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This Road, That Road!

I love Robert Frost’s poetry! His ease of thought, symbolism through nature and reference to an abstract depth make me feel like I am out on a treasure hunt with a gentle breeze behind my back. A famous poem of his titled, ‘The Road Not Taken’ appears to have been interpreted in many ways. No matter how one sees it, the words seem to leave readers with a sense of realism about the life they choose to live and the decisions they choose to make. Here is my perspective on it, with the original text in italics followed by my own thoughts:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…

            There have always been two roads, two paths to take in order to do anything. Little streets emerge out of those roads later, but at the broad, conceptual level, it is just two paths— one that appeals to the senses and one that is conducive for the spirit. In the rush of going ahead, we often do not take the time to think over which of the two roads we should take. We simply take the one that seems appealing to the outer senses. What our eyes show us is at the physical level. What our mind needs to see is at the internal— intellectual and spiritual level.

And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth…

            The fortunate few do see options. Choices. Alternatives. They do not get pulled into the popular paths. But at the same time, options are always hard. For the thoughtful mind, the world becomes a hard place to live in because on one hand, this mind can see the path that everyone sees, but on the other hand, this mind can also see a different path, one that is not easily visible to others. It can be hard to ‘see’ which path will indeed take us to our destination and be more valuable in our journeys. The monkey in our hearts wants to skip around on various paths, test all different directions and not really settle with anything, for the fear of losing something along the way. What is that ‘something’ and what is the ‘real thing’ that the heart wants—those are questions that we need to think through.

Then took the other as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same…

Who’s to say which path is the ‘correct’ path? It is inevitable that some great opportunities would be lost when giving up a path, but it is also true that some other wonderful things will be gained that would not have been possible otherwise. All the directions leading from the crossroads look ‘fair’. Standing at the intersection, the thoughtful mind looks. Looks long! Looks hard! Looks again and again! Some choose to take the road that is weary with use while others decide to take the path that seems less travelled. The latter are nowadays called ‘risk-takers’ or ‘alternative thinkers’. However they are also criticized as ‘delinquent’, ‘troublemakers’ or ‘subversive’. Since it is common knowledge that treading on less popular paths will lead to seclusion and criticism, those paths often remain ‘grassy’ and continue to ‘want wear’, while the most common way gets trampled upon by all and sundry.

And both that morning equally lay,
In leaves no step had trodden black.

‘That morning’ referred to in the poem seems to be the quiet moment that one rarely finds. Rarely does a moment arise in this fast-paced world, when we get some time to ourselves, when no one is running by us, pushing us, demanding things of us and imploring us. However, if we wish to, we can find that solace within ourselves, where we are able to get that moment— to think, to analyze and to make informed decisions. Those who are fortunate seize that precious time to objectively look at the two paths that lay before them.

Oh I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how one way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

And then comes the moment of decision! This is the moment on which our life hinges. What we do in the years ahead of us is based on which direction we choose when we are at crossroads. Often, this can be a long and tedious process. Several of us start wandering as we are thinking and before we catch ourselves, we are lost! Others take too long to think and the more they think, the more muddled their mind becomes. Some of us hurry and set sail a bit too soon, only to keep running back and forth and never really enjoying the journey. Only a few blessed souls seem to be able to choose a path, whichever it may be, and continue on it without regret, knowing that the gems gained will far outbalance the pearls that might have been lost. When we embark on a journey, we need to understand that it is not simply ‘a’ journey, but ‘the’ journey of our life and we need to make it count, remembering that once a crossroad has passed us, it is not coming back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Yes, we will sigh and perhaps even whine and complain every once in a while, because that is how life is. In the big scheme of things, however, our choice of path in life will determine our outcome. Others around us will make their own choices. We could either keep observing them with longing and with envy, or we could make our own choices— choices that would be worthwhile and relevant to us. We all have the power to do great things. If we do not choose to do things others’ way, it does not imply that we cannot accomplish great things. We just need to have the courage to make purposeful decisions and stick to them.

