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Posted on: Sept 24, 2015
Short Story Contest Results
Even at the cost of sounding clichéd and repetitive we must say, it was not an easy task to judge the entries. We received such gems in the form of stories, anecdotes and real life experiences that made the job of the judges the least enviable one. (We had three sets of judges for each category, who evaluated the stories independently. The winners are those that scored the highest cumulatively). Though given below are ‘the winners’ of the contest, we must add that these are not the only publish-worthy entries we received. There were plenty others which on another day, with another set of judges might have taken the trophy home. So we wish to let all the participants know that their participation is deeply appreciated by all of us at Radio Sai.
We would like to make a special mention of all the children who participated. We acknowledge that it would’ve been a better idea to have had a separate contest for you children. Bhagawan willing, may be sometime in future we will. And also, in time we will be publishing the stories that won the contest and our hearts on our website for all to enjoy.
Once again, grateful appreciation to all the participants and a hearty congratulations to all winners. May Bhagawan bless all of you profusely.
THEME - NOT KNOWLEDGE BUT CHARACTER IS POWER
1st - Mr. Adi Selvakumar, Cherry Hill Sai Center, New Jersey, USA
2nd - Dr. Suruchi Joshi, India
3rd - Ms. Vidya Ganesh, USA
THEME - GRACE FOR EFFORT
1st - Ms. Visalakshy Swamy, Chicago, USA
2nd - Ms. Nirupama Devanathan, Indiana, USA.
3rd - Mrs. Jeroo Captain, Sacramento Sai Center, California, USA
THEME - I LOST BUT I WON
1st - Mr. Arvind Rao, India.
2nd - Ms. Derusha Pillay, Isipingo Sai Centre, South Africa
3rd - Mr. M. Gotur, USA.
1st Prize Winner
From Illiteracy to Leadership
The Story of How Character Leads to Honour
“Lightning, my son.” breathed a feeble voice.
“Yes father” he replied.
“I may be sick, but I’ll manage. You need education. Go study.” After saying this, Lightning’s father broke into another cough. “Father, both you and I know that you cannot manage on your own. I shall tend to you. My brother Thorn shall study instead.” he stated strongly.
“But Lightning…” he murmured.
“No Father, nobody can stop me.”
Lightning did not regret sharing Father’s last days. But now he had no education. He was one of the lowest ranked in the lion tribe. He was treated like dust. Even if he wanted an education, he was not granted one. Everyone scorned him; even his brother Thorn, an outstanding fighter, and one of the most highly ranked in the tribe, treated him with scant respect. These thoughts fleeted through his mind as he stood guard at the entrance of the camp.
No Lightning... Concentrate on your job... His mind whispered. Then he heard something. A scent wafted towards him. Thorn! Hadn’t Shadow assigned him to the night patrol? Shadow had been appointed by Gold, the tribe leader to be the deputy of the tribe, therefore her successor. Lightning dreaded facing Thorn’s sharp claws but he felt an urge to creep quietly after Thorn.
Thorn crept through the silent camp and Lightning followed. He saw him crawl into Shadow’s den.
What could he be doing?
He peered in. What he saw struck him. Thorn had his claws at Shadow’s throat!
“Thorn! Stop now or you’ll be punished!” Shadow threatened. “How?” Thorn scoffed “Soon I’ll be deputy, fool”
“NEVER” Shadow roared. He threw Thorn off him. “Never, you traitor.”
“Oh yes” Thorn smirked. He leaped. Lightning closed his eyes. A screech. Shadow was dead.
Lightning ran. How could his brother do such treachery? Only one thing could be done. The tribe must be informed. He shuddered at the thought of having Thorn against him, and he knew that nobody would ever listen to an illiterate, but he had to try.
I’ll ask for an audience with Gold so she can summon the tribe. It was noon. Minutes passed as Lightning waited. Finally he heard Gold call him in.
“Hello Gold” he replied with a bow.
“What brings you here today?”
Lightning reported his terrible night as guard. When he finished, his leader looked sceptical.
“Lightning, Thorn is an honourable lion. He wouldn’t do such treachery.”
“No Lightning. Leave.”
“LEAVE” Gold roared.
Lightning had no other choice. He walked away, disheartened. He retired to his den.
Lightning jumped, startled.
“Guess what?” Lightning’s fellow worker Daffodil yelled “Your brother Thorn is the new deputy!”
Lightning nearly fainted. “What?” he said.
“I thought you’d be happy.” Daffodil frowned.
Lightning forced himself to smile. “I am. Thanks for telling me.”
“You’re welcome.” Daffodil smiled. Then she bounded away.
Lightning’s head swirled. He couldn’t think of anything to do.
Maybe he should just forget about it…
No Lightning. If you give up, then you truly are an illiterate who is good for nothing. If you do your duty, then you are truly great, no matter what anybody says.
Then an idea struck him.
I must speak to Thorn.
That night’s sleep was not peaceful for him.
The sun was halfway through its daily journey across the sky. It was almost break time. Lightning had decided to confront Thorn then. Then he heard something.
