Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Boy and The Holy River- A story of Love, Loss and a Great Purpose

It had been less a year since the boy had begun to row boat in the river Ganges in the famous city of Benares in India.

The boy remembered floating paper boats in the roadside streams in rains while his father rowed the larger boat in the river. He had no mother or siblings. And one day his father went very far in the river but never returned. He didn’t go to school, but knew how to row boat; so he lent one, gave ride to tourists who gave him money in return.

The boy hated the river for she took away his father yet he depended on it to feed himself.

One day the boy sat on his boat crying heavily while a fellow boatman was trying to console him “The boat owner has beaten me again! He said if I don’t bring him back enough money, he’ll lent the boat to someone else and would throw me in the river to die just like my father. But the wicked tourists are so rare now-a-days.”

“Don’t worry! Diwali is near and in the night all people of the city and far beyond, go for boating. You’ll earn more than enough.” the boatman said, the boy looked at him; he was twice of his size and also stunk twice as much. He nodded. The boy impatiently waited for the day of Diwali for he hadn’t earned much money.

Finally the day arrived, the banks were more crowded than ever and there were more boats than he had ever seen. He waited eagerly for tourists to ride in his boat but boatmen older than him kept on pushing his boat far from the ghat*, so the boat was out of reach of tourists. It was getting dark and young girls and old women were floating earthen lamps in the river and on the ghats, the priests were worshiping the river, holding and moving lamps in clockwise circles in Aarti*, people were worshiping, clapping and carried the lamps in their boats. The chants were enchanting. It was a magical experience: whole river turned golden- red, the light slashed through the darkness of new moon night and lightened everything. The boy was so lost in the experience that he had almost forgotten why he was there, until a strange man with shaved head, deep eyes and saffron robs appeared, asking for a boat ride accompanied with a woman who also wore similar robes.

The boy rowed the boat with the man calmly sitting and woman cherishing the view. “It’s so enchanting Man of Wisdom!” she exclaimed. “This man is made up of flesh and blood, how can he be made up of wisdom?” the boy asked, looking confused. The woman laughed, the man smiled but the boy only got more confused.

“10 years ago when I came here for the last time, the city was less developed but the river was cleaner. The water was so clear that you could see the beautiful fishes and could drink the water but now it stinks” the man said. “Yes! The city is developed; they’ve even got pizzas here, traditional though. I bought one from a pizzeria on the ghat, it’s delicious!” the woman said in an excited tone. “Firangan*, come to my house and I’ll make dal-roti* for you, and you’ll forget the taste of pizzha.” the boy said defensively.

“The people from around the World come here to bathe in the river to wash their sins, drink, store and carry this water thinking it’d bring them good luck, pour it in the mouths of new born and dead ones citing it’d purify their bodies, use it to wash their idols thinking the Gods would be pleased, float lamps thinking that the river would grant them wishes and fulfill their desires and throw the remains of the dead ones thinking they’d go to heaven. This city is most ancient in the world and the river is the reason that people still flourish here. Half of Indians still live on its water. The whole Indian civilization exists because this river exists.” the man said looking blankly at distance, while the boy and the woman calmly listened.

After a pause, he continued “Yet these same people throw industrial waste, pour the drainage of cities, sewage from their homes, wash their animals, throw trash, submerge idols and dead bodies, wash their clothes, utensils, excreta and pollute the river. The water is unfit for irrigation let alone drinking.” Man of Wisdom said with moist eyes. On hearing this, the boy suddenly looked nauseated and dropped the oars. He was about to vomit in the river but Man of Wisdom turned his head and he vomited in the boat.

“You’re right. We call this river our mother yet rape it everyday. It gives us so much but we always want more and more.” the boy said sincerely. “Your City of Burning, Learning and Earning owes it all to the river.” Man of Wisdom said. “My mother was cremated on that Manikarnika Ghat” the boy pointed to one bank; “I learnt to row boat from my father there on Assi Ghat” the boy pointed in the horizonAnd earn mostly from boating around Dashashwamedh Ghat.” the boy said, that’s all he could make from Man of Wisdom’s statement.

