Playlets for Indian And western EHV by 2du89zN

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									STORIES
    FOR


INDIAN
     AND



WESTERN

EHV- Part-II
Love can transform even a hard stone to butter,
Swami always teaches the principle of LOVE.

         It is enough if you call ‘BABA’,
      With love from the depth of your heart.
           He will come to your rescue.

          Sai Baba, Vijaya Dasami – 2003



         Some say Knowledge is Power,

                but it is not true

               Character is Power
                                     - Baba
51

                         Elephant Talk
                          Group One
Mrs. Elephant   (Rumbling through the forest keeping her little calf near)
                I see the herb waiting for us down below so we’d better, Raju.

Durga           Namaste Uma, What took you so long?

Uma             Oh, you know, I thought I heard one of those poachers in the
                bushes along the way but it turned out to be just a friendly old
                lion..

Durga           You must mean old Shambho. Yes, I met up with him myself. He
                doesn’t have many teeth left so he’s a right friendly fellow now.
                His children have to hunt for him.

Durga           Nice family, hope my kids will do the same when I get old.

                She took a friendly slap at her calf.

Raja            Don’t you worry, Mummy I’ll always be grateful to you for all
                your care, even though papa isn’t around to help. I’ll never be a
                rouge elephant either.

                                      Song

                       Bless our Mothers, Lord we pray
                       Bless our Mother, every single day
                       Bless our Mother, keep the strong
                        Bless our Mother, all year long
Uma       Your Papa isn’t a rouge elephant, Raja, he’s a very important
          elephant in the male herd and keeps the rouges from harming us
          ladies.

Lakshmi   How was your journey from Madurai?

Uma       Glad to be away from that place. All those men are angry and
          mean these days. Besides I wish those humans would get out of
          our way, let us be. For thousands of year we’ve traveled these
          tracks. It’s been our way and the only way we know.

Lakshmi   Oh well, they don’t care anything about us except for our tusks, of
          course.

Durga     Sometimes I wonder why Mother Nature gave us these tusks. Just
          brings suffering and death. All these old rogue elephants love
          them of course but they don’t do us much good.

Raja      I’ll be glad when I get tusk, Mama, then I can take care of the
          herd like Papa. You’ve always taken such good care of me and my
          sisters and brother. Some day I’ll take care of you.

Uma       I had a nice time last night as we entered the National Forest.
          Some foreign hunters had up one of those fancy expensive tents
          with electricity and all those other conveniences. My baby here
          almost pulled down the thing down before I caught him.

Lakshmi   Oh Lord, They think they’re roughing it in their air conditioned
          tents.

Uma       I know, I known. Well, this fellow had a TV… a very large screen
          so I could see in the window. There he was, lying there on his cot
          swinging away out of a bottle and watching cricket.

Durga     Cricket! Aiyo! I wish my son could have seen it.
Uma       What was so interesting was that another fellow switched
          channels and got a program about a holy man here in India. He
          was of handsome with His black curly hair and orange robe.

Durga     That must have been Sri Sathya Sai Baba. He used to bring His
          student tru the Bandipore Forest. We all fell in love with Him.
          Once my husband saw Him and went into sort of a trance …. A
          love trance. Since then he’s been the very gentlest of all the
          elephants.

Lakshmi   That’s all well and good but I wish He would help us save our
          habitate.

Uma       Seems to me these brilliant human fellows would realize that these
          tourists come here to see us after all. They must think that they
          are the sights to see.

Durga     Well, when the forest is all gone and the elephant population is
          wiped out, we’ll see how many tourists come over here then.

          Ping Ping!

Uma       What’s that? Oh Lord, looks like we’ve got a poacher on our tail.
          We’d better run for it.

Durga     Ha! He missed all of us. His children will go hungry because he
          had no ivory to sell to the forest officials.

                             Gratitude

                Thank you, Mummy for giving me
                 My food to eat and a place to be
                Thank you Daddy for working so
                That I might live and I might grow
               Thank you sweet earth for giving me
           The mountains and the valleys and trees I see
              Thank to everyone that I might share
                My love with all, my heart to care.
                        And thanks to me, I know I’ll be
                      Strong and good and brave and free


52
               The Law of Compassion
                     Group two
     Retired Major KS Bhatia had never married. When anyone asked him
why, he always made a feeble joke like, “Missed the right miss”, or
“Couldn’t marry the kumari.” He made the Army his life.

     But the Major was a kindly man. Being a bachelor, he never bothered
to make a proper home for himself and lived in rented flats after retirement.
He purchased one large comfortable cane chair and foot stool so that he
and Simba, his cat, could sit out in the evenings and watch the human
parade.

     The Major, buy the way, wasn’t simply an observer of the people
around him. He had his charitable work. As he had inherited a small
amount from his father, he could afford to give about Rs.400 each month
and He always gave anonymously. As it was turning chilly, he was looking
forward to disturbing blankets to the beggars down by the bus station.

      So, he was in a happy frame of mind this morning when he fixed his
usual meal of upma and called the cat “Smiba, come and eat,” he called. No
cat. He took his won plate and pulled up his chair on the balcony to enjoy
his breakfast.

Major           Strange, Simba is ravenously hungry these days because
she is expecting.. After this I will have her altered. Three batches of kittens
were more than enough.
            But for now he would comfort and spoil her, giving her extra
tidbits, because that was the way he was. This morning, however he was
getting worried. “Simba,” he called but there was still no answer.

           Around 10 o’clock he became very worried and so, taking his
cane and wrapping his shawl around his shoulders, he started looking for
her. He walked through the bazaar to the corner where the old theatre
stood. As he was passing the theatre, he thought he heard something. Was
that the wail of a baby or – he retraced his steps and heard it once again.

            “Meow!” Yes, that was definable his cat, he thought excitedly.

Major          Simba, Simba, (he called loudly, much to the amusement of
some passing ladies. He didn’t give a fig!) Simba (he bellowed,) where you
are you?

Kids      Meow! Coming Father, (called a young kid on a bike, laughing as
he rode by.)

          He heard “Meow” once again. She obviously couldn’t come out,
     so the Major jumped over the wall in an effort to enter the building.

Policeman        Just a moment there, there’s private property

Major            But my cat is there

     The policeman almost laughed out –right.

Policeman       The theatre owner has the chai shop across the street. I
suggest that you go there.

      The major crossed the street briskly, canein hand and shawl flying A
lorry had to slkam on the brakes to avoid hitting him.

Major            Do you own that theatre? (He demanded)

      The man was making tea. The chai shop walla wiggled his head in the
affirmative.
Major           Well sir, my cat is inside your theatre. Kindly unlock the
door and let her out. She has not had her breakfast. (He was quite flustered
by this time.)

Tea man           No breakfast, is that right. Too bad, Sir (he said as all the
customers had a bit of a chuckle.) But you see, Sir, unfortunately, I no
longer have the keys. It seems that the bank has taken possession and
sealed the building. Sorry for your cat, but they are clever animals, aren’t
they? She’ll figure a way.

Major           She is pregnant! (He said rather loudly.)

Tea man         Not my fault, Sir, (said the chai shop walla sending all the
customers into loud laughter.)

Major           Which bank has the keys? I will go there..

Tea Man         State Bank. Hope that you have better luck than I did!

      Off he went again, shawl flying and cane held in swagger stick
position, a trait which was left over from military days, no doubt. Entering
the Bank, he used his cane to rap on the front counter.

Bank Clerk      Here, here, Sir, that’s no way to behave.

Major           Never mind, I must speak to the manager immediately!!

     The manager (running fast and, expecting at least that all the been
embezzled from his account, murmured while ringing his hands) please sir,
I’m sorry but we can explain everything. Just sit down while we check up!

Major           Yes, we must check up now before she starves to death..

Bank Man        Before who starves to death, Sir?
Major          Why Simba, my cat, of course. I’m sorry, let me explain.
You have my cat locked up in your theater and it’s been nearly twenty
hours since she’s had a mouthful of food!

Bank Man       Get the watchman, Ramish, this man is mad. Quickly now,
before he cause some harm !

Major          What? What are you doing? (bellowed the poor Major as he
was being unceremoniously shown the door.) I tell you my cat is….

     But, alas, they threw the good Major out of the Bank before he had a
chance to tell the man that Simba was also pregnant. He returned slowly to
the theatre and stood listening to the plaintive “Meow” with tears in his
eyes. He didn’t know where to turn.

      Across the street at the chai shop, an advocate sat with his morning
cup of chai. He had been privy to the entire scene and, not altogether
without selfish motive, decided that he would intervene. He slowly crossed
the street and invited the Major for another chai.

Major           I just don’t know what to do next.

Lawyer            You know (He said quietly) the Magistrate here is a pretty
decent chap. I really think that he might be of some assistance. Would you
like for me to take you to see him?

Major           Oh please.

      The two men knocked at the doors of the Chief Judicial Magistrate
with the plea that the theatre doors, which were sealed, be opened because
the cat, who was caught therein, would certainly starve to death shortly.

      The Court then issued orders to open the doors only to rescue the
cat, in the presence of the theater owner, the cat’s owner and the Bank
officials, who looked very perturbed.
     No sooner was the door open than the cat leapt into the arms of the
Major and purring loudly, began to lick him in happiness while the Major
wiped away tears of joy and relief


                                  Understanding

                       Do you understand just how I feel
                  Understanding helps to make hurts all heal
                     Do you understand what I have to say?
                  If you do I’m happy, I feel better right away
                       There is an old saying, old but rue
                    That if I wear understanding is very rare
                            ‘cause it shows for certain
                               That you really care



53
                          Floppy Rabbit
                           Group Two
                                     Scene one
                           Outside a hut Andhra Pradesh


Srinivas   A few years back, thinks were pretty bad. The pots in my mother’s
kitchen were black with soot and the soap was only a tiny sliver like the fast-wining
moon. My parents were hungry, I could tell, though they never let know the truth.
The truth was that my father’s pieces of art weren’t selling.

Father      We carved elephants and deer for the Maharaja’s court and, of course
our statues of the Gods and Goddesses won many prizes. Now, of course, there is no
more Maharaja and no court, but foreigners seems to like the things we do. You see,
son, the Andhra Pradesh Government comes around and buys all our things to see
in their Andhra Pradesh comes around and buys all our things to see in their
Andhra Pradesh State Handicraft shops. They get the tourist trade in the shops. It
saves me a lot of trouble.

Srinivas      But Appa, you don’t get the same price as in the shops, do you? Can’t
you sell to the people around here?

Father      Who would buy a wooden elephant? Who has the money? We live in a
poor district, Srinivasa, you should know that even at your tender age. I want you to
start school next week. You cannot be an artisan, there is not enough money to be
made.

Srinivas     But I knew that I had the art in his fingers and hands, I knew that.
Sometimes they almost itched , the shakti in them causing them to shake. When I
sqatted in the dirt waiting for class to start, my fingers would draw elephants and
deer, tigers and, sometimes, men as well.

Student     That’s really nice Srinivasa when did you learn that?

Srinivas     Appa is an artisan. You really like it?

Another Student Oh you here draw me a picture on this paper, I’ll give you half an
apple.

Srinivas    No, I don’t want anything . Art is free. God gives it, isn’t it?

Srinivas    And so I grew and studied, my art works also improved. I learned what
the other children like. Also, I watched TV at the houses of my friends for
inspiration and even looked at books at the district library.

Father     Absolutely not, Srinivasa. No, Srinivas! Being an artisan is too hard.
You would never be able to raise a family decently. You don’t know how hard it’s
been. You must study now for the Government Service.

Srinivas      I tried very hard but couldn’t let go of the art and it seemed that the art
wouldn’t let go of me either. Even just observing the world about me was a lesson in
art. I notised the way man’s arm tapered down to his wrist, and how the brow hung
over the eye socket. Also, I watched my father work, quietly sitting in the corner.
Later, in the bullock shed, I carved small figures sanding them until they were
smooth and had a glow.

Father      I have found some of the boy’s work and now I can see that there is no
stopping him. He is a fine artisan as I am even now. God has given him a good eye
(he said smiling to himself), and he works with such love.

Srinivasa Now, I sensed my father’s approval and so I started exhibiting a style of
his own. My father’s realistic style was wonderful and he had managed to duplicate
artisiry well but, somehow, when I brought those small pieces to school to show or to
give away to the students, they were not very popular.

A Student We’ve have seen those deer before Srinivas, but that little rabbit with
the floppy ears it’s really funny. Could I have it for my sister’s birthday ?

Srinivas    More and more, the animals and human characters developed
expressions of their own, full of feeling and humour, endearing them to the students.

Srinivas    One day after school he was approached by a tall man wearing
spectacles and a two-piece suit.

Man         Master Srinivas?

Srinivas    I stood still.

Man         Master Srinivas the artist?

Srinivas    Ah….could be.

Man         Yes, yes! I was told could find you here. I am B J Gupta, Moon River
Enterprises, Chennai. Could I talk to you for a movement?

Man         Perhaps we could sit here under this tree. Is this all right with you, my
lad?

Srinivas   By this time, all the boys in the higher secondary school had gathered
around and made themselves comfortable, squatting in a circle.
Man          Srinivasa, it’s like this. My brother’s family lives in this district in the
next village. I believe you gave my nephew, Krishnan, a small rabbit for his sister.

Srinivas    He took out the small figurine.

Srinivas    Yes, I did that.

Man         Can you do more, son?

Srininvas   Yes Sir, how many.

Man        We have an emporium The Moon River Theme Park, and we can sell as
many as you make.

Student    (Shouting) He can do other things as well, Sir. Take a look at this one,
and he threw a small statue of a squirrel to the man.

Man         This is excellent, simply excellent. It’s almost alive and yet it has
quizzical expression.

Another Student He did this one , too Sir.

Srinivas    And soon the boys had added four or five little figurines that I had given
away, to the collection, spread out in front of the man.

Man         Son, we’ll supply the wood and buy you some paints as well.

Teacher     (Who had joined the group) Will you have the time with your school
work, Srinivas?

Srininvas Yes Sir, (beaming) I’ll teach my father the new design. He’s a real
craftsman, an artisan like his father, and his father before him.

Man         I see, I see, now I understand. Looks like I’ve stumbled upon real talent
here. Our company pays quiet well, also you know.

Srinivas     You can come to my house now, Sir. My father would like to meet you
to discuss the particulars.
                           Deep inside is a little voice
                            It is not a great big noise
                        It is my conscience guiding me
                          To be the best that I can be



54
              As Luck Would Have It
                   Group Two
                          True story from the Hindu


      Somasekhar was usually pretty cheerful as he drove his passengers
to their destinations around Bangalore. He like his work, but today, he was
worried about something. His Chit Fund money was due, business had
been slow and he would have to borrow from the money he always set
aside for his daughter’s wedding. He and his wife had seceded to have only
one child, but to do the best job possible. It bothered him a little that she
had been a girl, but how glad he was now for she was his constant delight.

     As he was thinking in this way he picked up a fare in
Marutisevanagar. He noticed that the man was a Muslim gentleman with a
short beard, and that he had some luggage. That was all he noticed.

     Somashekhar drove the gentleman to OMBR layout in Banaswadi and
deposited him at the doorstep of his home, charging only ‘metre’, although
he wasn’t so sure of a fare back to Bangalore proper.

      Somasekahar picked up another passenger, younger with longish
hair. Directions were given and they tooled off.
     Somesekahar      Yes Sir, I know where that is. (He pulled down the
meter flag).

     Although he was still immersed in his own thoughts, Somasekhar
noticed something wasn’t quite right. This long- haired fellow had gotten in
empty handed but he seemed to be rifling through a briefcase.

     Somesekhar        Was that briefcase there when you got in?

     Man              Yes, is it yours?

     Somasekhar       It’s my rickshaw, isn’t it? Hand it over!

      Man             Here then, looks like a new pager. Those things bring
pretty good money.

     Somasekhar       Oh no, you don’t, give it here.

     Man              Okay, okay, let me out (the guy fled without paying.)

     Somasekhar pulled over and looked at the case. The Muslim fellow
must have forgotten it, left it on the floor and taken the rest of his luggages.
He opened it and found that it contained valuable looking documents, like
pension papers from the Air Force and an ID card, as well as the pager.
“Wing Commander PG Ibraham,” he read.

     Somasekhar Okay, so I’ll get my brother-in-law Sureshbabu to go
there with me tomorrow. I hope the fellow pays me for the extra trip.

      The next day, Wing Commander Ibraham was sitting in his living –
room having a cup of coffee, after having registered the missing brief-case
with the police. He hadn’t slept all night. The papers in his case were his
original pension document, and there were other his original pension
documents, and there were other things as well.

     There was a knock at the door.

     Ibraham          I’ll get the door, Aisha.
       Somasekhar      Wing Commandar P.G. Ibraham?

       Ibraham         That’s right

       Somasekhar      You seem to have left this behind, sir, in my rickshaw.

       Commandar       Ibraham felt tears sting his eyes.

     Ibraham          God is great! Ah, yes, Jolly good, come in boys and…
but come to think of it, my wife doesn’t know about the loss, ha ha. (He
looked furtively over his shoulder.)

     Somasekhar        Doesn’t matter, sir, I think you’ll find everything there
and accounted for.

    Ibraham          Jolly good! So kind of you, and here’s a little
something for your Trouble.