The tribe of tigers were attacking! Lightning scrambled to his feet. He braced himself for what was coming. He looked up towards Gold’s den. Finally he saw her emerge from the shadows and yowl: “Lions! Attack!”
The camp was filled with screeching, clawing fighters. Lightning was bleeding from several wounds. Then something caught his eyesight. Thorn was creeping up on Gold.
What could he be doing there?
Lightning followed. He saw Thorn leap on top of Gold, claws unsheathed. Lightning stared in horror. Gold caught attention just in time. Thorn pinned Gold down.
“Thorn, explain yourself.”
“I don’t need to. For soon I will be the leader of the tribe” “NEVER!”
“Yes” Thorn smiled.
Lightning stared as Thorn was about to make the killing strike, when…
He found himself knocking Thorn off Gold and yowling at his brother.
“I’ve seen all your treachery. What happened to you Thorn?”
Thorn smirked. “Look at my all-knowing brother.”
Suddenly Gold rose and they finally captured Thorn and dragged him to the ledge where Gold summoned the tribe. There she bound him to a rock. Then they jumped into battle. Finally, the lions won.
Gold climbed up to the ledge and let out a yowl.
“May all gather under the ledge”
Slowly everyone gathered. Gold spoke.
“Thorn is now a prisoner.”
Gasps ran through the crowd. After all calmed, Gold told the story of Thorn’s treachery, from Shadow to herself. The tribe stared in horror.
“He shall be banished.”
“We must thank Lightning for these findings.” He has saved my life. He shall be our new deputy.”
Lightning stared in surprise. Then the tribe started yowling his name.
Amidst the yowls, Lightning made a silent promise.
I’m not a low ranked illiterate. I’m the deputy of lions. I promise to protect my tribe, even if it costs me my life.
Adi Selvakumar Cherry Hill Sai Center, New Jersey, USA
NOT KNOWLEDGE BUT CHARACTER IS POWER
Once upon a time, all the senses were in a holiday mood and went on a picnic. They were having a very good time in general till the ears chanced upon some music. Upon hearing the melodious music flowing from a concert, the Ears started admiring themselves. “Oh were it not for us, such melody, such wonderful music would have been lost to the world. Indeed we are special!!! "
At this the Eyes flashed and said, “Do you think you with your awkward shape are special?” Sparkling with self-admiration they said, “Now look at us. We are beauty and perfection personified! In fact the world would be a better place without you. Loud, vulgar noise is what you are making us suffer every day in the name of transmitting sound and doing your duty. If we could do away with you two, there would be such serenity, such a peaceful silence always! We are the ones who are definitely special! The crimson rose, the blue sky, the lush green grass, the majestic snowy slopes... All the beauty of this world would be hidden if it were not for us.”
The Ears looked decidedly downcast at these sharp words. But the Nose snorted and joined the fray. “So you think just because you can show the colours of this world, you are special? Well I don’t think so. What would your rose be without its heavenly perfume? The fragrant jasmine, the delicious aroma of food - it would all be lost without me.”
The Eyes looked rather angry at this and were quite ready to battle, but before they could retaliate, the Tongue clicked in annoyance and said, “I have been listening to all of your vain boasting long enough, and frankly I am shocked that none of you remembered me! When I am the one doing my job quietly every day, tasting the sweet, salt, and tangy and sharp flavours and reporting dutifully. The food would lose its aroma and its colour without you, true, but without me everything would be just bland. Tasteless. The world can’t do without me."
The Eyes and the Nose retorted in unison, “Well hardly ‘quietly’, you know. You do have a habit of gossiping a lot. Plus you are the one who wants to sample all the flavours all the time. You make the poor stomach suffer, while you enjoy yourself! You are no saint.”
The Mind had been listening in amusement to all the senses bickering away. “So you think that you are all so important? Well remember that you are all working for ME. I am the boss. I decide whether I want to hear a song or watch a show or eat. So there. “
The Senses looked definitely mutinous till they heard the crystal clear voice of the Intellect say coolly, “It would have been so good if indeed you were the master of the unruly senses, dear Mind. I could have called you a ‘Mastermind’. Instead the senses are running amok, drunk with the power you have thoughtlessly given them, and are carrying you, their hapless prisoner, along."
The Mind felt embarrassed at being rebuked in front of its subordinates and muttered, “But then what am I to do?! These senses keep tantalizing me. They know so much. There is so much for me to process - all that they see, hear, taste and experience. Frankly, it gets beyond me sometimes!"
The Intellect smiled and said “Well, you are right you know, these senses are smart at their jobs. However, they are not very good judges of what is right. Just look at them bickering amongst themselves.
Remember - mere information collected by the senses translated as knowledge by you, is not sufficient for your wellbeing. Knowledge is proud that it knows so much, but in itself it is nothing. All the knowledge that you have acquired through your faculties has to be put to good use. Only then can you be called a Mastermind.
Instead of giving in to the Senses, make them work in harmony for you! Apply all the knowledge that they gather towards shaping the character.”
The Mind exclaimed, “But I thought knowledge was everything! How can you say that character is more important?"
