You cannot catch me, I am the Gingerbread Man

Once there lived an old man, an old woman, and a little boy. One day, the old woman was baking bread. With the dough that was left over, she made a Gingerbread Man with the little boy’s help. The old woman made the shape of the Gingerbread Man. The boy put two black currants as his eyes, and a red cherry as the nose, a crescent-shaped apple slice as the smiley mouth, and three grapes as three buttons on his shirt.

Then the old woman popped the Gingerbread Man into the oven, and went out to the garden. The little boy waited by the oven. He was very hungry.

After a while, the oven door opened suddenly, and the Gingerbread Man leapt out! The boy was amazed. The Gingerbread Man ran towards the door and raced down the garden.

The boy could not believe his eyes, but he soon yelled out, “Help! The Gingerbread Man is getting away!”

The old man, who was repairing his lawn mower, and the old woman, ran after the Gingerbread Man, shouting and screaming. The little boy joined them. So all three began to chase the Gingerbread Man.

However, the Gingerbread Man, still racing, shouted to them,
“Run! Run! As fast as you can! But you cannot catch me. I am the Gingerbread Man!”

Soon, a spotted dog saw the Gingerbread Man and joined in the chase. He barked, “If I catch you, I will gobble you up.”

A hungry cow grazing in the barn saw the Gingerbread Man, and she also wanted to take a bite. “I will get you and munch on you,” she screeched.

She joined the little boy, the old man, the old woman, and the dog in chasing the Gingerbread Man.

However, the Gingerbread Man, still racing, shouted to them,
“Run! Run! As fast as you can! But you cannot catch me. I am the Gingerbread Man!”

At the end of the lane, three mowers were busy cutting grass. When they saw the Gingerbread Man, they stopped working, and wanted to eat him. They also ran after the Gingerbread Man.

Thus, the little boy, the old man, the old woman, the spotted dog, the hungry cow, and the three mowers were chasing the Gingerbread Man. However, the Gingerbread Man, still racing, shouted to them,
“Run! Run! As fast as you can! But you cannot catch me. I am the Gingerbread Man!”

After a while, the Gingerbread Man reached a farm. Standing at the gate, were two piglets waiting for the farmer to feed them. They were really hungry. When they saw the Gingerbread Man, they jumped out, and joined in the chase.

Thus, the little boy, the old man, the old woman, the spotted dog, the hungry cow, the three mowers, and the two piglets were chasing the Gingerbread Man.

However, the Gingerbread Man, still racing, shouted to them,
“Run! Run! As fast as you can! But you cannot catch me. I am the Gingerbread Man!”

As the Gingerbread Man raced on, a pony grazing on a meadow saw him. The pony thought the Gingerbread Man would be very tasty. “I will devour you in a couple of bites!” said the pony, and began to trot after the Gingerbread Man.

Thus, the little boy, the old man, the old woman, the spotted dog, the hungry cow, the three mowers, the two piglets and the pony were chasing the Gingerbread Man.

However, the Gingerbread Man, still racing, shouted to them,
“Run! Run! As fast as you can! But you cannot catch me. I am the Gingerbread Man!”

The Gingerbread Man raced faster than ever, and soon reached a riverbank. The river seemed quite deep. He gazed down at the water, and sighed, “Oh dear! What shall I do? I don’t know how to swim. They will catch me and eat me.”

.

 

Just then a cunning fox came to him and said- ‘I will help you cross the river, donot worry. Climb on my back’ The gingerbread man climbed over it.

As they were in the middle of the river, the fox asked the Gingerbread Man to climb over it’s nose as the water was rising high. When the Gingerbread man climbed on his nose, the fox jerked its snout up, throwing the Gingerbread Man up in the air. The fox opened it’s greedy mouth to gulp it in, but a dove was flying by and the Gingerbreadman caught its tail and swung with it to jump to the other shore, and ran towards the woods.

‘I won’t spare you’ shouted the fox and climbed the shore. Meanwhile the little boy, the old man, the old woman, the spotted dog, the hungry cow, the three mowers, the two piglets and the pony also reached the other side.

They looked left and right and hither and tither and yonder and tonder but they couldn’t find the Gingerbreadman.’Oh we have lost it’ they groaned. So they all got sad and returned to their homes.

Since then, whenever they slept at night, they would dream of working in the garden or walking in the fields and a tiny figure would run besides them and they will run after it, hungrily!

‘Wait, Wait I want to eat you man’

And the tiny figure will say, as it ran forever away from their clutches-

“Run Run as fast as you can! You can not catch me, I am the Gingerbread Man.”

