Friday, February 27, 2009

"As you sow, so you reap."

Ever heard of the saying "As you sow, so you reap"......? Here is a Mullah Nasruddin story which illustrates the meaning of this proverb!

Hanif was a very lazy man. He believed that society owed him a living, so he did not work. His elders and friends told him repeatedly - to work - pointing out that, "The fruits of labour are indeed sweet."

- "Who is seeking sweet fruits?" Hanif turned away such advice with a sharp snap.

- "That boy is up to no good," said the elders who kept him at a distance. "He is worse than a mule. One can use the stick with a mule, you can't even do that with him."

His friends slowly drew away from him. Hanif did not change. But he had to live and he always found someone - from whom he could extract some cash.

Badruddin was a young man. He was a woodcutter, with rippling muscles and a strong physique. He lived with his wife Shakila, in a small house close to the woods. Every day, he set out for the woods - in the morning. His wife handed him a satchel which contained his lunch and a can of water. She fetched him the axe. He patted her with love and then nudged the donkey to get going. At this, the donkey trotted off. On reaching the woods, he chose a green, grassy spot and tied the donkey to a stake, before getting ready for work. He worked, from morning till evening, cutting, chopping, and slicing the wood into small pieces. Then, he loaded the pieces on the donkey, sold the firewood in the market, and returned home, tired but happy, for his purse would jingle with coins.

One morning, Badruddin was riding his donkey, leading it to the woods, when he ran into Hanif.

Hanif greeted him and said, "To the woods, I assume??"

- "Yes. I know only one way to make money. Cut wood and sell it," replied Badruddin as he loosened the reins of the donkey, and the donkey began to trot off towards the green grass.

- "Badru, I hope you won't mind if I join you in the woods," said Hanif.

- "Why should I mind? The woods belong to us all," Badruddin cocked his head to one side.

- "I want to spend the day with you," said Hanif.

Badruddin agreed. At noon, he shared his packed lunch with Hanif. They also quenched their thirst -from Badru's can of water. Thereafter, Badruddin stretched himself out on the grass for a quick nap. Hanif, too, lay down and was soon snoring loudly.

However, Badruddin was back at work within fifteen minutes. But Hanif slept for nearly two hours. Once awake, Hanif perched himself on the stump of a tree and said to Badruddin, "You're working as hard as a bee."

- "You can teach a few lessons even to the ants," he remarked, a little later.

- "Know what the squirrel does? It collects nuts all through the day, during summer. It stocks the nuts so that during winter, when it is very cold, it has food stocked at its home," Hanif repeated whatever he had heard from an elder.

Hanif continued making such statements every now and then, but Badruddin had no time to reply. He worked till the shadows began to lengthen. Badruddin then loaded the pieces of wood on the back of the donkey. He tied up the bundles firmly, and started leading the donkey - with the load - to the town. Soon Badruddin and Hanif reached the bazaar (market place). There, Badruddin stopped in front of a firewood shop and went inside - in search of the shopkeeper. Hanif waited outside. After a little while, Badruddin returned with the shopkeeper, who examined the load and offered five shekels for it. They haggled over it until Badruddin gave up and sold the load of wood for ten shekels. He collected the cash and unloaded the firewood. The donkey shook its body, feeling happy to have the load off its back. Badruddin turned to Hanif and thanked him for his company.

- "Badru, I think you forgot something. You haven't given me my share of the money we earned today," Hanif grinned.

- "Your share??" Badruddin's jaw fell open in amazement.

- "Remember, I worked with you all day long. I kept encouraging you, from morning till evening. You produced sounds by bringing the axe down on the branch of the tree. I produced sounds by wagging my tongue and exercising my throat. Both of us made equal efforts - to turn out sounds. Give me five shekels. And I shall send you off with prayers to Allah - to keep you and your beloved wife Begum Shakila - in good health and in prosperity forever," Hanif showed how good he was with words.

- "Forget it," said Badruddin and gave a rather sharp kick to the donkey, setting the donkey on a fast trot.

- "Badru, I thought you would be reasonable," Hanif ran after him and caught hold of the bridle of the donkey.

- "Take your hand off or I shall beat you," said a furious Badruddin.

- "You're a cheat! Wait, I shall complain to the Caliph tomorrow," Hanif threatened.

Badruddin did not know what to do. He was still hesitating when he noticed Mulla Nasruddin, the Caliph, taking a leisurely walk along the bazaar. Badruddin and Hanif greeted him. Mulla Nasruddin smiled and greeted them back.

- "Ah, my friend. We have a little dispute. Won't you please settle it?" Hanif snuggled closer to Nasruddin.

- "Tell me, what is the dispute about?" Nasruddin asked.

Hanif narrated the day's happenings.

- "I kept encouraging him all day long, so that he could cut double the quantity of wood he normally collects," he concluded.

- "But he did not cut any wood. Not even a twig," Badruddin glowered.

- "Hanif, I never knew that one could double the amount of work someone else does - by merely using words. I now know. So you deserve your due share," Nasruddin received an approving nod from Hanif while Badruddin's face fell.

- "Ah, Hanif, I shall be fair and square with both of you. I shall divide the ten shekels between the two of you, according to the work you have put in, right?" Nasruddin noticed Hanif's eyes glow with joy, gave him a nod and continued, "How can I split the number 10? It can be 5 and 5; or 6 and 4; or 7 and 3; or 8 and 2; or 9 and 1; or........" He paused a little before saying, "Or it could be 10 and 0. That sounds quite reasonable, my friends. Badru, give him 0 shekels for the sounds he made."

- "Mulla Nasruddin! What sort of justice is this? Don't you know that zero stands for nothing?" said Hanif, gritting his teeth in anger.

- "You got paid for your work," Nasruddin gave him a stern look. "You produced sounds. Badruddin cut the wood. The shopkeeper paid him for the wood, not for the sounds you produced!" said Nasruddin, looking at Hanif with contempt.

Badruddin smiled, thanked Mulla Nasruddin and rode away, ignoring the shouts and abuses of the angry Hanif!

Photograph: The ever-smiling Nasruddin Hodja riding on his 'bronze' donkey in 'Bukhara' (also spelled as 'Bukhoro' and 'Bokhara', from the Soghdian βuxārak ("lucky place"), is the capital of the Bukhara Province (viloyat) of Uzbekistan) - (Wikipedia).

The Tales of Mullah Naseeruddin continues.....this time a score!

The legend goes that, Mulla Nasreddin was asked why he sat backwards on the donkey. Depending on the place where one heard the story (Turkey, the Middle East, Central Asia or India), the explanation would vary. Needless to say, all the answers would be sardonic, witty and full of wisdom.

Strangely, there is a similar character in "Taoism" - Elder Zhang Guo or Zhang Guo Lao (Wikipedia) - one of the Eight Immortals (Wikipedia) of "Tao" (the word "Tao" - or "Dao", depending on the romanization scheme - means "path" or "way") - who always travelled sitting on a white donkey - facing backwards. The explanation that strikes me is that this was probably a simple way used by the ancients - to depict the idea that "the journey is the reward." The destination is often your goal, but everything that happens on the way is the payola.

Note on Taoism: A principal philosophy and system of religion of China based on the teachings of Lao-tzu in the sixth century B.C. (604-531 B.C.) and on subsequent revelations. It advocates preserving and restoring the Tao in the body and the cosmos. Also spelled "Daoism" - it refers to a variety of related philosophical and religious traditions and concepts that have influenced East Asia for over two thousand years and some have spread to the West as well. The philosophy founded by Lao-Tzu, and expressed in the book sometimes called by the same name, and also known as the 'Tao Te Ching' ('Classic of the Way'), a combination of mysticism, philosophical reflection, and poetry. Unlike 'Confucianism', Taoism stresses the unity of humanity and the universe. It is the loss of that unity that is responsible for desire, competition, and the unsuccessful attempts to regulate the resulting strife by means of ethics and moral law (see also Rousseau). Lao-Tzu considered that 'When Tao is lost only then does the doctrine of virtue arise'. As a practical philosophy Taoism is therefore based on the suppression of desire in favour of natural simplicity and tranquillity. Taoist propriety and ethics emphasize the Three Jewels of the Tao: Compassion, Moderation, and Humility. Taoist thought generally focuses on nature, men-cosmos correspondence, health, longevity, wu wei (effortless action), liberty, immortality and spontaneity. Reverence for ancestor spirits and immortals are also common in popular Taoism.

