Sunday, October 25, 2009
thorns cannot hurt flowers- krishna
thorns cannot hurt flowers
I was never interested in reading newspapers. It was rather an
unavoidable luxury to me. I found no need to read it. My reading or
knowing will not stop the terrorist attacks or accidents. And about
the shouts, speeches and declarations of the politicians, less said
the better, because, shouts or declarations will not bring a remedy
or relief to any problem. And if they do something, it is not
necessary to read a newspaper to know the effect, if it concerns me.
Yet, to buy a newspaper was
unavoidable, because in my place, if a
person does not buy a newspaper, he
would be considered as a miser. And to
tell the truth, I was interested to read
and laugh at the speeches of leaders
after a terrorist attack. Like a comedy
item. They will invariably express shock
(hollow?)and condemn it, as if such a
reaction may bring a change in the
attitude of the terrorists, making them
think twice before taking a cruel step in
future! There will not even be a single
word in them which may touch the
minds of the misguided ones, to awaken the frozen emotions like
love and mercy and kindness in them. Cartoons of course I like,
but they are rare. And sometimes, there will be articles by some
cultural heroes and heroines, who happen to believe that their
knowledge is beyond space and time, but such ‘beyond space and
especially through the obituaries, to know whether any of my
friends or distant relatives has left this world.
As such, on that day too, I was involved in the same exercise
that I saw a photograph, which looked familiar. His name was
Gowrishankar Prabhu, aged 74 years. I read the report and saw
that he is a retiree from the same firm where I had worked. But I
could not remember the exact place or period when I had got
acquainted with that man.
Although I wanted to forget about him, it was not easy. The
thought persisted and at night, when I was about to sleep, it all
came to me. The place and the related incident and all.
It all happened about sixteen years ago.
The management of our company had arranged a three days
training program to some of the officers. The venue was the
conference hall of a big hotel in the capital city. Apart from
learning new things and having a refreshing escape from the
routine, tiresome jobs for a week, it was also an opportunity to
meet old friends and also to make new acquaintances. Although the
class was to begin only at 10’o’ clock, almost everyone reached by
nine. It seemed that everyone had one or two or more friends there
except to me, as I had come on transfer only recently from an office
outside the state.
I was just looking around that I saw another man enter. A few of
them looked at him, but it seemed that he was new to them. He
was very tall, with broad shoulders and long arms and healthy
body. He came and sat near me. After sometime, I asked his name
and he said that it is Ramesh. But when he did not even ask my
name, I understood that he is not interested in small talk.
It was about 10‘o’ clock that another man entered. He was very
old, almost on the verge of retirement. His face looked as if he was
afraid of the gathering. He moved slowly, being careful not to make
any noise. As he was about to sit near Ramesh that one man from
the front row turned and saw him.
“Oh, you? You are trying to sit there to hide from us?”
I was flabbergasted! Because, unlike in English, where there is
only the word ‘you’ to address a person, there are different words in
our language to address people of different social status, age etc.
And the old man was being addressed as if he is of their age! Devoid
of any respect, when such a behavior is usually being considered as
a vulgar, uncivilized and unethical practice. And this man is an
officer in a reputed concern!
Speaking, the front row-man got up. He said something to the
man who was sitting near him and both walked towards the old
man. They pulled him up and the old man began to shiver literally.
One of them held his arm while the other one tickled him and
“Come on. Get up and sit with us. After all we are old friends.”
“Is it not?” Asked the other man.
The old man moaned something. It was very clear that he did not
want to go and sit with them.
But the twosome was adamant. They forcibly took him towards
the front row calling him names. And they smiled at others, as if
they had won a battle.
They made him sit between them and began asking various
questions. It began as joke, but gradually became more and more
vulgar and insulting. And their sound and laughter went on
increasing. All the others were silent, either wondering or enjoying
Then, to the relief of the old man, the instructor entered. He was
a young man with a pleasant face and no non-sense manners. First
of all, he introduced himself and then asked the others to do so and
then began the class.