****

 

Afterwords: I got a chance to revisit the story of Gingerbread Man today, after so many years! I immensely liked the beautiful artwork by Carol of Gingerbread Man which prompted me to get back to the story once again.   I read the story published on kidsworldfun.com. I loved experiencing again the zest, playfullness and energy of the Gingerbread Man. It wanted to be free and was proud to outrun everyone who tried to catch it. It was unfortunate it reached the river and it did not know how to swim and the cunning fox devoured it.

Few days back, I had shared a post Should Wizard Hit Mommy in which I had shared a thought that children stories should have more practical endings. But today I felt that children stories should have happy endings! As I read the Gingerbread Man today, I didn’t like the fact that such a free spirited character should meet such a morbid conclusion. So, I re-wrote this story, borrowing the original content from kidsworldfun.com, and then introducing a new ending to the story after Gingerbread Man reaches the river.

I think a character like Gingerbread Man, who got alive so mysteriously and displayed such vivacity should remain alive and keep haunting people with it’s memorable lines!

gin

 

Let Me Tell You A Story

Hello Dear Friends, I hope you all had a nice weekend! I read a novella (a short Novel) this weekend, called Vaadivaasal (Arena), written by CS Chellappa in 1949. The story was so interesting I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Today I felt like telling the story to you all. I have retold the story below concisely in my own language. It’s a story about pride. I hope you too will like it!

****

There is a huge village crowd gathered at the arena. One of the biggest sports of the time is going to start. In the adjoining enclosure, bulls are being brought. They are decorated and a cloth is wound across their sharp horns. This is the sports of Jallikattu, the fight between man and the beast. One by one, bulls will be let lose in the arena and daring men, will jump in and try to subdue the bulls, untangle the cloth from its horn, signifying their victory over the beast and keep the cloth piece as a badge of honour, valor, power and masculinity. But there is no guarantee of life. Blood will be spilt, and if somebody’s luck is covered with dark clouds, there may be deaths too.

Several years ago, a brave man with the name of Ambuli became popular for defeating lots of bulls and claiming several badges of honor. But one particular bull, named Kaari, a magnanimous beast with powers equal to that of an elephant, tramples Ambuli, throws him in air, and with its sharp horns, tears his body. Ambuli is rescued but he only lives for a short duration, before dying he tells his son, “My son..you must.. “ He dies before completing the sentence. This bull becomes the most dreaded bull since then. It’s owner is the landlord himself, the organiser of this sport.

The bull grows even more powerful and its skin becomes tough as leather under landlord’s care, because his servants feed it with nutritious food and trains it in ferocious manoeuvers. Every year when the sport is organized, the bull is brought into the arena at last, with great drumbeats, and all the men are thrown an open challenge, and magnificent rewards are announced. But who can beat the wild beast Kaari! Only blood spills and bones break. People feel scared of the bull. ‘The landlord’s bull is invincible.’ ‘ It had killed the bravest of men Ambuli. How can anyone else stand before it.’ And the landlord’s pride surges and he smiles cunningly at this.

Several years later, today we are at the same arena where the incident of Ambuli getting killed had happened. Two young men are standing near the enclosure. One is called Picchi and the other, Marudan. Picchi has come to participate in the sport and Marudan his friend has come to support him. An old man standing next to them, who has witnessed several of this sports in past, feels inclined to speak about the popular bulls to these yongsters, as the scene is set for the event. The crowd gets excited as the sports begin. Amidst the chaos and excitement and heat of the sun, the bulls are let in one by one and daring men jump in to show their valor. But Picchi jumps in only when the most powerful of the bulls are let in. He subdues them all and instantly becomes a center of attraction for the crowd. ‘Will this valiant youth beat the demon beast Kaari?’ people start talking like this. ‘No No, Kaari is invincible. The landlord has fed it and made it strong and wicked like himself. No one can beat it.’

As time passes, the moment arrives when Kaari has to be let in. Amidst the clarion of drum beats the arrival of Kaari in the arena is announced. It walks in majestically like a king. The landlord’s chest swells with pride. ‘Oh look at the beast! How arrogant! It seems like human more than an animal.’ ‘Poor Picchi will be torn apart’ The old man also becomes sad. He has developed affection for Picchi. He warns him and recalls the fateful day when he had seen the bravest of the men, Ambuli, get killed by Kaari. He gets anxious for Picchi and even suggests that he should not go to fight Kaari. But Picchi says with conviction- ‘I will go! I need to regain my father’s lost pride!’ The old man’s heart skips a beat when he realizes that Picchi is actually Ambuli’s son!

