Some of the stories read in childhood always stay with me. Sometimes I feel that it is not a justice to the stories to read them in childhood. They are written in simple words, but have such powerful and profound message, that in most cases it is not possible to appreciate them at that stage. However, this is a weak reason to crib; you can always go back to them later. Only when the life start moving ahead, you do not come across them very often.
I shall be talking about three of them here. For the first one I do not remember the author. It was a simple story in which there was a person from the labour class. He was walking on the road once, when some elite person was passing with his procession through the same road. He was abused and badly treated by the servants of that elite for coming in the way of the procession. His protests went unheard. Later, however, the incidents took such turn that this person progressed in life, earned lots of money and got into the ranks of elites. Then once he was passing through the road with his procession and a poor person came in his way. The poor person was treated as badly and this, now elite, person seemed to have no scruples whatsoever. While my uncle was teaching me this story (it was in our Hindi textbook), he said something summarizing the story, “kahaani ghatnaayen nahin bas patra badalti hai” (Incidents don’t change in a story, only the actors change). I am not sure how much did I appreciate it thing then. But as time passes, I appreciate it more and more. In several contexts. In the context of individual’s life, in the context of groups, societies, nations or even the whole world. It’s just so true. And many a times it has been repeated in my poems too. For example in my poem “Main Shoshit Hoon” –
“Tabhie to Marx kee awaaz par, Lenin kee pukar par
Utaaroo ho gaya tha main Czar ke sanhar par.
Par unki woh khooni hatya ahsaas ye dilati hai,
Ghatnayen nahin patra badalne kee yaad dilati hai.”
(Approximate translation: That’s how on Marx’s voice and Lenin’s call, I got bent upon destroying the Czar. But that terrible murder of those people give me this feeling that incidents do not change, only the actors change.)
And in the same poem
“Resham ko soot banane kee bhee koshish rahee
Kabhie safal, kabhie asafal, kahani chaltee rahee.
Soot resham se darta raha, dabta raha,
Kahani ghatnayen nahin patra bas badalti rahee.”
(Approximate translation: There were attempts to convert the silk to the cotton. The story kept moving on, sometimes with success, sometimes with failure. Cotton cotinued to be oppressed and frightened by the silk. The story continued to change the actors but not the incidents.
Now, here this translation of ‘resham’ and ‘soot’ to silk and cotton will need explanation. ‘Resham’ and ‘soot’ have been used by Dinkar many a times to represent the powerful/elite/rich vs. oppressed/poor. I have borrowed the symbol here. Translation may make them look absurd.)
Anyway, so that was the first one.
The second one in the line is the story of Baba Bharti and dacoit Khadag Singh by Sudarshan. Many of you might have read the story. Baba Bharti had a horse, which he was very fond of. Khadag Singh wanted to buy that horse, but Baba Bharti refused. Once Baba Bharti was going somewhere on that horse. A lame and ill man he met on the way asked him to drop him to some village on his way. Baba Bharti got down and helped the person mount the horse. It turned out that the person was Khadag Singh in disguise. He captured the horse. On realizing this, Baba Bharti asked Khadag Singh for just one thing and that was not to mention this incident to anyone else. Khadag Singh was surprised; he expected him to beg for the horse, at least ask for a price or something like that. He enquired Baba Bharti for the reason of his strange request. Baba Bharti replied saying that if people knew of this incidence, they would stop trusting anyone in need and would stop helping them. This was his only worry after losing the horse, which was so dear to him that he had refused to sell it earlier!! In the story Khadag Singh is so impressed that later he returns the horse to Baba Bharti.
But wasn’t his worry so real? How much of distrust do we put on a stranger if he/she asks for help. Its unfortunate that we are not wrong in distrusting many a times. And the situation is getting worse day by day. Earlier, during a train-journey, if you were left with some food which you packed for the journey and was still good, you would give it to some poor person. Recently I have been instructed not to do it even by mistake. Why? Sometimes those people take the food, then pretend to fall sick because of eating it and get you in trouble!!
No wonder one no longer listens to those needing help. How strong a concern did that story carry! And hence, I wrote this is in “Kahin Sach To Nahin Tha” –
“Kya maine sach mein chhod diya hai vishwaas?
Khadag Singh kee harqat par, Baba Bharti ka nishwaas,
Unki woh ashankaa, woh shaq,
Kahin sach to nahin tha?”
(Approximate translation: Have I actually stopped trusting? Baba Bharti’s fear on Khadag Singh’s behaviour – I wonder if that wasn’t right!!)
And finally the story, which was pretty much my first lesson on empathy and understanding other person’s perspective. A famous one – “Chhota Jadugar” by Jai Shankar Prasad. For those who haven’t read it, it is about a young boy (10-12 years old), who earns the livelihood for himself and his ailing mother by performing some games/magic. He calls himself “Chhota Jadugar” ( translated as “Young Magician”). As it happens, author meets him at several places. And the boy always surprises him with his matter-of-fact style and rather rough orientation for a child of that age. In the last scene of the story, the boy tells the author that his mother is very ill and he must hurry. The author gets the hint that his mother might actually be dying. He is apalled. This boy must be heartless and mad after money, “Phir bhee tum khel dikhane chale aaye?” (Translation: “You have still come to show you games?”). And he is again surprised by the way “Chhota Jadugar” responds, “Kyon na aata?” (Translation: “Why shouldn’t I?”)
The author goes to the boy’s home to find that his mother is dead. The boy cries badly.
What author hadn’t realized till then was that for the boy and his mother, every single meal depended on whether or not he had gone to his ‘work’ before that. There could not have been anything better he could have done for his mother than trying to earn enough to get her the food and medicines. His staying with his mother and not feeding her anything would not have done her any good. He did not have the luxury of having enough time for displaying his emotions and love while his mother lived, because he needed to earn one bread at a time. Does not mean he did not have those emotions!!
Yes! The first lesson in the importance of other person’s perspective.
(I might have made some mistakes in describing the incidents of the stories. Never read them after the school. If you find something wrong, please correct it.)