— Nivedita Shori

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Her soul ever so gentle, easily she was pleased

Her heart in a cloud, singing out loud,

For her naiveté, sometimes teased.

Envious of her joyous mind, they sneered.

So much they spent— both time and strength,

While she cared not for trivia, they feared.

Oh, to ‘look’ beautiful! That’s what they all wanted,

Charming like all the rest, dolled up and dressed,

Gazing back at the world, unabashed, undaunted.

Simplicity— too hard to see, too much to bear,

They took it upon themselves, to be her ‘little elves’,

So she could be just another stone, not a jewel so rare.

They tranced her, tricked her, made her believe—

It is outer looks that matter, glitter and glamour,

To impress the world, that is what she would need.

Intently, she listened, and observed the contrast.

They caressed the mirror, scrubbed it clearer,

While their souls gathered dust, thick and fast.

Puzzling it was, for her to look at them

These fake fireworks, wearing scared smirks

When they could all have been radiant gems

Their inner beauty, forgotten and lost,

Covered in layers, the only thing that was theirs!

Sadly, she reflected, she pondered, she paused:

“They want you to be like them, in every way they can.

As soon as you follow, you start becoming hollow,

Forgetting what was your own, and where it all began.

You cease to be your true self, special and unique,

Instead of standing out, you become part of the crowd,

Dissolve in the wide world, without so much as a creak.

Content they are, having turned you around.

Your uniqueness gone, you are but another pawn

Whose music they silenced, without a sound.”

She who was courageous, she who was wise

Did not succumb. Did you? No, no. Come!

Down they’ll pull! Are you ready to rise?

~ Nivedita Shori

Just a Few Words

Natasha was flipping through a magazine in the waiting room of the dentist’s office. She stumbled upon an article that dealt with family relationships. As she skimmed through the main points of the article, she could not help but think of her own family relationships. The more she thought the more proud she felt of the open lines of communication that existed between her and her husband, Dev. The two of them could happily spend hours in each other’s company and even after ten years of marriage, there was freshness in their relationship. They were each other’s best friends in the true sense of the word. Each felt inspired by the other. Natasha wished Dev was with her as she waited for the dentist to call her. She had seen him not long ago. In fact, it was only that morning, when he left for work.  And yet, there was so much she needed to tell him, so much she wanted to talk about. Time always fell short for them.

Dev was about to leave work. As he was wrapping things up, he was thinking about all the interesting things that he had encountered that day. He could not wait to tell Natasha. Suddenly he remembered that Natasha was going to be at the dentist’s and might arrive late. He decided he would go meet her there. They could both then walk leisurely to the bank nearby, where Dev had some work, and then stroll home, chatting.

Natasha’s wait for the dentist was finally over. She was called in. It took about an hour for the dentist to relieve her of her tooth-concerns. Stretching herself, she walked out of the clinic into the waiting area. To her immense joy, Dev was sitting there waiting for her! She gave him a big smile and asked him how long he had been waiting. He looked at her and said with a frown, “Well, it has been about an hour. I am getting late to go to the bank because of you.” Natasha was taken aback by the response, but said nothing.

The couple started walking to the bank. Dev seemed to be in a hurry while Natasha was following him in silence. When they reached the bank, Natasha was very quiet. Dev asked her what was wrong. She said, “When I saw you, it was as if my wish just came true. I had no idea that you were planning to be there. Seeing you made me really happy. But, the first thing you said to me was that you were late because of me. You blamed me for something that I had never even intended to do. Is that why you came— to tell me how I was at fault for your day going wrong?”

“No,” said Dev. “I came so we could spend some time together.”

“Oh Dev, you know that I want nothing more than that either.”

“Well then, what is stopping us?”

“I think it is your words, Dev. Your words are betraying your feelings.”

Dev fell silent. He started thinking about how his mind was so occupied in looking at the time that he could not convey his true emotions when he saw Natasha. He held her hand in his palm and said, “Natasha, I wish I knew what was going on in your head at that moment. I would never have hurt you.”

