On Making Pragmatic Promises


There is a sea of difference between bravado and an earnest promise meant to be kept. People make tall promises in a moment of generosity or false pride.

When they do keep their word, they end up compromising on their well being or losing their possessions and peace of mind. If we are afraid of going back on our promises, we must give considerable thought to the commitments that we make, lest we end up feeling frustrated or shortchanged for lack of pragmatism.

A story from the Vishnu and Vamana Purana, deals with this aspect of promises in a telling manner. Once Mahabali, an Asura king, wanted to gain power over the three worlds performed a related Yajna. He gave away rich gifts of the receivers’ choice when they came to attend the rites. Then, Mahavishnu manifested himself in front of the king as a dwarfed Brahmana.The Asura king welcomed him with due respect and rituals and requested the lustrous young man to seek gifts from him. When Vamana sought land measuring three times his feet, Mahabali could not help feel amused.

He urged the recipient to ask for more. After all, he was a mighty sovereign, hoping to have the whole universe under his custody. He could certainly afford to give more than three feet of land measured by the tiny feet of the celibate who stood in front of him. The young man refused to alter his stance.The king set out to fulfill his promise in a ceremonial way, much against the counsel of his Guru Shukracharya who thought something was fishy. Mahabali was also intelligent enough to understand that the young midget who stood in front of him was no ordinary boy. Yet, he did not want to retract his vow. When the time came for the mysterious midget, to measure out his land, he grew magically. His giant feet measured the earth in one pace, the heavens in the other. When there was no other place to gain his third measure, Mahabali kneeled humbly before Mahavishnu, offering his head for the third pace.

Nevertheless what needs to be commended is that he made good of his promise even at the cost of his own life, which cannot be expected of mere mortals.

Dealing With the Dubious


When cheating cases are investigated, it is interesting to note that everyone of them has been based on trust.

The individual or organisation works hard at winning the confidence of the people whom they propose to swindle. The evil masterminds devise ways and means to
play fair or at least appear fair. They leave no stone unturned, plug in all the loopholes and put on their best behaviour to woo the people whose wealth they plan to deceive.

A story from the Panchatantra teaches us how to deal with such dubious people or organisations.

Once an old crane realised that he was no longer agile and alert to fish for food. He was too conceited to seek help. Therefore, he made a devious plan.

He stood on the edge of the lake and started shedding tears. A crab who lived in the pond wanted to know the reason for his sorrow. After much coaxing, the crane divulged that he was privy to a prophecy of a drought that would strike the region for the coming twelve years.

He said he was grieving for the helpless souls who would be losing their lives for no particular fault of theirs. Soon, this dreadful news was updated to all the inmates of the pond. They approached the crane one by one and asked him for a suitable solution.

Once the old crony was sure that all their attention was focused on him, he
generously offered to shift them all one at a time, once a day to another large water body which would not dry up despite the famine. The eager creatures lapped up his offer gratefully.

The old crane commenced with his charitable act of helping the fish migrate. He would fly a while with his passenger and then polish him off for lunch, only to make a meal of another fish the following day. No one suspected anything foul in the happenings.

A couple of days later, the crab requested the crane to shift him. The crane who wanted a change of taste, happily agreed to help the crab. The following day, when the old bird was flying along his regular route with the crab on his back, the crustacean saw a number of fish bones piled on a rock.

He was intelligent enough to put the pieces of the puzzle together. He felt sorry for his gullible pond mates. He decided to avenge their unfair death and also save his own life and promptly strangled the crane to death.

The common man who has been conned will be able to trace a pattern in the  crime if he pays enough attention. If all the victims of the fraud come together and expose the malefactor, the law of the land will take care of the rest.

Fighting for Rights from the Wrong Side


Fighting for rights from the wrong side

Radha Prathi, Jan 7, 2016

Most of us want to be decent, dependable and honourable human beings. We do not have any intentions to flout the law or accept the degenerate qualities displayed or practised around us.

On any given day, we would like to condemn the wrong and support the right. We are often inspired by great souls who have achieved great things in life by the virtue of sheer perseverance, patience, values and their convictions. Many of us actually manage to trudge along the difficult path till we are inadvertently tricked otherwise.

When we are at crossroads, some of us gather the courage to go back and set right what went wrong, whereas a majority of us slip into what could possibly be a bottomless pit. Then there are a handful who follow the path physically due to logistic constraints all the while retaining the spirit and sense of purpose till they achieve their ends.

The character of Shalya in the Mahabharata personifies the third set of people. When the war of Kurukshetra was declared, the warring cousins got busy acquiring military support. At that time, Shalya, the king of Madra, and the maternal uncle of Nakula and Sahadeva decided to support the Pandavas.