When Kaari enters the arena, Picchi jumps in at once, the crowd goes mad with excitement, fear and beastly instincts. Picchi jumps and catches hold of the bull’s hump with one hand and swiftly catches his one horn with the other hand. The bull tries to shake him away, and roars like a lion. But Picchi holds him tight and tries to twist its horn to one side. The bull gets furious and starts jumping to throw Picchi away. Picchi sways with the bull’s body like a doll. After three powerful jumps, incessant shaking of head and ferocious roars, the bull starts to get tired but Picchi is still holding fast, though the sweat in his palms causes the loosening of his grips.  In one sudden jerk by the bull, Picchi is thrown up in air and the bull makes an attack on the falling body of Picchi. The horn pierces the thigh of Picchi, making him shriek and clench his teeth but at the same instant Picchi rips the cloth piece from its horn and falls on floor with a thud and dust rises up in the air. Picchi has snatched the cloth from its horn! Picchi has got victory! Marudan pulls his body out from the arena just before the bull tries to charge on him and kill him.

While Picchi is saved, the bull gets mad with rage. It charges towards the crowd of people and tramples upon whosoever comes its way. Blood is spilt and a stampede ensues. The bull runs towards the river, its horn soaked in blood and it roars like a lunatic. It goes to the river bank and starts excavating land with its horns.

‘ Kaari is defeated!’ ‘The landlord’s bull is defeated’ ‘Oh the brave man’ ‘Lift him , stop his blood’ ‘He is our hero’ people talk like this in excitement. The old man’s eyes become wet with tears. ‘The son has regained the pride of his father’ he says. Meanwhile the landlord shows no expression on his face. He leaves the scene quietly. And with few of his servants goes to the river side. He sees Kaari and the madness that has come over it. The beast continues to roar and scrape earth with its horns, raising dust all over. The landlord looks around. There is no villager in sight. All are celebrating their new hero there at the arena. He takes out his revolver, aims at the bull and shoots it down. The bull dies with a groan. The landlord gives it a brief cold look, then turns back and starts walking back towards the arena.

***

“If an animal’s pride is hurt, it leads to destruction; it’s the same with a man’s pride too!”

9780198097471

Should Wizard Hit Mommy?

Today, during the concluding hours of the soothing weekend, I happened to go through  my cupboard for arranging books.In the process, I found my old English coursebook of high school. I always saved my English books because I loved the stories in them. While I flipped the pages of this paticular book titled ‘Vistas: Supplementary Reader in English’, I stopped at one particular story. ‘Should Wizard Hit Mommy’ by John Updike.

I began to read it with interest, while also reviving some school days memory with it. As I finished reading it, I felt touched by the story. I had never felt like that when I had read it in school. Maybe something has changed  in these 7 years.I felt like sharing this story with everyone. Ask everyone I knew, to read it and talk about it. Do they find it as nice as I found it now? This prompted me to write about it today on my blog.

‘Should Wizard Hit Mommy’ is a beautiful story of a father who tells fanciful bedtime stories to his daughter. But on this particular day, he decides that he will tell her a more realistic story. His daughter must learn the realities of life and should no longer live in the illusory world of rosy tales. He tells her an old story but changes its ending which makes the little girl get restless and revolting. She protests that  his dad should change its ending to what it had been when he had told her on an earlier day, but he refuses. He feels convinced that this may irritate his daughter but what he is conveying is the reality of life, and she must acknowledge it.

wizard

John Updike, known for writing on subjects concerning middle-class people has weaved this interesting short story involving a father, worn out with handling responsibilities of family and a little girl who is young, naive and imagines of an ideal world.

I invite you to read this wonderful tale..You too may like it. Please tell me how you feel about it. I am sure you will find it very nicely narrated.