As they both sat there hand in hand, they realized something powerful. Despite all the love they had for each other, they could still not read each other’s minds. While love can make life beautiful and smooth, yet, there will always be a limitation to human love— the limitation of communication. It is important to say what you feel. It is equally important to carefully select your words when you talk.

Sometimes, when we feel comfortable in a relationship, we start taking the other person for granted. We assume that he or she knows what we are trying to say. We forget that we have to actually say what we are trying to say. Often, people don’t take the time to say things that they are feeling or that they really do want to say. Even Natasha and Dev, who were accustomed to each other and enjoyed each other’s company, were carried away in a gust of improper communication. Thankfully, they found their way back. Not everyone can.

*****communication

Words are powerful. Just a few words are enough to turn around an entire outlook, an entire situation. The blame that Dev unknowingly inflicted on Natasha with his first words, “I am getting late to go to the bank because of you” instantaneously dissolved all the feelings of love that both of them harboured for each other. With all our good intentions, our ship can sink. A beautiful day can turn unpleasant.

          We urge you to take a few minutes and think of how the use of alternative words could have made the day as beautiful as it was intended to be? Think of how simple gestures and non-verbal communication like smiling, reading the body language and responding with a touch, a caress or a gentle nod can lead even unpleasant situations to pleasant conclusions.

          As we do this, let us also ponder over how just a few words, spoken thoughtlessly, have led to issues in our own lives— some big issues and some little, everyday issues. We are all intelligent people with wonderful brains. While we are sensible enough to know the right thing that should be said, are we sensitive enough to say it?

~ Nivedita and Prashant Shori

A long time ago, there lived a king. His huge empire demanded a lot of work. The king had all the resources he needed to run the empire but he still was never able to relax in peace. His mind was never at ease. The grandeur of his lifestyle did not give him any solace either. He was very unhappy.

One day, a wise saint was passing by the kingdom. The king immediately sent out an invitation to the saint requesting the honour of the holy man’s wise company for a few days. The king thought that this way he would have the opportunity to discuss his problem with the saint and learn the secret to be happy.

The saint agreed to visit the royal palace. The king showed great hospitality, as was befitting for both the king and for the spiritual visitor. In his conversations with the saint, the king told him that he was under a great amount of stress, with all the work involved in managing the kingdom. “My routine is very hectic. I have a lot of responsibilities and often I have to take care of multiple issues at a time. As such, I cannot relax and be happy. I am very discontented with my lifestyle and seek happiness. I pray you, O venerable one, to help me find happiness.”

The saint listened to the king’s problem patiently. He put to practice one of his many worldly-wise ways of teaching and said, “The solution is very simple, dear king. You will have to find a person in your kingdom who is leading a very happy and peaceful life. You will have to request that person to let you have his shirt. Once you will wear that shirt, all your sorrows and stress will go away. Remember that this individual should be someone who considers himself to be the happiest person in your entire kingdom.”

Although the advice sounded quite out-of-the-ordinary, the king was very pleased as he found the solution very simple. He thought, “I will get rid of such a huge problem so easily and I will not even have to lift a finger.” He thanked the saint and asked his prime minister to arrange a meeting of all the members of the senate the first thing in the morning.

The next day, the king was quite enthusiastic. For the first time, he reached his courtyard before time. Without proceeding to sit on his royal throne as was customary for him to do, he started to address the audience hastily. The hall was full and everyone was looking at the king, slightly surprised at his anxious behaviour.

The king asked, “Please rise if you consider yourself the happiest person in this kingdom.” To his extreme surprise he found that everyone kept sitting. He repeated loudly but nothing changed. He felt disappointed and adjourned the meeting, asking his team of advisors to stay back.

The king told his advisors what he was looking for. One of them said, “This should not be a big issue, my lord. I have an idea. We should make a call for the wealthiest one percent people of our empire. Those who are rich have everything they want. Undoubtedly, we will find several among them who will claim to be happy. We will thus find what we need.” The idea seemed quite logical. Everyone, including the king, liked it. Royal invitations were sent to the big industrialists, businessmen, landlords, merchants and all other wealthy inhabitants of the kingdom.