The voice of Wisdom then spoke, “There have been good men, and there have been great men. It’s good to be great, but it’s more important to be good.”
The mind asked, “But knowledge leads to success, and success gives power, therefore knowledge is power.”
The intellect then explained, “Listen all the knowledge of the world, unless applied, is not useful.
A doctor may have knowledge about all the diseases and their cures, but unless he applies that knowledge to help a patient, that knowledge is useless. Like a barren field. Only when the knowledge is applied with the right intent to help and heal - then it translates to right conduct and that builds character, and it is character which defines the distinction between good and evil. The knowledge about the potential of an atom can be used either to destroy humanity or to cure cancer!”
Don’t you see? Character has the power to transform this world! So character is real power.” And so the Senses returned from their picnic, subdued but definitely wiser.
Dr. Suruchi Joshi, India.
My Guru, My God
Once, there was a classical music singing competition where kids came from all over to compete. They would practice for hours and hours every single day over the course of a year to try their heart at winning first place. This year, the competition was being conducted in full energy as it always has and the final round was coming up. In the final round, there were two students who were pitted against each other: Raghu and Prem. In the final round, the two students are asked to sing the same song so that the judges can pick a winner based on who rendered it better. This year, the judges picked a beautiful and vibrant song on Lord Shiva. The song described the dance of Lord Shiva in the form of Nataraja.
Raghu first came to the stage, sat down, and looked straight at the three judges. From his mouth came beautiful music. He could sing a complicated set of notes with such ease. He could hit all notes, low and high. The judges were in complete awe of Raghu and loudly applauded once he was done. He left the stage with his head held high knowing he had done a very good job.
The announcer called Prem to the stage. Prem was a smaller boy compared to Raghu and had an endearing appearance, which made the judges wonder how he even made it this far. Prem sat down, acknowledged the judges’ presence, but did not continue to look at them as Raghu had done. Instead he closed his eyes and started to smile. After a few seconds, he began to sing. His version of the song did not nearly have the complexity that Raghu’s had and the judges slowly began to lose interest.
One judge started scribbling something on his notepad as did the second one. The third judge, however, closed her eyes and was completely immersed into Prem’s song. The other judges saw what she was doing and also closed their eyes. All three of them could see Shiva in the form of Nataraja dancing right in front of them. The next thing they knew, the whole audience was applauding and they opened their eyes with a jolt not realizing that his song was over. Prem bowed to the judges and quietly walked away from the stage.
The judges were very confused at this point about who they should pick, Raghu or Prem? Raghu sang with amazing complexity but Prem sang with such devotion. One judge had an idea and called Raghu onto the stage. She asked Raghu, “Do you know who Shiva is?” Raghu proudly said yes and gave a long description of Shiva that sounded like a textbook definition from a mythology textbook. The judge said, “Thank you, Raghu. Please ask Prem to come out.” Raghu ran off the stage and Prem walked onto the stage.
The judge said, “Prem, do you know who Shiva is?” Prem replied, “No madam.” The other two judges looked confused. The first judge smiled and said, “Prem, how is it that you sang so devotionally, but you do not who Shiva is, and I could see Shiva dancing before my eyes?”
Now Prem looked at her with passion in his eyes. “Madam, I do not know who Shiva, Krishna, Rama, or any of these gods are. When I sing, I only picture my guru (teacher) before me. Once I think of her, everything else around me ceases to exist. I have this feeling of bliss. I apologize; I do not know why you saw Shiva dancing in front of you. To be honest, I do not even know how well I sang. I am not aware of what is happening once I close my eyes, imagine her in front of me, and start singing. It’s a feeling I cannot explain.”
The judge had one last question. “Prem, do you know who God is?” Prem said, “No madam.” The judge smiled and asked once more, “Prem, who is your God?”
Prem thought for a moment, smiled, and replied with one word. “My guru.” He then bowed at the judge and walked off the stage.
There was pin drop silence in the audience. The judges smiled at each other as they now understood how character was more powerful than knowledge and Prem was truly the winner.
Vidya Ganesh, USA
“New occupants have moved in next door,” I announced at dinner, the only time when we get to see all inmates of the house face to face. Here in US, the mantra everyone chants and lives up is ‘busy’. The adults go to office or work from home or work out in the gyms, or are out on some errand, the kids have their calls to attend, school, tennis, chess, swimming etc. etc., I, like a typical visiting NRI senior parent, try to spend my time usefully, doing something or the other, but generally left to fend for myself. So my activities embrace experimenting in the kitchen, gardening, and long leisurely walks befriending the dogs and the dog-walkers on the prairie path right behind our house.
My teenager grandson who bestows perforce his precious appearance at the dinner table sans his computing gadgetry, looked up and said, “Ah, yes, I noticed a broken Barbie lying on the edge of their lawn.”
“Good job, dear Watson,” I said, “The couple have a little girl.” My teen nerd went back to his forking activity; he was not exactly excited in non-technical topics.
“Did you see them?” asked my daughter.
“Just saw, not met,” I said.
The focus shifted to the plans for the next morrow, who will drive and drop and pick up whom, and when.