........Continuing with Mullah Naseeruddin, here are a few more of his tales. Infact, a 'score' of them!

1) In Mullah Nasiruddin's home town some construction work was undertaken, the financing of which, and the way the contract was awarded not being the subjects of this story. After the work was completed, a big pile of dirt was left behind. Inexplicably, it was not removed, and the builders turned out to be out-of-towners who could not be located. Discussions undertaken by the neighbourhood association, the permit agencies, and eventually the city council produced no result. The dirt pile remained. During the normal drought that summer the dirt blew all over the place. People complained. Eventually the Mullah decided to take matters into his own hands. Early one morning he showed up at the dirt pile with a shovel and started digging a hole next to it. Operating with his usual trance-like intensity, he soon had dug a pretty big hole. Not too many days later, the hole he dug was deeper than the pile of dirt next to it. The Mullah next attacked the pile, enthusiastically shoveling the dirt into the adjacent hole. How a person of his age accomplished this without wrecking his back - I do not know. But a child, idly observing the show, asked one of those standard questions that are constant elements of these stories, to wit: "Mullah, what are you going to do with the pile of dirt that you dug out of the hole after you fill up the hole with the old pile of dirt?" "Do I have to think of everything?" shouted Nasruddin.

2) The Mullah's donkey ran into the square - at the center of the town - and stopped short. The Mullah fell off. Some young good-for-nothings hanging around pointed at him and laughed. "Why are you laughing? I intended to fall off! This was foreseen and planned for. It is plain to see that I am making progress. Just think about it. I used to be there. Now I am here," retorted Naseeruddin. That shut them up!

3) One day Mulla Naseeruddin and his friend was talking - at the latter's home. Suddenly, there was a power outrage. His friend told the Mulla, "Please light the candle, both the match box as well as the candle are to your right." The Mulla replied with anger, "Idiot! This room is very dark. How can I find out which is right and which is left?"

4) The Mullah's wife sent him to buy some bread. When the Mullah arrived at the bread shop - he found a long line of people - waiting to buy bread. He thought he would do something to get to the head/front of the line. He shouted, "People, don't you know that the Sultan's daughter is getting married tonight and he is giving away free bread?" The multitude ran towards the Palace - as the Sultan was generous to a fault and loved his daughter more than his life. The Mullah was now the only customer - and was about to buy bread - when he thought to himself, "Mullah, you are truly a fool. All the citizen's are getting free bread tonight and you are about to pay for it. Thereafter, he ran towards the Palace and on reaching there was thoroughly beaten up by the disappointed people!

5) Tit for tat: Nasruddin went into a shop to buy a pair of trousers. He then changed his mind and chose a cloak instead - at the same price. Picking up the cloak he started walking towards the exit. - - - "You have not paid," shouted the merchant.

- "I left you the trousers, which are of the same value as the cloak," said Nasruddin.

- "But you did not pay for the trousers either."

- "Of course not," said the Mullah; "why should I pay for something that I did not want to buy?"

6) More useful: One day Mullah Nasruddin entered his favourite tea-house and said: "The Moon is more useful than the Sun." An old man asked, "Why Mullah?" Nasruddin replied, "We need the light more during the night, than during the day!"

7) Promises kept: A friend asked the Mullah "How old are you?" "Forty," replied Nasrudin. The friend said, "But you said the same thing two years ago!" "Yes," replied Nasruddin, "I always stand by what I have said."

8) When you face things alone: "You may have lost your donkey, Nasruddin, but you don't have to grieve over it more than you did when you lost your first wife," said the villagers. "Ah, but if you remember, when I lost my wife, all you villagers said, 'we'll find you someone else.' So far, nobody has offered to replace my donkey," replied the Mullah.

9) Obligation: Once, Nasruddin nearly fell into a pool. A man who was his acquaintance - was nearby, and managed to save him. Thereafter, every time he met Nasruddin, he would remind him of the great service he had performed. When this became a trend, Nasruddin took him to the pool, jumped in, stood with his head just above the water and shouted, "Now I am as wet as I would have been if you had not saved me that day! Now, leave me alone!"

10) One evening, while walking along a deserted road, Nasruddin saw a troop of horsemen - rapidly approaching towards him. His imagination ran wild; and he visualized himself being captured or robbed or killed - terrified by these thoughts he bolted, climbed over a wall into a graveyard, and lay down in an open grave - to hide. Puzzled by his bizzare behaviour, the horsemen - honest travellers - followed him. They found him stretched out, tense, and shaking.

- "What are you doing in that grave? We saw you run away. Can we help you? Why are you here in this place?" they asked.

- "Just because you can ask a question does not mean that there is a straightforward answer to it," replied Nasruddin, who by now had realized what had happened. "It all depends upon your viewpoint. If you must know, however, I am here because of you - and you are here because of me!"

11) One day, some people saw Mullah Nasruddin - pouring the remains of his yogurt (from a bowl) into the lake.

- "Mullah Nasruddin, what are you doing?" a man asked.

- "I am turning the lake into yogurt," Nasruddin replied.

- "Can a little bit of yeast ferment the great river?" the man asked while others laughed at Nasruddin.

- "You never know, perhaps it might," the Mullah replied, "but what if it should!"

12) Once Nasruddin was made a magistrate (judge). In his first case, he agreed with both the plaintiff and the defendant.

When a case came up and the first party described the case, Mulla Sahib said, "You are right." Then the other (opposing) party pleaded the merits of the case in their favour. Mulla sahib was again very impressed. He said, "You are right". There was a third party (some people) present there. They complained, "Sir, how could it be possible that both the litigating parties are right?" The Mulla said, "Yes, you are also right." When the Court Clerk objected - that both parties cannot be right, Nasruddin said, ''I believe you are right.''

13) One day Nasruddin saw a man sitting in a pall of gloom. When asked for the reason behind his sorrow, the man replied that his life had become so miserable - that he had collected all his life's savings and was wandering about seeking happiness. All of a sudden, Nasruddin picked up the man's purse and dodging him disappeared from his sight. After some time, Nasruddin kept the purse at a place where the frantic man could see it - and then hid himself behind a tree. When the man found his purse, he forgot his grief and began dancing with joy. The Mulla murmured, ''Isn't there another way to bring happiness to a sad man?''

14) One day Nasruddin was taking a walk in his village, when several of his neighbours approached him.

- "Nasruddin Hoja!" they said to him, "you are so wise and holy! Please accept us as your pupils and teach us how we should live our lives, and what we should do!"

Nasruddin paused, then said, "Alright, I will teach you the first lesson right now. The most important thing is to take very good care of your feet and sandals; you must keep them clean and neat at all times."

The neighbours listened attentively - until they glanced down at the Hoja's feet, which were in fact quite dirty and shod in old and tattered sandals.

- "But Hoja," said one of them, "your feet are terribly dirty, and your sandals are torn! How do you expect us to follow your teachings if you don't carry them out yourself?"

- "Well," replied Nasruddin, "I don't go around asking people how I should live my life either, do I?"