At noon, everyone returned after meals. There was about half-
an-hour more for the class to begin.
The twosome began again their sharp and nasty comments at
the old man. Their voice was so high that everyone stopped talking
and began listening to them. This encouraged them further and
their questions and comments became more and more ugly and
insulting. And the old man sat helpless between them like Santa
Claus between two Dirty Clowns. Jesus between two thieves.
Suddenly, one of them asked in a low, yet audible to all, voice as
if it is a secret.
“Where do you stay?”
He said that he was staying in the Blue moon Lodge. It was there
where I had also taken room.
“Is she with you?” One of the dirty clowns asked it in such a
manner as if the ‘she’ was a cheap, immoral woman. And the old
man moved his head in assent.
So this old man is not as simple as that, I thought. Nobody
come to attend a three days training with his wife to stay in a small
lodge, where she will be constrained to sit alone throughout the
day. It never happens. So this oldie has arranged to rendezvous
with his keep here. Such an old man cheating his wife!
I felt a little respect towards the two men. They say all this to
expose the old boy to others. And he deserves it. To be a womanizer
at this age? How dirty and shameless? And I compared this rogue
with Santa Claus and Jesus! My God! What a fool I was!
Nevertheless, the next words of the man shocked me.
Turning towards the old man, he said in a low voice, in order to
draw the attention of everyone around:
“Do one thing. You go to my room to-day and stay there. I will go
to your room. And don’t forget to tell her to wait for me.”
It was too much. Is it the place to discuss such things? The old
man was at least hiding it from others, but this fellow is talking
about it as if there is nothing wrong in it all.
I looked around. The words had stunned everyone. They were
waiting to see the response of the old man.
Then the old man turned his face to one side. And I was
shocked to see that his face was wet with tears and he was sobbing.
A few moments passed on. Suddenly Ramesh got up and
walked towards the old man. Everyone viewed him with anxiety.
Reaching near the old man, he smiled and said:
“It is so long since we met sir. And only now I saw you. Now
come, let us sit there and talk.” He pointed towards the back row.
The old man seemed to hesitate a little, but then he got up
and moved with Ramesh to the back row. He sat near me with
Ramesh on the other side.
They did not speak anything. And everyone knew that Ramesh
had played such a drama to save the old man from the clowns.
The next day, the old man entered along with the instructor at
clock as well as at noon. I understood that he did so purposely
to avoid the clowns. And it is also to be mentioned to the credit of
Ramesh that the clowns did not even look at us.
I did not speak anything to him on that day except to ask his
name, which he said as Gowrishankar Prabhu. He asked my name
too. But apart from that, we did not speak anything. I could not
decide as to whether it is desirable to be friendly with him. At one
end of my mind was she; the cheap, immoral woman. And at the
other end was the sobbing Gowrishankar Prabhu. Which is the real
In the evening, I had to do some shopping and so I reached my
lodge after nightfall. And there, in front of my adjacent room, I saw
Prabhu standing, as if waiting for someone.
We smiled to each other and I said the reason for my delay just
as a formality.
“Last night, I had seen you in this room. But you were engaged
in reading that I did not want to disturb.” He said.
I opened the door and invited him inside. But he did not enter
inside, but stood at the verandah and asked me:
“Have you taken tea?”
“Yes.” I said.
“Then let us go to my room and talk.” He said and walked
towards his room.
I thought for a while as to whether to go with him. Is it right to
go and meet such a woman, especially in the presence of her
paramour? But will it not be like insulting him, if I do not accept
I decided to go. After all, it is only my guess from the loose talk
of two clowns that there is such a woman. And if such a woman is
really there, who is going to prevent me from leaving the room then
He was standing near the door, waiting for me. And when I
reached, he moved inside.
I entered inside and looked around.
