Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Drop of Honey

Many years ago somewhere in the southern tip of India there lived a hunter. He hunted wild animals or birds for their flesh and skin and would sell them to the village market. At times if he had luck he would find fruits, berries or even honey.

One morning the hunter started from home early. He was accompanied by bhola his dog, a dagger he always kept with himself, his bow and arrows and a bhinstee. He had to start early to get a good catch. But the whole day he scanned through the whole forest without any luck. He was so desperate, it did not occur to him that it was getting dark. Black clouds were enveloping the sky and in no time it started pouring.

The hunter, seeing no other alternaive, ran towards a den and somehow managed to save himself from the rain. Hunger and fatigue had the better of him and he fell asleep. The next morning he woke up and tried to scan the den. A buzzing sound drew his attention and he looked up at a distance to see a bee hive, its bosom swelled with the treasure it hid inside.

The hunter immediately drew his dagger and with the expertise of a seasoned honey gatherer cut the hive and gathered almost all the honey into his leather pouch, the bhinstee. He did not take all of it. He had the kind heart and an intelligent mind to leave some honey for its rightful owners the bees.

It was going to a good day for him, some money to splurge and some handia to have at night. Some meat for bhola too. He quickly packed his dagger, picked his belongings, shoulderd the bhinstee and started towards the village market. He had to reach the village grocery store-keeper before the honey fermented.

At the shop the shopkeeper meticulously transferred the honey from the bhinstee into a jar, but somehow a drop spilled into the floor. Few ants were immediately drawn towards it. A bird was watching the whole proceeding from a tree top. It swooped to feast on those hapless ants. The shopkeeper had a pet cat which immediately pounced on the bird. Seeing its eternal enemy, bhola the dog pounced on the cat. Seeing such a brutal end to his cat the shopkeeper, all in rage took out a stick and craked the poor dog's skull into two. The hunter immediately got up, pulled out his dagger and ripped apart the shopkeepers heart. Then it dawned upon him the brutality of his act. So he ran away.

But being from neighbouring villages the news spread like wild fire. The villagers clashed with each other and led to a lot of bloodbath. All this for a drop of honey.

PS: Nobody knows what happened to the honey. But surely, it was not meant for either the hunter or the shopkeeper.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Soul curry: The magic of giving

I believe everyone in their lifetime comes across a bit of magic that reminds them of the importance of the word ‘give’.

The incident, which reminded me of the well known saying “it's more blessed to give than to receive” happened a few weeks before my sister's wedding. With a heavy heart, I left the wedding cheer at home for another town to attend some important lectures. My parents had the room ready and waiting for me and as I entered, I walked into what seemed like a Christmas floral shop. Red poinsettias and other bouquets crowded the windowsill, along with a stack of cards that waited to be opened. I felt overwhelmed by the love and attention.

Just then, a voice broke into my reverie. “Hey, I'll be sharing the room with you,” said the 20-something girl who had stepped into the room. She had short, curly grey hair and brown eyes. She stared at the flowers with child-like wonder. She introduced herself as Dollie and we chatted on till it was time for dinner. Not once did she mention her family and neither did I ask. Being in her company, life suddenly seemed easier and she also continued to exclaim excitedly at the cards and flowers I continued to receive.

On our last evening together, Dollie decided to visit the market. As I walked through the room alone, I noticed for the first time the stark contrast between our sides of the room. There was Dollie's bed that stood neat and sparse except for a red candlebra with holy sprigs, which she had brought along. In fact, I realised I had never seen her getting any calls either during her stay. In contrast, my bed was filled with gifts and I was flooded with calls from friends and family.

I decided to give her something of mine as a parting gift. I looked around at the things I had and wondered if I could part with any of it. Of course, I couldn't give mom and dad's Yule log with candles, I thought.

What about the new jacket? But, then, my sister badly wanted me to wear it when I reached home. The justifications kept coming even as I climbed onto my bed, placating my guilt by promising myself to call the nearby gift shop to order some flowers for Dollie the next day.

I awoke the next morning with thoughts of returning home, with some of the guilt resurfacing as I remembered that the gift shop wouldn't open for another two days. Moreover, Dollie's train was scheduled before mine.

“I've really enjoyed getting to know you, Dollie,” I finally told her. My words were sincere but I felt guilty for not having followed up on my intentions.

To my surprise, she picked up her only possession, the red candled centre-piece, and gently laid it in my hands. “I'll miss you,” she said, giving me a big hug. “Thank you,” is all I could manage to whisper. As she left I dropped my moist eyes to the small memento in my hand...“Dollie's only gift”, I thought, “and she gave it to me.”

As I heard the doors closing behind Dollie, I knew in my heart that she possessed much more than I did.

Courtesy: Times of India, 16 Jun 2008, 0024 hrs IST, TNN
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Friday, June 13, 2008

Anne Frank

"Whoever is happy will make others happy too. He who has courage and faith will never perish in misery!"

"I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are still truly good at heart"

(excerpts from The Diary of a Young Girl)

Today is Anne Frank"s birthday ( Jun 12, 1929). Some of you may be wondering who she is. Apart from everything said about her by others and by her too, she represents the power of a liberated mind, a sacred thought and the ultimate perseverance of human heart on the face of mortal danger.

The two most defining personalities of the WW-II were in absolute contrast toeach other. At the one end was Anne a common yet so uncommon teenager and at the other end was Hitler. Both penned autobiographical memoirs. Both of them talked about their lives and beliefs. But unexpectedly it was Anne's that prevailed. With a diary written while hidden in a secret attic with her family, she braved the Nazis and lent a voice to the fight for human dignity.

This historical document holds such immense value in today's world that any doubt cast upon the authenticity of these memoirs are considered nothing less than profanity by many. As Roger Rosenblatt, noted journalist says, "there are some stories the world so needs to believe that it would be profane to impair their influence”.

It's really a wonder how a book, basically a diary, written by a person between the age of thirteen to fifteen evokes so much interest that it remains no longer a mere book. Anne through the pages of her diary has transcended all barriers of cast, creed, race or religion. She is no longer a mere Jew or a victim of holocaust, she is much more than that, an eternal sense of perseverance, and eternal hope on the face of abject despondence. Every word of hers is full of hope and a jest for life. One year before her death from typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp at the mere age of sixteen (actually less than sixteen), she wrote, "I want to be useful or give pleasure to people around me who yet don"t really know me. I want to go on living even after my death!". Useful she did become, and immortal too through the pages of her diary.

If you have ever been a teenager (which you have surely been), then you will certainly be able to connect to all the trepidations and self-doubts that you see in the pages of this epic. And do not forget all these under the constant fear of being found out by the Nazis. As someone correctly said this book is one of the most conclusive and moving evidence of the shocking pogrom perpetrated on any race in the name of creating a superior race.

On August 4, 1944, the Gestapo discovered the hiding place of the Frank family after being tipped off by an anonymous Dutch caller. The Gestapo found them hidden behind a door protected by a book case. They arrested Anne the human being. But they could never fathom that Anne had already escaped through her diary.