Accordingly, he rallied his army and proceeded towards Hastinapura. Duryodhana had arranged hospitality services for all the armies that were coming to support him. When he saw the massive and powerful army of Madra, he wanted it for himself. Hence the Kaurava prince instructed his welcome team to shower warmth and comfort on Shalya’s army.

The honoured king accepted the generosity with grace. He was under the impression that the Pandavas were welcoming him so. When the king went to thank his host personally, he discovered the truth.

He could have pursued his plan A after sorting out the confusion. Yet, his intrinsic values guided him to support Duryodhana for the simple reason that he had consumed the Kaurava salt.

When faced with the predicament,the king of Madra decided to take things forward based on the values instilled in him as a child. However, the worldlywise adult in him prompted to him, that he could be useful to the Pandavas even when he fought from the opposite camp.

Although he fought bravely and well for the Kauravas till his last breath, he never lost a chance to point out their misdeeds and undermine their confidence by praising his nephew’s side effectively.

When Shalya was appointed as the charioteer of Karna, he distracted the latter’s attention by making snide albeit factual remarks. Later on when the king was made the commander in chief of the army he fought well and felt very happy and vindicated when he was slain by his beloved nephew.

Rise Word Wise


S Radha Prathi, October 28, 2015

Word building, scrabble and puzzles were an integral part of our mental diet.

The internet is replete with humongous amount of word games. I enjoy playing each one of them and I feel exhilarated when I complete an entire series successfully. The enriching entertainment leaves me craving for more. Recently, a youngster remarked that I could have created a record if only these games had been available to me in my student days. That set me on the path of sheer nostalgia.

We did play a whole lot of word games when we were young. The only differe-nce between the past and present is that we created our own games sometimes with the guidance of elders whereas now we get to take our pick from infinite possibilities and download them or play online. The formative years of our generation was filled with learning of many types. Reading was put at a premium. Besides, academics and conventional reading, we were also encouraged to read anything in the languages we knew.

The penchant for reading almost became an obsession with us. Needless to say, we became acutely aware of all the reading material around us, including name boards, tickets, invitation cards reservation cards, railway timetables et al. Spotting errors in spellings and syntax soon metamorphosed into a game of sorts. Scores were maintained and we were rewarded periodically.

Growing up, siblings, cousins and friends enjoyed ironing out paper covers which contained medicines or accessories and even paper cones that contained peanuts to read stories in bits and pieces. It transformed into a fun exercise because we all would spend considerable time trying to figure out what it was all about. When we could not piece it together, we spiced it up with our imagination, thus making up our own stories.

Then there were times when we would compose limericks or translate our desi film songs into English, just for the laughs. We would quiz each other on the books we read and copy down quotable quotes. This improved our language skills.

After we graduated from the first round of basic games, we solved crosswords, analysed anagrams and unravelled codes. Word building, scrabble and puzzles were an integral part of our mental diet. Some of us even created puzzles and games that were privately copied out laboriously using carbon sheets and circulated during birthday parties and get-togethers.

Medical research has discovered that playing word games can prove to be a worthwhile mental exercise and keep dementia and Alzheimer’s condition at bay. Today, these and many more games are available at the click of a button. If more and more people take to playing them while toggling with their gadgets, they will be doing a service unto themselves in more ways than one.

Resourceful Thinking Can Save The Day

Radha Prathi June 13, 2015, DHNS:

It is high time we understand certain undeniable realities in life. A casual look at our day-to-day lives will reveal that we live in a world riddled with the I, Me, Myself syndrome. Most people have retired their sensibilities and sensitivities in order to join the rat race without any qualms.

Consequently, they do not care much about how our thoughtless actions can prove to be detrimental or even hazardous to those who are at the receiving end of the equation. No amount of interaction or persuasion can melt the hearts of the insensitive lot for they choose to spurn the meek entreaties of the oppressed. At such times, lateral thinking can save the day.

A tale from the Panchatantra offers a creative recourse to deal with such situations and people in an effective manner. A pair of crows lived on a large, leafy tree.

A poisonous snake also lived in the groove of its trunk. The reptile helped itself to the eggs of the crow every now and then. The helpless pleas of the crows to spare their progeny, yet to open their eyes to the world, fell on the deaf ears of the adder. The birds were frustrated.

They recognised their inability to deal with their problems on their own. Therefore, they shared their worries with a jackal who was their friend. He counselled them. He proved to be their strength. Accordingly the crow flew to the bathing ghat looking out for an opportunity.