The woman was indeed there. But she was not as I had
It was an old lady, almost as old as Prabhu, with hair gone
grey. She was lean and tall and had the color of sandalwood. She
was wearing a white cotton sari and had no ornaments except two
or three bangles and a very small wed-lock chain. She wore
sandalwood paste on her forehead and had the vermilion mark
above it. There was a pleasant smile on her lips which mingled with
the luster of the face, to give almost a divine touch to her.
She got up as I entered in. She looked very happy having a
Prabhu turned to her and said:
“This is Albert.” And turning towards me he continued: “This
is my wife Janaki.”
So it was about his wife that the clowns were making such
dirty comments. But how could he tolerate it? If they had said
those words to another person, they would have lost a few teeth, no
doubt. But this poor man is unable to do anything of that sort and
they knew it well. Probably they know him for a long time to dare to
say such words.
“Please sit down.” Prabhu said to me.
“Shall I prepare some tea?” The lady asked.
“No. Thanks. I took tea just now.” I said.
We sat silent for some time, as if not knowing how to continue
with the talk. After sometime, the lady said, laughing:
“You are sitting like two strangers in a railway station, waiting
for the train to come.”
Her remark made me laugh.
Then she began to ask me about my place, my family and
children and about the places where I was working earlier. And he
went on adding some or other information for our benefit.
Gradually I began to feel that she is asking these questions,
not only to know about me, but as a means of entertaining me,
treating me as a very close relative on a visit. Her words had the
fragrance of affection and pure love.
“Do you know that she is a poet?” Asked Prabhu.
“And he is a marvelous story-teller.” She said.
I looked at them with admiration.
“I make-up stories and tell them only to her.”
“And he is the only person who has read my poems.”
She got up and brought a note-book and gave it to me. And I
There were a few poems in it written by her. The handwriting
was very beautiful. I read one of them. It was not very great or
something like that, yet it was beautiful. I turned the pages. Almost
all poems were about the innocent pleasures of life.
“They are all beautiful.” I remarked.
“Naturally.” She smiled. “You cannot say otherwise, because
it is a question of formality.”
“Not like that. They are really beautiful.”
So far I had not asked anything about them. In fact, I had no
idea as to how to begin and continue a conversation with strangers.
But good mannerism demands such a conversation. So I asked:
“Where is your native place?”
He said the place name and added: “We both are from there.”
“Relatives before marriage?”
“No. But from the same village.”
I wanted to ask whether theirs was a love marriage, but
abstained from asking such a question to them.
“You want to know whether ours was a love-marriage. No?”
She asked gleefully.
I was wonderstruck! How could she guess it?
“It is a natural question and everyone asks it, as we are from
the same village. And I read it in your eyes.”
“And the answer is a perfect ‘No’. We had not even seen each
other before marriage.” He said.
“You come together to attend every training?”
“Not only training. We go everywhere together.” He continued.
“After all, what is the use in one person sitting alone at home?”
“No. We have no children?”
“Oh. I am sorry.” I said.
“What for?” He asked.
“That too is a formality.” She said. “But we are not aggrieved
“It is the poet’s mind. She says that it is our luck.”
“Don’t make him misunderstand that I hate children.” She
said. “But sometimes I feel that we are lucky because when the
others have only one or two children, we have all the children of the
world as our own.”
I went on looking at her. And she continued, as if speaking to
“In the beginning, we were also disappointed. Having a child of
our own seemed the only purpose in life. And the sympathy of the
relatives and neighbors was intolerable. But when we thought
about it seriously, we saw the other side of the issue.”
I waited for her to continue, but she did not.
After some time, I asked him: “Were you with Ramesh
“No. I saw him only on yesterday. Yet, I am very thankful to
him. He saved me from those mad people.”
“I wonder why they were speaking like this.”
“It is their nature. They have no qualms about telling anything
about anyone, if there is an audience. They want to be in the
limelight and for that purpose they will speak anything about
anyone, even about people whom they do not know at all provided
the victim is not capable to retaliate and there are listeners to
enjoy. Sadism at its worst, as a few of our colleagues used to say.”