wizard

In the evenings and for Saturday naps like today’s, Jack told his daughter Jo a story out of his head. This custom, begun when she was two, was itself now nearly two years old, and his head felt empty. Each new story was a slight variation of a basic tale: a small creature, usually named Roger (Roger Fish, Roger Squirrel, Roger Chipmunk), had some problem and went with it to the wise old owl. The owl told him to go to the wizard, and the wizard performed a magic spell that solved the problem, demanding in payment a number of
pennies greater than the number that Roger Creature had, but in the same breath directing the animal to a place where the extra pennies could be found. Then Roger was
so happy he played many games with other creatures, and went home to his mother just in time to hear the train whistle that brought his daddy home from Boston. Jack described their supper, and the story was over. Working his way through this scheme was especially fatiguing on Saturday, because Jo never fell asleep in naps any more, and knowing this made the rite seem futile.
The little girl (not so little any more; the bumps her feet made under the covers were halfway down the bed, their big double bed that they let her be in for naps and when she was sick) had at last arranged herself, and from the way her fat face deep in the pillow shone in the sunlight sifting through the drawn shades, it did not seem fantastic that some magic would occur, and she would take her nap like an infant of two. Her brother, Bobby, was two, and already asleep with his bottle. Jack asked, “Who shall the
story be about today?”
“Roger…” Jo squeezed her eyes shut and smiled to be thinking she was thinking. Her eyes opened, her mother’s blue. “Skunk,” she said firmly. A new animal; they must talk about skunks at nursery school. Having a fresh hero momentarily stirred Jack to creative enthusiasm. “All right,” he said. “Once upon a time, in the deep dark woods, there was a tiny little creature by the name of Roger Skunk. And he smelled very bad.”
“Yes,” Jo said.
“He smelled so bad that none of the other little woodland creatures would play with him.” Jo looked at him solemnly; she hadn’t foreseen this. “Whenever he would go out to play,” Jack continued with zest, remembering certain humiliations of his own childhood, “all of the other tiny animals would cry, “Uh-oh, here comes Roger Stinky Skunk,” and they would run away, and Roger Skunk would stand there all alone, and two little round tears would fall from his eyes.” The corners of Jo’s mouth drooped down and her lower lip bent forward as he traced with a forefinger along the side of her nose the course of
one of Roger Skunk’s tears.
“Won’t he see the owl?” she asked in a high and faintly roughened voice. Sitting on the bed beside her, Jack felt the covers tug as her legs switched tensely. He was pleased with this moment — he was telling her something true, something she must know — and had no wish to hurry on. But downstairs a chair scraped, and he realised he must get
down to help Clare paint the living-room woodwork.
“Well, he walked along very sadly and came to a very big tree, and in the tiptop of the tree was an enormous wise old owl.”
“Good.”
“Mr Owl,” Roger Skunk said, “all the other little animals run away from me because I smell so bad.”

“So you do,” the owl said.

“Very, very bad.”

“What can I do?” Roger Skunk said, and he cried very hard.
“The wizard, the wizard,” Jo shouted, and sat right up, and a Little Golden Book spilled from the bed.
“Now, Jo. Daddy’s telling the story. Do you want to tell Daddy the story?”
“No. You me.”
“Then lie down and be sleepy.”
Her head relapsed onto the pillow and she said, “Out of your head.”
“Well. The owl thought and thought. At last he said, “Why don’t you go see the wizard?”
“Daddy?”
“What?”
“Are magic spells real?” This was a new phase, just this last month, a reality phase. When he told her spiders eat bugs, she turned to her mother and asked, “Do they really?” and when Clare told her God was in the sky and all around them, she turned to her father and insisted, with a sly yet eager smile, “Is He really?”
“They’re real in stories,” Jack answered curtly. She had made him miss a beat in the narrative. “The owl said, “Go through the dark woods, under the apple trees, into the swamp, over the crick —”
“What’s a crick?”
wizardA little river. “Over the crick, and there will be the wizard’s house.” And that’s the way Roger Skunk went, and pretty soon he came to a little white house, and he rapped on the door.”

Jack rapped on the window sill, and under the covers Jo’s tall figure clenched in an infantile thrill.

“And then a tiny little old man came out, with a long white beard and a pointed blue hat, and said, “Eh? Whatzis? Whatcher want? You smell awful.” The wizard’s voice was one of Jack’s own favourite effects; he did it by scrunching up his face and somehow whining through his eyes, which felt for the interval rheumy. He felt being an old man suited him.“I know it,” Roger Skunk said, “and all the little animals run away from me. The enormous wise owl said you could help me.”
“Eh? Well, maybe. Come on in. Don’t get too close.” Now, inside, Jo, there were all these magic things, all jumbled together in a big dusty heap, because the wizard did not have any cleaning lady.”
“Why?”
“Why? Because he was a wizard, and a very old man.”
“Will he die?”
“No. Wizards don’t die. Well, he rummaged around and found an old stick called a magic wand and asked Roger Skunk what he wanted to smell like. Roger thought and thought and said, “Roses.”
“Yes. Good,” Jo said smugly.
Jack fixed her with a trance like gaze and chanted in the wizard’s elderly irritable voice:
“Abracadabry, hocus-poo, Roger Skunk, how do you do, Roses, boses, pull an ear,
Roger Skunk, you never fear: Bingo!”
He paused as a rapt expression widened out from his daughter’s nostrils, forcing her eyebrows up and her lower lip down in a wide noiseless grin, an expression in which
Jack was startled to recognise his wife feigning pleasure at cocktail parties. “And all of a sudden,” he whispered, “the whole inside of the wizard’s house was full of the
smell of — roses! ‘Roses!’ Roger Fish cried. And the wizard said, very cranky, “That’ll be seven pennies.”
“Daddy.”
“What?”
“Roger Skunk. You said Roger Fish.”
“Yes. Skunk.”
“You said Roger Fish. Wasn’t that silly?”
“Very silly of your stupid old daddy. Where was I? Well, you know about the pennies.”
“Say it.”
“O.K. Roger Skunk said, ‘But all I have is four pennies,’ and he began to cry.”