Chauffeuring is an essential parenting duty here, and if you don’t know driving, you are as good as dead, the saying goes. And I am sure dead, being no driver, not even of cattle! That led to a bit of flashback.
Scene: The busy intersection at AIMS hospital, New Delhi, time: 9.30 p.m. exactly because I checked my watch when my daughters and I scampered off the car that had stalled just when it had started moving at the green light! Much to the utter disgust and dismay and angry horns of the traffic behind us, we pushed the car frantically with all our might, and panting and fretting, somehow reached the other side, parked the car on a safe spot. Looking back at the section of the traffic signal that had turned yellow, going into red, I saw a bullock cart trying to beat the red, the driver whiplashing the poor emaciated bullocks repeatedly, goading them. It is a common scene even now, and as a Blue Cross volunteer I had learnt from experience, not to argue with the cart-men, my tolerance level for abusive language being abysmal. But when human effort fails, we turn to God, and I began chanting Gayatri mantra. The intention was sending energy to the beasts of burden working out their karma. At least this appeased my guilty conscience for being a party to cruelty. Again, having just pushed the car, I could fully empathise with the bullocks. Thereafter Gayatri has been my energy tonic for everything and everybody at all times.
Days flew, the neighbours remained new, i.e. I hadn’t seen more of them.
One morning, with my family out as usual to various destinations and business, I was tending to my weak children in the garden. I call this patch of newly transplanted okra saplings weak children because they are delicate and may not survive. I keep such weaklings together in one spot and give them special attention. More nurture, individual attention, gently straightening their stems, talking to them, and chanting Gayatri.
Om Bhur Bhuva Svaha - I tried to chant it aloud, the way Baba had instructed, and was totally unaware of the surroundings. Suddenly, from behind the hedge-bushes, a little voice called out, “How did you see me?”
A bit shaken, I stood up, looked around and saw the little girl, my new neighbour.
“Oh, I didn’t see you at all, I was talking to the plants,” I said, moving towards her. Shyly she came closer. “Talking to plants? I thought you were singing,” said the little girl.
“Yes, I was talking, and I was chanting Gayatri mantra...” said I. “But tell me first, what is your name?”
“Gayatri”, said the girl.
I laughed out. “No, I asked your name,” said I.
“Yes, it is Gayatri,” she replied. I stopped my laughter. The superstitious part in me said -this is a sign.
“You know the meaning of Gayatri?” I asked.
“Yes, mom has told me. It means a mantra in Sanskrit,” she replied proudly.
Not just a mantra, it is a mantra of great power. It means the one that protects the chanter, or one who chants it,” I tried to be as simple as I could. Then I told her how the mantra gives new energy to everything around, how I have been chanting it for the bullocks on cross roads, the injured stray animals, victims of cruelty, etc.
Thus began our bond.
My US holidays were nearing the end. One morning, as I peeped thru the window I saw little Gayatri bending before my special children. Silently I went out and stood behind her. She was chanting Gayatri, as I used to!!! “Aha, thank God, I don’t have to worry any more about my special children,” I said. Turning back, she said shyly, “Aunty, you were right. In the last 3 weeks, these plants have grown nicely, they are ready to flower soon,” she pointed at the tender delicate buds that were just visible.
Hugging the little girl, I said, “Yes, this is the power of my Gayatri.”
Visalakshy Swamy, Chicago, USA.
"Grace for Effort"
In a small "burrow" in New York City, Righteous Rabbit forlornly stared at the barren, dust-choked land, so devastated by season after season of drought. Confined to the bit of land, unwittingly spared from the mercilessly hot asphalt, Righteous Rabbit and his colony feared the worst. Their East side kin, the Babbitt colony, reaped the best of the produce near Central Park yet begrudgingly shared the fruits of the cultivation with the other animals…at an inordinate interest rate.
Unwilling, and more unable, Righteous Rabbit did not want to sacrifice the meagre, yet nonetheless hard-earned, “carats” earned by his colony and generations past. Brooding over the grim options of his colony - starvation or perpetual debt, Righteous Rabbit went around the Underground of the city, contemplating various ways he could save his colony. In his state of desperation, thoughts of thievery tempted him as he considered the parcels of produce that entered the local supermarkets lying outside in crates. Dismissing these thoughts, hoping that his “Will would provide a way”, Righteous Rabbit was greeted with a sign “Community Garden” the moment he resurfaced into the main pavement of the city.
Sincere Squirrel immediately saw the rabbit approach and called out, “Do you need anything?” Startled, Righteous Rabbit asked her what a “community garden” even was. Sincere Squirrel explained that animals, like humans, would work in the garden and others would pay a nominal fee that would be used to cover operational costs - environmentally friendly fertilizers, garden tools, and seeds. In this manner, the entire community created a self-sustaining food source; humans also could freeze or can the vegetables to be used in the winter when nothing could be grown. (Of course, hibernation eliminated this complication for other animals!)
“That’s it!” thought Righteous Rabbit excitedly. He realized that creating a community garden in their seemingly god forsaken patch of land might be the answer to ending starvation among the rabbit colony and their chipmunk, raccoon, and field mice neighbours. “Wait one minute!” requested Righteous Rabbit as he bolted to collect exactly ¾ of the colony’s savings.