15) "How come you never got married, Nasruddin?" asked his friend one day. "Well," said Nasruddin, "to tell you the truth, I spent my youth looking for the perfect woman. In Cairo, I met a beautiful and intelligent woman, with eyes like dark olives, but she was unkind. Then in Baghdad, I met a woman who was a wonderful and generous soul, but we had no interests in common. One woman after another would seem just right, but there would always be something missing. Then one day, I met her! She was beautiful, intelligent, generous and kind. We had everything in common. In fact she was perfect." "Well," said Nasruddin's friend, "what happened? Why didn't you marry her?" Nasruddin sipped his tea reflectively. "Well," he replied, "it's a sad thing. She was looking for the perfect man."

16) Once upon a time, Nasruddin went to the marketplace and put up a sign that read, "Whoever has stolen my donkey, please return it to me and I will give it to them."

- "Nasruddin!", exclaimed the townspeople, "Why did you put up such a sign?"

- "There are two great gifts in life," replied Nasruddin. "One is to find something that you've lost and the other is to give something - that you love - away."

17) "Pain," Nasruddin told a respected doctor, "is something one can get used to and live with, without too much trouble."

The satisfied physician nodded gladly - in agreement.

- "There is, however, one exception" continued Nasruddin.

- "Oh? and what is that?" asked the doctor.

- "When it hurts YOU" replied Nasruddin.

18) A man came up to Nasruddin and said, "Nasruddin, I was looking for you to tell you something, and now I have forgotten what it was I wanted to tell you....." "Never mind," said Nasruddin, "you can tell me something else....."

19) Once Mulla Nasruddin found a discarded mirror. On closely examining the object, he saw his own face/reflection, threw the mirror away as far as he could and shouted, "No wonder, this thing’s been thrown away. Who would keep something as ugly as that!"

20) Mullah Naseeruddin, the sardonic sage, once decided that he could make his donkey survive without fodder because it was proving expensive and troublesome for him. In spite of the objections raised by others, he began reducing the fodder daily - by a fistful. This continued for quite sometime until one day the dejected Mullah told people - that the foolish donkey died just as it was getting used to living without fodder. He opined that - had the donkey survived one more day without the last fistful of fodder, it would have got used to living without food and he (Naseeruddin) would have been spared a lot of trouble and expense.

The Nasreddin/Naseeruddin stories are unique. Some tales of Nasreddin are also adapted and used as 'teaching stories'. This is such a common practice that, given the nature of many of Nasreddin's jokes, multiple interpretations (or several 'layers' of meaning) are to be expected.

Photograph: At the Ankara Amusement Park: The ever smiling Hodja Nasreddin - riding on his 'bronze' donkey - backwards, no less.....!

The inimitable Mullah Naseeruddin.

I am in a reminiscing mood today. I am reminiscing about my childhood. It is often said that 'childhood' is the best time/period in a person's life. It is certainly true, though debatable - it depends from person to person, I would say. I enjoyed my childhood - it was a 'carefree' time - with hardly any dark cloud in the shape of 'worries' in the horizon. Except perhaps 'exam time' - when we would invariably be down with 'exam fever!'

Apart from all the other 'perks' that childhood brought in, the one that I cherish the most is the opportunity to grow up with several 'characters'. No, not friends, but 'characters'.

Birbal, Tenali Rama, Mullah Naseeruddin, Gopal Bhaand, Handa and Bhonda, Nonte - Phonte, Bantul - The Great, Archie, Tintin, Captain Haddock, Calculus, Superman, Spiderman, Phantom, Mandrake, Shikari Shambu, Suppandi, Asterix and Obelix, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Tom and Jerry, Tarzan, Mowgli, Bagheera, Shere Khan, Kalia - the witty crow, Keechu and Meechu - the cute rabbits, Tantri - The Mantri, Cinderella, Snow White, Gulliver, Hansel and Gretel, Pinocchio, Winnie - The Pooh, and many more. I was 'introduced' to these 'characters' gradually - through the Aesop's Fables, through several comic books: the 'Amar Chitra Katha,' the 'Tinkle,' through the 'Panchatantra,' among others and with the passage of time 'they' became more than my friends.

Most of us, if not all of us grow up with them; some of them, if not all of them, that is. And in the process, these 'characters' leave their 'footprints' on our minds and thoughts. In other words, they too become a part of us.

I felt like to write about a few of these 'characters' - not in one day of course - by and by. I chose 'Mullah Naseeruddin' to begin with.

'Mullah Naseeruddin' is known for his wit and sense of humour all over Asia. The anecdotes attributed to him reveal a satirical personality with a biting tongue that he was not afraid to use even against the most tyrannical rulers of his time. This fictional character has innumerable stories attributed to him - it goes without saying that all these stories were sardonic, witty and full of wisdom. He was a 'study in contrast.' Much of Naseeruddin's actions can be described as illogical yet logical, rational yet irrational, bizarre yet normal, foolish yet sharp and simple yet profound. What adds even further to his uniqueness is the way he gets across his messages in unconventional yet very effective methods and in profound simplicity. 1996–1997 was declared the "International Naseeruddin Year" by the UNESCO.

Mullah Naseeruddin's name is also spelled differently in various cultures, viz.: Nasrudeen, Nasrudin, Nasr ud-Din, Nasredin, Nasreddin, Nasreddin, Nasr Eddin, Nastradhin, Nasreddine, Nastratin, Nusrettin, Nasrettin, Nostradin and Nastradin (lit.: Victory of the Deen or Faith). His name is sometime preceded or followed by a 'title of wisdom' used in the corresponding cultures: "Hoxha", "Khwaje", "Hodja", "Hojja","Hodscha", "Hodža", "Hoca", "Hogea", "Hodza", "Effendi" or "Affandi", "Mullah", among others.

This legendary satirical sufi figure is believed to have lived during the Middle Ages (around the 13th century) - in Anatolia; he was born in Hortu Village in Sivrihisar, Eskişehir (meaning: "Old Town," is a province in northwestern Turkey) in the 13th century, then settled in Akşehir and later in Konya, under the Seljuq rule (Wikipedia). He is believed to have died here (probably born in 1209 CE and died 1275/6 or 1285/6 CE). Many nations of the Near, Middle East and Central Asia claim 'Naseeruddin' as their own (i.e. the Afghans, Iranians, Turks, and Uzbeks). The "International Nasreddin Hodja Festival" is held annually in Akşehir (a town and district of the Konya Province in the Central Anatolia region of Turkey) between July 5–10 every year.

In Russia, "Naseeruddin" is because of the brilliant novel "Tale of Hodja Nasreddin" written by Leonid Solovyov (wikipedia). The English translation: "The Beggar in the Harem: Impudent Adventures in Old Bukhara." A collection of very short stories based on Mullah Naseeruddin was compiled by the renowned Indian (bengali) filmmaker Satyajit Ray (audio and - to know more about him) and published as "Mullah Naseeruddiner Galpo" (the Stories of Mullah Naseeruddin).

With the passage of time, new stories were added, others were modified, and the character of Mullah Naseeruddin and his tales spread to other regions. The themes in these tales have become a part of the folklore of a number of nations and therefore express the national imaginations of a variety of cultures. Although, most of them depict Naseeruddin in an early small-village setting, the tales (like the Aesop's fables) deal with concepts that have a certain timelessness.

Today, Nasseruddin stories are told in a wide variety of regions, and have been translated into many languages. I have compiled a few of them. Read on:

1) Once, Mullah Naseeruddin was travelling by train. The Ticket collector asked him for his ticket. To his embarrassment, the Mullah could not find his ticket. He searched all the crevices and pockets of his long overcoat but still could not find it. He became embarrassed and miserable and started sweating. But he would not check his right pocket. The ticket checker asked him, "Why don't you check your right pocket?" Mullah Naseeruddin replied "That is my last hope and if I do not find it there I will be more miserable, so I would rather not check it there."

2) One day, Mullah Naseeruddin was informed that his mother-in-law had drowned. He rushed to the river and asked to be shown the spot where she had drowned. He started walking upstream. Surprised, his friends said "Wouldn’t it be better if they went downstream?" He replied, "You probably don’t know the lady, she acted obsessively differently from normal people. I am certain we will find her body somewhere upstream."”