He picked up a gold necklace that the princess had left on the banks along with her clothing and other accessories. The bodyguards who noticed the pilferer followed the bird all the way up to the tree.
The crow tossed the ornament into the hole of the tree and flew away. When one of the bodyguards tried to reach out for the necklace, the serpent slithered out. The men immediately beat the reptile to its death and retrieved the lost property.

The crows were relieved of their continuous anxiety. The crows did try to befriend their threat.
They also considered moving away from the threat. However, they realised that running away from a problem cannot prove to be its solution.
When they found that they were at a loss about finding a plausible solution, they decided to repose their faith in their well-wisher and followed his counsel. Consequently, they were able to iron out the situation in their favour.

When we apply the essence of this tale to our predicaments, we must remember that doing away with an enemy is certainly not a solution to any problem.

However, no one can stop us from extricating ourselves from a sticky wicket resourcefully, while sending an effective message to our tormenter.

The King and Swot Analysis


This is the season of mangoes and let’s know the story of the fruit, says S Radha Prathi

It is the ‘mango’ season all over again! It is vacation time too! There is not much one can complain about except perhaps the hot sun! But then we cannot get the mangoes during any other time of the year!

The linguistic background of this tropical fruit lies in its Tamil equivalent ‘Manga’.The ‘mango’ has eons of history behind it. It is believed that a beautiful court dancer of Pataliputra was gifted a ‘mango grove’ as an appreciation of her talents. Later generations remember her better as ‘Aamrapali’.

There are records of the Mughal rulers who were obsessed with the fruit. Artists and architects did not fall behind.The mango motif is found drawn as rangoli, woven into fabrics and designed on palms with Mehandi, sculpted on the pillars of temples and etched on palm leaves to celebrate its greatness.

Chefs and connoisseurs of food have experimented with the fruit and have turned in umpteen number of mouth-watering dishes.

There are huge ‘mango melas’ in major cities, which house a mind-boggling range of fruits in all shapes and sizes.

Though all of us love to savour the fruit not many know the profound wisdom and the practical good-sense that the fruit was used to convey.

Long, long ago the gods decided to assign some fruits a divine status and they worked out a list and finally identified three fruits — the ‘banana’, the ‘jackfruit’ and the ‘mango’ for their innate nurturing qualities.

It so happened that Narada the singing saint of the heavens came across the most luscious, golden mango and at that time he was passing through ‘Kailash’ the abode of Shiva and Parvathi.When he saw the godly couple he offered the fruit to them as a sign of his respect.The two young sons of Shiva who saw the fruit coveted it and would not hear of sharing the fruit. Shiva was amused by their childish obstinacy and told them that whoever went round the universe three times and returned home first would be given the Fruit or the ‘phala’ (Phala is a pun in Sanskrit which could mean fruit or result of a deed-ie the prize.)

Almost immediately, Subramanya the younger son mounted on his celestial vehicle- the peacock and zoomed away to accomplish the task, by the time he returned and he was flabbergasted to see his elder brother sitting smugly amidst his parents and savouring the fruit.

He demanded an explanation and was told that Ganesha had considered his parents to be the universe and had circumambulated them thrice with folded hands and hence was handed the ‘Phala’.

Though this episode appears to be a squabble of little or no essence between siblings, there is a strong message in the tale. While Subramanya set out to achieve the task in the literal sense of the word, Ganesha had resorted to the method of SWOT analysis (Strength,Weakness,Opportunity,Threat) to achieve success. Ganesha realised that his ‘Weakness’ lay in his imposing girth. Moreover his celestial vehicle — the mouse could not help in anyway. His brother Subramanya was bound to win the ‘mango’ hands down — and that was a ‘Threat’.

So, he decided to make use of his ‘Strength’– his intelligence. He interpreted the task presented to him in a symbolic manner. He saw his parents sitting together. They meant the world to him. He could see the solution clearly. He made use of the ‘Opportunity’ he tarried for a moment and with folded hands circumambulated his parents who were sitting together and laid a claim to the fruit.

Ganesha had succeeded because he could perform the SWOT analysis in a fraction of a second and overcome his weaknesses. If he had accepted the task at face value there was simply no way in which he could have won.

This little skirmish of the Gods over the ‘mango’ has given the world a practical solution to mankind. SWOT analysis – if approached right way can help us solve the worst of problems.

That is not all, this story has another dimension to it. It is a well -known fact that parents love their children and to most parents the world revolves round their children. It is but right that the emotion is duly reciprocated – with reverence by taking a cue from Ganesha who considered his parents to be the Universe.

Next time you consume a mango think of the message that it has for you!