Can I tell you a story Thaatha?

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When you face obstacles do you step up and shrug them off or get weighed down?

“Can I tell you a story, thaatha?” When the cheerful cherubim, my granddaughter asked this question, I was a bit shocked.  From time immemorial, grandpa’s tales and grandma’s home remedies were famous in every household.  But now, the joint family system is nearly fading away and storytelling or the listening phenomenon is turning extinct, particularly in infant age group.

I vividly remember my boyhood days.  Every night, at around 8.00 p.m., we used to assemble in and around a vast veranda of our street, where my grandpa’s coir-threaded cot was laid.  There was a big neem tree.  Since I was the crown prince, I used to lie down along with grandpa.  My grandpa used to narrate Tenali Rama tales, Vikramaditya and the Vedhalam and stories of different characters.  My grandpa would pause in between and ask us many questions and we would have to answer them.  If we didn’t, he wouldn’t continue.  That was really a challenge for us.

“Yes darling!  You can,” I said, gently twirling her hair.

She started narrating, “You know thaatha, once there lived an old and poor man with his donkey.  There was an unclosed pit nearby.  It was very big, like a well.  One day, the donkey fell into the pit.  The owner didn’t know what to do because he neither had money to recover that donkey nor was the donkey useful enough.  The donkey was too old to take care of daily chores.  So he decided to close the pit and bury the donkey alive.  He called his neighbours to help him in this regard and everyone came there with a spade or shovel.  They dug up the earth and threw it into

the pit.”

My little darling paused and looked at me.  “Is it a wise decision to bury the donkey alive thaatha?  Is it not a sin?” asked my sweetheart, which reminded me of my days with my grandpa.  Was the question from my grandpa or my granddaughter?

“Tell me thaatha…”  The loud voice shook me from my dream-like state and brought me back to reality.  “No dear! It’s not only wrong but also a ruthless sin that the old man would have to repay,” I said.

“Good.  Let me resume.  When the donkey realized that the people were going to bury her alive, she felt very scared; she was very worried and in dismay, she started braying in panic and praying to God.  ‘Oh God! Show pity on me.  Please STOP the people throwing earth on me.’  A little while later, she started realizing the present condition.  She stopped braying in panic and started praying to God.  ‘Oh God!  Show pity on them.  Please DON’T STOP the people throwing earth on me.”  My angel paused here and looked at me, expecting me to say something about this irony or wanting to know what I was going to extrapolate.

We may be laden with burdens every day.  Just like the donkey, we have to shrug them off and step up.

I said, “Oh dear!  The donkey had really found its wisdom.  The first prayer (to stop throwing earth) was the sheer response of the fear factor.  It could not think about any possible solution for such an unprecedented situation.  In the beginning the fear factor had not allowed the donkey to note the dangling solution, so it prayed to stop people throwing mud.  But when it got over the fear, it discovered an excellent solution and started praying not to stop the throwing.  Moreover….”

“Stop thaatha…  Let me continue,” my little queen snapped and continued.

“Yes thaatha.  You are quite close.  So, when the donkey, stopped braying, the owner felt a little puzzled.  Quite intrigued by the silence, he looked over the pit and was absolutely stunned to see what was happening.  Each and every time when the shovelfuls of sand were thrown, the donkey shrugged off the sand, fell on her back and stepped up.  This shaking off and stepping up process continued till the dune in the pit came to the level of ground.  The donkey came up gently, looked at the owner and people sarcastically and blew out a bellyful of nagging giggles and trotted off.”

She finished the story and said, “And now you continue thaatha and match it with a good conclusion.”

My granddaughter gave me a way.  “Well!  Chellam!  Life is not how we hit hard but how when we are being hit hard by trifles, we move forward.  We may be laden with burdens every day.  Just like the donkey, we have to shrug them off and step up.  We should not be afraid of anything that hides our path because fear is nothing but an invisible imposter.  Mahatria says, ‘Face fear, it GOES; Avoid fear, it GROWS’.  It then lurks in everyone’s path.  It is the father of despair, the brother of procrastination, the enemy of progress and the tool of tyranny.  Born of ignorance and nursed on misguided thought, it has darkened more hopes and stifled many ambitions”.

“Fear is a like a loitering, stray, barking dog.  When it follows you, even you might have been clutched by unwanted fear.  But, look at it or pretend to pick up a pebble to flick it; the dog will run away.  If you start panicking on seeing it, it will chase you.  Better to chase it than being chased.  If you stay positive, even the stumbling block can appear a stepping stone.  If you stay negative, even the pebble that you ran on may appear a grave stone.  Stay bold and positive.  Never get carried away with any worries.  If you practice it wholeheartedly, you can find the oasis in your desert.”

I stopped speaking and felt happy to have given such an oration.  I looked at my grandchild.  I don’t know when she had dozed off!

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