Children too have stories to tell

A boy, around seven years old comes to my storytelling sessions. Bespectacled, with spikes for hair, he is all smiles but never seems to utter any word. Yesterday I took this beautiful book for my session. As I opened the book I noticed the wide toothy grin typical of excited kids on his face. He beheld the book with sparkling eyes, as if he was about to fly on a magic carpet. I could clearly sense that he had been waiting for this.

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In my storytelling sessions I have often found that children are natural readers. They gravitate towards books and stories, just as easily as they are attracted to say TV or other gadgets, provided these are not there in the first place. They love to listen to stories, to be read to and to read by themselves if the story catches their fancy. They are very open and receptive if you try to speak to them through the medium of stories.

But even more importantly they often have stories to tell of their own. I told them this poignant tale of two young children, two best friends who were separated by partition. They never saw each other again. After the story ended I fell silent, a lump in my throat. The lull was broken by exuberant voices.
“Ma’am I have a Christian friend. But their house has a tiger skin!”
“Miss I have five Muslim friends.”
“I bought khaki pants just like the soldier in the story for my Happy Barday.”

They told me so many stories, some were mischievous, some were funny and some were so warm and touching. They had captured life with the purity and innocence of their age. And it was so soothing, so refreshing.

We were not just exchanging stories, not just ideas. But love. Not between an adult and a child, but between two souls.

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The last wish

I had never imagined that I would end up in a lab murdering tiny mice, cute enough to cuddle. As a child blood made me nauseous and now I had it on my hands everyday. On my yellow surgical gloves to be precise.

The sheer selfishness and horror had by now become a routine. I had sacrificed hundred’s of experimental animals, as they say in lab parlance until one day I heard a tiny squeak.

“Hello! You should fulfill my last wish.”

I searched around to see where the voice was coming from. But there was nobody in the lab. The radio was off. The barely audible voice spoke again, “Hey! I am here! I am here!”

Was I dreaming? The voice seemed to be coming from the cage where I usually kept my mice before sacrificing them on the altar of scientific inquiry (read publication greed).

There was no mistaking it. The mouse spoke again, “Everybody gets a last wish. I should get mine.”

“Whaaaat!” was all I could say in reply. I opened the cage. The furry creature was actually speaking to me. As I lifted him out of the cage, the mouse perched on my arm and extended its..hand? er…leg..ok…foreleg in a handshake.

All this was too eerie, too bizarre but somehow I knew this was real beyond a doubt. I managed to stutter, “What’s your last wish?”

The mouse sighed. He spoke slowly, very slowly. “I want you to exchange places with me for a day. Only a day.”

“You mean that I…”

“Yes you go into that cage and I get to wear those two yellow gloves with blood on them,” he completed my sentence.

I blanked out.

Habits of another kind

In any self help book that one reads there is one thing common- they all exhort us to utilize the gift that is our mind. That it is the mind that determines our happiness and success or failure in life. Or that thoughts are things and what we think is what  gets reflected in our life. I could go on and on…

So it seems very simple. The mind is a very precious tool and all I have to do is to unlock this key and have a dream life.

Then why is it so difficult? Making the mind work for us seems to be the most difficult thing to ever do!

Why is it so much easier to keep repeating negative thoughts day after day when I know that I should be thinking positive thoughts?

Why is it so much easier to be fearful when I know that the very thought of fear will attract what I am fearing in my life?

Then today morning I had the answer. And you know what it is…

It is called as HABIT!

Habits of thinking in a certain way repeatedly, day after day, night after night. The mind kind of like becomes an automaton. Any disconcerting event and the mind effortlessly starts playing out those mental habits. Those habits could be anything but generally seldom do we train the mind to build habits of positive thinking. It is often filled with one liners such as… I can’t- do- this…I-am-not-worthy…this-will-never-work…things-never-go-right-for-me…kind of thoughts.

So when I spill coffee in the morning and consequently run late for work, not a very negative event in itself, but my mind starts thinking all those negative thoughts that come so naturally to it! And why not – I have trained my mind that way. And then when I tell myself to calm down and think bright happy thoughts, my habit is so strong that it overwhelms any positive thoughts that I am trying to think.

It is believed that to form a habit it takes eight long years! I guess moments of wisdom can come in a flash but really there is no shortcut to success.

A Dog’s Life

My visits to Horror Park were becoming truly like the name. I used to visit the park not for any ‘Adventure of your Life’ but for remaining alive. My nose would sniff out crumbs left here and there, leftovers in the garbage bin or food spilled by clumsy toddlers. But slowly they dwindled..the crumbs and the leftovers..And to think that people pay to get horrified. If only they were a dog with a dog’s life!