     He pulled two crisp ‘Gandhis’ from his wallet and handed them to the
two men before closing the door with a relieved sigh.

       Sureshbabu smiled at his brother-in-law before handing over his Rs.
500.

    Sureshbabu         Honesty    pays,    sport.   I’ll   buy   you   breakfast,
Somasekhar.

       Somasekhar      Thanks, guy had tears in his eyes, did you notices?

    He touched the feet of the picture of Mother Lakshmi he had pasted
under the windshield, and rollicked away, grinning broadly.

                       What is the Meaning of Integrity

                        What is the meaning of integrity?
                     It means that I listen to the God in me.
                    It means I will speak of the truth in me.
                     It means you can trust in my honesty
                     It mans you can always count on me.
                        What is the meaning of integrity?
                    It means you can always count on me.




55
                               Post
                            Group Two
                                   A Playlet


Postman    Post!”

Adiamma     What? No post here!

Postman    No Amma, I have post! I am the postman!

Adiamma Aiyo Papam. Who is it for, Appa?

Postman    It is for Adiamma of Rayapurum.

Adiamma Cannot be, I am Adiamma of Rayapurum and I have no post. No one
        here can read or write a letter.

Postman    Yes, yes! Here, take this, Amma! Maybe from your daughter. She goes
           to school now, isn’it? All the Mothers got cards this morning.

Adiamma Aiyo, I don’t believe it! I never received post before. Look! My daughter
        penned this. Ah, what is she saying? Please read.
Post man   She is saying: ‘I like my school and my place in the hostel is also nice.
           Some of the girls are devotees of Sri Sathya Sai Baba too. Learning to
           read and write but there is also time for play. Best regards, Shantha.

Adiamma She writes all of that? Aiyo Ramachandra!

Postman    All the girls have written the same on every card.

Adiamma Wait until my husband comes. Now we have an education girl. I hope I
        can remember, what it says so I can read it to him.

Chinnamma        (coming from the house next door) What is the news?

Adiamma See here, Chinnamma! Now you will be sorry that you didn’t send your
        daughter to literacy camp. My Shantha is learning to read at her own
        speed just as the Bal Vikas guru promised.

Chinnamma        Aiyo my husband said no.

Adiamma     See, Chinnamm, I am glad that we sent our girl, even though it ?? that
           we must work much more to take up for the salary she made picking
           flowers.

Adiamma     I would have done it but my husband said no! Is that a letter you have
           there?

Adiamma Yes, you made a mistake. So many girls and boys have gone, many
        thousands from our district. I was also worried about her living away
        from home. The MVF Trust, (Hyderabad-based M Venkatarangaiya
        Foundation) made all arrangements. My girl says hostel is nice and safe
        and they have pictures of every god in the lobby, even Sathaya Sai
        Baba.

Iswari     (Brings papers to show her neighbours) Here, here, Adiamma, my
           Kesha has written a story for class her school this village. Look! The
           teachers uses the facts in my daughter’s story to teach the children
           about numbers, and spelling and social studies. She was chosen from all
           the others.
Adiamma Your daughter is elder to mine, Next year, mine will do more than
        that.”

Chinnamma      Papam, I will have to talk to my husband again. We are losing out
         on good chances. Your daughter will certainly get good husbands

                               We have Learned

                      We have learned, we have learned
                      What the words ‘right action’ mean
                      We must do what we think is right
                          Every day and every night
                         Think of love, think of peace,
                          Think of truth in all you do
                        Find these values in your heart
                           As each day you can start
                          If you use these values true
                         ‘Right’ is all that you can do
                       And happiness with all you share
                           Because with these values
                              We’ll know you care



56
                             Mysore
                           Group Three
                                   A Playlet
Jyothi     I am from Mysore and I had to live in the TB Sanitarium for a
whole year. They took very good care of me except they have a TV in our
children’s ward and we watched it all day long. We watched a lot of foreign
TV on cable and that was very odd. I got into some bad thinking from
watching foreign TV. I’ll tell you something that happened.

TV I love you my dearest….And I love you also…. I thought you loved Peter
more, my deared. .. No no. .. That was only because I felt you were more
fond of Sharon…. Oh no, not at all. … I have always loved you and I always
will… Always?…

Jyothi    My mind was a little confused from all the medication and
because I was bed-ridden. We watches this one foreign TV soap opera
every single day and all they talked about it seemed was…love. All the
time./ How much they loved, who they loved why they didn’t love, why the
love had changed…like that. The mother would tell the children how much
she loved them, the husband would say to the wife. he didn’t love her, the
wife would talk about how she loved in the past. Like that they went on day
after day… taking about love.

Jyothi     (To a nurse giving out her medication) On TV, they only talk
about love all the time, Sister. We in Mysore never mention love do we? We
never talk that way at all. I feel confused in my mind and I’m beginning to
wonder if there was ever any love in our family at all.. I had never heard the
word mentioned and now I’m beginning to worry unnecessarily.

Nurse      Don’t be silly. Child. It’s only a western TV program.

Jyothi     But I wonder if my parents loved me or loved each other. I am
thinking in this way and it is beginning to weigh on my mind.

Nurse    It does seem to be worrying you to a very great effect. You must
come out of these because you seem to be losing the battle against your
illness.

Jyothi     My family was worried and I began thinking, I don’t care if I get
well. I don’t want to live in a family without anyway. Everyday I felt as if I
were slipping away .

Mother     Oh Jyothi, how are you dear. I will sit and hold your hand.
Jyothi   She would sit with me by the hour but I could not feel any love
from my mother. My mind was so upset.

Mother     I think you look little bit pale today, Jyothi.

Jyothi     Mama (whispering). I feel as if I am leaving this life.

           (Mother begins weeping).

Jyothi   (Whispering) There is only one thing I would like before I close
my eyes.

Mother     Yes my dearest, soon you’ll feel better but what is this wish.

Jyothi     I would like to hear you say that you love me.

Mother    I am so amazed. I don’t understand (she said holding me in her
arms and gently rocking me.) You don’t know that I love You, Jyothi?

Jyothi     You never said.

Mother     I never said the sky is blue or that water is wet either.

Jyothi    But on TV soaps. People are always saying how much they love
each other.

Mother     TV! SO that’s it, you’ve been watching bad things on the TV.
That belongs to another culture, my dear, not our culture. Their thoughts
and feelings are different and it doesn’t have anything to do with us here in
Mysore.

Jyothi     It doesn’t?

Mother     No, Jyothi. In Mysore we love with purity and single
mindedness; respect, honor and duty. We love because it’s our nature to
love. We love because god has given us his love in our hearts to share with
one and all. Sri Sathya Sai calls love prema because it is God’s love. God is
love, you know
Jyothi    I was quite then, because I realized that my mind had been very
confused and from that day I began making a lot of improvement. People in
Mysore love each other very much.


                                        Love

                           Love, love, love, love is God
                            Live, live, live, live in love
                      Expand your heart to encompass all
                                 Live, live in love
                           Your Master is in your heart
                          Your heart where god resides
                 God is in you, with you, above you, around you,
                                 And behind you
                           Love, love, love, love is god



57
               The Greening of Malika
                    Group Three
                                   A PLAY

                                   Scene One


Two ladies are at the podium, one, Malika, is addressing an audience. The other,
Christina, is seated on the dais. There is a large banner on the wall WELCOME
FBH…Feeding Bangalore’s Hungary. Also on the wall, we see the emblem of the
International Rotary Club. There are two lines of chairs and we see the backs of the
members of the audience seated in the chairs. The program has already started,

Christina In answer to your question, Ma’m, Malika and I have enjoyed working
here in Bangalore, feeding the hungry.

Malika      (smiling broadly) But the part we like the most is when we visit the five
stars 2 or three times a week, collecting gourmet food for our elderly people who
don’t have teeth to chew their food.

Everyone laughs

Christina We have a little song that we sing while we feed our elderly patients in
the old age homes. Would you like to hear it (YES, YES) Ok well we put it to simple
tune. Does everyone know, Three Blind Mice?
(YES YES)

                                 Three Blind Mice

                          Waste not food Waste not food
                             Food is God, Food is God
                    The children are hungry both day and night
                          Wasting food is an awful sight
                       Throwing away food is a sin, all right
                        Don’t waste food, Don’t waste food.

Audience Applauds

Member of the Audience        What do you do with the food you collect?

Malika     We sort it out. The continental food which has a lot of pasta, is non-
spicy and so it goes to the elderlies who have stomach problem. We never accept
non-veg food of any kind, of course.

Members of the Audience.      Why not. Meat dishes have lots of protein. It’s the
best food for young people.
Malika.     We don’t think so at all. Not only because it is against Hinduism but
also because meat can cause many diseases. It’s dead flesh after all.

Member of the Audience.        How did you start this project in the first place,
Ma’m?

Malika       How did it start? Oh my goodness. It started many years ago when we
were in college, didn’t it, Christina?

Christina nods and smiles.
                                       Scene two

A stylishly dressed young woman enters a restaurant caring many bags. She comes
in and sits down with two more college girls and everyone is giggling and talking at
once.

Malika      I know that your, Saroj, prefer to eat at places on Commercial Street
like, Taj Bakery or Woody’s but I love the milk shakes here at Whimpi’s. Look! The
straw stands up straight in the glass, they are so thick, and the veggie burgers were
good also.

Christina   We know you like it here, Malika

Beggar walks past the door and looks in
Malika      Aiyo, there she is, how many times have I, on my way to lunch, dashed
past that miserable looking leper woman with all the bandages wrapped around her
arms? After all this time, it continues to make me physically ill.
Why do I have to see her? Why does she have to catch my eye, anyway? Why can’t
she beg some place else?!

The girls don’t listen. They giggle and compare choli pieces and new dupattas and
just generally enjoy themselves, taking sips of each other’s different flavoured
milkshake.

Christiana Look at yours, Saroj, it looks like butterfly wings. Its sooo flashy!

Malika      What is she smiling about, anyway?
Sarojini    What is who smiling about?

Malika      Oh, that miserable old leper out there. Every Saturday she ruins my
lunch.

Christina   What leper? I’ve never seen her.

Malika      Well, you have to trip over her on the way in! She’s always there! She
must sleep there or something.”

The conversation turned to more pleasant topics but Malika sat staring off into
space.

Christina   Malika, what’s wrong with you today?

Sarojini     Oh, she’s thinking about that leper again. Listen Malika, my mother
said that they have leper camps for all the lepers, but they prefer to beg.

Christian It must be true, my mother told me the same thing
Malika        I know that, (sighed Malika.) It’s only that every week we look at each
other, as if she were a - will – as if she were an individual person.

Christian   Well, she is person, isn’t she? Jesus healed the lepers, you know.

Sarojini    Maybe we should feed her.

Malika      Come on, be sensible; if we feed her once she’ll expect it every week.

Christian So, how would that cost? We come shopping every week. We could
certainly afford to feed your leper!

Malika      She’s not my leper!

Christian   (Jumping up from the table.) Well, I’m going to go and have a look at
her.

Malika      Why would you want to look at the leper, Christian? You are a goose.
But Christian had already left by the front door. She was back in a second.

Christina Oh sure, I’ve seen her before. I just didn’t really notice. I think we
should feed her, Malika – your leper!

Malika      Don’t say that!

Christina   I’m only teasing you!

But before you knew it, Christina was talking to the manager and returning to the
table.

Christina See how easy? I told him to send her any old stale buns or rolls and
leftover veggies from making the burgers, but not to tell that we sent it.
Waiter comes and each girl pays her own luncheon bill of Rs 120 and added on
another Rs.10. As they emerged from the restaurant, the old woman isn’t there.
                                     Scene Three

                              Back again to the audience

Member of the Audience        You mean from just that one incident, you began
FBH?

Malika      Well, not exactly. I am a devotee of Sri Sathya Sai Baba and whenever I
have to make a major discion in my life, He gives me guidance usually in a dream. I
was able to attend His schools but family have always been His close devotees.

Members of the Audience       Oh, one of those lucky few who get lots of attention
and interviews, no doubt.

Malika      No no, not at all. Swami has million of devotees all over the world who
don’t get His personal attention. We have never had a interview.

Member of the Audience        Tell us about the dream if you can.

Malika       Well, Swami was in His arm over the sleeve. He said, ‘Malika, I want
you to start a food distribution center in Bangalore for the hungry’.
Malika      Me Swami!! Beloved Bhagavan, I wouldn’t know where to start.

Swami       You do not have to worry. God is the only doer.

Malika      And that was the end of the dream.

Member of the Audience I think the bandage on His arms was significant in some
way.
                                       Scene Four

The scene takes places outside the restaurant on Brigade Road. There are looking
across the street at Nilgiris.

Christina   There she is.

They turned to look in the ally where the old woman is handing out buns and wilted
veggies to a group of small street children all sitting neatly in rows. It really is quite
of food and the children are eating hungrily while the old leper eats nothing at all.

Sarojini    Malik, that old begger wasn’t begging for herself at all.

Christina (Looking across the street) I’ll bet Nilgiris throws out food everyday
from their café and also any damaged goods.

Sarojoni    (Laughing) I was getting bored shopping every Saturday anyway.

Malika      I have a feeling we won’t be bored any more.
                                        Scene Five

                             Back to the Rotary Club Audience


Malika      So Christina and Sarojini and I switched our college major from
Fashion Design to Social Work. Sarajoni was married and started an NGO in
Hydrabad, Feeding the hungry of Hydrabad. Our NGO here distributes hundred of
lorries of food gathered in supermarkets, half picked fields of vegetable, fruit
orchards as well as food packing companies. We hire only street people for the
collection of food. Christina and I go to the hotels for the gourmet food which we
take to nursing homes and old age homes for the elderly people who can’t chew and
can’t eat spicy food.

Christina   And to the leper colonies.

Malika     (After a long pause) After I had taken the fruit of service from my
wretched old leper, she disappeared and we never saw her again.

Christina We never saw her again anywhere over the years and we have our own
idea about who she really was.

The two girls sing a song before ending the play:

                                       Serving
                        When you’re serving the deserving
                       You’re preserving your happy heart
                           So, if we serve, we’ll observe
                                Unhappiness depart
                      Serve with love and serve with gladness
                          Wipe away another’s sadness
                             Selfless service is the key
                            If we’re to save humanity



58
                         Good Old Amby
     Anup raced into the kitchen and poured himself a glass of milk when
he got home from school.

Anup        Today’s the day, today’s the day! Oh Amma, had it come yet?

Amma        Has what come yet, Anup? Put the milk back in the fridge.
Anup      Has what come? Why the new car, of course. Daddy is buying a
new car today.

Amma      I don’t see why you’re so excited about that. We’ve had new car
before.

Anup       But that last one didn’t count. It was just another Ambassador.
They all look the same and no one even knows you have a new car.

Anma      Is that the point, Anup? Are we buying a car so that people will
know that we have one?

Anup, age 12, bowed deeply to allow his 16 year old sister to sweep past.
She grabbed an orange and started peeling it.

Madhu      Daddy’s bringing home a new car today and it might be an
Esteem, right Mom?

Amma    He was pricing them. What’s the matter with getting another
Ambassador. We’ve always had good luck with them.

Madhu     Oh Mon, they’re so boring.

Anup      And besides they’re ugly.

Amma      (Looked at her two modern kids and sighed). I’m really
displeased with the two of you. Sit down Madhu, we really must have a talk
about your values.

Anup      Oh Amma! Do we have to have a lecture today when our new car
is coming?

Madhu     It isn’t always easy having a college lecturer for a mother.
Amma      Have the two of you ever heard of Mahatma Gandhi?

Anup      Oh Amma!

Amma      Well, have you?
Madhu      Of course, Amma, he was the father of our country.

Anup       Yes, Amma, he gave us freedom from our greed and oppressive
desires. The principle of simple is the most valuable lesson that he taught
us. That lesson defines India, Anup, it is the very core of our greatness.

Madhu      Why are you reminding us of the Mahatma, Amma?

Amma        Because it seems to me that this family is in danger of losing
their heritage, our true Indian values. You know Uncle Deepak in the USA
will not drive the same car two years in a row? He says he can afford it and
wants to give a good impression. I’m sorry for uncle Deepak because he’s
sold his birthright for a shiny new car. He studies Gandhian principle in
school but look what happened. Simple living and a ceiling on our desires,
as taught by our Swami, is the only way to be happy. And I am here to keep
you children from forgetting that. India is the only country in the world that
lives up to those values and it is because of Gandhi that wee produce a
good economical car. Simple, to operate and repair and it looks the same
year so that we won’t lose our values trying to keep up with the Jones.

There was long honk outside.
The family raced outside to find a dark shiny Ambassador at the curb.
Anup’s lower lip trembled a little.

Anup       What happened to the Esteem, papa?

Papa       Your mother suggested that self-esteem was more important.
Anup       But I wanted to show the Kids at school. I told them that….

Madhu       (Giggling) You mean you wanted to show off in front of your
friends, right? I see your point, Amma, and I’m going to try to practice what
we study in EHV class.

Papa       Well, lets take her for a spin, shall we?

They dove out past the animal hospital and pulled up at a stop light. A man
in a new sleek gold-coloured car rolled down his window.
Man        That’s a new Amby, isn’t it? I wish I’d listened to my better
judgment. This new car was in the garage for six months waiting for parts
to come from The US. You wouldn’t want to trade, would you?