Next week, the esteemed elite class was at the palace. There were fabulous arrangements of food and other amenities in their reception. After a magnificent welcome party, the king asked the question he had been waiting to ask since the moment they all arrived. “My respectable friends”, he said to the whole crowd, “Which amongst you considers himself to be the happiest person in the kingdom?” Instead of loud cheers of “It’s me! It’s me!” that the king was expecting, there was a sudden, uncomfortable silence. The king’s question seemed to have thrown cold water on everyone’s spirits. Everyone froze. No one dared to meet the king’s gaze or even to look at each other. Slowly and painfully, it registered in the king’s mind that none of these people were living a happy, peaceful life. Dejected, he left the grand hall.

The situation was presenting a lot of difficulty. The king had not anticipated that the task that he had considered so easy would actually turn out to be so hard to accomplish. He was now losing hope of finding any solution to his problem and it was upsetting him even more.

As days kept passing, the prime minister noticed the king’s growing sorrow. He suggested one day, “Sir, you should not lose hope. I will order our soldiers to go out to each and every city, town and village of this kingdom. They will search for the happy residents of our empire and bring them to the palace.” The king replied, “We could not find a single happy person in our own royal administration. Nor did any of the wealthy people claim to be happy. I doubt that we will find the person we are looking for among the rest of the residents. But it seems like I am left with no other option. You have my approval to carry out the suggestion.”

The very next morning soldiers were sent out to all corners of the kingdom. They were instructed to first meet the rich people, then the middle class and then the poor people. They were advised not to waste much time in areas where there already was little hope of finding happiness, namely, the places stricken with poverty.

The soldiers searched for almost a month. Some of them started coming back to the palace empty-handed. The prime minister and the advisors also started getting worried. No one had thought that the situation would become so severe.

Then one day, one of the soldiers heard the first bit of positive news on reaching a village. The villagers told him, “There is a farmer here who always says, ‘I am the happiest person in the world’. Everyone calls him ‘Sarju’. Why don’t you go and look for him?” The soldier went where he was directed and found Sarju’s small, thatched-roof hut. He found Sarju’s wife making a watery soup in an earthen pot on the small fire in one corner of the hut. Remembering the royal instructions not to waste too much time in poor surroundings, he hurriedly asked the woman where Sarju was. She said, “He is always at the farm at this time of the day. Take that mud-path over there until you reach a clearing. That’s where the farm is.”

It was a scorching afternoon. The soldier took the path shown by the woman. When he reached the farm, he saw a man ploughing. He called out, “Hey, are you Sarju?” The man put his hand over his forehead to block the sun out of his eyes and regarded the soldier with curiosity. He answered, “No sir, Sarju is taking a nap under the bullock cart behind you.”

The soldier turned around and sure enough, under the bullock cart was lying a thin man, his face towards the soldier, eyes closed, and a peaceful expression on his face. The soldier bent down and tapped him on the leg a few times. Sarju slid out. He rubbed his eyes with surprise on seeing a royal soldier in front of him. “Welcome, sir”, he said, “What can I do for you?” The soldier asked him bluntly, “Sarju, are you a happy man?” Sarju was even more surprised at the question! But he smiled and said, “Yes, sir. The happiest in the world!” The soldier wanted to embrace him with relief. He said, “Okay then, my good man, the king would like to see you.

I am here to take you to the palace. Do you need to take anything from your house?” Sarju was reluctant at first, but realizing that these were the king’s orders, he obeyed. “Let’s go sir. No, there is nothing that I need to take.” He then called out to the other farmer, “Badri! Tell my wife the king has called for me. I will come back as soon as his majesty’s business with me is done.” So saying, Sarju accompanied the soldier silently.

