A Bird Story

I love telling stories to Sara. One of her favorite time to listen to stories is while she is in the car with me. This evening, when there was a small errand to be carried out, she insisted me to tell her a story.  This is the story that I belted out.

There was a small boy who was very truthful. Whatever he said, he used to do that. He always kept his word. The small boy used to get up early every morning. Then, he used to go to the balcony. In the morning, the air would be cold. There would be lot of birds in the balcony. There would be parrots, parakeets, pigeons, sparrows, dove, koel, myna, barbet, kingfisher and many other birds. He used to feed them every day. One day, a very big peacock came to their balcony. The peacock told him in a human voice - I am hungry, please give me something to eat. The boy was very surprised. How could a peacock speak in a human voice? He asked the peacock How can you speak like a human?

Then the peacock told a story. The peacock said,

Long long ago, I used be live in a King's palace. The king was very fond of birds. He had various types of birds. There were parrots, parakeets, pigeons, sparrows, dove, koel, myna, barbet, kingfisher and many other birds. The king kept all the birds in a cage. The birds were not happy to be in the cage. They never sang any songs or played any games. They were always silent.

One day, dark clouds gathered around the palace. There was loud sound of thunder and big lightening. It started to rain. It rained heavily. It rained so heavily that there was water all around. Slowly, with more rain, the water started rising and flood came. The flood water entered the palace. The king was very afraid. He started running here and there. He asked for help. Help me, please help me..”. But no one knew how to stop the rain.

All of a sudden, an old man with a long white beard appeared. He told the King, I will stop the rain and will save your palace from being flooded. But you have to make me a promise. You have to release all the birds. You should not keep them in the cage. The king readily agreed. The old man then took out some magic dust from his pocket, said "Aabra ka dabra...Aabra ka dabra... and threw the magic dust on the water. Immediately, the rain stopped and the flood water started flowing out. The king was very happy. He kept his promise and released all the birds one by one. All the birds sang their favorite song and flew out happily. But I, the peacock did not fly. I kept sitting there inside the cage.

The king was surprised. All the birds flew out happily but why is the peacock not flying away. He asked the old man for help. The old man then took out some magic dust from his pocket, said Aabra ka dabra...Aabra ka dabra... and threw the magic dust on me. Immediately I was able to speak in a human voice.

That is how I am able to speak in a human voice... 

The small boy asked the peacock, so what did you tell the king?
The peacock continued...

My dear king, 200 years ago, when I was a small baby, my family used to live in a big forest. There were tall trees with green leaves. There were many flowers, fruits and berries in the forest and we used to live very happily. My father, mother, brother, sister, aunt, uncle friends everyone lived nearby.  One day, a bird monster came to the forest. He was a big monster with a blue body and red eyes. He had white hairs all over his body and had large arms and legs. He was always hungry. He used to eat birds for breakfast, birds for lunch and birds for dinner. So, he started eating all the birds in the forest one by one. First he ate all the sparrows, then he ate all the parrots and then all the mynas. Then his eyes were on the peacock.

He came to the tree where we lived and started attacking us. I ran away from there. While running, I fell into a creek. The bird-monster ate all other peacocks but it could not find me. Later in the night, I came out of the creek and I have been going here and there all the places hiding from the bird-monster. Finally, I was caught by a hunter and the bird-monster could not catch me. The hunter sold me to you, o king, and that is how, I came to the palace. I am very safe in the palace and I do not want to go out. If I go out the monster will kill me. Please allow me to stay here.

The king was a very nice man. He said, Peacock - you live in my place without any fear. I will protect you.” That is how I stayed in the palace....

The small boy asked, “Then, how come you are out of the palace now? Is the bird-monster not attacking you?” The peacock told another story: 

One day, when I was playing in the park near the palace, the bird-monster saw me. He came running towards me. As he came the wind blew heavily with the dust and sand was blown everywhere. It made a terrifying noise. I was afraid. I started running towards the palace, shouting; “King O King, please save me from the bird-monster”. Hearing my words, the king came rushing out with his sword. He fought with the bird-monster. The fighting continued day and night, non-stop. They did not eat anything or drink anything. They just kept fighting. They were equally matched. Neither the king could defeat the bird-monster, nor could the bird-monster defeat the king. After 21 days of fighting, the monster became very weak. He could not lift his sword anymore. The king saw this as a chance. He lifted his sword high and tore the belly of the bird-monster. The bird-monster gave a terrifying scream and died.

I came out of the palace, thanked the king very much as he had kept his word. Then I flew away. From that day, I am flying from one place to another in search of persons who keep their word. That is how I came to your place. I know you are a very good boy who keeps his promises. That is why I have come to you....

The small boy gave the peacock some food to eat and asked, “Tell me what do you want from me?” The peacock said, “I want you to promise me that you will look after all the birds and animals and will not hurt them ever. The little boy promised that he would. The peacock gave the little boy one of his feather as a gift and flew away happily.