Every body laughed.

                             Tis a Gift to be simple

                              ‘Tis a gift to be simple
                                ‘Tis a gift to be free
                             ‘Tis a gift to come down
                               where we want to be
                          And when we find ourselves
                                In a place just right
                    It will be the valley of love and delight
                        When true simplicity is gained
                               To bow and to bend
                              We won’t be ashamed
                       To turn to turn will be our delight
                     Til be turning, we come round right


59
               How Now, Brown Cow?
                   Group Three
A small family which lived in the northern part of Andhra, in a village mean the
border of Orissa. Nagendra, his wife, Parvati, and their children, were the first
members of their families to ever own land. When Nagendra died, Parvathi was able
to carry on farming her land with her half-grown sons and two small daughters.
This was revolutionary. The family had their little spread of a few acres, and they
even owned a cow..
Parvati    My good brown cow has been raised like a daughter, and was the
mainstay of her family has begun foraging for grass in the fields of the old
Zamindar.

Zamindar I will take that cow and lock her up. Babu, deliver a message to that
widow, Parvati. That is my cow because she trespassed and destroyed my property.

Parvati     (Had managed well since her husband’s death and had tried to quietly
please everyone.) I will have to fight the Zamindar. He cannot take our Kamadhenu.
(The name of the divine life-giving cow of heaven).

Parvati knew she must go to the headmen, even though she also knew that he was a
friend of the Zamindar, but she had no other resource. What Parvathi didn’t know
was that, under the new effort being made by the Central Government, there was
now a one-third reservation for women in the Panchayati Raj Institution. Many
headmen had their own wives voted in so that they would have another five year
term in office. It was like that there here. Ramachadra Rao managed to have his
wife elected ‘headman’, which she was in name only. Usually she didn’t even attend
the meetings, but she was friends with the widow, Parvati.

The petromax lantern swung slowly from the branch of the banyan tree, lighting
from above the faces of the men sitting in a circle.

Rao Anything else this evening? (stubbing out his beedie.)

Man Don’t forget Parvati, Sir.

Rao What …who is…? Oh …the cow….!

Dressed in her white widow’s saree, Parvati stood at the edge of the light.

Rao Now, the cow belongs to the Zamindar isn’t it? Who can dispute…?

Through the shadows someone was moving resolutely to the clearing. A rather wide
lady, saree tucked in her waist and red beetle nut in the corners of her mouth,
moved into the light. She moved laboriously, swaying from side to side wiping her
hands on her saree. She removed the saree end from her waist and draped it over
her shoulders as she spat and squatted.
Rao Eh? What brings the elected headman into our midst?

The men looked uncomfortable and shifted their weight.

Rao You are here, Amma, must be you have been reason. You want your place?
You belong here, isn’t it? Yes, I am only sitting in for you.

Mrs. Rao Oh well, Appa, it is good this way, so much of work I have … but
…some person mentioned something about a cow of some sort belonging to …Ah, is
it true?

Parvati stood rigid behind her and then she too squatted.

Rao Ha! It is about the cow, is it?

Mrs. Rao    Yes, seems so.

Rao Not Parvati’s cow, the Zamindar’s cow now.

Mrs. Rao    No, God’s cow on loan to Parvati.

Rao No, no, now she belongs to the Zamindar.

Mrs. Rao Zamindar has forty cows, Parvati has only Kamadhenu. It is Parvati’s
cow. Parvati has four babies.

There was a silence.

Rao You would like this seat, Amma? Happily I will give.

Mrs. Rao No, no, Appa. You know everything. I am only woman of the house.
Everyone knows that.

Rao Then if I know everything, I know this is Zamindar’s cow.

Mrs. Rao About this, you know nothing. This cow only ate a little grass nothing
more. She was stolen.
The men all shifted position again and lit fresh beedies. Ramachandra Rao looked
furtively over his shoulder.

Rao Harsh words, Amma.

Mrs. Rao    Truth is truth. Sri Sathya Sai Baba has the name of truth.

All the men clapped their hands and bowed their heads for a moment.

Rao Tell her to take the wretched cow, I will tell Zamindar.

The heavy old lady rose unsteadily to her feet. Parvati helped her stand.

Mrs. Rao    Sorry to be so much trouble, (murmured the headman’s wife.)

Rao No, no, this is your rightful seat, Amma.

Mrs. Rao    Carry on (The two woman disappeared from the circle.)

Rao Ayo Papam, (muttered Ramachandra Rao under his breath and he spat out
the red juice).

                                         Your word
                     How good is your word, what does it mean
                         Is it of any value, does it have esteem
                                When you give your word
                                   Is it given for keeps
                              Or are your words worthless
                                    Not worth a heap
                                 Can we trust your word
                                  Or do you soon forget
                     If it’s not convenient, will you go back on it
                    It really is important, to do just what you say
                            And never ever break your word
                                    At all, in any way.
60
            An Allegorical Play
     Purity, Patience and Perseverance
                Group Two
                                  Scene One

The state is set in the woods. There is a small house stage right and a river
stage left.

Narrator There was once a very nice family who lived deep in the forest.
The father was a wood cutter and they had thee lovely daughters, named
Purity, Patience and Perseverance.

Mother     Dear ones, Mother will bake you a nice blackberry pie if you will
go into the woods to pick the berries.

Miss Purity     Oh yes, mother, we will happily go into the woods to pick
the berries. Won’t we, sisters?

Miss Perseverance     We love blackberry pie, mother

Mother     Here, my sweet ones. I will give you some bread and butter to
eat for your lunch.

Miss Patience Good bye Mother, and thank you for the nice lunch. I’m
sure we will be back very soon.
Sisters   Yes, good bye. Good bye.

Mother    (Waving and wiping tears from her eyes.) Dear Lord Sai Baba,
please care for our girls for that bread and butter was the last food we have
in the hose. Oh Dear, Sai Baba, also please find good husbands for our
sweet girls.

Narrator Deeper and deeper into the forest they went picking the
blackberries as they walked. When it began to grow dark, they turned
around to return home and found that they had become lost.

                                 Scene Two

Miss Purity     Oh no! It has become quite dark and now we are lost also.

Narrator        They became afraid of the forest sounds and huddled
together as they sat on a log.

Miss Perseverance     I’m still a bit hungry, sisters. Perhaps we can eat the
berries as well.

Miss Purity       Oh Oh Sisters, look over there. I see a small light through
the trees. Let’s hurry and cross that river as there is a boat.

                                Scene Three

The same woods but now the river is stage right and the goblin’s house is
stage left.

Narrator They crossed the river and when they got there, it was a small
cabin with very odd furniture inside.

Miss Patience Oh, our beloved Swami must have brought us to this place.
I’m so very tired. But first let us taste these delicious strawberries.

Miss Purity     Yes, let us take rest.

Narrator They went in for refuge and then curled up in the corner of the
room and went to sleep. (clock strikes twelve). About midnight, they heard
a great thud. The owner of the cabin had come home and he was a goblin!!
Globby Goblin Ho, ho! Here is my super. How nice that three lovely girls
have come to feed me. I shall eat all three but first let me rest from my
travels.

Narrator   and he tied them up with sturdy ropes.

Miss Patience The Goblin is fast asleep. Sisters. I will untie these ropes if
it takes the rest of the night.

Narrator She worked and worked and worked on the knots and finally she
was free. Then she quickly freed her sisters and quietly opening the door,
they managed to creep away. By this time it was morning. They raced for
the river because there was a little boat there. They reached the river, and
they saw the goblin running as his fat little globby legs would let him.

Globby    Oh nuts! I can’t swim. Please come back bad, little girls. I
haven’t had my breakfast!

                                Scene Four

The same woods but now the river is stage left and there is a palace stage
right.


Narrator The girls left the river and followed the path to the palace of the
king. There, they found the king, his ministers and three sons standing
outside, waiting. They told their story to the king and his three princes
Discipline, Discrimination and Duty.
King Oh that goblin!! He has stolen important things from our kingdom and
they must be returned. He has taken beauty, wealth and auspiciousness or
good luck and tied them up in ropes in his cellar. Please, since you sisters
know the way through this forest, the forest of sensual pleasure, could you
somehow persuade the goblin to return our treasures?

Miss Perseverance     We will try, your highness.
     Song: Love All
     (Jingle Bells)

     Love all, serve all, that is the way
     To bring a ray of sunshine
     Into your happy day
     Love all, serve all, you can do it too
     You’ll find a lot of sunshine
     Coming back to you.

                                 Scene Five

Now the river is again on stage right and the goblins house, stage left.


Narrator The girls went back in to the forest called, “Sensual Pleasure’’.
They looked in the window and saw that the demon was asleep So miss
patience who knew how to untie his knots, crept inside and down into the
river. The girls put the tall elegant Miss beauty into the boat and then, just
in time they jumped in and pushed off leaving behind the goblin who was
very angry.
                                   Scene Six

The palace

King (Crying happily) Oh, you have brought back our precious beauty to
the kingdom. I will give Miss patience to my son, Master Discipline as a
wife if she consents.

Miss Purity     But your majesty, they worship different gods.

King       Doesn’t matter, Sri Sathya Sai Baba my guru, guide and
guardian, says that there is only one god and He is omnipresent.

Narrator The courtiers summoned the parents of the sisters and the
wedding lasted one full day. After the wedding, the king spoke to the two
remaining girls and their parents..
King As you can see, this is a very poor Kingdom for that goblin has stolen
wealth from us. Could one of you possibly return to the goblin and bring
back our wealth?

Miss Purity    We will certainly try, your Highness, for we have the
guidance and protection of our Lord, Sri Sathya Sai Baba.

                                Scene Seven

The house of the goblin

Narrator Again the goblin was sound asleep as they tiptoed down to the
cellar to release wealth, Then they all ran pell mell for the boat on the river
with globbly goblin right behind. The goblin was very very angry because
he was attached to wealth.

                             Anger is our enemy
                                It’s number one
                         never makes us feel good
                            And it’s never any fun
                     Anger makes us say dumb things
                     Anger, what hassles it can bring
                            Anger isn’t necessary
                              And it’s hurtful to
                        Anger just brings problems
                             For me and for you
                             Anger, I think I’ll say
                                 So long to you
                       I won’t use anger at all today
                         So anger, please go away
                          I will chose a kinder way
                        Hurtful words I will not say.
                                 Scene Eight

Palace Everyone cheers and shouts and sings

King        I am overjoyed by your service. Though I know you couldn’t
have done such a thing without our Sai Baba, still it took a great deal of
courage. I would like to have you, Miss Purity wed my son, Mr. Duty if it is
alright with you and your parents.

Miss Purity     But sir, we are of different castes

King Doesn’t matter, Didn’t you know? Sri Sathya Sai Baba, our mother,
father and closest friend, says that there is only one caste, the caste of
humanity.

Narrator They had a lavish wedding which lasted a full week and
everyone was happy. But the king was still not satisfied.

King      I’m afraid that if I do not have auspiciousness, I will not have
good luck and could loose the beauty and wealth of my kingdom again.
Could you possibly go and rescue the last of our treasures, Miss.
Perseverance?

Miss Perseverance    I will go happily, for why should I fear when Sai Baba
is forever near.


                        Song: I am a Little scared
                                 (I see God)
          Sometimes I feel a little scared And I want to run away
                      But if I plan and take a stand
                       I’m strong and brave today

                                 Scene Nine

Back to globby goblin’s house.
Narrator When she arrived, the demon was throwing a tantrum and
breaking everything he could find. She quietly waited until his anger was
spent and he was asleep before tiptoeing in to release good luck or
auspiciousness.

When they were almost to the river, the goblin caught up with them,
destroyed the boat and tried to grab Miss. Perseverance and
auspiciousness

Glooby (screaming) Now you can’t get away from me.
Miss Perseverance (Quietly) Oh yes I can

Narrator And she took the hand of lady auspiciousness and simply
walked across the river leaving the goblin fussing and fuming on the shore.

                                  Scene Ten

The Palace

Narrator They returned to the palace where the king asked her to please
marry his son, Master Discrimination.

Miss Perseverance      But your majesty, how can you marry? We are of
different religious.

King       Doesn’t matter as long as you are a good member of your
religion. Besides you should know that Sri Sathya Sai Baba, our creator,
sustainer and transformer of the universe, says there is only one religion
and that is the religion of the love.

Narrator And everyone in the kingdom lived happily ever after except the
globby old goblin who because of his bad thoughts, words and deeds was
miserable as usual… until, late in life he finally discovered the love of Sri
Sathya Sai Baba.

     Only one

     There is only one religion
     The religion of love, the religion of love
     There may be many names, but they are all the same
     Hindu, Jewish, Christian, Buddhist
     Islam, Parsee, Shinto, Toaist,
     Red Indian, Sikh and Jain
     There is only one God
     And he is omnipresent, and he is omnipresent
     There is only one, He may be worshipped as the sun
     Or as Allah, Brahma, Vishnu and Iswara

     There have been many incarnations
     Of the eternal God, all embodiments of God
     Throughout history, they’ve come in mystery
     Rama, Krishna, Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, Nanak
     Laotze, Buddha, Zoroaster and Mahavira

     Sathya Sai now walks among is
     Great hope of all mankind, bright light of any time
     Defender of each path, exchanging love from wrath Love is His form
     Truth is His breath Bliss is His food, Expansion is His life
     His life is the message of Love


61
                               Monkeys
Western Story - EHV approx. ages 4-5

Little Anup and his mother and father went in the car to visit his Mother’s brother
on his farm in his country.
They were invited inside the large spacious farmhouse by Uncle Kumara and given
tea and paisam (a sweet pudding) by Aunty. Then the adults talked and talked and
talked. They talked about their lives and about all the relatives and children.
At first step Anup laid down on the couch with his head in mummy’s lap but then he
woke up and wanted to go outside and play.
      “Oh no, Anup, I don’t think so,” said Daddy.

      “Why not,” protested Uncle kumara. “This is the most peaceful and safest
place on earth. Just let they child play in the garden. He can’t possibly get into
trouble. In fact, I wanted to tell you about the farm next door. It needs a little fixing
up but it would be wonderful for week-ends,”

      “Ok, darling but be careful!” said Mummy.

      “Ok, Mummy”, said Anup and off he went, skipping down the front walk.

He found the garden and the huge mango tree full of wonderful ripe sweet mangos.

      “Oh mangos,” he cried, jumping at the lower branches unsuccessfully. So he
sat down under the tree and sulked. “I wish I had a sweet mango to eat!”

Suddenly a mango fell into his lap… plop!

When he looked up, Anup saw a whole tribe of monkeys sitting around the branches
of the tree. Anup was so pleased to have the mango he didn’t even think about the
monkeys. He bit off a piece of skin and began squeezing the pulp into his mouth as
well as all over his shits, pants, arms and hair. He didn’t care because he loved
mangoes so much.

The monkey seemed to be laughing with glee at the small boy and soon they were all
enjoying mangos, sitting in a circle around Anup. When they were finished they
licked their fingers and brushed off their coats. Anup did the same. After they were
a bit cleaner they all made for the paddy fields for a clean up. Anup did the same.
They formed a line biggest monkey first and …..Anup last. The monkeys swaggered
as they walked along, full of mango and joy. Anup did the same!

They reached the edge of the paddy field and walked carefully along the bunt. Well
Anup tried to do the same but he fell off into the water. Fortunely the water wasn’t
deep but the monkeys scampered out of sight!

Anup crawled through the mud and slush and started back to uncle’s farmhouse.
     “Anup, Anup! Where are you, dear,” cried his mother. Then she saw him
hobbling up the garden path, covered with mud, his hair full of mango pulp.

      “Oh my: Lord! Anup, Anup, are you all right?” And even with all the mud
and mango, she picked him up and hugged him. “How did you do this, precious,”
she asked.

      “Monkeys, Mummy,” was all he said.

                                      Monkeys*
                  Oh I am just a monkey as you can plainly see.
                             I love to play all the day
                           Come and see, play with me
                           And if you’d care to join me
                             All you have to say is …
                             Monkey see, monkey do,
                            Monkey laugh, you do too
                            Life’s a joke, life’s a game
                               But the joke’s on you
                             I climb fast, I climb high
                             I will take you to the sky
                 Don’t look down. Don’t look back, don’t ask why
                            And if you get into trouble
                           Oh please don’t look for me
                           ‘Cause if there’s any trouble
                              I’ll vanish like a bubble
                            I’ll race you on the double
                              But you can’t catch me
                          Why do you do as monkeys do?
                                It’s better to be you.

*This song is really about not taking drugs.
61
                      The Wrong Tree
     My Friend from Bangalore told me this story about her little brother. It
was early morning on Rest House Road in Bangalore City.

      A procession of Tempo vans slowly pulled up and stopped to park on
the lovely tree- shaded street. A couple got out; the man was wearing dark
glasses and a safari suit, which fitted snugly across his round tummy. They
stood by one of the vans and spoke in low tones to the groups of men who
were carrying choppers, axes and saws. Soon the hacking and sawing, the
chopping and the thumping made by the felling of the beautiful trees filled
the air with sad sounds. Silver, brown, green and golden leaves showered
down as the trees seem to tremble in fright. Small groups of passers by
stopped, horrified at the ugly sight. The people who lived in the
neighborhood, stared out o their windows.