Sarju was taken to the king’s visiting chambers right away. As soon as the news reached the king’s ears, he jumped up with joy. He left everything and rushed to see who the happiest person in his kingdom was. When he saw Sarju, he stopped in his tracks. This was certainly not what the king had expected to see. The tall, lean man looked tanned and toiled. His frail body looked like it could use at least a week of nutritious food. Yet, he had a pleasant face that smiled gently on seeing the king. The thing that perplexed the king the most, however, was that this man was not even wearing a shirt! Skipping conversational formalities, the king got straight to the point, “Why are you not dressed properly, young man? Where is your shirt?” Sarju bowed his head and said, “I apologize, my lord. I am not wearing a shirt because I do not have one, my respected sir. Neither can I afford to buy myself a shirt, nor do I need one.” The king stood stunned! All of his earlier excitement turned into bewilderment. He started to wonder how a shirtless man could be the happiest person.

Baffled, the king asked Sarju, “There seems to be a mistake. Did the soldier not ask you if you were a happy man or not?” “Yes sir, he did”, replied Sarju, “and I told him as I tell you now, that I am the happiest man in the world!”

***

I am told that the above story originated as an Italian folktale hundreds of years ago. Traveling through time and places, it has undoubtedly undergone several modifications. The crux of the story however, remains unchanged. I heard this story from my father almost twenty years ago. My childish mind could not then grasp the essence of the story. I could not quite understand why the wealthiest men were not happy and how the poor, shirtless farmer  was.

But now, having experienced some of the world’s ways myself, I have come to realize the enormous potential this story holds. We all seem to lead a life like the king’s. First we collect things and then we strain ourselves to manage and maintain them. No matter how much wealth we collect, it does not lead us towards happiness. None of us are able to say with confidence, “I am the happiest person in the world.” We are awed when we hear about the wealthiest, most influential people in the world and feel envious of what they have. Little do we realize that wealth has no connection whatsoever to happiness.

For most of us, happiness is a thing of the future. We think, “Once I have this or once I achieve that, then life will become comfortable and peaceful. Then I will become happy.” We keep running after happiness and it keeps eluding us. We are never able to catch it. It remains a mystery that we are never able to solve.

We have to stop chasing happiness and start feeling it. Happiness is right here, right now. It is in our minds. It is in the air that we are breathing, in the life that we are living every moment. It is not something that will happen ‘one day’. Whatever we already have is more than enough to keep us happy. If we cannot be happy in the present moment, then we never can be. If Sarju can be the ‘happiest person in the world’ without having proper clothes, housing or food, it is a wonder that we cannot be happy amidst the countless resources that we have.

We have all heard, “Very little is needed for happiness.” I have started to feel that ‘very little’ is actually a ‘pre-requisite’ for happiness. The more we have, the more troubled we are bound to be. 

 — Prashant Shori

No Excuses!

Several times in life, we make excuses to get out of things that we know we should be doing. Sometimes, it is just procrastination – putting important things off – and sometimes it is because we don’t feel that we can do it.

The following video is a commercial for the sports brand Nike. It features Matt Scott who is a wheelchair basketball player, a NWBA star and a national American champion. He was born with spina bifida, a birth defect in which the backbone and spinal canal do not close before birth. The video is a wake-up call for those who make excuses despite being healthy and having the resources. Here goes the script:

I’m too weak
Too slow
Too big
I ate too much for breakfast
I’ve got a headache
It’s raining
My dog is sick
I can’t right now
I’m not inspired
Makes me smell bad
I’m allergic to stuff
I’m fat
I’m thin
It’s too hot
I’m not right
I’ve got shin splints
A headache
I’m distracted
I’m exerting myself too much
I’d love to really, but I can’t, I just can’t
My favorite show is on
I’ve got a case of the Mondays
… the Tuesdays,
… the Wednesdays
I don’t wanna do this
I wanna do something else
After New Years
Next Week
Might make a mistake
I got homework
I feel bloated
I have gas
I got a hot date
My coach hates me
My mom won’t let me
I bruise easily
It’s too dark
It’s too cold
My blister hurts
This is dangerous
Ugh
Sorry, I don’t have a bike
I didn’t get enough sleep
My tummy hurts
It’s not in my genes
I don’t wanna  look all tired out
I need a better coach
I don’t like getting tackled
I have a stomachache
I’m not the athletic type
I don’t wanna get sweaty
I have better things to do
I don’t want to slow you down
Do I have to do this?
As soon as I get a promotion
I think I’ll sit this one out
And my feet hurt.