Jo made the crying face again, but this time without a trace of sincerity. This annoyed Jack.
Downstairs some more furniture rumbled. Clare shouldn’t move heavy things; she was six months pregnant. It would be their third.
“So the wizard said, ‘Oh, very well. Go to the end of the lane and turn around three times and look down the magic well and there you will find three pennies. Hurry up.’ So Roger Skunk went to the end of the lane and turned around three times and there in the magic well were three pennies! So he took them back to the wizard and was very happy and ran out into the woods and all the other little animals gathered around him because he smelled so good.And they played tag, baseball, football, basketball, lacrosse, hockey, soccer, and pick-up-sticks.”
“What’s pick-up-sticks?”
“It’s a game you play with sticks.”
“Like the wizard’s magic wand?”
“Kind of. And they played games and laughed all afternoon and then it began to get dark and they all ran home to their mommies.”
Jo was starting to fuss with her hands and look out of the window, at the crack of day that showed under the shade. She thought the story was all over. Jack didn’t like women when they took anything for granted; he liked them apprehensive, hanging on his words. “Now, Jo, are you listening?”
“Yes.”
“Because this is very interesting.
Roger Skunk’s mommy said, ‘What’s that awful smell?’
“Wha-at?”
“And, Roger Skunk said, ‘It’s me, Mommy. I smell like roses.’ And she said, ‘Who made you smell like that?’ And he said, ‘The wizard,’ and she said, ‘Well, of all the nerve. You come with me and we’re going right back to that very awful wizard.”
Jo sat up, her hands dabbling in the air with genuine fright. “But Daddy, then he said about the other little animals run away!” Her hands skittered off, into the underbrush.
“All right. He said, ‘But Mommy, all the other little animals run away,’ and she said, ‘I don’t care. You smelled the way a little skunk should have and I’m going to take you right back to that wizard,’ and she took an umbrella and went back with Roger Skunk and hit that wizard right over the head.”
“No,” Jo said, and put her hand out to touch his lips, yet even in her agitation did not quite dare to stop the source of truth. Inspiration came to her. “Then the wizard
hit her on the head and did not change that little skunk back.”
“No,” he said. “The wizard said ‘O.K.’ and Roger Skunk did not smell of roses any more. He smelled very bad again.”
“But the other little amum — oh! — amum — ”
“Joanne. It’s Daddy’s story. Shall Daddy not tell you any more stories?”

Her broad face looked at him through sifted light, astounded. “This is what happened, then. Roger Skunk and his mommy went home and they heard Woo-oo, woooo-oo and it was the choo-choo train bringing Daddy Skunk home from Boston. And they had lima beans, celery, liver, mashed potatoes, and Pie-Oh-My for dessert. And when Roger Skunk was in bed Mommy Skunk came up and hugged him and said he smelled like her little baby skunk again and she loved him very much. And that’s the end of the story.”
“But Daddy.”
“What?”
“Then did the other little animals run away?”
“No, because eventually they got used to the way he was and did not mind it at all.”
“What’s evenshiladee?”
“In a little while.”
“That was a stupid mommy.”
“It was not,” he said with rare emphasis, and believed, from her expression, that she realised he was defending his own mother to her, or something as odd. “Now I want
you to put your big heavy head in the pillow and have a good long nap.” He adjusted the shade so not even a crack of day showed, and tiptoed to the door, in the pretense that she was already asleep. But when he turned, she was crouching on top of the covers and staring at him. “Hey.Get under the covers and fall faaast asleep. Bobby’s asleep.”
She stood up and bounced gingerly on the springs.
“Daddy.”
“What?”
“Tomorrow, I want you to tell me the story that that wizard took that magic wand and hit that mommy” — her plump arms chopped forcefully — “right over the head.”
“No. That’s not the story. The point is that the little skunk loved his mommy more than he loved all the other little animals and she knew what was right.”
“No. Tomorrow you say he hit that mommy. Do it.” She kicked her legs up and sat down on the bed with a great heave and complaint of springs, as she had done hundreds of times before, except that this time she did not laugh.
“Say it, Daddy.”
“Well, we’ll see. Now at least have a rest. Stay on the bed. You’re a good girl.”
He closed the door and went downstairs. Clare had spread the newspapers and opened the paint can and, wearing an old shirt of his on top of her maternity smock, was stroking the chair rail with a dipped brush. Above him footsteps vibrated and he called, “Joanne! Shall I come up there and scold you?” The footsteps hesitated.
“That was a long story,” Clare said.
“The poor kid,” he answered, and with utter weariness watched his wife labour. The woodwork, a cage of moldings and rails and baseboards all around them, was half old tan
and half new ivory and he felt caught in an ugly middle position, and though he as well felt his wife’s presence in the cage with him, he did not want to speak with her, work
with her, touch her, anything.