“Were you with them somewhere?”
“Yes. We were together for moré than six years.”
“Oh. That is why they selected you to crack jokes about.”
“Joke?” He said angrily. “How can anyone take it as a joke?
Asking me to permit them to spend a night with my wife?”
I felt embarrassed. I would not have brought it up in front of
“Don’t worry.” She said. “He has told me everything. But he
could have stopped them then and there by just agreeing to their
“What?” I almost jumped up. What does she mean…….?
“That is how it happens. They would never have expected such
a reply and they would not dare to utter a single word more.”
“That is correct.” I agreed, having relieved of the tension. “By
the way, did she ever meet them?” I asked him.
“If they had met her once, they would never have made such a
dirty comment.” I said.
“Why?” She asked curiously.
“That I know. By the way, I could not understand the meaning
of what you said earlier. That it is luck to have no child.”
“I did not mean that. What I meant is that having a child does
not necessarily make a couple happy. Anything can happen. The
child’s sickness, untimely death and even his becoming a constant
pain to the parents. If childless couples remember this aspect, they
won’t feel so unlucky. On the other hand they have one privilege.”
“With a little effort, a couple without children can see all the
children of the world as their own. But others cannot. And the
pleasure of being able to see all children as one’s own cannot be
explained. It is to be experienced.”
“That is why she is my kaleidoscope.” He said smiling.
“And he is my periscope.”
I could not understand what they meant.
“You could not follow, No? I will explain. Whenever I happen
to be alone here while he is out, I see the world outside only
through him, as if I am sitting in a submarine. Seeing the space
above water through a periscope.”
“And I call her the kaleidoscope because she can find beauty
in any situation and explain it to me. Like a small stone or glass
piece becoming a beautiful picture inside a kaleidoscope.”
“After all, what is the use in seeing something as ugly?” She
“If you are not busy, I will show you something?” Said Prabhu
She looked at him as if asking what it is and in reply, he took
the note book containing her poems and showed her the last page.
Then he gave it to me.
“Read it.” He said.
It was a small article titled ‘LIFE’.
‘What is meant by living? I often wonder. We are all living
beings. That means we experience living. But out of all that we
experience, what is it that can be named as living?
A person gets up in the morning and does a lot of work. He
gets ready, takes food, go to office or work at home or somewhere
else to earn his livelihood, that is, to earn something which is
necessary to live. That which is essential for living. To have Food,
shelter and clothes for living. And the person returns home in the
evening, again does something essential to live and then sleeps.
Everything he does for living. BUT DOING SOMETHING FOR
LIVING DOES NOT MEAN LIVING. Then, when he is actually living?
I pondered over it for hours together. I asked him also, but he
too could not give a reply.
But today, it is becoming obvious to me.
We are not living, when we do something which is essential to
live. And we live only then, when we do something, not as a
necessity, but as a pleasure. That is, to do something, which in the
general sense is quite avoidable. Like seeing a movie, hearing a
song or writing a poem or reading a book simply for pleasure.
Unlike the work in an office or factory, these things are not
necessities. But when we do these, we are really living, not simply
making a livelihood.
I went on thinking about it further. Now it comes to me that
whenever a person does a work, any work, just for the pleasure of
it, without bothering about the consequences or return, he is living.
I discussed it with him. And he fully agreed. We have now
decided to LIVE as much as possible.’
I looked up at her with respect. She looked a different person.
“Fantastic.” I said. “Shall I take a copy of it?”
She took the book from me and wrote down a copy and gave it
to me. I read it once again.
“You are really great.” I said to her.
It was about 10‘O’ clock. I stood up to go.
“Thank you for coming.” He said.
“It is for me to thank you both. For teaching me so much in
so little time.”
I returned to my room. It was really a wonder. I went to the
room expecting to meet a cheap, immoral woman and met there a
lady, whom I wanted to call as my dear sister.