How I wished I was a black dog. Very long ago when I used to sleep on a full stomach I would wonder what’s in a colour? But now I was only thinking about food.

My strong black nose was tired of twitching and expanding, going sniff! sniff! sniff! but all I smelt was the grass. How much better to be a cow – grass was available in abundance at Horror Park.

Guuurrrrrr Gurrrrrrrr Garrrrrr Garrrrr…my stomach was growling so loudly, its sound could be one more addition to the horrors of Horror Park.

I had sniffed the entire place. I could describe the smell of rain on earth better than any poet in the world! Or the smell of plastic cans, bottles, paper napkins, food wrappers, human sweat, everything that had wafted past my nostrils. But food! Not a single..er…single sniff of food.

Famished, I just dropped on the grass. A gunny sack was lying there. I lay there listlessly watching it. It moved a little. Food doesn’t move, so I did not bother to check what it was. But then it shook and then shook some more.

I jumped up and went near the sack. It was shaking violently now.  I untied the rope at its mouth. Out popped another creature just like me. Well almost like me.. No wait a minute..I could not see it clearly in the dark except that it also had four paws and a black nose.

It was a cat. A baby cat. But it was very fat. It was a very fat baby cat.

“Hello! how did you get here?”

“I got separated from my mother.”

Poor very fat baby cat, it must be missing its mother, thought I. Just then a white cat crossed us.

“Hey look! Your momma!”

The very fat baby cat shook its head. “That is not my mother.”

“Oh! I will take you to the other side of the park. Lots of cats live there.”

The very fat baby cat again shook his head, a little faster this time. “I am not a cat!”

“Not a cat?” I gazed at the black stripes on the shiny yellow skin.

“My momma is here only at the park but I am lost.”

“What! momma here only?”

I ran so fast that I am sure I have must have broken the doggy world record.

I never visited Horror Park after that but whenever there is a procession saying save the forests, I eagerly join in.

The rare sunflower and the tiny rose

There was a beautiful garden in which grew many flowers. The various flowers were separated neatly into different rows. So there was one row for orchids, one for jasmine, one for marigold and so on. But by accident it so happened that a rose and a sunflower grew side by side. The two flowers were a picture of contrast. One was a delicate pink rose and the other was a strong yellow sunflower. The rose spoke a rosy language and the sunflower spoke a sunny language. The sunflower thought that the rose was all vain and arrogant and the rose thought that the sunflower was so tall and ugly. They said mean and unfriendly words to each other in the flowery language spoken by flowers around the world.

‘Yellow yellow dirty fellow,’ the rose would tease the sunflower.

‘All beauty and no brains,’ the sunflower would answer back.

People would often stop by to admire the beautiful rose and take in it’s fragrance. ‘See your beauty is of no use, one day they will pluck you because of it and put you in a bouquet,’ the sunflower told the rose. The rose not to be left behind taunted the sunflower, ‘You follow the sun and become strong. Your strength is of no use, one day they will pluck you because of it and crush you to make oil.’

The two flowers would go on quarreling and fighting with each other. They became so bitter that the rose lost it’s fragrance and the sunflower lost it’s strength. They became ugly and useless. The gardener felt that he had no need for such flowers in his garden and decided to cut them.

‘It is all my fault. I was so lucky to grow alongside a sunflower instead of another rose. I could have learnt so much. But I just fought with you stupidly. Now we both will die.’ The rose was crying bitterly.

‘No I was so foolish. I could have enjoyed your sweetness by being your friend but I was so mean and jealous. Instead of becoming best friends we became bitter enemies,’ said the sunflower.

The two flowers stood there weeping. The sunflower suddenly exclaimed, ‘But we can still be friends. Till the time we live!’ The rose nodded happily and they decided to be the best of friends till they were alive.

Slowly the sunflower regained his strength. He became stronger and bigger than before. So big that the tiny rose could hardly be seen. And the rose regained her fragrance. Her fragrance increased so much that it seemed as if it was coming from the sunflower.

When the gardener came next to cut the strange pair he could not find the rose as the large yellow petals of the sunflower cleverly hid the rose. The gardener decided to chop the sunflower but he became lost in the pleasant perfume. ‘Oh goodness! The world has never known a sunflower with the aroma of a rose! How did I even think of cutting it? I will have to take extra care of this beauty.’

Their friendship grew each day. The rose spoke sweet words in her rosy language and the sunflower spoke warm words in his sunny language. And so the rare sunflower and the tiny rose hidden to all lived a very long and happy life.

This story was published in Orissa Post.