3) Delivering a Khutba: Once, Nasreddin was invited to deliver a 'khutba' (Islamic sermons/lectures/talks). When he got on the 'minbar' (pulpit), he asked, "Do you know what I am going to say?" The audience replied "NO." So he announced, "I have no desire to speak to people who don't even know what I will be talking about!" and left.

The people felt embarrassed and called him back again the next day. This time, when he asked the same question, the people replied "YES". So Nasreddin said, "Well, since you already know what I am going to say, I won't waste any more of your time!" and left.

Now the people were really perplexed. They decided to try one more time and once again invited the Mullah to speak the following week. Once again he asked the same question - "Do you know what I am going to say?" Now the people were prepared and so half of them answered "YES" while the other half replied "NO". To which, Nasreddin said, "The half amongst you, who know what I am going to say can tell it to the other half," and left.

4) Two sides of a river: Nasreddin sat on a river bank when someone shouted to him from the opposite side:

- "Hey! how do I get to the other side?"

- "You are on the other side!" Nasreddin shouted back.

5) Whom do you trust: A neighbour arrived at the gate of Mulla Nasreddin's yard. The Mulla went out to meet him.

"Would you mind, Mulla," the neighbour asks, "lending me your donkey today? I have some goods to transport to the next town."

The Mulla doesn't feel inclined to lend out the animal to this particular man, however; not to appear rude, he answers:

"I'm sorry, but I've already lent him to somebody else."

Suddenly the donkey was heard braying loudly behind the wall of the yard.

"You lied to me, Mulla!" the neighbour exclaims. "There it is behind that wall!"

"What do you mean?" the Mulla replies indignantly. "Whom would you rather believe, a donkey or your Mulla?"

6) Taste the same: Some children saw Hodja coming from the vineyard with 2 basketfuls of grapes on his donkey, gathered around him and asked him to give them some.

Hodja picked up a bunch of grapes, cut it up into pieces and gave each child a piece.

"You have so much, but you gave us so little," the children complained.

"There is no difference whether you have a basketful or a small piece. They all taste the same," Hodja remarked.

7) Once, a thief entered the house of Mullah Naseeruddin. It was night time, and hence dark. Mullah Naseeruddin awoke and saw the thief in his house. He took a lantern and started following him. Wherever the thief went, Mullah Naseeruddin would show him the way. The thief said, "What is the matter? Why are you showing me the way? I have never been to a house where the owner himself shows me the way. Why are you showing me the lantern?" Mullah Naseeruddin said, "I have been staying here for 20 years. I have never found anything in this house and you are trying to find something in the dark. So let me at least show you some light. Maybe you will find something. Then we can do half-half (fifty-fifty)."

8) The Mullah was seen astride his donkey dashing through town at an unseemly rate of speed. "Why are you going so dangerously fast, Mullah?" "Don't ask me, ask the donkey" replied the Mullah.

9) One day Mulla Naseerrudin's wife was cooking in the kitchen. All of a sudden, a very loud noise emanated from the drawing room. She went running to the room and found Naseeruddin sitting there. She asked him regarding the noise. Mulla replied, "My robe fell down." She asked, "How can a robe make such a big noise?" Mulla replied, "I was inside the robe!!"

10) In the middle of the night, Mullah Nasrudin wakes up - feeling terribly thirsty. It’s cold and dark outside, and it’s quite a bit of a walk to the well, so the Mullah hastily winds a turban around his head for warmth, and finds a lamp to carry with him. The lamp is empty, and while he’s trying to fill it in the dark, he spills some lamp oil, which he sleepily wipes up with the trailing end of his poorly-wrapped turban. The Mullah has some trouble lighting the lamp, and leans in close to see the wick better. The oil-soaked end of his turban catches fire. The Mullah, after racing around the room screaming for a while, has the presence of mind to run into the backyard, fling the turban to the ground, and stamp on it. The Mullah’s wife, awakened by the commotion, comes out and sees the Mullah jumping up and down on his turban. "Nasrudin!" she cries, "What on earth are you doing?" "Getting a drink of water," says the Mullah.

11) Mullah Nasiruddin on Tax cuts: Nasiruddin used to stand on the street on market-days, to be pointed out as an idiot (note: an ancient spiritual practice designed to build humility). No matter how often people offered him a large and a small coin, he always chose the smaller one. One day a kind man said to him: "Nasiruddin, you should take the bigger coin. Then you will have more money and people will no longer be able to make a laughing stock of you." "That may be true," said Nasiruddin, "but if I always take the larger coin, people will stop offering me any money to prove that I am more idiotic than they are. Then I would have no money at all."

12) As Nasiruddin emerged form the mosque after prayers, a beggar sitting on the street solicited him for alms. The following conversation followed:
"Are you extravagant?" asked Nasiruddin.
"Yes Nasiruddin," replied the beggar.
"Do you like sitting around drinking coffee and smoking?" asked Nasiruddin.
"Yes," replied the beggar.
"I suppose you like to go to the baths everyday?" asked Nasiruddin.
"Yes," replied the beggar.
".....And maybe amuse yourself, even, by drinking with friends?" asked Nasiruddin.
"Yes I like all those things," replied the beggar.
"Tut, tut," said Nasiruddin, and gave him a gold piece.

A few yards farther on, another beggar who had overheard the conversation begged for alms also. "Are you extravagant?" asked Nasiruddin.
"No, Agha Nasiruddin," replied second beggar.
"Do you like sitting around drinking coffee and smoking?" asked Nasiruddin.
"No," replied second beggar.
"I suppose you like to go to the baths everyday?" asked Nasiruddin.
"No," replied second beggar.
".....And maybe amuse yourself, even, by drinking with friends?" asked Nasiruddin.
"No, I want to only live meagerly and to pray," replied second beggar. Whereupon Nasiruddin gave him a small copper coin.
"But why," wailed the second beggar, "do you give me, an economical and pious man, a penny, when you give that extravagant fellow an eagle?"
"Ah my friend," replied Nasiruddin, "his needs are greater than yours."

13) Deductive reasoning: The venerable and wise Mullah Nasiruddin was asked by an acolyte, over tea, "And how old are you, dear Mullah? "Another question I can answer," replied the humble Mullah. "I am three years older than my brother." The callow interlocutor, foolishly said: "But I spoke with your brother last year and he told me, I remember it well, that you, his older brother, were two years older than he." "Well of course," the mullah patiently explained. "That was last year. Now I am one year older. And my rate of aging is increasing. Two years ago I was one year older. Next year I will be four years older. Soon I shall be older than my grandfather, and his as well."

14) Nasruddin was throwing handfuls of bread all around his house. "What are you doing?" someone asked. "Keeping the tigers away" said Nasruddin. "But there are no tigers around here." "Exactly. Effective, isn't it?" replied Nasreddin.

15) At a gathering where Mullah Nasruddin was present, people were discussing the merits of youth and old age. They had all agreed that, a man's strength decreases as years go by. Mullah Nasruddin dissented.

- "I don't agree with you gentlemen" he said. "In my old age I have the same strength as I had in the prime of my youth."

- "What do you mean, Mullah Nasruddin?" asked somebody. "Explain yourself."

- "In my courtyard," explained Mullah Nasruddin, "there is a massive stone. In my youth I used to try to lift it. I never succeeded. Neither can I lift it now."

16) "I shall have you hanged", said a cruel and ignorant King to Nasruddin, "if you do not prove such deep perceptions - such as those that have been attributed to you." Nasruddin at once said that he could see a golden bird in the sky and demons within the earth. "But how can you do this?" the King asked. "Fear," said the Mullah "is all you need."

17) A man said to Mullah Nasruddin - on the street (Naseeruddin had asked him for a handout): "You would stand more chance of getting a job if you would shave and clean yourself up." "Yes, sir", the Mullah said. "I found that out years ago."