      Suddenly, a small boy, my friend’s brother, came running from one of
the residences, his face contorted in sheer anguish.

     “No, no, stop! Stop please, you’re killing our trees. He ran up to the
couple in charge. “Please Sir, why are you killing our trees?

     All the people in the neighborhood and planted these trees. There
were 2,000 trees altogether and they had cared for every one of them as if
they were children.

     “Get away! Get away,” the man in the dark glasses muttered. The
menacing man threw a small stump at the boy, causing him to dodge and
run across the street. He obviously couldn’t understand at all.

     “Ravi, get into the house this very instant,” a woman’s frightened
voice called.

     “But Mummy……”
      “This instant!” The small boy disappeared into the house. After about
eighty of the beautiful trees were felled, the couple looked at each other. He
checked his watch. “Okay, enough,” he said, and clapped his hands as if it
were a pre-arranged signal. The laborers worked quickly, obviously they
had done this type of crime many times before. They dragged the trunks to
the vans and pitched them in along with their weapons of destruction. In a
flash they were gone, leaving hacked-off stumps, broken branches and
dead leaves behind where, not an hour ago, stood the lacy grove of kindly
trees.

      But destiny played an important hand in this drama and the killers of
Mother Earth’s bounty will never repeat their offence. A Karnataka high
court judge just happened to live on that street. This man, who
unfortunately was out of town when the crime occurred, had planted some
of the destroyed trees tenderly and with a lot of love. When he arrived
home to find the holocaust, he was very upset. He lodged a cmplaint with
the Depute Conservator of Forests, and urged the Forest Department to
treat the cutting down of each and every tree as a separate case, and to
institute a separate prosecution for each offence.

     The villains were clearly barking up the wrong tree this time!

     The Tree

     I am a mighty tree, very tall I stand
     Near and far, I can see
     The forest of this land
     Circles in circles I grow one every year
     The big ones are outside, outside
     And the small ones
     Are in here in here
     And the small ones are in here.

     This song was originally written for the quiet sitting portion of class.
Children are asked to get in touch with the small and small circles within
themselves.
62
                True Story Peace Pilgrim
       Have you ever heard of the lady they called “Peace Pilgrim? It seems that
about ten year ago in the USA, there was a woman who walked form one end of the
country to the other and back again, carrying a sign, which said “Peace”. Winter,
summer, hot weather or cold, she walked. Sometimes she slept in snow banks,
sometimes in a garage or storeroom. We imagine that she was in danger every
moment from ‘drive by shootings’ or random acts of violence, because they are
common in the west. All by herself, however, she carried forth her message of peace.
Well, she became a teacher by example only, as she was usually silent. Books and
articles have been written about her, and she was interviewed and adored by many.
Even here in India, I have heard her name said with reverence.

      Would it surprise you to know that here in India there is also a “Peace
Pilgrim?” Possibly it would because the man receives no recognition to speak of. We
just came across a small articles on the back pages of he news paper the other day.
His name is, Aboobacker Siddique, and the rode his bicycle from Orissa, his native
place, across Bihar and UP, even crossing over into Bangladesh and Bruma.

      Now he is in Kerala, which is where the writer of the article in this paper
found him. Twice he was nabbed by ultras, once in Manipur and once in Nagaland,
where they swooped down on him and frisked him thoroughly. All they could find
was his little sign, which says “Pray for Peace”, just like the sign carried by the
famous lady in America. The ultras in Manipur ended up fixing the punctured tire
on his beaten-up Hero bike, and they also gave him fixing the punctured tire on his
beaten-up old Hero bike, and they also gave him Rs.500 to help him on his way.
Since1991, he had logged the message of universal brotherhood and harmony, and
he’s 76 years old, if you can believe it? He is more convinced then ever that, ‘the
purpose of my mission is to spread peace and harmony and love to all I meet.”

      In 1994, he flew to Iran with his trusty old bike. From there, he pedaled across
Iraq, Turkey, Strife-torn Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel and Saudi Arabia. He rode
100 km a day, logging in 35,000, never failing to do his Namez. He visited the holy
city of Mecca before returning homeward. The man and his machine are
inseparable.

      “I hope nobody whacks it when I’m not looking,” he laughs. “But sir,” we
wondered, “where are your biographers, your movie rights, the TV crews? Oh I see,
you’re only one small Indian gentleman as you pedal across the glorious soild of
Mother India. Don’t worry, Sir, Mother India knows and she is proud of every one
of her precious children.”

     Dona Nobis Pacem

     Do-na no-bis pacem pacem
     Do-na no-bis pacem.*
     Do-na no-bis pacem pacem
     Do-na no-bis pacem.*
     Do-na no-bis pa-cem pacem
     Do-na no-bis pacem.


The Latin words of this 16th century song mean ‘Give Us peace.’
‘Dona Nobis Pacem’ is pronounced ‘Do-nah No-beesce Pah-chem’.
This song is very effective when sung in a three-part round. Singers enter at
asterisks (*).


63
                    Homemade Cookies
           Anna and Phoebe were on the school bus going home. Phoebe
was five years older than Anna but they lived next door to each other.

           Anna hadn’t finished eating the cookies her mother had packed
in her brown bag lunch so the girls were munching away and talking.

           “Gee, these are great cookies, Anna, they taste home made.”
          “They are, I made them myself.”

          “Gee, I’d like to know how to make them.”

          “You would? Well, I’ll show you something.”

          Anna looked out the window and thought, ‘I did it again. I didn’t
make these cookies, Mom did. Why do I tell fibs like that? It’s soo stupid!
They just pop our before I can think. In EHV they say we should think
before we speak, Ha!’

          “I’ve eaten so many, Phoebe, here the rest are yours.”

          “No way, that’ll make me an old maid.”

           “You’re gonna be one anyway, so why worry,” Sneered Peter
from the front seat.

          “Hey listen you little twerp,” murmured Phoebe, “You were
gonna get the rest of these cookies and now we’ll throw them out the
window before we give them to you. Anna made them with her own little
hands too!”
          Anna slid down in her seat. “I’ll take the rest home.”

          The bus stopped and Anna’s mother was there on the sidewalk.
She looked in the window and saw the cookies being put away.

           “Didn’t you like the cookies, Anna? I made them from a receipt
from ‘Ladies Home Journal’

        Anna was stunned. “But I helped you Mom, don’t you
remember?”

          By this time the girls were out of the bus and on the sidewalk.

         “She’s been bragging on her cookies all day saying she said she
made them with her own little hands!” sneered Peter from the bus.
           “I didn’t say that and you know it, Peter White!”

           “Liar, liar, your pants are on fire!”

          “Phoebe honey, change out of that dress and come down and
have a snack with me Ok?” suggested Mom.

            Changing into her jeans and T-shirt, Anna slid into a breakfast
nook in the kitchen as Mom was opening a Pepsi for her and fixing coffee
for herself.

          Anna stared at the brightly painted yellow walls and the red and
white curtains blowing cheerfully at the window. She wasn’t feeling very
cheerful.

           “How come you lied about the cookies, Anna. Such a silly little
lie.”

             “Maybe it was just a fib? Oh I don’t know, Mom, I’ve been saying
stuff like that pretty often lately. I just don’t think before I speak, like you’re
suppose to. But it’s not so important, is it … just fibs?”

           ‘Lies or fibs, neither one is the truth, is it? A lie is an lie no
matter what. You know what will happen? People will doubt your word.
They’ll say, ‘Oh Anna lies.’ Even if you tell one lie, that’s what might
happen. People won’t believe you any more.”

           “I know, like the story about the little boy cried ‘wolf too many
times.

          “Exactly. But I wonder why you make things up. You like school,
don’t you?”

         “It’s ok,”
         “Are you stressed out or something? Maybe we should talk
more, Anna do you worry?”

           “A little… about Daddy.”
           “Well hey, that’s for sure. We all worry about Daddy. I worry
every time he goes out of the house. Tell you what we’ll do. We’ll talk like
this every afternoon after school just to check in with each other. An
maybe I’ll teach you how to make cookies and other stuff too. I make a
mean spaghetti sauce.”

           “Oh yeah! I’d really really really like that, Mom.”

     That does Love Mean?

     Love means that I’m very kind
     I never say anything cruel or mean.
     I don’t care if your skin is dark or light
     Or anything in between
     I don’t care which god you worship
     Or the country from which you came
     I am your friend and you are mine
     ‘Cause you and I are the same.


64
                     A Small White Cap
      Ganesha Chaturthi festival is the celebration of the elephant-headed son of
Lord Shiva. On Chaturthi, a date according to the lunar calendar, His image, made
of clay, is worshipped in many temporary shrines all over India and throughout the
world. Every day, puja is offered to the deity, consisting of KumKum, incense,
flower garlands, etc, and every day the heap of auspicious offerings grows, until
after three or nine days, He is taken in procession to the nearest lake or river or
tank. There, by immersion, He is sent to heaven as everyone shouts for Him to come
back again next year.
     We Hindus do not really leave Him alone after that, because every new
beginning throughout the year must begin with a prayer for His blessing. He is the
most popular of all the forms of God for the Hindus.

      Only three days after the festival, a group of boys from our neighborhood in
Ulsoor (which is in Bangalore), took their giant Ganesha, on a make-shift trolley, to
the lake for immersion. My mother and I were staying at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram
on the lake temporarily until Swami came back to Brindavan and we had a view of
the procession. Some of the boys looked quite young and perhaps it was their first
experience. They pushed the large pink elephant-headed figure of Lord Ganesha
along the street that crossed near the mosque. They didn’t need to go that way but I
suppose it added an extra thrill for them to court trouble. I could see from my view
that there was a small group of boys wearing round white caps, tensely waiting in
the stairwell of an old building nearby. As the procession passed by, somehow they
didn’t throw the stones, which they held. In fact, still holding them in their hands,
the small boys, including one little fellow named Ahmed, quietly crept behind the
procession at a safe distance.

      As they tip-toed along, Ameer and Ahmed were looking very scared.

     “Ahmed,” said Ameer, “your hand is empty. If you have no stone, how will
you defend the mosque?”

     “My mother said this morning that she had a bad feeling in her heart. I
promised her to try to sew seeds of reconciliation, I cannot carry a stone.”

      When the boys reached the lake and tipped Lord Ganesha, He fell off at an
angle. The boys dragged Him further into the lake, when suddenly it became very
deep. The boys struggled, spurting like dying candles before they sank.

     Ahmed, aged twelve, was evidently a pretty good friend with several of the
Hindu boys who had participated in the procession.

      “Hey, that’s Raju,” he called as he raced for the lake. He was a good swimmer
and, one by one, he pulled the boys up and to safety, even joking.

     “Maybe your Ganesha sitting at the bottom handed you up!” Somehow he still
wore his white cap.
      But one boy was still missing. “Okay, I’ll find him,” shouted Ahmed. He
disappeared under the dark waters never to return. Only a small white skullcap
remained, bobbing on the waves.

      Well, at the present time in that same neighbourhood they celebrate the
immersion of Lord Ganesha on the fifth day or even the ninth day after Chaturthi
and they take a route which honours the sensitivities of all the communities along
the way. They time the procession that way because we have something very
important to do on the anniversary of the tragedy. I always attend on that third day,
when a small white cap is floated on the waves of the lake. All the children, their
mothers and fathers, and even the religious leaders from both communities join
hands and pray silently for communal harmony as they float flower garlands upon
the lake waters, as a tribute to little Ahmed. I guess you could say that the small cap
has become a symbol of religious tolerance.

B is for Brotherhood

B is for Brotherhood
Each one is our brother
Because of the Soul
There isn’t another
For God is our father
We’re rally the same
The only thing different
Is in form and our name
We’re sisters and brothers
Like leaves of a tree
And, the Lord, the truck
Is Divinity
So, don’t allow prejudice
To remain in your mind
See God in all
And revere
All Mankind.
65
                         Christmas Eve
     It seems that every year in Bangalore the wives of wealthy
industrialist get together for a charity ball.

       Christmas Eve, the night of the great extravaganza finally arrived, and
backstage all the executive’s wives were bustling around in their chiffons
and extremely short velvet mini dresses. After a parade of gaudy, tacky
‘little nothing’ dresses worn by sweet young things, Mrs. Krishnamurthi
appeared in the spotlight and everyone gasped. She was wearing a simple
Madurai handloom saree. You could have heard a pin drop as she slowly
took the mike and walked with confidence and dignity down the catwalk.
“Why are you surprised, haven’t you ever seen a saree before?” she finally
said, and everyone giggled a little and applauded. “I chose to wear a saree
because I wanted to look my best. Everyone knows that a woman looks
prettier in a saree than anything else she could wear. It’s quite graceful and
elegant, don’t you think?” and she did a little turn as the models do. There
was more applause. “They’re not allowing ladies dressed in sarees into the
clubs in Mumbai. The saree is our national dress. What does that say about
respect for our motherland for our motherland and our culture?’’

           “Pretty and graceful and it’s also useful. If the sun is too bright
or it sprinkles rain you can- voila!” and she covered her head with her
pallu. “My mother used to tie raisins and nuts in one corner for us children
when we went to the park. Remember those days, and when we were
pregnant and nursing? But I wear them now because they’re beautiful and
becoming.”

             “You know, I don’t want to turn the clock backward. We’re all for
progress, but must we sacrifice the good parts of our culture? The world is
bringing itself to our doorstep anyway, so we can just be ourselves, isn’t
it? I really think that the world would like us to keep our ‘Indian-ness’. In
fact, I think they rather like it. I do. I love my culture, our music, customs,
language, and values. Sometimes, while watching TV which comes from
the west from the west, I think we’re the only one with any value left. My
daughter likes rock and roll, but she also plays veena. I like that. She
paused for a moment, looking around at the gathering. “Thank you for
letting me say what’s in my heart tonight.” As she turned to walk away
everyone was on their feet shouting. “Yes, yes” and calling her name.
There wasn’t a dry eye in the house as cocktails were spilt over little black
nothing dresses and crochet handkerchiefs fluttered to wipe the running
mascara from teat-stained faces. Mr. Radhakrishnan proudly advanced and
folded her arm in his.

      Tie a Gift to be Simple

      Tis a gift to be simple, ‘tis a gift to be free,
      ‘tis a gift to come down where we want to be.
      And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
      It will be in the valley of love and delight
      When true simplicity is gained,
      To bow and to bend we won’t be ashamed.
      To turn, to turn will be our delight,
      Til by turning, turning we come ‘round right.


66
                            Dalit Genius
                             True Story
       “You’re from India, aren’t you?” I asked the slim, dark-skinned young man
sitting across from me in the student canteen.
       “Yes….That’s correct”.
       “And now you’re here at the University of Indiana.”
       He smiled. “No connection. I chose this university because it had the graduate
curriculum I wanted.”
       “And that is ….?”
       “Banking.”
       “Oh, I see, banking! Why, I’ll bet your Daddy is great big banker in India!”
     “He’s a sweeper at the railway station in Bombay,” the boy said, laughing.
     I liked the way his eyes lit up his face.
     “We’re Dalits. Some people call us ‘untouchables’, but we are not!”
     “Well, I’ll say. That’s pretty bad! My Daddy is a janitor in Oklahama and
some people call us ‘white trash’. But we’re not either!”

       And that was how I met Vilas,! I knew that I would give him my life from the
first, and just what I’ve done. In fact, we married and returned to India and that
was the end of everything I’d ever known. One of his friends asked him why he was
going back when he had everything going for him in the USA. He said, “The
question is not why I’m going back. The question is, why you are not!” My husband
is a super-patriot, even though it was ever easy growing up as a harijan. Harijan is
what Gandhi called them. It means ‘children of God’, but most Dalits don’t like the
term because there have been too many broken promises made under that banner.”

     I could talk for a week about Vilas. He’s brilliant to begin with and talented
and determined to help his people –our people now.

      His father had to go through so much even to get his children in school. He
later wrote a book about it, which has won many prizes. He seemed to strike a chord
among all castes and classes because of its universal theme.

       His father spent his life as a sweeper, but, you know he must be just as
brilliant as my husband. My husband got his doctorate in 1986. Along the way, he
was given an award in the USA for best international student of the year. In 1984,
after he met me, he earned a 3.94 grade point average out of possible 4.0. This score
has yet to be beaten by anyone! Five days after receiving that PhD, we were stepping
off the plane in Bombay.”

      When we first got back, Vilas got out all of his father’s old tattered notebooks.
There were twelve, chronicling his family and coming to terms with the caste
system. Originally, the family was landless and agricultural workers. I guess the
notebooks were sort of coarse and crude, with no paragraph or chapters, but they
were very beautiful and my husband put them into a proper book form. It became
an instant hit, and my husband read it aloud on Air India Radio and also in TV. It
was a great tool for the Dalit movement.”
      Now my husband writes books about his own generation of Dalits and the
negative and positive changes that have taken place. I read the other day that the
ONA researchers haven’t been able to find any differences in intellect of the
members of different castes. The brilliant Indians were always making the best
marks at the universities in the States. But the sweepers and coolies, and even street
urchins, could be just as brilliant if their mothers received good nutrition during
pregnancy and they had a chance for and education. I personally feel that the
educated Dalits have the intensity had desperation for a better life, and that they
will be the ones to bring India out of the doldrums and make her the world leader of
the 21st century.