(Image Source: xobba eCards )

Mother’s Day

That was the day I had to leave my town to go to the city, for my first employment.I had my train scheduled 2 hours later.The journey would take me 36 hours.I was going to the far south of the mainland to start a new life.

Every sort of packing was done.And my mother was getting anxious that I will be going away from home, away from her. No matter how much we grow up, our mothers alway see us as a small child and gets worried when we part from her.She thinks ‘Oh, Who will take care of my child now.’

So my mother was restless that day.She insisted me that I lay on the bed and take rest because the travelling would be tiring.But I was sitting on a chair and thinking about my new life.’Why don’t you take a nap?’ she said politely with a feeling of worry, ‘You have a long journey ahead’ ‘It is Ok’, I said still absorbed in my contemplations of the future.She was not convinced, though she didn’t say anything.She went into the kitchen.

Just then it started to rain and a strong wind started blowing.I got excited, as it was the first rain of the season.I took my chair out and sat near the door.The wind beat across my face with droplets of rain water.The electric supply was cut when it began lightning and roaring thunders ensued.The home became dark.

My mother came at the door, where I was sitting.She was glad that it was raining,’How nice the rains have come.The scorching heat will go away now’ We both looked at our garden for some time, the plants dancing with the rain and the flowers swaying in the wind. But then she noticed that the blowing wind brought dust with it as I was rubbing my eyes occasionally. ‘Don’t sit here’ she persisted. ‘Get inside, there is so much dust here.’ ‘It’s Ok’,I said, while still rubbing my eyes.

She stood there for some time then again expressed that I get inside and take rest and that the journey will be long and tiring. I continued to sit where I was sitting not saying anything.She gave up, at last, speaking to herself in a tone of resignation ‘I wonder what makes my son sit in the wind laden with dust when it is comfortable inside’ She went again to the kitchen.

I heard the faint tinkling of her bangles amidst the sound of rain clatter. Suddenly I saw a plate of chopped fruits in front of me.It was my mother holding the plate with an expression of deep concern.I took the plate and picked up a slice of apple to eat.She didn’t say anything and went inside. I heard no sound. She might have decided to take a nap I thought.

I looked at the distant clouds, getting brighter and I saw the lilacs tossing their heads in the garden.I picked up another piece of apple  from the plate and started eating it.Just then, a gust of the wind laden with dust swept across my face.I put down the plate and started rubbing my eyes.

(I write this, recollecting the last week’s happening when I was leaving home to come to this city for my new job. On this Mother’s Day, I express my deep gratitude and love to my mother who has always been so affectionate,kind and caring. I often speak less and don’t talk much but I do feel and understand how much she cares selflessly. I wish her all happiness, health, and peace.And I wish every one of us  feels the blessing of mother and be able to reciprocate her love to the utmost extent we can.)

445877_orig

Remembering the Visit to The Sun Temple

“Here the language of stone surpasses the language of human”

— Rabindranath Tagore (Indian poet and Nobel Laureate, 1861-1941)

***

James_Fergusson_Konark.jpg

I tried to regard the scene from the perspective of my younger brother, who was seeing this magnificent relic from history for the first time.Till that moment, he had only seen it in his history books.

We were standing in the vicinity of giant archaic monument- The Sun Temple at Konark in the state of Orissa (India). I had been there previously, several years ago, the memory of the last visit was fresh in my mind.

During my previous visit, I was probably 14 years old. I was there with my father, my sister and my elder brother.That time, when our bus had brought us near this tourist site, my excitement had knew no bounds.Old things- artifacts and monuments from yore, thrills me immensely.

Just finding a simple archaic book in library escalates my fascination to heights, then  imagine in what a mesmeric state I would have gone into, standing there in front of that monument, which had every essence of archaism  imbued in it.

As I had entered the exquisite compound in that previous visit, a colossal sculpture of what looked like a dragon over an elephant had caught my gaze. A tourist guide was explaining about it to an entourage of visitors some distance away.I could make out his words, though it had required me to strain my ears a bit ” ..the man lying below symbolises Humanity, but above it is an Elephant, signifying that Buddhism is superior to it.Elephants were used to depict Buddhism.But on top of that is the ferocious roaring lion, symbolizing Hinduism, and that, it is superior to them all..”