18) Nasiruddin had saved a lot of money. Someone asked him to go to a fashion show. Afterwards, Naseerudin was asked his opinion about the show.

"It's a complete swindle!" replied Nasiruddin.


"They show you the women -- and then try to sell you the clothes!"

19) Nasiruddin was being interviewed for employment in a department store. The Personnel Manager said: "We like ambitious men here. What sort of a job are you after?" "How about yours?" asked the venerable Mullah. "Are you mad?" remonstrated his interviewer. "I may well be," said the Mulla, "but is that a necessary qualification?"

20) "When I was in the desert," said Nasruddin one day, "I caused an entire tribe of horrible and bloodthirsty Bedouins to run." "How did you do it?" asked someone. "Easy. I just ran, and they ran after me."

21) A certain conqueror said to Nasruddin: "Mulla, all the great rulers of the past had honorific titles with the name of God in them: there was, for instance, "God-Gifted" and "God-Accepted", and so on. How about some such name for me?" "God Forbid," said Nasruddin.

22) One day an illiterate man came to Mullah Nasruddin with a letter he had received. "Mullah Nasruddin, please read this letter to me." The Mullah looked at the letter, but could not make out a single word. So he told the man. "I am sorry, but I cannot read this." The man cried: "For shame, Mullah Nasruddin! You must be ashamed for the turban you wear" (i.e. the 'turban' being the sign of education). Mullah Nasruddin removed the turban from his own head and placing it on the head of the illiterate man, said: "There! Now you wear the turban. If it gives some knowledge, read the letter yourself."

23) Mullah Nasruddin went to another town for some personal business. It was a frigid winter night when he arrived. On the way to the inn, a vicious looking dog barked at him. Nasruddin bent down to pick up a stone from the street to throw at the animal. He could not lift it, for the stone was frozen to the earth. "What a strange town this is!" Nasruddin said to himself. "They tie up the stones and let the dogs go free."

24) Nasrudin heard that the King had sent out a committee incognito, seeking suitable candidates for the position of 'Qazis' (judges). Nasrudin took to walking around carrying an old fishing net on his shoulder. When the members of the committee reached his village, the net drew their attention and they questioned him about it. "Oh, I carry this net with me to remind myself of my humble past as a poor fisherman," explained Nasrudin. The committee was impressed, and in due time Nasrudin was nominated as a 'Qazi'. Shortly afterwards, the same committee members met Nasrudin again and noticed that the net was gone. "Where is the net, Nasrudin?" they asked. "Well, you don't need the net after the fish is caught, do you?" replied Nasrudin.

25) Once, Nasrudin, the diver, was working 200 feet under the sea, when suddenly a venerable 'yogi' (spiritual guide/guru) floated into his line of vision, without any breathing apparatus. "Oh master! What are you doing at such a depth?" wrote the surprised Nasrudin on his writing-slate. The 'guru' snatched the slate and china-pencil, and wrote furiously: "Drowning, you idiot!"

26) One day, a poor man, who had only one piece of bread to eat, was walking past a restaurant. There was a large pot of soup on the table. The poor man held his bread over the soup, so the steam from the soup went into the bread. He then smelt it. Then he ate the bread.

The restaurant owner was very angry at this, and asked the man for money, as payment for the steam from the soup. The poor man had no money, so the restaurant owner took him to Nasreddin, who was a judge at that time. Nasreddin thought about the case for a little while.

Then he took out some money from his pocket. He held the coins near the restaurant owner's ear, and shook them, so that they made a jingling noise.

"What was that?" asked the restaurant owner.

"That was payment for you," answered Nasreddin.

"What do you mean? That was just the sound of coins!" protested the restaurant owner.

"The sound of the coins is payment for the smell of the soup," answered Nasreddin. "Now go back to your restaurant."

27) Mulla Nasruddin used to carry a door with him wherever he went. When somebody asked him about it, he replied: ''It is just a security measure. Nobody can enter my house except through the door. So I carry the door.''

28) "May the Will of Allah be done," a pious man was saying about something or the other. "It always is, in any case," said Mullah Nasruddin. "How can you prove that, Mullah?" asked the man. "Quite simply. If it wasn't always being done, then surely at some time or the other, my will would have prevailed, wouldn't it?"

29) Many years ago, the Mulla was traveling on the 'Silk Route' to China when he met another traveller, George. They soon became friends and decided to travel together, each pledging to help the other on the long and difficult journey ahead.

Several days later, after travelling through a dreary stretch of arid country, they reached a small town. Since they were both hungry and thirsty, they found their way to the only inn in the town. But they had little money left. So they decided to share a bowl of milk. It would quench their thirst and also provide some nourishment.

George said to the Mulla, "You drink your half first. I have one lump of sugar, and it is only enough to sweeten my half of the milk." The Mulla insisted that they share the sugar too. However, when he saw that George was not in a mood to relent, the Mulla went into the kitchen and returned with a large lump of salt, and told George that he just remembered that he preferred to drink milk with salt.

Before the Mulla could add the lump of salt to the glass of milk, George had a change of heart. Smiling, he offered the lump of sugar to the Mulla. One after the other, they quenched their thirst with the sweetened milk.

30) Nasrudin went into a bank to encash a cheque. "Can you identify yourself?" asked the clerk. Nasrudin took out a mirror and peered into it. "Yes, that’s me all right." he said.

31) Mulla Nasrudin was sending his son to get some milk. Just before the boy is on his way, he says to him: "Take care and don’t spill the milk!" He closes the sentence with a hard slap on the boy’s face. "Are you out of your mind?" his wife shouts, "He hasn’t done anything at all and he did not spill the milk!"

Very gently, our hero replies: "Woman! As usual you do not understand a thing. What good would it do to slap the boy after the milk is spilt???"

32) Once upon a time, Mulla Nasrudin was elected to the position of a town judge.

One day, taking his seat in his chambers - at the start of a trial, Nasrudin faced the opposing lawyers. “So,” he said, “I have been presented, by both of you, with a bribe.” Both lawyers squirmed uncomfortably. “You, Ahmed, gave me $15,000. And you, Wali, gave me $10,000.”

Mulla Nasrudin reached into his pocket and pulled out a cheque. He handed it to Ahmed … “Now then, I’m returning $5,000 and, in all fairness, we’re going to decide this case solely on its merits.”

33) One day a group of seekers were sitting and drinking tea. One of them, (since he thought he knew everything), states, “My master taught me that until the man who has not been wronged is as indignant about a wrong as the man who has actually been wronged, mankind will not be fulfilled.” For a moment an impressive silence follows, and then the Mulla speaks, “My master taught me that nobody should become indignant about anything - until he is sure that what he thinks is a wrong - is in fact a wrong – and not a blessing in disguise!”

34) Nasrudin offered to guide a group of ten blind men across a rushing stream, for a penny each. As they crossed, one of them slipped and was carried away by the swift current. Sensing that something was wrong, the leader among the blind men asked, "What happened?" "Nothing" said Nasrudin, "a penny less to pay....."

35) One evening, Nasrudin Hodja’s wife saw her husband walking up and down the verandah (porch) in great agitation. “What’s the matter?” she asked him. “I borrowed a hundred 'Dinars' from our neighbour last month and I promised to return the money on the last day of this month,” explained Hodja. “Tomorrow is the last day and I don’t have the money. I don’t know what to do.” “What is there to do!” said his wife. “Go and tell him you can’t pay!” Hodja took his wife’s advice. When he returned from his neighbour’s house he looked relaxed and happy. “How did he take it?” asked his wife. “Ah, well,” said Hodja. “Now he is walking up and down his verandah."