      I’m sorry if I sound like a social activist, it’s just that my husband feels so
strongly about this and I have to listen to him all the time. Vilas is a Senior Officer
with the Reserve Bank of India, and write books. He’s trying to educate all the
members of his family. Besides, we contribute to the ‘Republican Party’ I laughed
when I heard the name, because my Mama would kill me if I ever voted Republican
back home. Here, in India, it is the new party of the Dalits and it’s strong and
powerful. We’re Buddhists, and that is a religion I always felt drawn to, even in the
States. Lord Buddha was known as the Lord of Compassion and Buddhists do not
recognise the caste system. I know that I keep saying ‘we Dalits’ but you see,
foreigners are considered ‘untouchables’, which makes me a Dalit. Besides, all
countries are only rooms in God’s mansion and humanity is one caste. What
happens to the harijans here affects, in some way, what happens to the blacks in
Harlem too. I really believe that it’s the world consciousness which has to change.



                          Lokaa Samasta sukino Bhavantu
                          Lokka Samasta Sukino Bhavantu

This is a prayer for world peace. Translation: Let all beings in all the worlds be
happy
67
                         Dhobbi’s Boy
      My friend, Vjaya, from Bangalore told me about her brother. Their
father was a dhobbi in Belatur. The dhobbi, Keshava, his wife, Eswara, and
their two children lived in the hut down by the river. The children were
Jaya, a boy of eight, and Vjaya, and a girl of six. Keshava was a very good
dhobbi and his customer had no complaints, even though it was well
known that he had a…drinking problem. At those frequent times, Eswara
and her children had to do all of the work.

      When papa was ‘indisposed’, Jaya left the shack each morning with
his mother at 4.00am to wash the clothes in the cold, black river. It was so
early that they could just barely see the stains in the clothes. But they
managed somehow, and they never lost a customer. In fact, their foreign
customers were a fiercely loyal bunch who paid the fees for both kids to go
to school, as well as for the uniforms and books, etc. At 8.30 am, after four
hours of work, Jaya boarded the crowded bus for Whitefield so that he
could go to St Theresa’s Convent school because she wanted to be close
to home. Eswara would do the pressing and she and little Vjaya delivered
the nice, warm, clean clothes in the afternoon.

      One day, when Jaya was in tenth standard, the Head Mistress came
and took Jaya out of class. “Your mother needs you now, Jaya, it seems
that your father was killed crossing the road this morning.” Jaya, it rushed
home immediately to find his mother and sister weeping That evening, he
lit the funeral bier and Keshava was cremated down by the very river,
which had provided his livelihood. Jaya felt that he must become the
breadwinner now and that it was necessary to drop out of school.
Fortunately, while at school he had attended a course in TV repairs and
was now able to get a TV repair job.
     One day, he saw his former Head Mistress on the street in Whitefield
and he stopped to talk to her. She asked after his family and praised his
good habits.

     “Yes, sister, I’ve been promoted to the position of manager of the TV
repair shop and so we are all doing well.”

     The elderly nun looked at the bright young boy. You are such a fine
person. What was it that made you turn out so well?”

     Jaya smiled. “Must be self-confidence,” he said. “You see, my father
always said that I could do anything, if I tried my best and had faith in
myself.

      One day, when Jaya was in tenth standard, the Head Mistress came
and took Jaya out of class. “Your mother needs you now, Jaya, it seems
that your father was killed crossing the road this morning,” Jaya rushed
home immediately to find his mother and sister weeping That evening, he
lit the funeral bier and Keshava was cremated down by the very river,
which had provided his livelihood. Jaya felt that he must become the
breadwinner now and that it was necessary to drop out of school.
Fortunately, while at school he had attended a course in TV repairs and
was now able to get a TV repair job.
      One day, he saw his former Head Mistress on the street in Whitefield
and he stopped to talk to her. She asked after his family and praised his
good habits.

     “Yes Sister, I’ve been promoted to the position of manager of the TV
repair shop and so we are all doing well.”

     The elderly nun looked at the bright young boy. You are such a fine
person. What was it that made you turn out so well?”

     Jaya smiled. “Must be self-confidence,” he said. “You see, my father
always said that I could do anything, if I tried my best. He taught me to
have faith in myself.
     ‘He was a good father in many in many ways, Sister”
     If You Think You’re Beaten

     If you think you’re beaten you are
     If you think you dare not, you don’t
     If you’d like to win but you think that you can’t
     It is almost for certain that you won’t
     If you think you’ll lose, you’re lost
     For out in the world you will find
     Success begins with fellows’ will
     It’s all in the state of mind
     If you think you’re out-classed, you are
     You’ve got to think high to rise
     You’ve got to be sure of yourself
     Before you can ever really win a prize
     Life’s battles don’t always go
     To the stronger or fastest one
     But sooner or later the one who wins
     Is the one who thinks he can.


68
        Extra, Extra-Tribals get Patent
P K Surendran
                                                     The Times of India
                                                     Bangalore
                                                     25 February 1997



       Thiruvananthapuram: In the first instance in the country of the Tribals
getting Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), the Kani tribe of the Agastyar hills of
South Kerala, have been given Rs.5 lakh for the anti-fatigue drug being made of the
local herb, Trichopus Zeylannicus.
      The herb, known for its stamina-giving properties, was first detected by the
Tropical Botanical Garden and Research Institute (TBGRI), the premier herbal
research institution, in 1987. The TBGRI scientists espied, during a trek, the Kani
tribals munching leaves of this herb to prevent fatigue
      “Ashoke, what are those tribal fellows eating?”
      “Don’t know, Ahmed, I myself noticed them munching on some kind of leaf.
Shall we find out?”
      “Hey there, wait a moment, my friend, don’t go so fast. We were wondering
what it is that you fellows are eating. Must be some kind of herb, am I right?”
    “Yes sir, this is the herb which enables us to walk very fast up and down these
mountains.”
      “Is that true? Well, in that case why don’t you let us try a little of it now. Oh
my, this herb seems to be very nice. I can feel the energy all ready. Here, you try a
bit Ashok.”
      “I also feel some energy from the herb. Let’s have a race up the hill, Ahmed.”
       “Wait until I can eat a few more of those leaves they’re quite good. Yes I can
feel the energy even now. Let’s ask the tribals for some samples of this herb. We’ll
take it back to the Institute.”
      After the discovery this herb, the Institute undertook research into the
qualities of the herb and found it could prove to be an Indian Ginseng with a
superior feature of being non-steroidal, noted TBGRI Director, P. Pushpangadan,
The Institute declared that it would yield to the tribals part of the proceeds, when a
drug based on the herb was commercially produced, as they are the source of the
knowledge. They were notified immediately.
      “Since you were the tribals who gave us the herb first, Krishna, we will let you
and your group cultivate it to begin with. Good Luck. I think we may have a very
excellent drug here.”
       The Institute has now secured Rs 10 lack from the Arya Vaidya Pharmacy,
Combatore, the first licensee for commercial production of the drug for seven years.
The Institute has set apart Rs.5 lakh to the tribals. The money is being routed to the
tribals for further herbal cultivation through a tribal trust created for this purpose.
Besides, half of the 2 percent annual royalty of the sale of the drug, titled ‘Jeevani’,
will also go to the tribal trust. Presently, only some thirty families are growing the
herb. But there is scope for some 5,000 families gaining permanent livelihood by its
cultivation in at least 3,000 acres.


     This information appeared in the newspapers five years ago and we know that
know it is possible to purchase Jeevani over the counter of most pharmacies. It is a
good drug to take to increase stamina and wipe out tiredness. We do not know
whether or not there are 5.000 families making a living growing the herb or not.


                             The Earth is Our Mother

                       Hey yung-a yo, yung-a hey yung yung
                       Hey yung-a yo, yung-a hey yung yung
                             The earth is our mother
                            We must take care of her
                             The earth is our mother
                            We must take care of her
                        Her sacred ground we walk upon
                             With every step we take
                        Her sacred ground we walk upon
                             With every step we take

Repeat entire song, ending with “Hey Yunga” section.
                  Harmony



69
                             Family Plot
      The family Zambia owed a small plot halfway up the mountain. Every
morning mama and her small daughter carried water to the plot for the okra
and the eggplant bushes which they had planed 2 months earlier. They
didn’t mind because it was their own land, free and clear, inherited from her
father’s father.
          “Someday I mean to build a small hut on this land after you
children have grownup and are on your own.” She said this same thing
every morning.
          “Yes Mama, I know,”
          The postman stopped them before they started up the long
steep path.
     He was a nosy fellow.
     “Morning Mrs. Mangassi. Looks like we might have a little rain today,”
     Mama suggested
     “No, I’m afraid not. There’s not a cloud in the sky this morning.”
     “Yes sir, over there, see?”
       “Oh yes, then we will hope for the best. When you going to put this
girl in school, Mrs. Mangassi?”
     “Girl is needed at home sir.”
     “But if she was educated she would be able to help even more.”
      “No, she wouldn’t be able to carry this water every day myself.. I’m
getting old too.”
     “What about your next youngest? He’s a boy so he could carry the
water better.”
     “Maybe next year,”
     “Yes, that’s a good plan. Girl could start school next year and boy
could carry the water,” suggested the postman, happily.
    “The boy will have to support family some day and the girl will have a
husband to support her.”
     The girl looked down at her feet, humming a little tune.
     The postman signed. “That was what they all said,” he thought.
      “But Mrs. Mangassi, everyone should have a chance at an education,
girls and boys. Everyone should have a chance at an education, girls and
boys. Everyone should have a chance at happiness.”
     “Yes sir, I’m sure you’re right. Thank you for your concern and I will
discuss this with my husband. Come on girls.”
      They started the long treck and the small girl looked back and waved
at the postman.
     She loved to climb up here and see the surrounding countryside. I
was a warm sunshiny day and the smell of the soft rich earth filled her
nostrils. A black bird hopped from one branch to another complaining
about the noise and fragile butterflies flew around her face and head. She
giggled and climbed with a light step.
           Find Contentment
     (Beautiful Dreamer)
     Doing as you please,
     That isn’t happiness
     Just find contentment,
     Forget all the rest
     Liking what you have to do.
     That brings contentment
     And that is the best
     The happy man
     Is the one we admire
     He is the one with the fewest desires
     Doing as you please,
     Isn’t happiness
     Just find contentment,
     Forget all the rest.


70
                                  Frutti
      When she was lonely, which was fairly often, Uma would lie on her bed in the
dorm at Vanderbilt University and think about her home in India, remembering her
family, and Turri and Frutti. She remembered the day Appa had brought them
home. They were half grown claves then, with the knobby horns, castrated and
ready to be trained as bullocks. It had been her birthday, and the family was
celebrating by having a small party on the verandah with cake and Tutii- Frutti ice
cream.

      Uma, her brothers, sisters, cousins and aunts were all sitting on the floor
around the low table on the spacious verandah of the farmhouse when she saw her
father lead the claves into the yard. Still wearing her paper hat and carrying the ice
cream in a bowl, she jumped off the verandah and ran to her father.

      “Oh Appa, Appa, you have brought me the nicest gift of all! These baby cows
are mine, aren’t they?” And before the five year old could be stopped, she had stuck
the bowl under their faces and let them lick up every bit of the ice cream.

     “Uma, come back here this minute,” cried her mother running after her,
“don’t give them the Tutti-Frutti!” sweet girl, your very own bullocks.”

       In the year that followed, Uma would straddle one bull or the other and ride it
into the fields like Lord Shiva rode the Nandi Bull.

      “Ah! Here come Uma Maheshwari,” Appa would say when he saw her riding
across the green paddy fields on the bull to bring him tiffin.

      But after she had been at Vanderbilt for four years and decided to get higher
degrees, he’s written for permission to sell them. “Who will care for them if you
never return” he wrote, expression his sorrow.

      She wrote immediately: “permission denied! I am coming home in three
More years to collect my Tutti and my frutti and I hope you will give me a
Parcel of land as well” And then she added a bit of a poem she’d composed. “The
earth opens itself to the stamping feet of the bullocks in the paddy fields for she, our
mother Earth, Knows that the sweetest manure cannot be far behind. But she recoils in
horror from even the sight, the stench and dripping oil of the tin tractor.”

     And now with her Masters Degree in one hand and her Tom on her arm, she
was actually returning home.

     Sometimes she didn’t know whether Tom was in love with her or with India.
He was also an agricultural student, who wanted desperately to farm in India and
grow the new hybrid rice cultivated at the International Rice Research Institute
under his own guru, Dr Gurudev Singh Khush.

       Tom could talk about rice all night. “Uma, the president of the World Bank
said that India could someday feed the hungry of the world! I feel we must accept
this as a moral obligation!” Already he was saying ‘we’ when he spoke of India. She
didn’t mind. In fact, his love for her country was so intense, sometimes it made her
cry.

      They had spent two summers with her family on the farm and her father liked
him; she could tell. Although not yet married it felt like it. “Separate rooms for now,
my dearest,” she whispered. “We’ll have such a huge marriage celebration in India
and I must really be the blushing bride because I’m not good at faking it.”

       Finally, both of them graduated and flew home. She made Tom promise not to
kiss the soil when they got off the plane in Madras before taking another for Cochin.
A taxi took them to the village and to the farm.

      The were met at the gate by the family. And as they entered the compound,
there in the middle of the path was a spanking new shiny red tractor.

      “What’s this, Appa?”
      Wedding present for Tom,”
      “Nice, but…”
      “Wonderful, Sir Thank you. And right after the wedding, we’ll put this baby
to work. Did I write to you about Dr. Khush?”

      “Appa, where are Tutti and Frutti?”

      “Oh, in the shed. I like to use these tractors now as they are quicker.”

      All the while she was growing up, Uma would sit with the bulls in the late
afternoons, feeding them long sticks of fodder.

      “Hey, honey, do you think we have to wait until after the wedding to get
started?”

      “But we don’t even have any land yet, Sweetie!”
      The next day, Appa drove Tom across the valley in his new tractor and they
started tilling the rich dark soil. A few hours later Appa returned smiling.

       “He couldn’t wait, so I showed him where your land starts. He said he’d like
to set out some peanuts because they’re good for the soil. When he saw how rich it is
he said he could grow a tree from a match-stick. Nice young man.”

     However, Tom wasn’t back underneath the motor of the tractor, his shirt
soaked with oil. “Can’t seem to fix this thing. We’ll have to get it up to the house
some way.”

      And that was how Uma got the last laugh on her father.

      Appa was standing on the verandah when they pulled up the tractor. It had
been harnessed to the two bulls who had easily dragged it across the valley and into
the yard. Uma, carrying a stick with a few leaves on it walked behind with Tom.

      “Is that what they taught you at your fancy university?” shouted her father.
      “What they taught me was to love the earth, Appa. You can keep your old tin
tractor, Tom and I will use my babies, okay?”

      “You’re my girl,” Appa whispered, with tears in his eyes, “and we’re glad to
have you home too, Tom.”

Tis a gift to be simple

‘Tis a gift to be simple
‘Tis a gift to be free
‘Tis a gift to come down where we want to be
And when we find ourselves in place just right
It will be in the valley of love and delight
When true simplicity is gained
To bow and to bend we won’t be ashamed
To turn to turn will be our delight
‘til by turning turning we come round right.
71
                Hope in Blighted Area
     Bangalore : Staf Reporter
     From The Hindu, December 1996

     Two years after the Urdu riots shook and tore apart Valmikinagar,
Kasturbanagar, Jagjivanram Nagar, Janata Colony, Mominpur, Old
Guddatahalli, Devaraj Urs Nagar, Padarayanapura and Rayapuram on
Mysore Road, these areas still regarded as communally sensitive.

     But on Sunday, it was a different sight altogether. Youth in these
areas came together under the banner ‘Parisara Shanthi’ with the help of an
NGO Pipal Tree, and launched a clean-up programme.

    Their operation began with Valmikinagar slum, where a sewage water
swamp was filled to reclaim the land and build a community hall.

      A garbage bin had to be cleaned up. An adjoining drain had been
caked with rubbish for the last ten years. “With this cleaning, we clean up
our minds. All the Hindus and Muslims of the area have pitched in by doing
this community activity,” said K K Kadar, a convener of the committee and
an auto rickshaw driver by profession.

     According to Swamy Cinaya Chaitanya of Narayan Gurukula, “The
community hall would be used for educational purpose. We want to spread
the message of communal harmony and introduce health education
programs. Even now, political forces try to spark off communal fights in
these areas. We need to sensitive everyone. It would be a great help if
anyone comes forward with financial support.

      “From today, for two months hence, on every Sunday the committee
will take up cleaning of slums. The local youth have pledged to improve
living conditions in the area,: said Lalu Narayan, Pipal Tree spokesman.
     “IT was outsiders who came and created the riots. Even now, they
come and foment trouble,” said K Krishnan, one of the slum dwellers.
Added Mohideenbi, an active participant in the project, “For three months,
we did not sleep. We just took care of the injured and the children.”

      “The corporation has never cared for us. When the garbage starts
rotting, we ourselves dump it elsewhere,” commented Muni Chowdappa,
Pipal Tree Coordinator and a resident of Valmikinagar.

     Prejudice
     Poem by yours truly
     Prejudice makes up your mind
     Before you really know
     If a person’s bad or good
     And that’s stupid, don’t you know
     It’s better to be open-minded
     Just to wait and see.
     Why choose the chains
     Of prejudice?
     It’s better to be free.