“The hunger has got to him. He’s gone mad,” complained Recalcitrant Rabbit.
“Mad? No, he’s just making a getaway with our hard earned carats,” whispered Raucous Rabbit.
Oblivious to these rebukes, Righteous Rabbit darted to the Community Garden by Sunset and purchased carrot, pumpkin, zucchini, cabbage, and radish seeds; Miracle Grow soil, a watering can, small shovels, and sticks. Sincere Squirrel promised that the squirrel crew would deliver the materials on a wheelbarrow to the Rabbit’s burrow of New York City. Slowly, as Righteous Rabbit hopped away, even more doubts assuaged him; he resignedly believed that his plan to cultivate so barren a land would never, never work.
Just then, as he stared into the sky, Righteous Rabbit caught sight of the moon - auspicious and full. As his eyes focused on the pale white light and jaggedly smooth surface, he gained vision of his noble preceptor, the Selfless Hare of Jataka Tales, believed to be the Bodhisattva or incarnation of Lord Buddha. Reverentially, Righteous Rabbit thought about the plight of his people and begged for some sign of benediction.
“I’ve done everything I can do. I bought the gardening materials and marked the site for the garden. Show me that You will indeed bless this endeavour.”
Overjoyed by the rabbit’s devotion, the Selfless Hare assured Righteous Rabbit, “The impossible task of a garden will be accomplished - my Promise from Heaven to the ground.”
Ecstatically, Righteous Rabbit dashed into his burrow and attempted to instil morale in his colony, assigning garden duties to the still dubious rabbits. Ardently, Righteous Rabbit contemplated the courage of the Selfless Hare and voila! Dark heavy clouds assembled from seemingly nowhere and for two days and nights, a heavy stream of rain poured and poured. The lines of dearth were erased and replaced with spongy, dark soil - seemingly another boon from above. Seeing the Divine mark of approval, the rabbits began in earnest, fulfilling each of their tasks faithfully. Rigorous Rabbit tilled the soil, Renewing Rabbit added Miracle Grow, and tiny Rosy Rabbit gingerly placed the seeds in their designated area.
The rabbits worked harmoniously, never quibbling or making sarcastic comments or condoning protest-based indolence - all evils that had separated the colony in the past. As the work continued with full vigour, the once stifling heat reduced itself into a gentle breeze; white, puffy clouds obstructed the nurturing and at turns, penetrating Sun’s rays. Nature herself seemed to ally herself with the work!
Of course, the small green shoots became heavy with carrot and pumpkin, radish and zucchini. One night, as the rabbit’s culminated their day’s work (farming necessitated a shift from nocturnal habits), Righteous Rabbit looked gratefully at the full moon that had passed nearly 3 cycles since his fateful vision.
The garden had plenty - vegetables and love. The ground, like their hearts, were barren, embittered from adversity of a world they had no control over. Like the oil merchants of Shirdi, the Babbitt Colony was humiliated by the bounty of a land they once scoffed at as a charity case. The world may abuse and humiliate and misunderstand the actions of the righteous who carry out divine work. But the Lord will lovingly transform those who mock and grant success to even the most impossibly noble undertakings.
Nirupama Devanathan, Indiana, United States.
The Peach Tree
Once upon a time there was an old lady who lived in a cottage. Behind the cottage was a lovely little garden full of rose bushes and dotted with a few fruit trees - a cherry, a pomegranate and a pear. In the early hours of dawn, she loved to walk around, observing every little leaf, breathing the air filled with fragrance, watching the birds wake up joyfully. She would often pause to thank the rose buds for their sweet beauty that filled the senses…
A beautiful peach tree grew in the neighbour’s yard, its branches laden with fruit often draped over the fence. The old lady and her neighbour often exchanged fruits along with pleasant greetings…
One fine day the old lady noticed a small sapling growing by the fence. She looked at the leaves carefully - they resembled the neighbour’s peach tree! She was so delighted! A peach must have fallen and the peach stone had taken root in the fertile soil! She caressed the leaves and lovingly welcomed the newcomer into her garden.
The little sapling grew strong and tall. “Wonder if it will fruit,” she thought.
Low and behold one spring morning she saw lovely pale pink blossoms covering the bare branches. She kept a daily watch…Weeks later the fruit came, first pointy, almond shaped greenish yellow - later swelled into juicy rounds covered with soft fuzzy skins, golden yellow with a rosy blush, filled with the sweetest juice!
Every morning, the old lady would whisper sweet greetings of love and gratitude to the peach tree, while caressing the trunk. And the tree would respond, swaying branches in the breeze, leaves gently caressing her face as if to say, “I am happy to be here, sweet one.”
Pretty soon the peach tree shot up to new heights and branched out most elegantly. In spring every branch was covered with blossoms. Soon the almond shaped golden-green fruit appeared in abundance. Must be at least 500!
The old lady went away for a few days to visit relatives. When she returned she took her early dawn walk through the garden. She noticed several unripe peach on the ground. They were everywhere!