“Do you want to do something for the river?” Man asked. “Yes! I won’t pee in it anymore!” the boy said, woman laughed but Man of Wisdom became serious. “You also drink its water and give it back, completing the cycle, eh?” he asked in a loud tone. “You know wisdom, you can’t control sometimes when you’re in the middle of the river and ghats are too far. But I’d do anything you’d say to save the river.” the boy said firmly.

“Paint your boat with positive messages and…” Man said; “It’s not my boat” boy said; “I’ll buy you one” the woman said. “OK but I can’t read, how would I know if the message is positive or negative?” the boy asked again. “Would you like to go to school? I also want to do something for the river; I’d stay and teach children here love the city and river. We’ll boat together, organize campaigns and ask other tourists and residents to help” the woman said. Both boy and Man of Wisdom nodded in affirmative.

They had come far in river where there were no other boats. It was all dark but the lamp in their boat was beaming, fighting with the wind and the darkness.

Three months later…
 “Can we three people really make the river Better, while millions still pollute it? What three are to millions?” the boy asked, looking depressed. They had bought a few boats, began a small school where children were educated for free and their families were avowed to protect the river and not to contaminate it. It was funded by the royalty from books, the profits from woman’s farms in Canada and the income from the boats. Soon Man of Wisdom’s disciples from around the planet joined the campaign and it also gained the support of local activists and enthusiastic tourists.

“All great things begin with small efforts. All big achievements begin with simple ideas and passionate people. Now from three we’re three hundred, soon we might become thousands and as the number of people who protect and clean the river increases, the number of people who pollute it decreases. May be one day everyone would care and no one would dare to pollute it. We live and work for that future.” Man of Wisdom said calmly and darkened the "WE" on an awareness poster he was making.

The boy on hearing this ran to his boat, abruptly he slipped on the stair of the ghat, rolled down and fell in the river, the water was deep as the boats were tied there. The boy was an excellent swimmer, but his shirt was stuck in an anchor on the river floor and despite his best efforts he couldn't swim above to breathe. He tried to scream for help but even more water filled his mouth. He was out of air and was suffocating badly, the darkness was filling his eyes and the sun, which was moving with movement of water above him, was slowly disappearing. "I'd meet my father" he thought. Suddenly a violent thrust of water caused by under water currents teared his shirt and threw him out of water, he caught the edge of the boat. He had learnt to read and he saw the writing on his boat:
The Mother always protect us, it's time we return the favor. 
He climbed over the boat, he only had a few bruises. Grateful, he bowed with folded hands and thanked the river: his mother. He was resolute, he'll do anything to protect her, like she just protected him and return the favor.

Meaning of Hindi Words used:
Benares: A prominent ancient city, on the bank of Ganges now known as Varanasi.
Ghat: Stairs on the river bank leading to river.
Aarti: A ritual of worship with lamps and songs, offered to a deity.
Firangan: Used here in the sense of a foreign woman.
dal-roti: Most simplistic Indian food.
 Assi, Manikarnika and Dashashwamedh Ghat : Three most important ghats in Varanasi.

Click: To know more about Ganges, the Pollution in Ganges and the ways to reduce pollution. To know more about the city of Varanasi and about Diwali: The festival of Light

PLEASE take some simple, small efforts to save our rivers. Spread positive messages, use recyclable products, use phosphate free detergents, don’t throw away trash, sign petitions for Govt to take actions, encourage any farmer of your acquaintance to not use pesticides or insecticides,  if you live near a river educate yourself and your children about the importance of protecting rivers.
If you like this story, then please share it with others.

Remember: It’s still in our hands to recover our rivers from most of the damage, 50 years later it won’t be possible. Then our children would struggles for fresh water and would blame us for ruining the water sources. According to most experts, third World War would be fought for water! With you small efforts, you can help in avoiding it.