     Eligotry is stupidity
     It shows a mind that’s small
     It shows a narrow –minded mind,
     Not reasonable at all.
     These are poor mental habits
     Allowing your mind to wear
     Those blinders of prejudice
     They won’t get you anywhere

     A bigot is a lazy man
     Too lazy to change his mind.
     To examine all the evidence
     He’s satisfied to be blind.
     The facts he never questions
     He only talks and shouts
     Repeating all the old clichés
     He’s never figured out
72
                                 Illiterate
      He had always been ashamed though he never showed his feelings, always
standing straight and tall. Even as an agricultural worker, he had pride. There were
many times in Kanayappa’s life, when people read to him important papers. Voting
was simple because he simply voted for the “Hand” but there were other times, such
as when his father died and left him the bullocks and cart. The village headsman
had some paper for him to sign because his brother made a dispute. Kanayappa had
given his thumbprint. Another time, Kanayappa was hired by a mill to drive his
bulls around and around the oil press. His wages were written out on a piece of
paper, but the manager could easily have given him only part of his wages and kept
the rest. He wouldn’t have known. Then, there was the time when he had to take his
wife to her village in northern Karnataka and, at the bus station; he had to ask
which bus to board. He couldn’t even read the name of the village written in front.
He felt so lost, and so Kanayappa got angry at his wife for no reason that she could
understand.

      He was very happy when the government educated his eldest son on a
program for Scheduled Castes. It came in handy to have someone in the household
who could read but I continued to bother his because, he said, “Now I have to hand
over any papers to my son and do what ever he says. I would rather have been in
control of my own life and not to depend on anyone else, even though I and only a
farm hand.”

      He heard about the ‘open schools’ that were to begin in Guntur District, and
he was very interested. Everyone was surprised that he wanted to learn to read and
write. His wife admitted that she was also wanting education but was afraid that he
would think it was silly, as old as they were. His son had read of the opportunity in
the newspaper. Again, he told himself that if he’d been able to read it for himself he
wouldn’t have had to trouble anyone else.

     It seemed that the Guntur District Educational Department had already
chosen the places for conducting the program. They would be held in three phases.
Students could study the fifth standard textbooks as much as they needed and
attend open classes. Then, when they felt ready, they would take the examination for
sixth standard. Then they would study the sixth standard text until they felt ready to
pass seventh standard examination to join seventh standard and then eighth as well.
Eventually, the government would add ninth and tenth. The best part was that there
was no age limit, which meant Kanayappa and his wife could join and become
literate.

       The government was opening schools for girls as well, in seventy areas where
girls were not receiving very much education. He would like all three of his girls to
go to school. Sometimes marriages were not lasting these days and he didn’t want all
three of them to fall back on him if they were widowed or something His mother
didn’t understand any of this. “Why son, why are you going to waste your time
studying now when you could be working and earning wages.”

      “Sometimes, Amma, there is more to life than work. My son can sit down and
read the newspaper. He knows what is going on all over the world, Amma, even the
weather reports. Those are important things, Amma; are we to be only draught
animals tied to the plow? Things are changing now and I want to be prepared.”

      “But son, they aren’t changing for us. We will always make our way by the
sweat of our brow, with the good soil under our feet.”

      “Not so, Amma, sometimes Narasimha reads things to me from the papers
that would surprise you. For instance, some men in he scheduled Caste Society
helped their brothers to set up poultry farms. They’ve made thousands of rupees,
Amma. Who knows what might come my way!”

      “Those Scheduled Caste farmers must have known important people. We
don’t know anyone important.”

      “No Amma, so many things are happening. The CM had begun a program
now for, ‘Empowerment of Youth’ and there are schemes for fish farming, bakeries,
brick making, auto repair, cement block manufacturing, and on and on, so many
schemes. A man must know how to read now, Amma, in order to be able to take
advantage of these opportunities.”

      “But Narasimha is here to do the reading.”
      “Perhaps he will go from this place, Amma, some good opportunity might just
come his way. Did you know that the man from the collector’s office was here in this
very village only yesterday? He came at the request of the collector to find out what
the youth of our village was interested in learning.”

      “Someone is running for office?”

    “No, Amma, elections are just past. The CM is very anxious to get this
‘Empowerment of Youth’ scheme moving. That is why I want to learn to read,
Amma, I want to have that ability myself.”

      “And the girls? Why should they bother? They will have husband and
children.”

     “Amma, husband may not remain forever! What if one of them is widowed at
a young age or her husband become disabled. What if she has to be the wage
earner? Isn’t it better to be prepared? Besides, she will get better husband if she
knows something, isn’t it?”

      “Yes, my son, you are right. Things are changing in this state and we must
keep up with the times, I guess, but, won’t you feel silly sitting in a class with
children?”

       “No! I feel silly when I can’t catch a bus because I can’t read the signs, and I
feel silly because the paymaster could cheat me and I am powerless to defend
myself. No, Amma, I will sit in the classroom with pride because I am doing a
difficult thing at this stage of my life. Maybe you ought to go as well, Amma.”

      “Aiyo Papam, leave me in peace.”

Shall Do Much

We shall do much in the years to come
But what have we dine today
We shall do much in the years to come
We shall give gold in a princely sum
But what have we done today, toady
What have we done today?
We hshall lift the heart and dry the tear
But what have we done today
We shall lift the heart and dry the tear
And plant hope in the place of fear
But what have we done today, my dear
What have we done today, my dear
What have we done today
We shall be great in the years ahead
But what are we today?
When college is over and we are wed
We’ll be very rich or famous instead
But now we look on the future with dread
What have we done today, toady, what have we done today


73
                     Indian Christians
      One of the finest threads running through the glorious tapestry of
India is the bright thread of mixes parentage. The Anglo-Indian, the Goan
Indian, the German-Indian, there are as many combinations as there are
countries. A friend makes her home in Whitefield, which is a haven for
these Indians of mixed parentage. Many of them are quite elderly and are
left over from the Raj. Some of them look terribly British still, limping about
in short skirts, gardening hats and shoes and socks.

     My friends have a tiny cottage in Whitefield which sits on the back of
the Richard’s enclave and she tanks Gods every day for giving her such
wonderful people for landlords. They are of mixed parentage, but some
great thinkers have said that a Brahman is not born a Brahman but is
created by one’s single-mindedness on God (Brahman).

     Lucia Richards is a Portuguese or Goan-Indian, and her husband, Dr
Paul Richards, is an Anglo-Indian from Mangalore. Both are staunch
Catholics as Paul is a convert. They attend Mass regularly at the local
church.

     The Richards have four children. The eldest son is a Catholic Brother
with Mother Teresa in Calcutta. The next son reaches poetry in London and
is working on his second grant to study Coolridge. The third son is in the
Air Force and stationed in Delhi. And the youngest, a girl, is married to a
computer whiz in Australia. The children, all super-achievers came by it
naturally from Lucia and Paul. Paul was a career Army Officer, and so they
spent most of their lives on Army posts in India.

      Because the school situation wasn’t always great for her children,
Lucia went back to college to get her teaching degree so she could teach
them herself. Returning to school her India is not as common as it is in the
States, and it took a lot of courage to compete with the young college
students. As a result of her teaching degree, Lucia was able to get teaching
assignments whenever Paul was stationed and supervised her children’s
education. Now retired in Whitefield, she is glad that she is a teacher
because she can teach slow-learners in the neighborhood as a service. She
also substituted at the local convent school where her elder sister is a nun.

      Paul’s story is similar. When he retired from the Army as a high
ranking officer, he returned to college to get his PhD at the University of
Mysore. Now he commutes to that University, where he enjoys teaching the
classes so much. Also, both Paul and Lucia are on standby for whatever
jobs the Church has in mind for them to do.

      Their property in Whitefield is quite big, possible two acres, and so
they have built four separate little cottages in the back so that their
children can retire and eventually return to India. In the meantime, they are
all rented out to the foreigners who come to visit the ashram nearby.

      They like to remain busy doing service and they are people of strong
principles. For instance, they waited five years to get a phone because they
wouldn’t pay the bribe. They feel that Whitefield is perfect for retirees and,
indeed, many live around them. There is the Whitefield Club, where the
elderly members show up for dinner and a game of bridge. It has a
wonderful library with all the newest books donated by some of the
wealthier people who live around the neighborhood. There are plenty of
service opportunities available also; for instance, a school for learning
disabled and an orphanage run by the Catholic Church.

      When their daughter-in-law in the UK was pregnant, Lucia simply
packed up and went to her side. She stayed for six months and loved it.
But, when she wrote to her husband, asking him to join her for a visit, she
received a negative reply. He said, “We are Indian and belong here. I spent
my life defending my motherland and could not think of stepping outside
her borders for even a visit!”


     I Love God
     I love God and God loves me
     We are all Divinity
     Jesus*, Jesus*, help us see
     God is love and so are we.

     *On repeats, the many names of God may be used here
     (Allah Allah, ahura Mazda, Krishna, Krishan, etc)


74
                              I said No!
                              True Story
       “It was during the Naxalite time in the early ‘70s, before West Bengal had a
communist government. Naxalites were not so violent in West Bengal as elsewhere,
but they wanted me to close down the school. I said no!” Now at 62, Mrs. Bhosh is
still very dedicated both to India and to the teaching profession itself. “I never
wanted to be anything but a teacher,” she confessed.

     As the principal of the largest higher to be anything secondary school in West
Bengal for thirty years, Mrs. Bhosh had many tales to tell. “There were 2,500 girls
under my care and I was like a mother to each one. Every day I visited each
classroom, simply to give my support and love to the girls. Those were troubled
times. Whenever Mrs. Gandhi came to Calcutta, she visited our school.” “In 1975,”
she continued, “there was an All State Bundh and the entire city was closed down,
except for our school. They wanted me to close the school entirely and begin a
completely different system of education. All the agitators were men, of course, and
many were University students. They ordered me to close down the school!”

      “What did you do, Mrs. Bhosh?”

      “I said no!” “No?”

       “All those girls were depending on the school for their future education. I
said, “I can’t do it!” Then they threatened me and said that they would kill me if I
didn’t close my doors.”

     “I said, do it!” If you feel like killing your mother, then I will go to my grave
knowing that my children killed me!”

       “They surrounded the entire school. It encompassed a city block. They
surrounded the school and then they said that they were coming in to discuss the
issue. I said, yes, yes, you can come! But only if you will come in and address me as
your mother. Then, I will happily talk to you about anything.” I think that they
trusted me because I never locked the doors and because, even though they
threatened to kill me, I never summoned the police. I faced all of them alone!”
       “They came into my office and I said, now, sit down, my sons, I will listen to
you because I am your mother.”

     “One boy immediately fell at my feet and began weeping like anything. It
seems that he had lost his mother quite recently and I didn’t know.”

      “You are my mother!” he wept. After that, they all relaxed and we spoke at
length about what was going on and about education. I, of course, as an
educationist, was able to explain simply what we were doing and why their system
was faulty. I never closed down the school.

     Later, I was able to get that boy into a technical school and he in touch with
me even today.
      “I can just see you, Mrts Bhosh, drawing yourself up to your full 4ft 10in and
confronting that group of revolutionaries who wanted to kill you. Were they
armed?”

      “I made them leave their weapons outside the school.”

      “Along with their shoes, I suppose.”

      “Of course,” she laughed. Naturally, she continues to teach. She is with the
famous Tagore Shanthi Niketan outside Calcutta, where she helps with the
administration of the University and lectures on education. But she is not teaching
all the time. Her lovely old English bungalow had a fine flower garden and she
spends much of her time in solitude with nature. She is living a very peaceful life,
but you can tell there’s a touch of fire still in the attic.

I am Brother No

I am Brother no
You’ve heard of me I know
I and sister yes
We answer each request
Saying ‘yes’ is fun
And pleases everyone
But ‘no’ makes us much more strong
And save us form all harm
No,no,no,no, I don’t want to go, no
No,no,no,no, that isn’t right I know
No,no,no,no,, my mother told me no
No,no,no,no,..Aiyo! I just told you no!


This is a true story. Only the name of the lady has been changed and she has given
permission.
75
                        Medical Shop
       It was Christmas Eve and Chandra decided that he might as well close
a few minutes early. About 6.50 pm, he pulled down the iron shutter on his
little medical shop in Whitefield and hopped on his two-wheeler. Starting
the motor, he thought, “Maybe I’ll go by and pick up a pint of chocolate ice
cream for the kids tonight. They’d appreciate a treat on Christmas Eve,
even though all of our Hindu festivals are over for the year.”

      He turned the bike around and headed towards the nearest Joy ice
cream stand, when he noticed Mr. Peters lumbering up the road. He knew
that Mrs. Peters had died only six months ago, as they had bought all of
their medication from his shop. Glancing now at the old man, he noticed
that he could hardly bend his knees to walk. The wrinkled shirt was
buttoned crooked and the old man’s shawl dragged on the ground. “He
used to be such a carefully turned out elderly gentleman,” thought Chandra
to himself. “Hey, the old man is going to the shop, I’d better go back.”

      When he reached the shop, old Mr. Peters was simply standing there
staring at the closed shutter, exhausted and breathing heavily. Slowly, he
put his hand to his head. “Must be having one of his headaches,” thought
Chandra.

      “Came back for you, sir,” Chandra called out as he hopped off the
bike. Mr. Peters looked confused.

      “Oh, there are, Chandra—gasp! Didn’t know how I was going to make
it back home with this headache of mine. I’m out of crocin.”

     “Yes sir,, I thought it was something like that so I came back to help.
Let me just unlock this shutter and I’ll be with you.”

    “I need something for this head. You know, I almost couldn’t make it
down here because my knees seem to have gotten worse lately.”
     “Here’s the crocin, sir. We’ve gotten in something for elderly with
weakened bones, this osteoporosis. It’s called Calcium Carbonate and
some people are having good results. Would you like to try a strip? If it
works, you can pay me when you buy the next supply. If it doesn’t help, it’s
my gift. Okay?”

     “All right, if you think it’s good. I’ve been reading that bone problem.”

     “Here you are, sir?”

     “Keep the change. I appreciate your service.”

      “Oh no sir, I know your pension barely covers your expenses. Happy
to help.”

     “Much obliges.”

    “Merry Christmas, sir. Her let me fix those buttons and I noticed your
shawl was dragging as well. There you are, sir, all fixed up.”

      The old man turned around and tried to walk away but you could tell
that his knees were very painful. He grabbed the counter for support.

    “Mr. Peters, do you think you could ride on the back of my two-
wheeler?”

     “I could try, Chandra.”

       “You see sir, I was on my way to that Joy ice-cream place to get a
little Christmas treat for my kids. Would you like to join us? This may not
be the happiest Christmas you’ll ever spend.”

        “I appreciate your invitation, son. Tomorrow I’ve been invited for
Christmas dinner with my neighbour the Richards, but I guess I do feel a
little lonely tonight.”
       “Done!” Chandra locked up the shop again and started his bike. “Just
sit right there and hold on to me, sir, the ice cream shop is just opposite.”

       With his shawl flying, Mr Peters felt a bit of excitement as he zoomed
out into the night. A wind gave his cheeks a ruddy hue and blew his white
hair away from his face.
       “Whew! This is very invigorating, Chandra! Better than Santa’s sleigh,
I’ll bet.”

      At the ice cream stand, Mr Peters offered to pay for the chocolate ice
cream, but Chandra wouldn’t hear of such a thing. The old man ended up
buying a small plum cake from Nilgiri’s to make the occasion even more
festive.

     When they arrived at Chandra’s small house, Radha and Rajiv came
running out to greet their father. Naturally, they were a little shy when they
saw Mr Peters, but one look at the ice cream changed all that. “Mommy,
Mommy, daddy’s brought home ice cream and an old man.” They cried.

     “No, No, children, you must not say all that, “cautioned their mother.

      “Sarojini, this is Mr. Peters. He’s going to spend Christmas Eve with
us, isn’t that nice?” said Chandra. “Maybe he’ll tell us a little about how he
and his wife use to spend Christmas Eve at their house.”

     Everyone sat around the small living room and Sarojini went to the
kitchen to serve the ice cream and cake. “Children, you must come and
help me to bring in the dishes for our guest,” she called.

      “I hope that I’m not too much trouble,” said Mr. Peters. “My children
live in Australia now, but I expect they are thinking of me tonight; I know
I’m thinking of them, and of Margaret. It’s been a difficult six months. We
were married for sixty years, you know,” he said, wiping the tears away
from the corners of his eyes.

     Radha came over and sat on the arm of his chair. “Please don’t cry,
Mr. Peters. We lost our grandpa this year too and sometimes I think of him
and miss him so much,”
        “Radha was very close to her grandfather,” confided Chandra.

        “Yes and now you can be our grandfather, okay?” smiled the little
girl.
        “Now dear, Mr. Peters may have enough grandfathers of his own.”

      “But they aren’t with me,” said the old man taking the child’s hand. “I
really need to have grandchildren her now, I think. You know, the church
sent over a little Christmas tree and a few decorations but I haven’t been
able to even take it out of the box. Would you all like to come over to my
house tomorrow morning and help me to trim the tree?”

        “Of course we would,” said Saroj. “Is that okay with you, Chandra?”