Papa Sun & Mama Sun

Perched in the front seat of the car, Sara was blabbering: "The sun is so nice. The sun is my friend. He is hiding behind the clouds. Clouds are white in color. Sun is yellow. Why is the Sun alone in the sky, Papa?  Where are Papa Sun and Mama Sun?"

Pre-occupied in my own train of thoughts, I said nonchalantly, "They are not there"

With a tinge of concern in her voice, she asked, "Papa, Why they are not there? Where have they gone?"

Without paying much attention, I replied, "They are just not there".

She looked at me, knitted her eyebrows and with her tiny hands she tried to turn my face towards her and with a chocking voice said, “Papa, papa...”

I realized, I had just shattered her world view. She lives is a world where it is a trio of everything. There is always a papa, a mama and a baby. If a pigeon or a sparrow hops on to the balcony, she will ask me where is the papa and the mama. If a pair of them is there, then she will ask where the baby is. If I draw a butterfly, she will ask me if that is the papa or the mama. If I say, it is a papa, and then she will ask me to draw a mama and then a baby butterfly. If I tell her a story of a baby tiger, she will ask where the papa and the mama tiger are. Her world is complete only if the 3 of them are there together. Anyone missing is just not done.

So, I said, "The papa and mama suns are there. But they are living far far away. They come only when baby sun calls for them."

Then her universe was at peace.

Friends, knowingly or unknowingly, everyone has their own world view. As per Wikipedia, a world view (or worldview) is the fundamental cognitive orientation of an individual or society encompassing the entirety of the individual or society's knowledge and point of view. A world view can include natural philosophy; fundamental, existential, and normative postulates; or themes, values, emotions, and ethics.

Have you ever thought how your world view shapes your thinking and communication? Have you ever been cognizant of other's world view? Have you wondered how your world-view is shaped and changed based on new knowledge and new perspectives? Let me know.

Save The Symmetry - CC#2

It was a hot summer night. The rumble of the diesel engine penetrated into the darkness. The passengers in the jeep were all silent.  If you were travelling with them, up ahead in the distance you could see the flickering fire line on the hills. You could smell the burnt wood and the smoke and feel the rustle on the warm air against your face. As the jeep took a U-turn, there was a quick movement on the road.  For a fleeting second or two, two burning eyes flashed across. Sensing danger, the driver slammed the brake and the vehicle came to a halt. There, in the middle of the road, standing in full glory, was a majestic, fully grown, Royal Bengal Tiger.

Now, the above were the words of my grandfather. I was fortunate to hear many such tiger tales. Yes, tigers are majestic animals. They are revered & respected, awed & admired and loved & loathed at the same time. They feature prominently in our mythology, folklore, movies and literature.

However, since the time of my grandfather, lot of water has flown under the bridge. Lots of forests have been cut down. Lots of tigers have been killed. The tiger is now reduced to pixels flashing on the screen. We see them only on the National Geographic or on forwarded face book posts.

Today, the reality of tigers is quite sad.

The global population of wild tigers at the start of the 20th century was more than 100,000. Today, it is less than 4000.  There are only 1500 adult tigers in the wild in India. World over, there were 9 existing sub-species of tigers at the beginning of 20th century.  But, over the last 50 years, 3 tiger sub-species have become extinct. The major cause of decimation of tigers is habitat destruction and poaching.  The situation is alarming. If we do not act now, very soon there will not be a single tiger left in the wild.

You may be wondering how it matters to you if the tiger continues to live or gets extinct. Let me remind you that the tiger is our national animal. It is our pride. This by itself is reason enough for us to save the tiger. But there is a scientific reason too. With tigers getting extinct, the populations of prey species would drastically increase. They would then ravage the jungles. End of jungles would mean the end of the biggest suppliers of oxygen and a significant drop in rainfall. As per ecologists a tiger is an umbrella species. By saving them, we rescue every species under their ecological umbrella. The presence of tigers in the forest is an indicator of the well being of the ecosystem. Its extinction is an indication that its ecosystem is not sufficiently protected, and neither would it exist for long thereafter; Break down of the eco-system would threaten our own existence.

You may be thinking what can I do here? Well each of us has a role to play. Please lend a hand for tiger conservation. You can influence those people that are a part of your lives. Educate them about this issue. Get them involved. Further, you can help financially to causes such as Project Tiger. You can help the cause in any way you can. It can be as small as liking their face book page or subscribing to the feeds on tiger conservation efforts and increasing the awareness.

My grandfather had a huge collection of books. Whenever I went to our village, I would rummage through the book shelves. A particular poem in an old dog-eared book of poetry had caught my attention.

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright - In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye   - could frame thy fearful symmetry

Poet William Blake in those famous lines asked the tiger whose immortal hands created it. I do not know if the tiger could answer that back; but today if someone asks whose hand is responsible for the death of tigers, we all know it is ours – the humans. A stitch in time saves nine. The same hand can save the tiger as well. Let us join our hands and with our collective effort, try to save the tiger. Let us save the beautiful symmetry.