Shontu lived in his dilapidated ancestral home in one of the labyrinthine bylanes of Varanasi. He was an idolmaker, a seventh generation one, and the fifth son of his father. While all his elder brothers had got into different professions, Shontu continued to carry forward the legacy of his forefathers – for he loved his craft, and more than that he was an ardent devotee of the Mother Goddess – Durga, whose idol he created with such love every year for the Durga Puja festival.
As he crafted her magnificent form from clay and painted it with care and devotion, working painstakingly day and night, every stroke of the brush created a magical bond between him and the divine mother. Shontu knew he would not give up this work for anything else in the world, despite his impoverished existence.
Always it would happen, as he gave the final strokes of paint to her beautiful eyes that transfixes the world, tears would flow down his own eyes – not the least because he knew his creation would be immersed in the waters of the river, on the last day of the festival. As his heart surged with love, the deepest and purest part of him, gave life to the idol. Just as her divine feminine energy gives life to everything – from a little leaf to the mighty Himalayas, without which every matter is inert and dead; she comes alive in a clay idol because of the pure love of a devotee.
After the local organisers of the festival take the idol of the goddess and place her in a grand structure, the thousands who gather to pay their obeisance are awestruck by her life-like manifestation. They do not know that it is not just the skills of a mastercraftsman which has created the magic, but the devotion in his heart that has given life to the live-giver of the universe.
The ice plant has always been proud of its resilient existence. Its strength has been its almost indestructible nature which makes it grow in an inhospitable eco system, clinging to a boulder or rock surface. Planted with some care in a terraced rock garden, it did not know how it got uprooted by a careless stroke of the gardener. It was as if fate had destined it to die while it was still in its full bloom of purple-pink flowers growing amidst the glistening green leaves.
As it lay on a rock, still unable to assimilate the shock of approaching death of its indestructible self, it noticed the delicate, cloud-like snow-in-summer growing on the steps nearby. As the ice plant started to wither, simultaneously the snow-in-summer covered the entire patch of rock in its wispy white glory. The snow-in-summer knew it will only last few months of the summer, and wanted to experience its bloom in freedom and joy, spreading in gay abandon on the rocky steps and the wall.
The ice plant almost died in an embrace of the snow-in-summer, but before it breathed its last, its soul was healed, for it had not only witnessed the abundance of life in its full glory, but had also learned from the little white flowers, how to live in the beauty of each moment. It had understood that life is only in the present – the past is a memory, and the future yet unborn.
Gadiya always had a strange connect with the denizens of the forest – from the elephants to the caterpillars, they were all her friends and companions. Growing up in the elephant sanctuary, near the jungles, the little girl would spend the whole time with her friends who surrounded the world she lived in.
She talked and laughed with the animals, birds and insects, much to the amusement of her father, the mahout, and her siblings. Her biggest friend happened to be the largest in size too – Jopan the elephant. The other elephants of her father’s mahout friends were also her friends. They seemed to understand everything that Gadiya said – they would stare into her big brown eyes as she spoke, and the connect was for all to see. Some called her the Elephant Girl, she liked the name and felt like a princess every time they pointed her out.
It was a stormy monsoon night when the tragedy happened. There was a huge uproar from the elephant enclosure, which matched the ferocity of the storm. Gadiya sneaked out from her hut, and ran through her hidden track to reach the enclosure. There was absolute mayhem there, a baby elephant was lying at the centre with a huge gash on its belly. It was dead – accidentaly hit by its trainer or intentionally, Gadiya did not know. What she did know was that the seven other elephants who had witnessed this will never trust a man again. They will never forget, nor forgive, the trauma will remain in their minds forever. Gadiya could feel their pain and anguish, which was no less than the pain she felt in her heart.
For months after that the little girl would go every morning and evening to the elephant enclosure, and try communicating with Jopan and the other elephants, but there was a stone wall of silence. She finally gave up trying.
As the years passed, Gadiya grew up to be a young woman and she forgot how to communicate with them altogether. Her world had also changed and her interests in other things became the focus of her life. She had stopped noticing all those things that entranced her when she was a child – from the aerial dance of the dragon fly to the cacophony of bird calls before sunrise.
Sometimes in her sleep Gadiya would be in another world, where she was the Spirit of the Forest – her soul was one with everything around her – from every dew drop and blade of grass to the rustling sound of the snake and the roots inside the earth. Her elephant friends were also there, and they would chat with her for a long time. But when she awoke, the dream was lost. Only a faint memory remained in her subconscious mind, which kept tugging her heart. She knew that she had lost a world, what she did not know that it remained forever as a part of her soul.