     “Sai Ram, it’s a wonderful idea and a good way to start the New Year
by adopting a grandfather.”

    Later, when Chandra deposited Mr. Peters at his doorstep, he noticed
more tears in the old man’s eyes.

     “Don’t cry anymore, Grandfather, you’ve just adopted an entire family.
Can you make it inside all right?”

     “No, no these are happy tears now,” the old man said smiling.” I
might even write to my children in Australia and tell them about this
wonderful Christmas Eve. Thanks, Chandra. I’ll see you tomorrow.”


        Sharing is caring
        Sharing is caring, for others, all are brothers
        Giving and forgiving is really living the loving way
        Words like ‘I’ and; ‘Mine’ bring about possessiveness
        And holding on to what we own won’t bring us happiness
        So love and smiles and sympathy should not be locked away
        For those things only multiply when giving away.
76
                              Navel Cadets
      For eight days, 400 cadets had a real feeling of what it would be like to be a
navy man. The annual camp provided a thrilling, though taxing, experience for
them. The cadets were on a strict routine, up early, good food, rigorous schedule of
training and competitions. They were learning to live and interact with youngster of
their own age from other parts of the country, of divergent cultures and languages.
The annual camps are also and arena for the groups to choose one cadet to present
the Republic Day banner to the Prime Minister at the Annual Rally on Republic
Day, on January 26, in New Delhi.

      Two of the competitions were boat rowing ([pulling’) and sailing. The first
event equalling 25 points and the second, 12.5 points. Prabanjan of Kerala was
naturally very skilled in both, and so all the groups were anxious to get him into
their boats. Reddy, from the coastal region of Andhra was another sought- after
candidate. Then there was Omprakash from Bangalore.

       The boys were taking in their quarters after the lights were out “My Appa is a
boat builder near here,” said Reddy quietly. “Nothing fancy, but he builds good
solid boats.”

     “I am also form a boating family,” said Ajit, who hailed from Mumbai. “But
we own them, we don’t build them ourselves,” He laughed a little nervously. “What
about you, Om?”

        “My father is a farmer and I’m a son of the soil.”

        “If it’s good enough for the PM, it’s good enough for you, correct?” laughed
Ajit.

     “Correct, correct.” Omprakash had said that his father was a farmer, but he
hadn’t said that the farm was big. It was, in fact, very big.
     “I’m afraid I even get sea sick when the waves are high, but I’m determined
to make the Navy my career,” added Omprakash.

      “Brave words from farm hand! Well, I’m bushed. Good night all,” said Ajit.

     The next day the boys were up again very early, training in the boat pulling,
worth 25 point.

      Ajit was on the horn, “Pull,” he shouted. “3-4; pull those oars.”

     Om seemed to have the same sunny disposition in him to work the oars
harder. The ragging angered the rest of the team also, and the boat flew across the
waves.

      “Good team work!” shouted Capt Ghosh. “Good team work! Ajit, are you
thinking about a career in the Navy?”

      “No sir, the stock exchange,” smiled Ajit,, “ My Father sent me to camp to try
to toughen me up.”

       This year’s new event was scheduled to be ‘area competition,’ but it was
difficult because of the constant rain. The boys went out in teams and, somehow,
Omprakash was again with Ajit.

      The mud was knee high as the lads tried to erect their tents.

     “You build the snake pit around the tent, Om, you’re so good with the soil,”
muttered Ajit, who was covered with mud. He elected to stay in the tent and was
beginning to lose control.

     “Thanks for the vote of confidence,” laughed Om, as he shouldered the shove
and headed out of the tent.

       Just then, there was a bolt of lightning and instant thunder. A tree above then
fell on the tent, which collapsed, trapped Ajit inside.

     Omprakash knew he would need help, so he started to run through the rain
and mud to find it.
     “Om, Om, for God’s sake, don’t leave me here,” cried the stunned Ajit.

       Omprakash didn’t pause because he knew Ajit was probably hurt and, even
though he knew that a man running through the water could draw the next bolt of
lighting, he carried on.

     Fortunately the officers were close and had seen the struck by lighting and
was now smouldering. They were taking care of the situation at hand.

     “Help, help!” shouted Ajit. “Please, I’m on fire!”

     The men raised the trunk of the tree, which was now really beginning to burn,
and Om went in to get Ajit.

     Carrying him out gently, Om explained to Ajit what had happened.

      “I thought you were running away, you son of a gun, I didn’t realize you’d
gone for help.”

     That night the fellows were sitting around, talking. Ajit had a cast on his
broken leg.

      “Listen Omparkash, I’m sure my father will want to reward you for this,” he
said. Om waved his hand. “We navy men are always prepared to take chances!”

      At the end of the camp, Omprakash, the farmer’s son, won the most points
and the chance to go to Delhi in January to present the Republic Day banner.

     “I’m really happy for you,” smiled Ajit

     “When I present the banner,” began Omparkash, “I’ll speak to the Prime
Minister in Kannada. One farmer’s son to the other.”

If You Think You’re Beaten

If you think you’re beaten, you are
If you think you dare not, you won’t
If you’d like to win but you think that you can’t
It is almost for certain that you won’t
If you think you’ll lose. You’re lost
For out in the world you will find
Success begins with a person’s will
Its all in the state of mind
If you think you’re outclassed you are
You’re got to think high to rise
You’re got to be sure of your self before,
You can ever really win a prize
Life’s battles don’t always go
To the stronger or faster man
But sooner or late the one who wins
Is the one who thinks he can.


77
                             Open School
     When he received his gold metal after passing out of B. Sc, Mahesh
Mahalingam was asked by his friends if he intended to go for higher study.
Most of them, it seemed, were going for their Masters and some would
even go abroad.

      “No, I want to stay here and help the children of Hyderabad,” he said
even though his parents, who were well off, would have sent his anywhere
that he wished to go.

       “Son, if you want the MBA training, you can join your elder brother in
his firm,” his father said no more than one occasion.

     “No, Father, I want to help the children of Hyderabad. This is
something that I have always wanted to do. Many of these poor children are
running the streets without food or shelter and they’re only small children
so they cannot be blamed in any way. I don’t think that I need very much
more education in order to teach them, as long as love is there! My plan is
to start teaching them at wherever place they happen to be. First, I will go
to the shelters and then, afterwards, to the streets also.”

     “But, Mahesh,” argued his elder brother, “it is their bad karma.
Besides, those children are completely worthless. They are cheats and
robbers even now. If you educate them, you’ll have smarter cheats and
robbers.”

      “I don’t’ happen to agree with you,” said the mild mannered Mahesh.”
We must assist them to climb out of their well of misery. Do you realize that
there are at least 40,000 children living on the streets of Hyderabad? Most
are orphans and runaways, and have malaria and amoebiosis. What mother
will come to cover them at night and to protect their small bodies from
insects? Who will give them clean food?”

     “What a strange boy you are, Mahesh, to worry yourself about clean
foods for the urchins.”

      Mahesh didn’t listen to his brother but resolutely went ahead with his
plan. He started his first school in an open field behind the city bus stand
so that children could continue to beg for their food and go to school at the
same time. He knew that they had to beg and that very often-whole families
were depending of them for food. The first lesson was to teach them to
sign their names so that they would have an identity. “Now, no one can
claim something which is rightfully yours, for this is your signature,” he
told them. No one had ever treated them in such a respectful manner
before and the children trusted him.

      The group of children were very large. The morning group was of at
least two hundred and the evening, more that four hundred. They can to
‘school’ quietly and made neat rows in the field, drawing the Telegu
alphabet in the dirt with their family became his supporters. When each
child had learned to write his or her name, Mahesh’s ‘hard-hearted’ brother
donated a blanket to protect them from the insects and the night air.
Mahesh had a very successful year.

     Over the following year, Mahesh managed to get married. His
requirement for a bride was the willingness to help him to teach the street
children of Hyderabad, and Umananda was willing. His elder brother was
amazed when Umananda’s parents agreed. She was a born social worker
and after a brief honeymoon, began working with the girls in Hyderabad
who were a much smaller group but more susceptible to abuse. The
children were so happy that their young teacher now had a wife. “Wife is
life,” they kept saying, and welcome her with flowers and a basket they had
woven from grasses. Mahesh knew that service would always be his life.
Umananda taught them to honor their physical bodies and, by teaching
them martial arts skills, she taught them not to allow any kind of abuse
from anyone. She taught both the boys and girls about AIDS.

      It was at this time that Mahesh and hid wife began working with the
society for Development in Urban Areas (SDUA) in Hyderabad. The group
had heard of Mahesh and his successful ‘name- writing’ program. They had
been doing social work in Hyderabad for many years. They explained to
Mahesh that they were as many as 1000 points around the city where the
children assembled each day.

      “If you recruit the teachers,” said Mahesh, “I will see that all these
children can write their names and do sum numbers.” But the officials
explained that it would take at least 85 teachers to cover so many
locations, “Besides,” he said, “thee children are not motivated to learn.”

      “I think they are,” said Mahesh,” and I will prove it to you.” It seemed
to Mahesh that all of his life, not only did he have to fight to help the
children of Hyderabad, but he had to fight with those who should have
known better. “If I had even twenty teachers, I think the children would
travel long distances to attend the classes and learn.”

     “I can only give you ten,” said the director.

     “That’s fine because it’s ten more than! had before I spoke to you
today and we were getting the job done before. Never mind, it’s a start.”

     The people at SDUA were amazed at the number of children who
turned up for Mahesh’s classes. Slate and chalk were donated as well as
some books. Shaminana tents blossomed in various places to keep out the
sun and the rain. The street children felt that it was the ‘smart’ thing to go
to learn to write your name. Information about the classes was passed
along by word of mouth among the children.

     “Now I will teach you numbers,” said Mahesh to the children,
“because everyone will take advantage of your lack of education and you’ll
be cheated.” The children turned up in droves.

     “How have you succeeded when so many have failed?” asked the
project manager.

     “Simple,” answered Mahesh, “We love them.”

     Scatter the seed of Love

     Scatter the seed of love on dreary desert hearts
     Then love will sprout and grow,
     And make the wastelands green with joy
     Blossoms of love will make the air more fragrant
     Rivers of love will murmur through the valleys
     And every bird will beat his wings
     And every child will sing a song of love
     Start the day with love
     Fill the day with love
     End the day with love, dear children
     For love brings happiness


78
                        Precious Water
     One day I saw a young girl with a headscarf having tea in the canteen.

     “Salaam Elakim,” I said putting my hands together.

     “Elakim Salaam” she answered beaming.
      “Have you come to see Sai Baba?” I asked.

     “Oh yes. I am here with my father. We wanted to thank him personally for
the water project in Anantapur. My father said if Sai Baba hadn’t put in all those
huge pipes, we wouldn’t have had any water at all. The goondas were already after
my father so Sai Baba’s water came just in time.

      “What goondas?” I asked.

       “Oh well, you see for so many years, as far as I can remember, we have to
place our pots and vessels in line to get water from the truck which would come to
sell us water. Then one day, my father started poking around and examining things.
He noticed that the plastic pipe connection from the bore well to our pump had been
ruthlessly cut. He went to Bangalore on the bus and came back with a good sturdy
piece of metal pipe the exact size and length and he was able to make the connection
and get us water from the bore well. Other people began to notice that their plastic
pipes had been broken and they too reconnected their pipes. Soon there were hardly
any pots or vessels in the line for the trucks. No one was buying anymore.

      “Papa,” my mother said, “those goondas will try to kill you.”

     “Don’t worry, wife, Sri Sathya Sai Baba is about to inaugurate the Anantapur
Water project so all will be able to have water.”

     “Papa,” my mother said, “Be careful anyway. Those goondas are very bad
men.”

       That night the goondas came in their jeeps to our house but fortunately Papa
had heeded Mama’s advice and we were hiding across the street. We watched as
they set fire to our house.
       “Allah Ho Akbar,” whispered Papa and the rain came down and put off the
fire. The goondas were alarmed at the suddenness of the rain.

      “Those Muslim must be devotees of Sai Baba,” they said and they drove off
quickly. “So you see, Bala, we have to thank Dear Sathya Sai Baba for many things
and that is why we came. We usually thank him in the large Sufi temple in
Penukonda but, this deserved a special thanks.”
Water

What’s happened to my tap today?
It’s drained, the water’s run away
Chorus…. Water, give me water.,
I need a drink of water
Water, give me water. I need a drink of water
I used to let it run away
I wasted so much everyday
Chorus… Water, give me water.,
 I need a drink of water
Water, give me water. I need a drink of water
They told us this would come about
They said, we’re heading for a drought
Chorus… Water, give me water
,. I need a drink of water
Water, give me water. I need a drink of water
But nobody believe their words
We thought it was just too absurd
Chorus… Water, give me water.,
I need a drink of water
Water, give me water. I need a drink of water
What’s happened to my tap today?
It’s drained, The water’s run away
Chorus…. Water, give me water.,
I need a drink of water
Water, give me water. I need a drink of water


79
           The Prize for Good Behavior
     The family consisting of one girl and two small boys entered the
Central Prison Hall with their mother who was dressed in a white starched
uniform. They were poor but they carried their heads high though the father
was inmate of the prison.
     The reason why the children were proud was because though their
father was incarcerated, their mother was a laundress at the Buea hospital
and so they had never gone hungry like most of the other children in the
room who were here for the annual Christmas party.

      The group from CYR, Christian Youth Fellowship, were down front
singing and drumming around the ‘angel tree’ which was brightly lit. They
had already distributed the gifts of sheets, candy, pieces of soap and toilet
rolls and then, they had given a prize to the ‘best behaved prisoner.’ The
children weren’t there in time for the prize giving but they were sure that
their father had not been chosen.

     “Your father is belligerent,” said the mother. “He knows that he is
innocent and will not give an inch.”

     “But Mama, he shouldn’t stay angry and bitter for too long, should
he?” asked one of the small boys.

     They saw their father seated at the very end of the table of prisoners.

     “He’ll never come home to us if he stays bitter.”

     “You go and tell him that,” said Mama with her eyes blazing.

     The family children trooped down the length of the room, past all the
other prisoners, to the very ends of the row of men in prison garb. They
found their father with chains around his feet.

      “Daddy, Daddy, they have you in chains. We were hoping you would
get the prize for best behavior.”

     He laughed a deep chuckle, a wide grin broke his solemn face in two.

     “You children are my prize, and you please tell your Mama not to give
these people a single coin, in case they ask. They know that she is working
now and making a good salary.”
     “Will they ask, Daddy?”

     “Don’t know. You hear all kinds of things.”

     “But Daddy, if you lost your bitterness and anger, these people would
be happy and you could return to us sooner. We miss you so much.”

      He sighed, patting his small boy on the head. “I miss you all too
but…maybe it won’t be so long now. I’ll try to cooperate but I’m not giving
them any information on the crime. You see my word to that fellow who
pulled the bank job that I wouldn’t name him. So I’ll just have to sit this out,
that’s all.”

     “Ok, Merry Christmas, Papa, be happy.”

     “I’ll try, son.”

      After the children trooped back to their Mama, someone came around
with a box of pieces of soap and toilet rolls.

    “Thank you, we don’t need that,” said mama, “but we appreciate your
good thoughts and kindness. The tree sure is beautiful.”

      And not knowing the songs that were being sung as they were not a
part of their your be religion, they waved to their father and left

     Your Word

     How good is your word and
     What does it mean
     Is it of any value,
     Does it have esteem
     When you give your word
     Is it something you keep.
     Or are your words worthless
     And your comments slick
       Can we trust your word
       Or do you soon forget
       If its; nor convenient,
       Will you go back on it?
       It really is important,
       To do just what you say
       And never ever brake your word
       At all in any way.


80
                              Retribution
      Where do you do your banking Dr Mrs. Ghosh?” I asked my doctor friend
from USA. I had just recently begun attending the evening bhajan which she held in
her large, beautifully constructed prayer hall.

     “I don’t. I let my friends take care of that for me. I give them the foreign
currency and they get me a better rate in rupees than I could get in the bank.”

       “Oh,” said I, realizing that she was dealing in black money. “Not entirely
legal, is it?”

       “I don’t understand these Indian laws. My friends take care of everything for
me.”

       “Well, keep your karma clean,” I said laughing, but I meant what I said.

      “Of course, darling. What’s the harm?” A few days after, when Dr Mrs.
Ghosh returned to USA, her lovely palace was ransacked by dacoits. Any
coincidence? Who knows? But I’ve learned that we must be constantly on the alert
for our own lack of ethics and dharmic action.

     When I became better acquainted with Dr Mrs. Ghosh, I found that she had
paid under the table to purchase the land for her house, she’d paid a ‘service
charge’ on the power connection, and also on the telephone connection.
      In India, corruption adds so much to the cost that many people cannot afford
to construct their houses unless they are wealthy. Corruption, therefore, must be
rooted our and the scams unearthed. People must be educated to constantly focus on
good value and be constantly reminded that corruption buried the very soul of
mankind.

      Somewhat later, Dr Mrs. Ghosh asked her spiritual master to come and bless
the bhajan hall was dismayed when he would not accept the initiation. India can be
regarded as Karma Bhoomi. An important fact of that attribute is that, more than
anywhere else in the world, Indians everywhere are aware of the fact that the law of
Karma presides relentlessly over their destinies.

