Lessons in the Snow
"There is no season, no time, and no etiquette to tell a story"--Anu.
He had no doubts about what constitutes reality, Subedar Singh thought. In the part of the world which they were in—the three of them, the Lieutenant, the soldier and him—reality was the most unpredictable aspect of existence; slippery, shocking and horrible. The place they were in was the
Himalayas, in one of the obscure mountains. There was snow every where. It was December and therefore more snowy. It was not the thick, white, blinding snow that constructs and coagulates reality here, the Subedar thought, but the red, sticky fluid that leaks from the bullet burnt skin-holes and spreads on the white serenity of the snow—blood.
The three of them were standing at the Indo-Pak border area. It was then the Lieutenant told them a story. ‘There is no season, no time, and no etiquette to tell a story.’—the Subedar thought.
“Friends,”—the Lieutenant’s voice raised above the serenity, maligning it with echoes—“the story happened years back in one of the ancient monasteries in the lap of
Himalaya. The monastery was situated in the valley. Though the guru in the monastery accommodated many students there, his love was specific towards two of them—Rithu and Pavan.
“The day came when Rithu and Pavan had to part from the monastery, as the period of their education under the guru was over. The guru summoned both of them. He had an offer. There still was a confusion, who would be the apt person for being bestowed with the offer?
"Both Rithu and Pavan were equally talented, though skilled in different areas. Pavan was a poet and Rithu was a fighter. The two students came in front of their teacher. The guru asked them a question: ‘Who would be ready to teach students in this monastery, for the rest of their future?’
"That was a great offer and that proved their extreme abilities. The question was plain, direct. It supplied a bright and enthusiastic gleam on the faces of both the students. But one of them, Pavan, suddenly seemed gloomy. He said: ‘Guru, respected master, I am sorry. I do not think myself to be capable of handling such a great responsibility of teaching students. I still feel myself to be a student. There are a lot more things for me to learn. How can I then be a teacher?’—the guru looked at his shoulders, which were sagging due to his deteriorated confidence.
“Then was the turn of Rithu. He said: ‘I am ready, Guru, my master. You are my teacher and I learnt whatever you taught me. If I doubt myself and my abilities, I doubt you. And I don’t.’—he squinted at Pavan, who was standing beside him with lowered eyes and a sad face, as a loser.
“Now, it was the time for the guru to speak up. ‘I choose Pavan’—he said.
“The two students stood aghast. ‘But…but…’—Pavan could not utter his expressions.
“Rithu’s face changed into an infuriated red. However, he immediately regained his composure.
“‘But why master? I thought I delivered the best answer for your question.’—There still was an underlying shiver in Rithu’s voice, a shiver from dejection.
“‘You are a good student, Rithu.’—The guru spoke—‘But, I want a good teacher. A good teacher is someone who can identify himself with the students; who feels that there is a lot more to learn than what is acquired. And Pavan knows what he doesn’t know.’
“And thus the guru chose his follower.”—the Lieutenant stopped.
“Pavan knew what he did not know.”—the Subedar uttered, almost unconsciously.
The soldier who, until then was quietly looking at the two officers, broke his silence. “When we take something for granted, like Rithu, who trusted is master’s wisdom and his own capabilities blindly, we are forcing ourselves to the loser’s end; Am I correct saabji?”
The lieutenant smiled in relief that they learnt the lesson, which they have to follow in the coming days in those snow shrouded peaks.