36) When the Sultan (ruler) was visiting Nasrudin's town, he (the Sultan) decided to put up a show for the locals - for their entertainment and to bolster his popularity. During the great festivities, the Sultan summoned his best swordsmen before the crowd. The first approached the stage with a tiny little box, out of which a bee flew out, then, with a single blow of his sword, the bee was sliced into two. The crowd cheered in amazement! The second swordsman now walked onto the stage, with another small box, out of which a wasp flew out, then, with two swift blows of his sword, the wasp was chopped into three pieces. The crowd cheered in awe. The third swordsman, eager to meet the challenge, now pranced onto the stage, carrying a little box out of which he let out a fly, then with three determined blows of his sword, he sliced the fly into four pieces. The crowd went wild.

Not to be outdone, Nasrudin immediately rose to the occasion. He shuffled onto the stage amid the cheers of the crowd, with a makeshift little box in one hand and his sword in the other. As he opened the little box, a tiny mosquito flew out, then, with a flash, Nasrudin delivered a determined blow, but the mosquito continued to fly about, obviously still alive. "A very ambitious attempt indeed Nasrudin," said the Sultan in a magnanimous, yet clearly disappointed tone, "but I see the mosquito is still alive!"

"When properly performed, circumcision is not supposed to kill, your Majesty!" replied Nasrudin.

37) Following the noon prayers, the Imam of the local mosque saw Nasrudin sitting at the local tea-house. "Hey Mulla, how come I never see you at the mosque any more?"

"Um… er… the thing is…" mumbled Nasrudin, "there are just too many hypocrites there, it just …uh… bothers me!"

"Don't worry Mulla, there is always room for one more!" replied the Imam.

38) Nasrudin is sitting outside an Arabian spice shop. He is sitting beside a huge basket of red hot 'dynamite chillies'. Nasrudin's eyes are filled with tears as he takes the chillies from the basket and bites into them, one after another. His friend comes along and sees Nasrudin sweating and crying. "Nasrudin what are you doing. You're crying and sweating. Why are you chewing on those chillies?" Nasrudin answers, "I'm trying to find a sweet one."

The Nasreddin/Naseeruddin stories are known throughout Asia and have touched cultures around the world. These stories have two parts: there is a joke, followed by a moral. And they have stood the test of time.

Photograph: A depiction of Nasreddin/Naseeruddin.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

New kids on the block - additions to our garden!

Well, I am back with my favourite topic - our 'terrace garden'.

There have been some additions to our garden since my last post (please visit my blog: My First Blog with my Green Thumb! to read about it.)

We now have the lily plant, the four o'clock flower or the "Marvel of Peru" (Mirabilis Jalapa) and carnation adorning our garden - apart from the other plants mentioned in my earlier blog, that is. You see, we endorse the saying - "the more, the merrier"! Wholeheartedly!

And we have now treated all the plants to the 'neem cake'. No, it is not their birthday, silly! This is only the plant kingdom's equivalent of the 'apple treatment'! "An apple a day, keeps the doctor away." Remember?

We also have the 'red' Anthorium now. They look majestic! Its not called the "Flamingo flower" or the "Pigtail plant" for nothing. Trust me! Which makes us the proud owner of the Anthorium plant in three of its 'avatars' - red, pink and lavender. We are yet to get the white variety.....but the "Spatifilum" (Spathyphyllum wallisii) plants are more than making up for it.

Even the grass is looking "greener" than it was during the time of my earlier post - regarding our terrace garden. Rest assured, we are not looking for "greener pastures"!!!

Now, for the 'other' additions to our terrace garden - those of the 'non-plant' variety.

I have spoken about the two "Bankura horses" that adorn our garden in my earlier blogs. We have now named them as well - the black coloured one is called the "Black Forest" while the brick-red one is called the "Honey cake". We have three terracotta elephants too - a "mamma" elephant, named "Death by Chocolate" and two "kiddy" elephants called "Butterscotch" and "Fruit cake" respectively. We also have a pair of "Cheetas" christened as "Butter Chicken" and "Chicken Tikka" respectively. Cute, isn't it?

We plan to add to them - a pair of giraffes, a pair of camels and a pair of deer will make their "appearance" next month (March '09) as well as a cow along with her two calves and a hen with her chicks - all in their terracotta forms. We will name them too!!

And you will get to read about them once they join the "party" or rather our "garden". For sure!!!

Pictures: In "anti-clockwise" order:

1) A "Spatifilum" (Spathyphyllum wallisii) plant in bloom.

2) The Four o'clock flower/ "Marvel of Peru" (Mirabilis jalapa) - Pink.

3) The Four o'clock flower/ "Marvel of Peru" (Mirabilis jalapa) - White.

A Note on "Friendship."

"Friendship" is a term used to denote co-operative and supportive behavior between two or more people. In this sense, the term connotes a relationship which involves mutual knowledge, esteem, affection and respect along with a degree of rendering service to friends in times of need or crisis. Friends will welcome each other's company and exhibit loyalty towards each other, often to the point of altruism. Their tastes will usually be similar and may converge, and they will share enjoyable activities. They will also engage in mutually helping behavior, such as exchange of advice and the sharing of hardships. A friend is someone who may often demonstrate reciprocating and reflective behaviours. Yet for many, friendship is nothing more than the trust - that someone or something will not harm them.

Hence, "friendship" as understood here, is a distinctively personal relationship that is grounded in a concern on the part of each friend for the welfare of the other, for the other's sake, and that involves some degree of intimacy. As such, friendship is undoubtedly central to our lives, in part because the special concern we have for our friends must have a place within a broader set of concerns, including moral concerns, and in part because our friends can help shape who we are as persons.

"Friendship" is considered one of the central human experiences, and has been sanctified by all major religions. "The Epic of Gilgamesh," a Babylonian poem that is among the earliest known literary works in history, chronicles in great depth the friendship between 'Gilgamesh' and 'Enkidu.' The Greco-Romans had, as paramount example, the friendship of 'Orestes' and 'Pylades,' and, in Virgil's "Aeneid," the friendship between 'Euryalus' and 'Nisus.' The "Abrahamic faiths" have the story of 'David and Jonathan.' Friendship played an important role in German Romanticism. A good example for this is Schiller's "Die Bürgschaft."

Closer home, our great epics speak of many instances of "friendship" - e.g., in the "Mahābhārata" narrated by the great sage 'Veda Vyasa,' we are told of the legendary friendship between 'Duryodhana' (the eldest son of the blind King Dhritarashtra by Queen Gandhari, the eldest of the one hundred "Kaurava" brothers, and the chief antagonist of the "Pandavas" - the sons of Pandu and Kunti) and 'Karna' (he was born of Kunti, before her marriage to Pandu. A close friend of Duryodhana, Karna fought on his behalf against the "Pandavas" - his own brothers - at the "Kurukshetra" war. He was the son of 'Surya' - the Sun-god.) There is the one between 'Lord Krishna' and 'Sudama' - which has "inspired" several films: "Katha Parayumbol" (in Malayalam - starring Malayalam movie superstar Mammootty and Sreenivasan), "Kuchelan" (in Tamil - starring Tamil Megastar Rajnikanth and Pasupathy), "Billu" (earlier "Billu Barber" - starring the "King" of Bollywood Shah Rukh Khan and Irrfan Khan). Or even the one between 'Lord Krishna' and 'Arjuna.'

The Story of "Duryodhana and Karna": Karna's birth occurred, allegedly, as a result of the immaculate conception granted to his mother Kunti, by his father, Surya deva. Karna was born, before his mother's marriage to prince Pandu. A young Kunti had attended to the great sage 'Durbasa' for a full year, while he was a guest at her father's palace. The sage, who was pleased with her service, granted her a boon whereby she could call upon any God of her choice, and beget a child in his image. Out of curiosity Kunti, still unmarried, decided to test the boon and summoned Surya. Bound by the power of the 'mantra,' Surya granted her wish and a son, who was as radiant and robust as his father (Surya - the Sun God) was born. The baby was born with an armour ('Kavacha') and a pair of earrings ('Kundala') attached to him. Unwilling to face the world as an unwed mother, Kunti abandoned Karna, setting him afloat - in a basket - on the holy river Ganga.