She looked up and to her horror; the peach tree had been hacked! Most of its strong fruit bearing branches had been cut off, with just a couple weak branches left bent over the fence! The tree looked nearly lifeless! Only a handful of fruit remained on the tree - the rest were on the ground. Bewildered she ran and placed her hand on the fresh wound where a branch had been cut off. It felt hot. So she guessed a chain saw had been used to hack her beloved tree, and the tree was in shock! Who could have done such a heinous deed? And why?
She ran into the house, awakened the old man. Did he know the tree had been hacked?
“Oh, the peach tree? Oh yes,” he said. “I asked the caretaker to cut off the branches - they were leaning on the roof. The roof could get damaged.”
“Couldn’t this have waited until the tree was done fruiting? Besides, the roof is concrete; it could not have damaged the roof!” Angry tears rolled down her cheek.
Why all the fuss, the old man thought. “It’s just a tree,” he shrugged.
Old lady was aghast. But the damage was done. No point breaking her head against a stone wall. The old man would never understand her bond, her “connection” with the peach tree! He will never understand that trees feel pain when they are hacked - specially at the peak of their growing season!
Slowly she went out. She could not bear to look at the deformed tree. She placed her hand on the hot stump and murmured some words of apology. Then she thought of all the trees that are wantonly destroyed by mankind, entire forests hacked or burnt. How senseless! How wantonly uncaring is mankind towards nature’s precious gifts!
Every morning, her eyes wet with tears, the old lady would gently caress the stumps, sending thoughts of healing love. The peach tree did not respond any more. It remained silent. The few remaining fruit did not swell into the softly rounded shape.
Weeks passed. The fruit remained pointy, almond shaped, but the colour changed slowly to a rosy blush. One day she noticed a couple of peaches were ready to be plucked - just a slight tug separated them from the stems. She took a penknife and cut a small slice. She put the slice of peach in her mouth expecting it to taste sour or perhaps bitter.
To her absolute amazement, the peach was sweet as sweet could be! It tasted like ambrosia, like nectar! She looked at the tree with wonder and awe! “Even when your limbs are cut off - you continue to create such sweet fruit? There is no bitterness! How could you produce such nectar-like fruit in the midst of your pain? How could you be so selfless in the midst of your agony?”
A gentle breeze blew. The leaves caressed her cheek. The peach tree broke its silence. “I was simply responding to your love, dearest one,” it said. “I was simply responding to your Love.”
Jai Sai Ram!
Sacramento Sai Center
I Lost, but I Won
It was a cold winter afternoon in Northern Britain. Linda was on the train back to her childhood village with her year-old son, Chuck, after her husband had passed away a month ago. With a cartful of baggage and the infant, Linda stood in front of one of the newly invented automatic doors on the decelerating train. When the doors opened, she placed the baby basket down on the train floor and made the innocent mistake of unloading her baggage first. After lugging both of her trunks down onto the platform, she turned around to lift Chuck, only to find, to her utmost horror, that the doors were halfway closed. She began to bang on the now firmly sealed doors, and wailed as the train pulled away from the platform.
On the train, a well-dressed couple made their way through the cars, towards the pantry. The Waldorfs were part of the American Royalty, and were currently vacationing in England. By a play of fate, they came across the tiny baby, wrapped and asleep in a wicker basket. No adult was within ten feet of him, and none of the passengers in the compartment seemed to be paying him any attention. They asked after him, and when none of them responded in kind, they came to a decision: Someone must have abandoned the baby on the train, hoping that someone who could care for him would adopt him. Childless for a decade, the rich couple interpreted it as a gift from the Gods, and took the child along with them. They immediately left toward the airport, to fly across the Atlantic.
At the station, Linda along with the railway officials tried their best to locate the baby, but failed. Desperate, heartbroken and dejected, Linda was made to go home, with assurances that the officials would work hard trying to locate Chuck. Enquiries were made, posters put up and advertisements printed. Linda worked herself to the bone, now dirt poor, as all her savings were gone in helping locate her son. All efforts were in vain, as Chuck was never found.
Twelve years passed by, and little Chuck, now named Nate Waldorf, was being sent to boarding school in Britain. His parents had told him the story of how he came to be a Waldorf, and he was curious to explore the place where he had been found. His parents were the Guests of Honour at the boarding school's Welcome Ceremony, and they were delivering the final speech centred on the discovery of a baby in a train.
Linda meanwhile juggled three jobs, and was now working part-time cleaning at some fancy new boarding school. She saw a rich American couple make their way to the stage, and listened to their speech as she mopped the hallways. She stiffened by force of habit when she heard 'found in a train' and a chill of dread ran down her spine as the couple recalled the events after the train doors had shut. She dropped everything and ran to where she might meet them.
After the couple finished their speech to a massive applause, the ceremony was wrapped up and the Waldorfs made their way to the train station. There, as they stood waiting for the train, they bought a juice box for Nate, and as he stood sipping from it, some of it spilled, and ran down his blazer.