Does any of that sound familiar? Well, keep in mind, if he can do it, so can you.

 

The Richness of the Poor

(Based on a True Incident)

A retired couple, Mr. and Mrs. Sharn were living in a small town in India. The ancestral house they were living in was over a hundred years old. The walls of the house were falling apart. There were big cracks in the staircase and floors were unevenly inclined. Under the circumstances, they thought that it was high time to go for its repair. The job looked very expensive besides being exhausting and strenuous. But the condition of the house left them with no choice. They finally called for a mason.  He agreed to come the next day with two other labourers.

The workers started the job. On the second day the two labourers arrived to work fifteen minutes late. Showing her frustration, Mrs. Sharn asked them the reason for being late. Humbly and meekly, they said, “Madam, we both come from a village, twelve miles away from the town. Today the tire of one of our bicycles got flat. We usually aim for reaching to work fifteen minutes early. It takes us around one hour to cycle to the town. But today we had to get the bicycle repaired.” Mrs. Sharn shrugged her shoulders and left them to work.1

 In the afternoon the couple found that the labourers finished their lunch fifteen minutes early and got back to work. Perhaps they were trying to compensate for the delay which had happened that morning.

In India, the supply of labour is much more than the demand. Therefore people quite often change the labourers, depending on whether or not those workers are suitable for them. The worker often comes to know at the end of the day if he will be coming to work the following day.

So, at the end of the day, before taking their leave, both the workers came to Mr. and Mrs. Sharn to seek approval if they could continue tomorrow. Mr. Sharn nodded in consent and the labourers’ faces filled with relief.

The next morning the workers were at the site almost fifteen minutes early and started their work without wasting a single minute. Mr. and Mrs. Sharn were living in the same house during the repairs although they confined themselves to one portion to facilitate the repairs. Quite often, they would go and stand at the worksite to monitor and sometimes to supervise. The third day when Mrs. Sharn was at the site, she happened to notice the contents of one of the labourers’ lunchbox. There were two big and thick rotis (Indian home-made bread). That was it. When they were eating their lunch in the afternoon, she couldn’t help but take a peek. She saw that both of them had the same thing for lunch and they were dipping their morsels in water before eating them, perhaps to soften and to make them easier to chew. She came back to her room but could not stop thinking about it.

 While eating her own lunch with Mr. Sharn, she told him about what she saw. They looked at their own plates cooked vegetables, hot lentil soup, yoghurt, salad and fresh, buttered rotis. Two pieces of Indian sweets lay on the side for their dessert. It was their usual, delicious lunch. But that day, none of them enjoyed the lunch. The thought of what someone else was eating a few yards away from them seemed to have taken away their appetite.

In the evening when the two workers came to them for approval to continue the next day, the couple told them, “We are happy with your work. You won’t need to seek approval every day. You can continue until the renovations are over.”

Later that evening when the couple sat for their dinner, they were a little uneasy. There was an uncomfortable silence. All of a sudden, Mrs. Sharn said, “Okay. Starting tomorrow, I will be serving two cooked curry vegetables to the workers. I will also make a salad for them, and give them a bowl of yoghurt each”.

Mr. Sharn smiled. He said, “I was thinking on the same lines. It is as if you stole my words.”

Both of them seemed as happy as if they had just won the lottery. They realized in that moment how making someone happy gives more joy than anything else in the world.

The next day Mrs. Sharn woke up early. She went into the kitchen and started her preparations for lunch. She forgot to eat her own breakfast in the excitement. The lunch was ready before time and she served it to the labourers during their lunch time. Their faces lit up at the sight of the warm, fresh food. After they had eaten, Mrs. Sharn came back to her room, taking the empty dishes back. She felt some weakness in her legs. She sat on the chair, tired.  She had skipped breakfast and had not taken her usual late morning rest which her body needed at that age. At the same time, what she had done today for the labourers was not a one-day thing. She knew that they would be working for around two months and she wanted to serve them lunch every day.  The thought made her feel very strong on the inside. She felt a lot of contentment and the pleasant feeling of fulfillment. She promised herself that she would try and take care of herself as well, until the construction work continued.2

 Days kept on passing. The work was progressing well each day. The kind-hearted Mr. Sharn was also complementing his wife’s goodness by bringing the labourers some sweets or snacks every other day for their tea-breaks. The workers too put extraordinary efforts in return.

