as he read out the stories. The words etched themselves on the tender minds of the kids, opening up hitherto unknown feelings, awakening new hopes, colouring new dreams, making each one of them resolve, „I too shall manifest these qualities in my life‟. The Old Man‟s voice rang out: Nitin was in High School. He was excited and eager to participate in the Under-16 State Level Athletics Championships. While his parents watched expectantly from the stands, he ran and won the gold medal in the first race. He was proud of his medal and the cheers from the crowd. Then he ran in the second race. Just at the finish line, when he would have again won, he stopped and stepped off the track. His parents gently chided him, ‘why did you do that, Nitin? If you had continued running, you would have won the race, you know.’ Nitin innocently replied, ‘But, mummy, I already have a medal. Santosh didn’t have one yet.’ The old man said, „There is such a thing as experiencing joy in the joy of another person.‟ He then read them the story of the kind dentist: Ajay’s tooth ached like hell. He feared dentists. However, now he had to see one. But how? He was too poor to afford a dental treatment. Maybe he would go and ask a dentist to just see his tooth and get some medicine prescribed, and not get the tooth treated or pulled out. So he went to a dentist nearby. ‘Hmmm....this tooth is in real bad shape, young man.’ ‘Aw, doctor, I already know that.’ ‘But don’t worry; I’ll fix them.’ No, doctor. I don’t have money to pay you.’ Saying so, he started climbing out of the chair. ‘What do you do, young man?’ asked the doctor, filing a syringe with novocaine. Page 1 of 4
‘I told you I have no money’. ‘Are you studying in the Govt College?’ ‘I don’t see what difference that’s going to make to you, doctor’ was his curt reply. When one’s teeth start aching, all gentility takes flight. ‘After your graduation, you plan to get a job?’ ‘Great! Doctor, just tell me what medicine will subside this bloody pain. And what exactly are you doing – turning into my career manager?’ ‘Well, you can pay me when you graduate and land a job. Meantime, you concentrate on your studies and leave your tooth-problem to me’ saying so, the doctor pushed the needle into Ajay’s gums. Ajay never forgot this incident. It changed his outlook towards life forever. The Old Man then read out the incredible story of Ugly Jaipal: Jaipal was a student. He was quite normal in every way, but he had a distorted and grotesque face. His friends laughed behind him and caricatured him. Jaipal was sad. ‘Listen boys’, said their teacher, ‘every feature has its own beauty, its own harmony. You have a very limited notion of what is beautiful and what is not. That’s why you can’t see beauty in Jaipal’s face. When you look at him or talk to him, know that he too, like you, is a person, God’s own creation. Unknown to you, there is a reason why God made him like that. Once you believe this, you will find him him an excellent friend and you will love him. Once you love him, he will look absolutely normal to you, if not handsome.’ One day, Jaipal went shopping. He saw a mirror lying on the road in front of a shop. He asked the shopkeeper why it was outside. The shopkeeper replied that it was a defective mirror which reflected one’s face in a distorted manner; hence he had thrown it away. Jaipal looked into the mirror. His face looked charming. The peculiarity of the glass gave his face a new look. The defect in the glass used to re-arrange the parts of a face in its reflection. A handsome face therefore appeared grotesque. The same process worked for a deformed face too. The defective glass re-arranged the parts of this deformed face and made it look handsome! Jaipal gazed at it for a long time and took it home. He began to think seriously. Did the mirror show something untrue? No. it used to distort the reflection, of course. But it was only re-presenting the object already present before it. It added nothing new to it. So, he realised that the mirror could not reflect what was not there before it. The harmony and the charm he saw were there in him – the mirror had only re-arranged them.