The child - Karna - got carried down the river and was picked up by King Dhritarashtra's charioteer, 'Adhiratha' (who was childless.) Karna was raised by him and his wife 'Radha' as their own son and they named him - 'Vasusena.' Karna also came to be known as 'Radheya' - son of Radha (after his foster mother.) The bond between Karna and his foster family was one of pure love, respect and affection. Karna lovingly performed his duties as a son and brother within his foster family, despite his rise as the 'King of Anga' and the eventual revelation of his true birth.

As he grew into adulthood, Karna, who had the heart of a warrior, sought to become one. He approached 'Dronacharya,' who at that time had established his 'Gurukul' (ashram-school) and was training the Princes ("Pandava" and "Kaurava" Princes - the sons of King Dhritarashtra and King Pandu, respectively.) However, Dronacharya did not accept Karna as his pupil because of his caste (Karna was ridiculed as 'Sutputra' - since his parents were thought to be the charioteer, Adhiratha and his wife, Radha.) Moreover, Drona wanted to make Arjuna (the third among the five "Pandava" brothers) - the best archer.

Karna eventually approached 'Parashurama,' who was known to teach anyone but 'Kshatriyas' (in the early "Vedic civilization," the warrior caste was called "rājanya" or "kšatrīya." It is one of the four 'varnas' or 'social orders' in Hinduism. It constitutes the military and ruling order of the traditional Vedic-Hindu social system as outlined by the 'Vedas' and the 'Laws of Manu.' Lord Rama, Lord Krishna, Lord Buddha and Lord Mahavira all belonged to this social order.) Karna appeared to Parashurama as a 'Brahmin' and requested that he be accepted as Parashurama's student. Karna was a diligent student and Parashurama trained him to the point where he declared Karna to be his equal.

Dronacharya held a tournament at "Hastinapura" (the capital of the kingdom of the "Kauravas," belonging to the 'Kuru' dynasty of kings) to display the skills of the Kuru Princes. Arjuna emerged in this tournament as a particularly gifted archer. Karna arrived at the tournament and after surpassing Arjuna's feats, challenged him to a duel. Kripacharya refused Karna his duel, asking first for his clan and kingdom - according to the rules of dueling, only a 'Prince' could challenge Arjuna who was himself a 'Prince' of the "Kuru dynasty." Duryodhana, the oldest of the "Kauravas," offered Karna the throne of 'Anga,' making him eligible for the duel with Arjuna. When Karna asks him what he can do to repay him, Duryodhana tells him that all he wants is his friendship. Karna pledges his allegiance and friendship to Duryodhana, as Duryodhana had rescued him from continuous humiliation and hardships (for being a 'Sutputra'.) Neither of them knew that Karna is infact Kunti's eldest son - born of Surya.

This event establishes key relationships in the "Mahābhārata," namely, the strong bond between Duryodhana and Karna, the intense rivalry between Karna and Arjuna, and the enmity in general between the "Pandavas" as a whole and Karna.

A very intense bond of friendship develops between the two, and Duryodhana becomes very close to Karna. It is held that if there was one good quality in Duryodhana, it was his deep affection for his friend Karna. In the "battle of Kurukshetra," Karna is Duryodhana's greatest hope for victory. He earnestly believes that Karna is superior to Arjuna, and will inevitably destroy him and his four brothers. While devoted to Duryodhana, Karna knows that even though his skills are as good as, if not better than Arjuna's, he is incapable of killing Arjuna as he is protected by Lord Krishna. When Karna is killed, Duryodhana mourns his death intensely.

The "Lord Krishna-Sudama story": Sudama (also called "Kuchela") was a childhood friend of Krishna from Mathura, the story of whose visit to "Dwaraka" (the capital of the Yadavas who ruled the Anarta Kingdom; Lord Krishna was a member of this ruling clan) to meet Krishna, is mentioned in the "Bhagavata Purana." In reality - Sudama was 'Rishi' Narada - born as a poor Brahmin - in order to enjoy the transcendental pastimes of Lord Krishna. Sudama belonged to a poor Brahmin family, while Krishna was a royal. But this difference in social status did not come in the way of their friendship. They lost contact over the years and while Krishna became a military leader and King of great repute at "Dwaraka," Sudama remained as a humble, and somewhat impoverished Brahmin living in a village. Later, when Sudama went through difficult times - and did not even having enough money to feed his children, his wife reminded him of his friendship with Krishna.

Though initially reluctant to go to his friend for help, Sudama finally relents and leaves with nothing but some 'beaten rice' tied in a cloth as a present. He remembered that 'beaten rice' ('powa'/'poha' in hindi) was Krishna's favorite food and decided to give it as a gift to the Lord. Krishna was very pleased to see his old friend and treated him with a lot of affection. Overwhelmed by all this, Sudama forgets to ask for help - the main purpose of his visit. But Krishna understands his need and the lord's consort 'Rukmini' - an incarnation of "Goddess Lakshmi" (the Goddess of wealth) - gifts Sudama with what he desired. On his way back, Sudama ponderes over his circumstances and is thankful for the great friend he has in Lord Krishna. On reaching home, he finds a palatial mansion instead of the hut he had left behind, his family dressed in splendid clothes - waiting for him. He lives an austere life thereafter, always thankful to the Lord.

This story is told to illustrate that God does not differentiate between people based on their finances and that he will always reward devotion. Another moral taught by this story is to never expect anything free in life; God will provide for our good deeds. Yet another moral is - not to trade "bhakti" (devotion) for anything in return. Sudama did not ask Krishna for anything. Despite being poor, Sudama had given Krishna everything he had ('poha'); hence in return, the Lord (Krishna) gave Sudama everything he needed.

Additionally, the story of 'Sudama and Krishna' contrasts the difference between how Krishna treated Sudama and how King Drupada treated Drona (another story from the great epic - "Mahābhārata.") Drona (later 'Dronacharya') spent his youth in poverty, but studied religion and military arts together with the then 'Prince of Panchala,' Drupada. Drupada and Drona had become close friends as students and Drupada, in his childish playfulness, promised to give Drona half his kingdom on ascending the throne of 'Panchala.' On completion of their studies, the two friends parted ways. Drona later married and had a son, but he was poor. In order to improve the lives of his wife and son, he desired freedom from poverty. Recollecting the promise made by Drupada, he decided to approach him for help. However, drunk with power, King Drupada refused to even recognise Drona and humiliated him by calling him an "inferior person." By contrast, Krishna never forgot his friend and treated Sudama with utmost respect. By this example, Lord Krishna taught us a lesson on how to treat one another.

The story of "Katha Parayumbol"/ "Kuchelan"/ "Billu": All the three films have tried to re-kindle the story of the legendary "friendship" between Lord Krishna and his poor friend Sudama (Kuchela). All the films are essentially the story of two classmates - Pasupathy/ Sreenivasan/ Irrfan Khan (as the 'barber') and Mammootty/ Rajnikanth/ Shah Rukh Khan (in a guest appearance - as the movie superstar) who lose touch and come face to face after many years. Both were poor once, but now one was a very "successful" movie superstar while the other had remained poor - a barber. What the villagers in the barber's village do not know is that the barber had once helped his now famous classmate realise his dream of becoming a filmstar. As the superstar comes to the village to shoot a film, news of their "friendship" spreads like wildfire.