Crafted with loving care from the same clay by a potter, three earthen lamps got separated soon after they were given the final touches of colour. The first was taken to a temple where it was placed before the deity, its flame lighting up the inner sanctum. The second was bought by a grieving son, to be placed near the head of his dead father as per Hindu ritual, before the body was taken for cremation. And the third lamp was purchased by a young girl, who lit it with great hope as she placed it on the waters of the holy river, wishing for her dreams to come true as it drifted away.
After a few days, by chance or a miracle, the three lamps were together again – this time on the river bed – the first two having been thrown into the river with the flowers which were used in the temple and funeral ritual.
Each lamp had a story to recount. The first eugolized about the beauty and power of the deity, the second shared its understanding of death, while the third had a lot to tell about the dreams to be achieved in life.
All along, listening silently to their conversation was a Gangetic river dolphin, which was blind, as is common among the species. The wise old dolphin wondered if it really mattered how each lamp had lived and experienced life, for the final peace that they had found in the bottom of the river, was the same.
It was a beautiful summer afternoon when Rohen found her favourite perch. It was a dead tree, in fact the tallest in the far end of the forest where most of her tribe of peacocks and peahens never went. She sat atop one of the top branches of the tree and looked far into the horizon. She could see the sea of trees merge into the golden sky as the sun set in.
It was the most mesmerising sight that Rohen had ever seen, even more beautiful than the splendour of the colourful feathers that adorned her and her flock. It became a daily ritual – Rohen would sit on the branch of the tree staring into the horizon waiting for the sunset. This isolated her from her muster of peafowls, sometimes making her lonely. But gradually she started understanding the changes within herself in the process. She felt stronger, more patient, and the silence made her feel empowered.
Then on a stormy night, a bolt of light struck the dead tree. Rohen’s precious branch came crashing down as the tree got almost split into two. She was devastated. The pain of not being able to see the entrancing sight that spellbound her every day, almost threw her into the dredges of depression. But then, it all came back – the forbearance, the strength, all that she had imbibed sitting for hours in solitude on the dead tree branch.
Though the beautiful sight that gave her such great joy was gone, but an enriched mind and empowered spirit, made Rohen the bravest and strongest peafowl in the forest.
My name is Angel Trumpet, but they like to call me Angel Tears. Not tears of pain or anguish but of love and happiness – a joy that comes from the soul, from a wisdom learnt through many lifetimes in different forms.
In every life my appearance was different and so was my colour; my birth as a flower or a shrub, and my shedding of what they call decay or death. But what I learnt in each life – as a massive oak tree, an ornamental green ash, an exotic Jasmine or a sensitive touch-me-not, has remained etched in my soul memory. Each birth has been a new beginning, a new opportunity to experience life in its fullness – through pleasure or pain, pampered by the warmth of the sunlight or torn apart by a wintry gale.
Today is my last day in this beautiful form. I know I will be born again somewhere tomorrow, but I do not know whether I would be enchanting or plain, colourful or pale. What I do know is that I will be born wiser. The wisdom of each life will reveal itself in unimaginable ways. With each birth, I learn and evolve.
Ojo was born in a deep dark pit, where the desert sand meets the sea. When he opened his eyes, the only thing that he could see was darkness and the only sound that reached him was the crashing waves of the sea. He knew by instinct that he had to somehow make his way to the mighty sound of the waves that kept beckoning him – it was his home and his haven.
Enthused to reach his destination soon, Ojo did not know that the journey would be so tough and teach him the lesson of a lifetime. His feet could feel the sand beneath, along with the broken shell through which he had struggled to emerge in this new world. He could see his siblings doing the same, coming out from the shells that was their home for so long. Climbing out of the pit was a tough task as their little feet could not hold on to the fine sand.
As with any green turtle, they were born orphans. Their mother came from the sea to dig a pit in the sand, and after laying the eggs she returned to the vast expansive water world. Her baby turtles would never see her nor could recognise her. They were abandoned at birth.
When finally they came out of the pit, the wind was blowing so hard, they found it difficult to move forward through the sand. It was a tough journey and one with many dangers. And soon, Ojo’s worst fear came true. He could feel a different kind of presence, and then saw two glowering eyes. It was a desert fox, out on a hunt. The baby turtles started moving fast towards the sea. Ojo could hear one of his brother’s cry out and then another – the fox had got them. He knew death could not be his fate so soon, so he put his life’s strength in running towards the waves. The sea was still a distance away. Ojo could almost feel the breath of the fox on his back, and then he prayed.
At that instance, a giant wave came rushing to the shore, it lifted Ojo up high, tossing him around. He did not resist and let go, as the wave took him to his home, the sea. He surrendered to its mighty power for he knew that he was safe in letting go. In this surrender the tiny, vulnerable baby turtle became a part of the mighty sea.
This is the story of Ojo, the green turtle who learnt two of the greatest lessons in life within a few hours of being born – self effort and surrender.