When I was walking on that same path again, 10 years later, with my younger brother this time, I could catch his interest upon seeing the same sculpture of man, elephant and the lion.I  could hear the echo of the words I had heard from that tourist guide in my mind. I started explaining it to him, with excitement.Dance_Pavilion,_Konârak_-_Lion.jpg

 

When we were inside the prime temple compound, a feeling of awe and wonder started surging within me again as the sensation of thrill, of being around archaic things started to crawl in. I stood before the temple, the old decrepit structure, now supported by iron columns to prevent it from collapsing. I recalled from my memory having read about it in history  books.

Built in the 13th Century by King Narsimhadev-I, this temple was dedicated to the Sun God.The temple was made in the shape of a vast chariot, the wheels and horses sculpted on its side.The temple faced east, such that the first rays of the sun in the morning traced the path in between the pillars at the entrance and reached straight to the main chamber, falling upon the deity of Sun God, sculpted inside in the sacred position.

I recalled from my previous visit, the information, that over the years  the temple had been pillaged for the ancient sculptures of the deities. The manhandling, and also because of the geological reasons, it was crumbling down.The iron beams were installed to protect it from breaking. Furthermore,  in 1903 the whole interior chamber of the temple was ordered to be filled with sand and its main door sealed with big bricks made of rocks to further reinforce support and save  it from falling down.

I walked again towards the main door, where the sunlight used to enter without any hindrance once,  there,  nothing could enter now as only big blocks of stone bricks laid closely thrust blocking the entrance solidly.

As my brother went about exploring the spacious temple compound I sat on the old stone stairs just gazing at this old piece of historical remnant, silently standing without any emotion.The sun was setting behind it.I could see young people studying the architecture, families taking photographs of each other, children running around and playing cheerfully. The sun was warm and dizzy.I slowly felt every voice around me starting to fade.All the signs of modern world disappearing, the iron beams that supported the temple vanished, the clouds ran amok like a time lapsed film and I saw it! Ancient people walking around the temple, clad in white loin clothes, with the ceremonial threads hung across their shoulders, their foreheads smeared with holy symbols. I looked back, and saw dancing girls, in their adorned yellow saree with red borders, and white flowers curled up in their hair.They were performing Oddissi, a classical dance form, to the beats of mridangam, a barrel-shaped double-headed drum ,an ancient musical instrument. They sang songs in an archaic language.I turned around and saw the sky above turn dark, then suddenly, light sprouting like a blooming flower from the clouds, a strand of light, golden in color raced from the heavens and traced its path along the walkway, passing by the lion and elephant sculpture.The dancers greeted it with their dance. The musicians eulogised it in their songs.The ray moved swiftly and entered the main door of the temple, the rock bricks were no longer there, it reached over  the solemn deity of the Sun God, illuminating the chamber and the priests showered flowers upon it, rang the holy bells and chanted the sacred mantras. The temple was back to life. Back with the people who had created it and whose lives revolved around it.

Konark_Sun_Temple_Front_view.jpg

***

When we were departing, I asked my brother what things he liked about the temple.He went on to tell with animation how much he delighted seeing the actual magnanimity of it which hadn’t become apparent in the books. He went on to tell of his admiration for the intricate designs carved all across the monument in fine details and admirable symmetries.

As we were boarding the vehicle to return back, I turned to take a one last look at the monument. For more than 800 years, it has stood here.It has seen several weathers come and go, land forms change, people come and go- it has been the witness of mankind from the age of kings to this age of technology. It has grown old now, its wall has eroded, its frame has cracked, it is feared to crumble down, more beams have been added for its support.

I began to perceive the monument as an old abandoned person.Very weak, sick and not willing to talk with anyone.It had its glorious years, with its people who had created it and whose lives revolved around it.They were all long since, dead.It was the only survivor.And it had lost all interest in life.It now didn’t bother who was walking around.These new people were anyways very different and it didn’t belong to this era of them.It laid solemnly gazing at the sky unaffected by the sound of cheers and the strange flashes of light these people produced- recalling the years it actually belonged to, when the morning ray of light used to enliven everything around it.

(18th April has been declared by UNESCO as the World Heritage Day.When I came to know of this information, I at once sat on my computer to make a post about my visit to the Sun Temple, which forms a very dear part of my memory.My first visit there had been in 2004, then again in 2014.The Sun Temple was declared as UNESCO’s World Heritage site in 1984 and is regarded as one of the Seven Wonders of India)

 

Konark_sun_temple_20 (1).jpg

Text on the slab near the gateway of the temple reads: ‘To preserve this superb specimen of Old Indian architecture, the interior was filled in by order of The Hon’ble J.A. Bourdillon C.S.I Lieutenant Governor of Bengal A.D 1903′

Chariot_wheel_of_Konark_temple.jpg

The wheels of the temple are sundials which can be used to calculate time accurately to a minute

 

Konark_Temple_Panoram2.jpg

The Sun Temple Compound: The iron beams for support can be seen protruding from the left side of the temple

 

(Images not owned by me, All images sourced from: Wikipedia)

 

 

Albert Einstein at School

In what year Einstein,”asked the history teacher, “did the Prussians defeat the French at Waterloo?”

