Unlearn and Relearn


Great minds across space and sands of time have always agreed that the cornerstone of society revolves around how it responds to a situation. This, in turn, depends on the domestic, social, economic and educational backgrounds of its people.

An incident in the life of Valmiki, the author of the Ramayana, throws the spotlight on this issue effectively. Once, Valmiki was returning after completing his ablutions on the banks of river Tamasa. There he saw a hunter poised with his bow and arrow, ready to bring down a pair of cranes perched on a tree. Almost immediately, one of the birds was shot dead and its companion wailed inconsolably.

Valmiki was disturbed and inadvertently cursed the hunter for perpetrating a heinous crime. That, the expletive of Valmiki, the expression of his “Shoka” which metamorphosed into a “Shloka” is another story.

What needs to be examined here is the fact that as far as the hunter was concerned, he hunted the bird down probably as a part of his routine. Perhaps, he looked upon the cranes as his meat.

Valmiki, who had a violent past as a dacoit, must have behaved like the hunter very many times in the past. Yet, his attitude towards his way of life changed when he realised the futility of robbing others to cater to the needs of his family. Possibly, this enlightenment helped him to see the incident in a new light.

His reaction towards the hunter’s act precipitated as a metric verse, one of the high points of a culturally evolved society.

The contrast in the two reactions to the same incident also serves as a divider in the cultural quotient of the two men.

This incident also serves as an example to people who want to change for the better as sensible and sensitive human beings.

If we tarry a moment and retrospect, it will not be difficult for us to realise that we can weave woofs and warps of changes in the world at large when each of us ready ourselves to unlearn and relearn for the betterment of self and society.

Negotiating Skills


Though there are a number of factors that lead to a successful negotiation, conviction and logic working as the secret ingredients, the story of Savithri, which appears in the Mahabharata, vouches for the twin features.

Savithri, the princess of Madra, married Satyavan despite being warned of impending widowhood. Satyavan passed away as predicted by Narada on the destined day in the forest. Yama, the Lord of Death, had personally come to release the noble soul of Satyavan from his body. The bewildered young wife collected herself and followed Yama much to his annoyance. He bade her time and again to go away.

When Savithri followed him tenaciously, they got into a lofty conversation which revolved around the concept of life and death. Savithri won over the Lord of Death with her earnest winning ways. She gained his trust enough to make him grant her a boon of her choice with the exception of her husband’s life. Savithri requested him to restore eyesight and lost kingdom to her father-in-law. She continued to trail behind Yama, who granted her another boon on the same lines. This time around Savithri sought that her father should father a hundred sons. Yama conceded and proceeded, only to find that Savithri was close on his heels.

Though he was thoroughly impressed by her, he told her that she could not follow him beyond a certain point; nevertheless, he granted her another boon on the very same conditions. Savithri sought that she should mother a hundred sons. When the boon was granted, she pursued Yama to his chagrin. She made it clear that she could not realise his boon without her husband. Yama was trapped by his own words. He admired the sense of logic and conviction in the young lady and breathed life back into the dead body of Satyavan.

All of us know that death is the point of no return. Savithri was able to overcome Yama; not only because she loved her husband dearly, but also was alert enough to exercise her intellect end execute it with courteous charm. Thus, Savithri laid the guidelines for effective negotiation for all times to come.

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.