Follow Man of Wisdom on Facebook or on Twitter or connect with Alok the guy who wrote the story: Alok on Facebook.

Till the next time, Keep Trailing on your Untrailed Path, Keep mesmerizing us with your amazing work and your passion to make the World better. Thanks.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Dark of the Night - A story about finding Light in the Darkness

It was a cold dark night. Two men were chatting around fire, which was so feeble that neither of them was visible nor it could possibly provide them any comfort from the cold.
“All the wrong things happen in the night. All robberies, murders, even the devils like us are born because of the night.” one of them said while sharpening something over a rock. The other laughed a strange laugh as if chewing something. “I made a rhyme, I made a rhyme” he said in a very excited tone and then sang:
“In the Dark of the Night,
When everything gets out of sight.
Kill, steal, thrill before they put on the light;
Only idiots waste time thinking what’s wrong or right.
Before you take out the life, treasure their face with their fright;
Signal thy mate, rush to the window, quick and bright.
Don’t be scared of jumping from that height,
A robbery needs, you have that might.
We go for the kill, alright?
In the Dark of tonight!”

The man finished the song and bowed, while the other man tapped the knife on the rock as if clapping in praise. “Am just waitin’ for that little tinkilin’ candle light ove’ there, once they blow it out and begin to get naughty; we’re gonna go and slit their throats. That rich bogus would regret keeping money at his house.” he said, sliding his finger over the edge of the knife which was now sparkling with blood.

“I want his wife, as a squeeze, she’s a little cute thing. I see her at temple everyday. You sure, the King’s soldiers won’t interfere?” the man who was chewing, asked. “How’d they know if anything wrong gonna happen here? Walk like a shadow, attack like death and come out like silence.” the other replied.

Soon the candle was blown out and it was completely dark. The two men climbed the house with utmost care. “Cut the throat first” they thought and each one cut the throat of the person near him, on their bed, in their sleep. “Take everything you want” they thought and parted each other to open two treasure chests of the rich merchant. “Rush to the Window” One of the man appeared at the window. “Get lost again in the Dark of the Night” he thought but suddenly he realized his brother isn’t there. “Teeny!” he screamed his name. “I’m bitten! There was a snake in the chest! I also killed that sweet woman. Nothing’s right, in the dark of tonight! Come brother, help!” Teeny cried out loud. His brother instead tried to open the window but to no avail, it was locked. “How the hell it can get locked? It was open earlier!” he cried. Suddenly a spear struck him in the leg and he fell back.

“Fleeing? Leaving your little brother here to die?” the man knew the voice, he was right: it was the General. The soldiers had captured both the thieves, the one bitten by snake died; while the other kept crying and apologizing.
“Thank you sire!” The rich merchant, with his wife on his side said, bowing. Two mannequins, with red color flowing through their throat were lying on the bed. The thieves were fooled at every step and were finally caught. “How did you know, that we’ll rob here?” the thief asked. “Your brother followed the merchant’s wife everywhere; she complained of it to her husband, who in turn consulted to me. We tracked and saw & were delighted to find it was you. The most dangerous thief in the whole empire. We knew your brother would tell you about merchant’s wealth so he could get his hands on his wife. We knew your methods and let you in and caught you.” the general said. The thief was later put on trial and sentenced to death.
The merchant’s wife sat next to him and sang:
“Look outside it’s Beautiful Twilight,
Turn on the lights, let everything look bright.
With all their might, on their duty were our brave knights,
Now the scoundrels have been caught, Ah! What a delight!
No matter how bad it might get, in the end, the right always wins the fight,
Whether it’s in the bright of the day or the Dark of the Night.”

The merchant embraced her in an admiration and awe. He was filled with prideful joy at having such a courageous and wise wife. Then he blew out the candle without any fear. The darkness again dawned everywhere.
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Articles, Poems, Quotes, Stories and other content by Alok Sharma is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.