       Finally, something happened to make Dr Mrs. Ghosh realize the deeper
significance of her actions. The electrical contractor had been given Rs.100 by Dr
Mrs. Ghosh for an earlier connection, Rs.500 for the government bribe and Rs.500
for the contractor. A week passed after the money had changed hands and there was
a knock on her door late one night. She answered it to find her contractor standing
there in an agitated state.

       “Please, Madam, I have come to return the Rs.1000 to you,” he said, pressing
the money into her hands. “If you insist on bribing the government, then you must
do it yourself.”

      “Yes, all right,” replied Dr Mrs. Ghosh, “I’m not bothered about that, but
surely you have earned the extra Rs.500.”

       “Oh no, Madam! I felt so bad about the money that I went to the Durga
temple this morning to offer the money and there to the Divine Mother. As I started
to slip it into the hundi I heard clearly these words: ‘Do you want to make God also
tainted by offering your ill gotten Rs 500?’ Please Madam take all of your money
back, please.”

      And so, in that way, Dr Mrs. Ghosh finally realized that, here in India at least
people understand the Karmic implications of taking black or ill-gotten money.
After she realised that she was, in fact, feeding into corruption, she stopped paying
bakshish. Then, her spiritual teacher came and blessed her house and her prayer
hall.
      This glorious land has one features not found in any other country; knowledge
of the divine truth. If this land if corrupt, it means that the people are moving away
form their true Indian culture and spirituality. One hopes that at every level of
education, the need to be aware and truthful will be drilled into the minds of the
people, particularly the children. That alone can eradicate the cancer of corruption

Meaning of Integrity

What is the meaning of integrity?
It means that I listen to the god in me
It means I will speak the truth in my honesty
It means you can always count on me
What is the meaning of integrity?
It means you can always count on me.


81
                         Rickshaw Risks
     Ali is waiting for you, Geetha. “You’ll be late for school, so finish tying
the hair ribbon in the rickshaw.”

    “Yes, Mummie, I’m nearly ready,” called Geetha, age eight, as she
bounced down the tile steps from her bedroom upstairs in the old rambling
bungalow in Calcutta.

      “I can’t find, my geography book! Oh, here it is!” she said picking it
up from the table in the living room.

    Suddenly, a medium-sized man of about fifty years appeared in the
doorway.

      “Oh Ali, she’s come down. Don’t worry, she won’t be late.”

      “Yes Ma’am,” said Ali quietly. “May I speak to you?”
     “Of course, Ali, what is it?”

      Ali sometimes brought his family problems to Mrs. Chatterji.
Originally from Gaya in Bihar, Ali had carried all three of her daughters to
the convent school, five miles away, every morning for the past fifteen
years. He was never late and held their very lives in his hands as he pulled
his rickshaw through the crowded streets. When his father had a stroke,
Mrs. Chatterji provided the extra money for the medicines and hospital.
When his wife almost died during the birth of their last child, Mrs. Chatterji
did the same and also paid for the sterilization procedure the doctor
suggested. In fact, she had been instrumental in persuading him to have
the operation.

     Mr. Chatterji also thought a great deal of Ali. “I wish all my employees
were as trutworthy,” he said. They paid him Rs 300 a month, which was
much more than was needed, but he also picked the girls up and brought
them home.

     “Ma’am, come January 1st 1997, the rickshaw will be banned by the
Transport Ministry.”

      “I know, I read about it in the papers. They are saying that rickshaw
pulling can never be part of the civil society. For us it isn’t a problem. We
will simply have Mohan drive Geetha in the car. But, what will you do, Ali?”

      “Ma’am, the rickshaw has been my life. I live in a room with nine other
pullers and we eat only one, sometimes two, good meals a day. We live
better than most pullers and I’ve been able to send money home to my
family in Gaya.”

     “I know, Ali, but you cannot go against the law. When they outlawed
the cattle sheds in the city, they found another source of livelihood for the
thousands herding cattle. Won’t they do the same for the pullers?”

      “Ma’am, even if the state would do that, it would only be for the
licensed men. They have refused to issue licenses since 1944 and there are
25,000 pullers. Only 6,000 are absolutely legal and 12, 000 hold a license to
pull only outside the city. I am not a so lucky.”

     “Don’t worry, Ali, I will speak to my husband. I’m sure he will find
some work for you. You’ve been so loyal. I remember during the floods,
you were able to wade through the water. When our car couldn’t take my
husband, Rakal, to work, you could.”

      “Yes, Ma’am,” choked poor Ali, with tears rolling down his cheeks. He
hurried outside to take Geetha to school.

      Rakal was late that evening and, when he did come in, he was in a
terrible mood.

     “Those Union will be the death of me,” he complained. “I’ve given in
on every issue and still they harangue us.”

      “Please sit down, Rakal, and take rest. Geetha, please get a sweet
lime juice or your father.”

    “What’s going on here! Looks like I’m in for further negotiations with
my own wife!”
    “No Rakal, you can’t afford to become upset over these things; you
know your heart. You’d better take a nitroglycerin tablet.”

    “I don’t need it, I’m all right. Don’t men have any honour anymore?
What happened to the good old work ethic?”

     Geetha gave her father the sweet lime. “Ali still had the work ethic,
Papa. Ali is always on time and never argues about money.”

     “Yes, Geetha, Ali is a jewel all right. I wish that I had 500 Alis at the
factory.”

     “You can have one, Papa.”

     “What do you mean?”
     “He’s going to be out of a job in only six months, when they take the
rickshaws off the streets of Calcutta.”

     “Oh yes, I did read about that in the papers. Of course I’ll give Ali a
job in my factory, no problem. As a matter of fact, I’d thought of that
myself.”

     “You know dear, Ali if fifty years old, he may not be able to learn a
new profession.”

       “Profession? Well, dear I thought even if I hired him as a coolie
around the plant, he’ll make more money than he does now. He’s been a
servant to this family for so long now, hasn’t he? What a relief to always
know that the girls are safe and sound. Hey! I’ll retire him if he likes and
give him enough each month to go back to Gaya and start a chai shop.
Would he like that? He’s good man and I’m obliged to him. After this week
with the union, I appreciate him even more. Do you realise how dangerous
it is to pull a rickshaw in this congested city? The trams and buses are
whizzing by on one side and the cars on the other. The poor fellows plod
along like beasts of burden. Beside that, they’re harassed by the police for
not having the proper license, which almost none of them have. I’ve seen
them carrying enormous loads of produce from the markets. The
government should certainly help by fixing them up with bicycle rickshaws
at least. It’s very dangerous work and the fellows are taking a risk at every
moment. Whatever he wants to do now, just let me know. I’m grateful for
his service.”

     The next morning when Ali came to pick up Geetha for school, she
dragged him into see her Mummie.

      “Oh yes, come in Ali, my husband and I talked last night and we are of
the same mind. Because you have rendered such service to our children
for all these very years, my husband has decided that you can retire with a
pension.”

     “What, Ma’am?”
     “If you would like to retire and stay in Gaya with your family, we will
give you a small pension. In fact, my husband said that he would set you
up with a chai stall also, if you would like.”

     Ali starred in disbelief. His knees began to quake and his chin
dropped.

      “A retired rickshaw puller?” he gasped.

     “Yes, why not! Why shouldn’t good service be rewarded? You can
think about your future, Ali, and we will definitely help with whatever you
decide to do.”

      Ali collapsed and sat down on the floor, bawling.

     “Geetha, bring Ali a little water and then tell Mohan to start the car.
This will be the first time Ali has been unable to take you to school in all
these years!”

     Geetha was covering her mouth with her hand so the giggle wouldn’t
be too loud.

     “Oh no, Ma’am. Croaked Ali, Please don’t do that. Come along, Miss
Geetha, we’ll be late for school.”


82
                         Uplifting Sheep
      The two shepherd boys roamed the hills all through the day, usually finding a
small tree in the afternoon to escape the hottest rays of the sun and to have a nap. At
night, they slept in the shed with the animals, after bringing them back home safely.

     The flock of seven hundred and fifty sheep was owned by the biggest landlord
around, Rangareddy. These tow shepherds were not exactly bonded labourers,
because they had not been sold to Mr. Rangareddy, but they would, in all likelihood,
remain with him forever, simply because they had not better opportunity for work.
Ramu had been born to a shepherdess on a mountain top, far away form any
medical help. She was not so strong and died in childbirth, but one of the other
shepherdesses tending the flock took baby Ramu and raised him.

      Like his mother before him, he too became a shepherd as soon as he could
walk properly. Chandra, Ramu’s partner, was the son of an agricultural worker
and a member of the landless poor. He too had been a shepherd since early
childhood. Both the boys were in their mid-twenties and were of the Yadava clan.
They actually were satisfied with this life and felt lucky to have their jobs, even
though they were poor.

       There were disadvantages, however, because they were too poor to have wives
or children or houses or families, and they were increasingly lonely out there in the
hills. They had noticed a few of the shepherdesses in the villages through which they
passed, and had even tried to catch their eyes; but ever the little shepherdesses felt
superior and looked down on them as being quite worthless.

      One bright and shining day, a jeep appeared on the road adjacent to the field
where Ramu and Chandra were grazing the landlord’s sheep. It pulled up and so
Ramu and Chandra both hid behind rocks. When they saw that it was their
master’s assistant, Mr. Ramakrishnan, however, they came running out happily.
They had learned by experience that it is always better to be just a bit suspicious of
strangers in jeeps.

      “What Appa? You would like to see us or speak to us? Why did you come
here to this field?” asked the innocent boys.

      “I have news which may be good for you both.” Said Mr. Ramakrishnan.

      “A sheep development project has been sanctioned for Kurnool District to
benefit the backward caste Yadava community. The government will give breeding
rams and sheep to those who need the most help. If you both were given four or six
sheep and one ram, after being careful to mark them as your own, you could let
them run with this herd, which belongs to Rangareddy. Later on, you could be paid
for the wool from your own sheep, an even sell the lambs if you wished.”
     “We would never want to sell the lambs. Sir, they cry so much, and their
mother also cry.”

     “But, my point is, that they would indeed be yours to do with as you wished. It
would bring in extra income.”

      “It is good, Uncle. We will raise sheep and also have wife!!”

     “That isn’t all, Ramu, these people are also giving houses to the down-
trodden. I know that at your age in life you long for wife and children, but they
must have place, isn’t it?”

      “Yes, Uncle.”

      “Chandra, your mother is too elderly now to do much work. With a small
house and a daughter-in-law, it would be enough for her. You could provide these
things with your ever increasing herd of sheep.” He smiled.

     “Please help us Uncle, for you are known by everyone to have a
compassionate heart,” murmured Chandra, and both boys touched the feet of the
kind manager.

      Ramakrishanan was known in many villages to be a friend of the backward
classes and the tribals. It seemed that he was always on the alert for some
opportunity that could be passed along to the people in need of help.

      “When you return this evening, we will discuss the matter further. Today, I
will drive to Kurnool and see just how soon we might obtain the sheep for you from
the government. The brides and the houses might take a little longer, I suppose,”
and he smiled from ear to ear.

      Work and Play

      Work and play we do every day
      But something’s more important
      Be loving and kind
      And you will find
      Happiness every day
                                Understanding

                       Do you understand just how I feel
                  Understanding helps to make hurts all heal
                    Do you understand what I have to say?
                 If you do I’m happy, I feel better right away
                      There is an old saying, old but true
                That if I wear your shoes, I will understand you
                  But I guess real understanding is very rare
                           ‘cause it shows for certain
                              That you really care.


83
                    Ceiling on Desires
                       Group Two
           Jenny had everything; a classy looking Mom, a great looking
Dad and a brother who was a hunk. Oh, and plenty of money because her
father was the most popular lawyer in town.

Jenny     So I’m actually starting middle school this year Mom, and I’ve
made a list of what I’ll need…300 dollar Reeboks for staters. I’m going to
really wow all the guys with my new outfits! This is a new me I’m ready!

Mom       I don’t want you wearing that bright pink lipsticks to school,
Jenny, you look cheap. Or the gold and purple eye-shadow either. All of
that makes you look like a cheap teen-ager and you’re only 11.

Jenny      Oh Mon, I’m 11 but 11 is like 15 was when you were growing up.
All the kids wear a lot of make-up, Mom. Reeeaaalllly! When you drive me
to school tomorrow for registration, you’ll see.
Mom       Then they all look cheap. I will not allow you out of the house
that way.

Jenny      (Thinking how she would sneak the make-up out and put it on
later. Why do you make me sneak around, like that?

           She never once thought of obeying her.

           Jenny’s Mom parked the car and they darted into the mall to buy
groceries. They raced by a teen-ager shop which was located to the right of
the super-market. Jenny’s Mom wished it weren’t there. The manikins were
all wearing the latest fashions for school, looking very cool and hip.

Jenny       Hey, wait a minute, Mom, I gotten see that. Hey, I gotta have that
dress, it’s me! See, Mom, just wait one second.

Mom        I’m in a big hurry, Jenny I have to start dinner.

Jenny     Yeah but…look at that denim dress. Thirty-five bucks, Mom, can
you believe it, thirty five bucharoonies! I got-tah have that dress.

Mom        (Sighing. It was hopeless when her daughter was on a roll like
this.) “Very well, here’s 35 dollar but you’d better be right here when I get
out or you can take the bus home.”

Jenny      Sure, Mom, it’ll take me one minute…size 7, age 11, that’s me.

           When she got home Jenny raced upstairs and spread it out on
the bed. She didn’t need to even try it on. It would be very tight but perfect-
to!

           Jenny Now I’ll just find a nice neat little place in my wardrobe for
this super new cool dress and

          Opening the door to her closet she found a hanger for her new
dress and when she did, another dress fell to the floor. It was identical to
the one she just bought, except for a zipper pocket on the side.
Jenny     Oh dear, I forgot about this dress. I have so many… Oh gosh, it’s
almost identical! I really didn’t need it. Maybe I’ll take the dress back
but…so much trouble. Oh wow!

             She felt icky inside like she always did when she had too much
chocolate.

Jenny      “Too much, too extravagant and I blow too much money and …”
She took a deep breath. Last week at EHV we studied a thing called, ‘ceiling
on desires.’ She didn’t get it then but…now she got it.

Jenny     “OK Swami, I’ll take the thing back,” she said, putting it back in
the sack with the receipt!


     Ceiling on Desires

     This ceiling that I’m building
     Putting limits on desires
     I hope it’s strong enough
     To smother ego’s fires.
     ‘Cause when I try to stop ‘him’
     He gets stubborn then
     Sometimes I simply have to wait
     For rebelliousness to end
     You see, I don’t need a thing
     But ego is soo needy
     If I were free then I could sing
     Instead of being greedy
     But I can win, I know I can
     For that is, our sweet Lord’I’ll put a ceiling on desires
     And take His precious hand.
84
                         Pink Ribbon
Polly   My Aunty Penny had sent me a really fantastic dress for Easter. It was
        a great color; sort of pinkish lavender, a little unusual…and then I
        noticed my older sister’s satin hair ribbon. It was tied in a permanent
        bow with streamers and it was the exact color.

Polly   Can I borrow your hair bow to wear Easter Sunday

Sissy   No you may not

Polly   Why, Sissy.

Sissy   Because you’ll get it messed up. I haven’t worn it myself yet and I think
        Dr. Jefferies is going to ask me to the hospital picnic in the Sunday after
        Easter.

Polly   But it matches my new dress perfectly.

Sissy   So what! Listen, Polly, you’ve got to learn to take no for an answer. You
        can’t have your way all the time. Also you should place a ceiling on your
        desires like Swami says.

Polly   Yeah well an you shouldn’t be possessive with your things. Sharing is
        caring, you know.

        All day at school I though about that pretty bow and how it would look
        in the back of my hair with my blond curls.

Polly   Sissy, if you’ll let me wear your hair ribbon on Easter, I’ll let you use
        my new Charlie perfume.

Sissy   No, Polly, the answer is no.
        Easter morning came and Sissy was asleep. She was nurse and she’d
        worked night shift and so she was dead to the world. I thought that I
        could sneak in, get the ribbon and have it back in her room by noon
        when church was over. She’d never know. When I lifted the bow off her
        dresser, though, she woke up.

Sissy   You little brat. Put it back! Hey, you’d better talk to Swami big time
        about how you tried to steal my hair bow. Shall I tell Mon?

Poly    God’s got more important things on his mind, than hair bows, Sissy, I
        said and flounced out of her room.

        I went to my room and took down the box from Aunty Penny. Then I
        realized how wrong I’d been and started to cry. I looked in the mirror
        and saw the cry-baby looking back at me. I knew that I was just acting.
        I wasn’t really even crying.

Polly   Oh Lord, I know how rotten I am. I’m really, really sorry. I wanted to
        wear that bow sooo bad I was willing to steal it …just a plain old hair
        ribbon and I was willing to throw out my conscious! Oh Lord!

        And then I cried so hard that I feel across the dress on the bed. Finally I
        got up and wiped my eyes and straightened the dress out. In the bottom
        of the box was a perfectly matched long piece of ribbon. It wasn’t as
        beautiful as Sissy’s but it was mine! I should have waited before acting
        like a big baby.

        That was when I sat down on my little altar in my room and wrote a
        letter to Swami…. “Dearest Lord, please teach me to be honest and
        strengthen my conscience.” Deep inside I hear the soft words…. “I am”.

								
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