"Friendship" on the silver screen - "Bollywood" style: Even "Bollywood" has immortalised "friendship" on the silver screen. The "Jai-Veeru" jodi from the iconic 1975 film "Sholay" is an example as well as a tribute to "friendship." It is the biggest hit in the history of Bollywood, India's Hindi film industry. The movie, shot in the rocky terrain of "Ramanagara" (a village in Karnataka), is the story of two hired hands, trying to capture a ruthless dacoit by the name of "Gabbar Singh." Two petty criminals, Veeru (played by Dharmendra) and Jai (played by Amitabh Bachchan), are close pals who work together and share everything. Former police chief "Thakur" Baldev Singh (played by Sanjeev Kumar) summons an old colleague and requests him to track down a pair of small-time thieves he had once apprehended in the line of duty. The Thakur explains that Veeru and Jai would be the ideal men to help him end the tyranny of Gabbar Singh - an infamous dacoit (bandit) wanted by the authorities for a sum of Rs 50,000 - as reward. But money is not what the "Thakur" is after. After some difficulty in trusting each other, the "Thakur" demands Veeru and Jai's word and eventually Jai promises that they will do the job and he and Veeru decide to stay in Ramgarh to repel the attacks from Gabbar's large gang. Living in Ramgarh, the cynical young Jai and lively Veeru find themselves growing fond of the villagers, taking pity on their sufferings under the tyranny of bandits. Veeru and Jai fight back and send a message to Gabbar: "for every villager killed by Gabbar, Veeru and Jai will avenge them by killing four of his men in return." Gabbar, angered by this, swears death on Jai, Veeru, the "Thakur," and all of Ramgarh. The battle approaches its climax when 'Basanti' (a feisty, talkative young woman who makes her living driving a horse-cart and to whom Veeru is attracted to) and Veeru are captured and Jai tries to rescue them. Soon Jai is able to get into a position to shoot Gabbar and demands the release of his friends. Veeru and Basanti escape while Jai holds back the bandits from a distance with a rifle. Once Veeru and Basanti are safe, Jai slowly draws back and heads towards his friends, only to be grievously wounded by a bullet on his back.

Jai is reunited with Veeru and Basanti where they realise they are running out of ammunition. As Veeru is unaware of Jai's wound, Jai orders him to go back to the village where he can leave Basanti and then return with more ammunition. Veeru does not want Jai to face the bandits alone, so he suggests that Jai should go. The two dispute over this and finally resort to what has been their only method of resolution over the years - the toss of a coin. As always, Veeru loses the toss and goes back to the village - to get more ammunition. Jai, slowly dying and with only a few bullets with him, manages to fend off the bandits, who were hiding under a bridge and had thrown a stick of dynamite that has failed to explode. Jai manages to get close enough to the dynamite and uses his last bullet to detonate it, taking out the bridge and most of Gabbar's men. Veeru returns to find Jai dying and sadly talks with him before he dies in his arms. Some of the villagers rush to the scene, including Radha - the Thakur's reclusive widowed daughter-in-law, to whom Jai is drawn to and who very subtly returns his affections - who once again must endure the anguish of losing a dear one. As Veeru wipes his tears, he notices the coin in Jai's hand and then it dawns on him that he had been tricked by Jai all along - the coin was actually double-headed, i.e., both the sides of coin were the same and showed the 'heads' part only - Jai always called 'heads' whenever they had a toss to settle some dispute. Thus, Jai had managed to manipulate every situation that they disagreed on, in his favour. Angry at his friend for sacrificing his life to save him, Veeru becomes hell-bent on revenge and goes after Gabbar.

Veeru nabs Gabbar, beats him up badly and is about to finish him off; but before he can kill him, the "Thakur" appears and reminds him of the promise - to bring Gabbar to him ("Thakur") - alive. Veeru is ready to break his word to avenge Jai, and is again reminded that it was Jai who made the promise. Unwilling to break Jai's promise, Veeru hands Gabbar over to the "Thakur" who then reveals his spike-soled shoes - made to make Gabbar beg for a quick death.

Jai's funeral takes place as Veeru stands all alone in front of the pyre. In the distance, Radha watches on through a window. With nothing more for him in Ramgarh, Veeru leaves on a train. But as he looks up, he finds that he is not alone. Basanti too had boarded the train and both she and Veeru leave Ramgarh together.

There is a song in the movie - picturised on the "Jai-Veeru" jodi. This song can be described as an "Ode to friendship" -

"Yeh dosti hum nahin todenge.
Todenge dam magar tera saath na chhodenge....."

Here is the link - to this song which contains the video as well, courtesy Youtube:

Following are a few quotes on "Friendship" - spoken by some learned and famous people - through the ages:

1) "Have no friends not equal to yourself." - Confucious (551 - 497 BC) Chinese philosopher.

2) "Fate chooses your relations, you choose your friends." - Jacques Delille (1738 - 1813) French poet.

3) "Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one." - C.S. Lewis.

4) "A true friend is someone who thinks that you are a good egg even though he knows that you are slightly cracked." - Bernard Meltzer.

5) "It is more shameful to distrust one's friends than to be deceived by them." - Duc de la Rochefoucauld (1613 - 1680) French writer.

6) "I have lost friends, some by death, others through sheer inability to cross the street." - Virginia Woolf.

7) "If a man does not make new acquaintance as he advances through life, he will soon find himself left alone. A man, Sir, should keep his friendship in constant repair." - Samuel Johnson (1709 - 1784) British lexiographer.

8) "Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for 'tis better to be alone than in bad company." - George Washington (1732 - 1799) US Statesman.

9) "Friends may come and go, but enemies accumulate." - Thomas Jones.

10) "It takes a long time to grow an old friend." - John Leonard.

11) "It is not so much our friends' help that helps us as the confident knowledge that they will help us." - Epicurus (341 - 270 BC) Greek philosopher.

12) "Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life." - Mark Twain.

13) "A good friend can tell you what is the matter with you in a minute. He may not seem such a good friend after telling." - Arthur Brisbane.

14) "One loyal friend is worth ten thousand relatives." - Euripides, Greek playwrite.

15) "My friends are my estate." - Emily Dickinson.

16) "Be slow to fall into friendship; but when thou art in, continue firm and constant." - Socrates, Greek Philosopher.

17) "Friendship is the only cement that will ever hold the world together" - Woodrow Wilson.

18) "Anybody can sympathise with the sufferings of a friend, but it requires a very fine nature to sympathise with a friend's success." - Oscar Wilde.

19) "Misfortune shows those who are not really friends." - Aristotle.

20) "The bird a nest,the spider a web, man friendship." - William Blake.

21) "Friendship is love without his wings" - Lord Byron.

22) "Never injure a friend, even in jest." - Cicero.

23) "When true friends meet in adverse hour; 'Tis like a sunbeam through a shower. A watery way an instant seen, The darkly closing clouds between." - Sir Walter Scott.

24) "... no man is useless while he has a friend." - Robert Louis Stevenson.

25) "Think where man's glory most begins and ends, And say my glory was I had such friends." - William Yeats.

26) "Grief can take care of itself, but to get the full value of joy you must have somebody to divide it with." - Mark Twain.

27) "The best mirror is an old friend." - George Herbert.

28) "My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me." - Henry Ford.

29) "Do not save your loving speeches, For your friends till they are dead; Do not write them on their tombstones, Speak them rather now instead." - Anna Cummins.

30) "True friendship's laws are by this rule express'd, Welcome the coming, speed the parting guest." - Alexander Pope.

31) "The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious, it is the true source of art, science, and friendship." - Albert Einstien.

32) "A friend to all is a friend to none." - Aristotle.

33) "Be slow in choosing your friends; slower in changing." - Benjamin Franklin.

34) "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." - Martin Luther King Jr.

35) "Education is the best friend. An educated person is respected everywhere. Education beats the beauty and the youth." - Chanakya, the first great political realist and the world's first "Management Guru."

36) "Treat your kids like a darling for the first five years. For the next five years, scold them. By the time they turn sixteen, treat them like a friend. Your grown up children are your best friends." - Chanakya, the first great political realist and the world's first "Management Guru."

There is no substitute for a friend!

Photograph: A swan in a Chinese zoo feeds its fish friends every day - to the amazement of the visitors.