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He grew more and more introvert. He now concentrated more on his inner qualities. In a natural way, he stopped bothering about what others saw in his appearance. Surprisingly, by and by, others also stopped noticing anything abnormal in his appearance! For it is the law that people see in us only those qualities that we believe we already have. The sun was down. But nobody remembered to put on the light, charmed as they were by the Old Man. But the stories didn‟t stop. Could the Old Man read in the dark? No; he did not need to read from the book. For the book was actually in his own mind. And his mind was, luminous. They now heard only a voice, without the face that uttered it. It had a mystical touch to it, reaching straight down into the children‟s psyche. The Voice chimed, „Always see the whole picture. Only then can you really understand things clearly; seeing the whole picture, or the integral vision, means opening up your heart.‟ And out came this story: The Ministry of Agriculture once notified that sparrows were a menace to the crops and should be killed. When sparrows were killed, hoards of insects, that the sparrows would have eaten, descended upon the crops and ravaged the harvest. The Ministry then came up with the idea of costly pesticides. The pesticides made the food expensive. They also made the food a health hazard. They discovered, but alas, too late, that it was the sparrows who, feeding on the crops no doubt, managed to keep the food wholesome and inexpensive! The Voice continued with another charming story: Father said to his young daughter, ‘If you mow the lawn, I will get you the new dress you saw in the Mall.’ The girl set upon the task with great zeal and by evening, the whole lawn had been beautifully mowed, expect for a large uncut patch of grass in one corner. ‘I can’t get you the dress agreed upon because the whole lawn hasn’t been mowed’ observed the father. ‘I can forego the dress, but I shall not cut that patch of grass’ said the little one firmly. Curious to find out why, the father checked the uncut patch. There, right in the centre of the patch, sat a large toad. The girl had been too tender-hearted to run over it with the lawn-mower! Indeed, where there is love, there will be some disorder. Perfect order would make this world a graveyard. “All that you give others,‟ said the Voice, „you are actually giving to yourself‟. And this comment was followed by a wonderful story. Page 3 of 4
There was a farmer whose wheat always got the first prize at the State fair. He had the habit of sharing his wheat seeds with all the farmers in the neighbourhood. Someone asked him why he shared his excellent seeds with his neighbours. He replied, ‘The wind picks up the pollen and carries them from field to field. So, if my neighbours grow inferior wheat, the cross-pollination brings down the quality of my own crops. That’s why I’m concerned that they too should plant the best quality wheat.’ The Voice boomed, „Reach out and connect with others. Never remain cut-off from those around you!‟ and the scene of a fierce battle came up in the dark: The soldier said desperately, ‘He isn’t back from the battlefield, Sir. I plead for your permission that I may go out and get him back.’ The Colonel flatly refused him saying, ‘I shall not allow you to go. I don’t want you to risk your life for a man who is probably dead, for all we know.’ The soldier went, all the same, and an hour later, came back mortally wounded, carrying the corpse of his friend. The Colonel was furious. He yelled, ‘I told you he was dead. Now, I have lost both of you. Tell me; was it worth going out there to bring in a corpse?’ The soldier whispered, ‘Oh, it was, Sir. When I got to him, he was still alive. He said to me, ‘I was sure you would come.’ The Voice said, “I'll tell you one last story for its time for supper” and in a hushed tone spoke: A question was once asked ‘How do you tell when the night has ended and the day has begun?’ Many answers were given. ‘When you see an animal from some distance and can tell whether it is a cow or a horse.’ ‘When you look at a tree from some distance and can tell if it is a neem tree or mango tree.’ Etc. All were rejected as wrong. When pressed for what was the right answer, they were told, ‘When you look into the face of any man and recognize your brother in him; when you look into the face of a woman and recognize in her your sister. If you cannot do this, no matter what time it is, it is still night!’ Indeed, that was the last time the kids saw the Grand Old Man. But his stories remained with them and imperceptibly moulded their lives as they grew up. Today they are all grown up men and women, doctors, engineers, farmers, ministers, businessmen, government officers, housewives, teachers, but each has manifested a Nitin, a Jaipal...And thus the Old Man‟s Voice spreads.... *****************
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