Hiding among the pillars, Linda watched the Waldorfs make their way to the platform, saw their boy, and built up her courage. She would face them and demand that her son be returned to her, whatever the consequences. She saw the juice spill on Chuck, and instinctively her hand made to the rag at her side. She had an opening to the confrontation.
The Waldorfs saw a bent, worn-out lady make way towards them with a rag in her hand. Before they could say anything, she knelt, and began to gently rub Nate's blazer, her eyes meeting his, strangely glistening.
Tears welling up, Linda stared deeply into Chuck's smiling eyes. Her head bowed, and she took a long look at her son. From shining shoes to a pricey watch. From the expensive tie to the crest of a school so prestigious that her lifetime's pay could afford only a single year's fees. She looked up at his new parents, to find love, pride and adoration towards their only son. She stood up and took a deep breath.
The Waldorfs smiled at the lady who cleaned Nate's blazer, and looked expectantly at her as she appeared to try and speak. She took another deep breath, and a face that seemed to hold anger and sadness seemed to transform into something serene and detached as she exhaled. She smiled at Nate, turned on her heel, and left without uttering a single word.
As Linda turned, fat drops of tears began to roll down her cheeks. She could never make Chuck as content, nor as successful as the Waldorfs could, and what mattered most to her was Chuck's happiness, which she valued above her own joy of being with her dear son.
She thought to herself “I lost, but I won".
Arvind Rao, India.
I LOST BUT I WON
There was once a beautiful garden where a caterpillar, named Udi, lived. One day she saw a bee feeding on the nectar of a flower. Udi was fascinated and asked, “How did you get so high?”
The bee laughed, “I flew.”
Udi wondered what ‘flew’ meant, “What are those on your back?”
“What are you eating?” she queried.
“Nectar,” said the bee.
Udi was amazed as she had only eaten leaves, “Does it taste like the leaves I eat?” The bee became annoyed and flew away.
Udi told the other caterpillars, “I would like to have wings and fly, and taste the nectar of the flowers.”
The other caterpillars admonished her, “Why would you want to fly and eat nectar when you have leaves at your disposal? Why would you want to fly anyway? Don’t you know how dangerous it is to be up there? It’s better to stay down here where it’s safe.”
Udi was dissatisfied with their views and crawled on. Baba had been listening to the conversation and He lovingly picked Udi up in His hand. He reassured her one day she too would fly and taste the nectar she was yearning for. Udi laughed and said, “Swami, I have no wings like the bee. I cannot fly.”
“Not yet,” Swami replied, ““You will need to undergo many changes first.”
Udi was so excited she wanted to start immediately.
But Baba stopped her, “You will have to stay a caterpillar for a while longer.”
Udi protested at this delay but Baba knew her little body wasn’t ready. Udi was still a larva, and had to continue to eat and moult a few times before her metamorphosis could begin.
And so, Udi did as Baba instructed. As she ate the leaves she imagined flying and sipping the flower’s nectar. After a few days she grew impatient and yelled to Baba, “Why is this taking so long?! I have done everything You told me to do and still no change!” Soon her anger turned to discouragement, “Why did You give me false promises? I am going to remain a caterpillar all my life.” She went about eating the grass which now bore all the bitterness in her heart.
Suddenly, Udi grew unwell. She found herself hanging upside down on a twig. She cried to Swami, “Why have You turned my life upside down?” She was afraid as a silky cocoon began to envelope her, “Why did You spin me tales of hope that day in the garden? And today You spin me this prison of darkness! This must be my end.” Udi closed her eyes and she faintly heard Baba’s voice say, “This is your beginning.”
Udi squirmed in her cocoon, “You never told me You were going to do this. I don’t like being alone in this dark place.”
“This darkness and solitude are part of the process. You have to be uncomfortable for your dream to be realised,” Baba insisted.
As time passed, Udi began to miss her old life. She yearned to eat the grass she had despised. Her past seemed to have been better than her current predicament. Udi also suffered great pain as her new hormones started to digest parts of her body to create her new one. She questioned the wish she had made, “Maybe I have asked for too much. Perhaps I was better off being a caterpillar with the others. I wouldn’t have to struggle like this if I had just accepted my place.”
Baba interrupted her, “The difference is you are Mine. You will become what I will you to be. You are not your own. You are My responsibility. Though My ways are not easy, they are always for your greatest good. Trust Me.”
With a heavy heart, Udi mustered all the strength she could and saw the strange new developments in her body. Finally she emerged from her cocoon and admired her beautifully coloured wings. She stood before Baba in her new form and hesitated. Baba sensed her insecurity, “You have left behind the body of the caterpillar. Now you must leave behind the mind of the caterpillar also. You are now a butterfly.”
Udi whimpered, “But Baba, I don’t know how to be a butterfly. I have always only been a caterpillar, crawling on the ground and eating leaves. Maybe I have wished for something greater than my destiny.”
Baba smiled, “Do you know what your name means? It means ‘to fly’. This has been your destiny all along.”
Udi reflected on Baba’s words as she flapped her wings and flew towards a flower. She cautiously sipped its nectar. She enjoyed its sweetness as the other caterpillars watched her and remarked, “Look how strange she looks now. She’s asking for trouble. She should have stayed a caterpillar.” Udi again disagreed with their comments.