In a couple of weeks, the weather started changing, the winds started getting cooler and the days started getting shorter. Mrs. Sharn was more concerned about the workers now. She would say to them, “Why don’t you end your shift ten minutes early? I am worried about your travel back to your village on those bicycles during the dark, chilly evenings.”  Most of the times, they would listen. Sometimes when they were engrossed deeply in their work, they would still finish the task at hand before going.

The renovation was almost complete now. The work was in its last week and it had been done well. One day Mrs. Sharn expressed a desire to her husband. “I am afraid that the labourers might not have any warm clothes to wear. If they did, they would have started wearing them by now. It’s quite cold. I want to give each of them a warm set of clothes. Also, some of our grand-daughter’s toys are lying in pretty good condition. Even when she is here, she seldom plays with them. Why don’t we give some of those for the labourers’ children?”  Mr. Sharn liked the idea.

Without wasting any more time, they dashed to the market to buy clothes for their workers. The shopkeeper was a friend of theirs. He asked the purpose for the shopping. When he came to know, he started showing them clothes of an inferior quality, thinking that those would suffice. Mrs. Sharn did not like the shopkeeper’s intention. She said, “Please show us something durable and warm. You do realize that these workers have to stay out in the cold for most of the day, don’t you?” Finally, they got what they wanted.

There were only a couple of days before the work ended. Mrs. Sharn thought that it would be a pleasant surprise for the workers when she gives them the clothes and toys along with their final remunerations on the last day.

On the last day of work, she joined Mr. Sharn when he was about to give them their final payment.  As an ongoing practice, Mr. Sharn asked the labourers the number of days they worked during that week. Although he knew that he had to pay them for seven days, still he used to ask them about that every time, to ensure there was no oversight. The labourers looked at each other this time. One of them nodded. The other one cleared his throat and said, “Sir, we need to get paid for six days this week.”

3Mr. Sharn got confused for a moment. He took out his glasses from one of his pockets and a small pocket-notebook from the other. His wife was witnessing the whole thing silently. After turning a few pages forward and backward, Mr. Sharn said, “According to my records, you worked for all the seven days.” The workers confidently replied, “No sir, six days this time. Not more, not less.”

Mr. Sharn was also a stubborn man who wanted to do things the right way. In a firm, yet gentle tone, he said, “My friends, the information in my notebook cannot be wrong.”

When the labourers realized that the dispute is not going anywhere, one of them spoke hesitantly with his head bent down, “Sir, we know that we have worked for seven days. But… both of you have taken very good care of us, so we wanted to give you something in return. We didn’t have much to offer. So you can just keep our one-day’s pay.”

The couple was totally stunned and speechless. The labourers’ generosity of spirit had made the couple feel small. Mrs. Sharn, who wanted to surprise the workers by giving them their packages of clothes and toys, had no idea that such a huge and touching surprise had been awaiting her. She realized that the significance and worth of the gift which the workers wanted to give them was much more than what the couple had planned for them. Mr. Sharn managed to pay the workers for seven days despite their resistance. Mrs. Sharn now offered the gifts, pleading the workers to accept and oblige.

In the end, the couple was left with a strange feeling. The experience had moved them deeply. It seemed there were some inexplicable divine powers that make the poor so generous and large-hearted. The richness that they had just witnessed the richness of the hearts and minds, the willingness to give up the little that they possessed made the couple wonder,  “We are called ‘rich’ and yet, aren’t we poor? So poor! And they? They, in their tattered clothes, are ever so rich!

‘The word ‘rich’ pales in comparison to who they are. And yet, it is them that the society calls ‘poor’?”

~ Prashant Shori

Thousands of ca…

Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.

~ Buddha