“I don’t know,sir,”

“Why don’t you know? You’ve been told often enough.”

“I must have forgotten.”

“Did you ever try to learn?” asked Braun.

“No, sir,” Albert replied with his usual unthinking honesty.

“Why not?”

“I can’t see any point in learning dates.One can always look them up in a book.”

Mr Braun was speechless for a few moments.

“You amaze me, Einstein.” he said at last. “Don’t you realise that one can always look most things up in books? That applies to all the facts you learn at school.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Then I suppose you don’t see any point in learning facts.”

“Frankly, sir, I don’t, ” said Albert.

“Then you don’t believe in education at all?”

“Oh, yes sir, I do.I don’t think learning is education.”

“In that case,” said the history teacher with heavy sarcasm, “perhaps you will be so kind as to tell the class the Einstein theory of education.”

Albert flushed.

I think it’s not facts that matter, but ideas,” he said. “I don’t see the point in learning the dates of battles, or even which of the armies killed more men. I’d be more interested in learning why those soldiers were trying to kill each other.”

“That’s enough,” Mr Braun’s eyes were cold and cruel. “We don’t want a lecture from you, Einstein.You will stay in for an extra period today, although I don’t imagine it will do you much good.It won’t do the school any good, either. You are a disgrace, I don’t know why you continue to come.”

“It’s not my wish, sir,” Albert pointed out.

“Then you are an ungrateful boy and ought to be ashamed of yourself.I suggest you ask your father to take you away.”

Albert felt miserable when he left the school that afternoon.”I don’t think I’ll ever pass the exams for the school diploma,” he told his friend.

When his cousin Elsa came to Munich, he shared his despondency with her.

“I am sure you could learn enough to pass the exams,Albert, if you tried,” she said, “I know lots of boys who are much more stupid than you are, who get through.They say you don’t have to know anything- you don’t have to understand what you’re taught, just be able to repeat it in the exams.”

“That’s the whole trouble,” said Albert. “I’m no good at learning things by heart.”

“You don’t need to be good at it.Anyone can learn like a parrot.You just don’t try.And yet I always see you with a book under your arms,” added Elsa.”What is the one you’re reading?”

“A book on geology.”

Geology? Rocks and things? Do you learn that?”

“No.We have hardly any science at school.”

“Then why are you studying it?”

“Because I like it. Isn’t that a good enough reason?”

Elsa sighed.

“You’re right, of course, Albert, ” she said. “But it won’t help with your diploma.”

                                                                       -Excerpt from “The Young Einstein” by Patrick Pringle 

 

(I was lured to write this excerpt today, because in the afternoon, I had called one of my friends, Nitish, and I was amused to learn that he had been studying a book on Geology. I told him he had made me remember young Einstein’s story!

As I revisited this old chapter, later in the evening and read this episode once again, I  felt like sharing this story with everyone!

I like Einstein’s passion to learn, that is, in the spirit of knowing the essence of things, rather than memorising and repeating the facts. It is a blessing to be curious that way! But this passion comes with its own set of woes, which this tale very nicely captures.)

school

(Image Source: Link )

 

 

The Library

When I was a child, I used to visit an old library.It was located quite a distance away from the city.I would ride my bicycle and take my first halt at the market near the temple.There, I would have some snacks and beverages.

Then I will start my long cycling trip to the library.The route entailed me to pass through a desolate long road, lined on both sides by massive trees.While I passed through that stretch of the path, my excitement would start soaring.

The canopy of the trees made it feel like passing through a green tunnel while the shrill chatter of thousands of birds echoed like in an old abandoned castle.I would slow down my pace to experience the moment in all its detail.The sound, the view, the color, the smell, the chaos, the dampness, the isolation.

After passing that, I would quicken my pace because the path would slope down.It would take me some 30 more minutes to reach the library.I would disembark near the gates.The gates will always be open in a careless manner.There were trees, shrubs and wild plants all around the library. The library itself had discolored walls and random patterns made on  it from decaying moss.

Ideally, the place did not have a very inviting outlook.However it was this sense of abandonment, desolation, and antiquity that actually attracted me to this place.And I would often be the only person to visit that library.With its collection of books, all old, the archaic aroma and the (sometimes scary) silence, I considered the place to be one of the favorite destinations for spending my evenings.

Path-Birch-Trees-1097358