She said to herself, ‘I had to lose their company, to taste nectar. I had to lose the safety of crawling on the ground, to risk flying in the sky. I had to destroy my old body, so I could grow wings. I had to give up my old attitude, so I could embrace my new life. Thank You, Swami. I have lost the old me, but I have won a better, more fulfilling life which You have designed for me. I lost but I won.’
Isipingo Sai Centre
(South Coast Region)
The Real Prize
“I don’t care what it takes, Dad, I have to win first prize! This piano competition is huge and I have to win!” The eighteen year-old’s eyes sparkled. “Just think of the name, the fame, the glamour...”
“Don’t get carried away, Ms. Nalini Madhavan!” her father cautioned. “Remember, as long as you work hard, you come out as a winner, even if you lose the contest! The prize is what you’ve learned, not the silver cup!”
“How boring!” Nalini said, turning away.
“Listen, Nalli,” her father said, “contests are about learning, growing, becoming the best that you can be - not glamour! Now you and Laila should practice together”
“Laila?” Nalini asked sharply.
“I asked her also to enter the contest,” her father said, matter-of-factly. “She …”
Nalini’s mood changed abruptly. Laila was the daughter of the family’s longtime housekeeper, and the Madhavans had, admirably, extended to her the same educational opportunities provided to their own daughter. Over the years, the girls had grown close; but of late, a certain distance was emerging.
Laila’s piano playing had begun to overtake Nalini’s. Both girls showed a remarkable technical proficiency, early on; but as they grew, Laila’s playing acquired a maturity that people began to describe as “breath-taking”, “magical”, and so on - qualities that Nalini could hardly reproduce. And so emerged the first blush, or perhaps taint, of jealousy.
Nalini practiced hard. She put in long hours to perfect her playing; she researched previous winners’ profiles; she even spoke to former participants, to gain some wisdom. But she did not share any of these efforts with Laila. Helping Laila was the right thing to do, she knew; but she was not in a mood to be ‘right’. And soon enough her guilt turned to complacence, as she convinced herself that Laila was probably making several ‘secret’ efforts of her own.
With only a month left for the big day, Nalini stepped up her practice. But something happened.
The children’s hospital, at which Nalini served as a back-up piano player for a program to lift the spirits of resident children, called to say that Nalini was needed. Nalini was rarely called; but this time, it turned out, the regular pianist had a home emergency.
“I can’t drop my piano practice and everything else in my life just like that!” Nalini said, sharply. But knowing her father would never approve of her letting the hospital down, she reluctantly agreed to step in. Still, she told herself, “My practice comes first! I’ll quickly find a way out of this!”
Discontentedly, Nalini set out the next day to the children’s hospital. As she passed the piano room, Laila’s flawless tones greeted and grated on her disgruntled ears. She lamented her own fate and the missed practice sessions; Laila would now get so far ahead of her!
In the hospital, Nalini entered the music room, determined to be unhappy. She walked straight to the piano and set her papers down, smile-less and sullen.
The children, being children, reacted only with love. “Good evening, Miss Nalini!” “Are you upset, Miss Nalini?” “Are you angry with us, Miss Nalini?” “Would you like some chocolate, Miss Nalini?” “I’m so happy to see you, Miss Nalini!” “See my thank you card, Miss Nalini!” A few children came over and hugged her spontaneously.
Nalini was overwhelmed. Her eyes became moist, touched as she was by the children’s sweet, innocent faces that exuded only warmth and affection and carried no trace of self-pity or ill health of any kind. She scowled, but they smiled! She had been rude, but they received her with love! Her thoughts had been centred on herself and her woes, but they seemed oblivious to their own troubles and eager only to make her feel better! How large their little hearts were, and how small her own! Nalini felt humbled, and ashamed.
It was but a moment, but it left a big impact. Suddenly, making these children happy seemed to matter more than anything else. The session went wonderfully well; the hall rang with song, laughter, and love. That she was able to lift the children’s spirits stirred something deep within her. It was almost as though she had found a new identity. “I want to keep doing this!” was the feeling that filled her being, as she walked back home.
As days passed, Nalini noticed that her back-up pianist role seemed more and more front and centre in her thoughts. Outside the hospital sessions, she found herself constantly planning and inventing fun musical activities to entertain the children. And while she continued to practice piano, the obsession with the prize seemed to have abated, even as she began to see her rivalry with Laila in a fresh light. “She is the better pianist, she deserves to win!” Nalini thought to herself aware all the while that, somehow, she was changing as a person.
“I don’t see you practicing feverishly, Nalli” her father said, one week prior to the competition. “Do you…er…feel you have that silver cup in your hands already?”
“No, Dad”, Nalini replied. “I think Laila will and should win. But even if I lose the prize, I feel I’ve come out a winner! I feel I’m a better person that’s the real prize, no?”
“Now this is music to my ears! Come, tell me more about this transformation!” her father said, listening intently.
Thank you and loving Sai Ram,
Team Radio Sai