My grandmother used to tell me these beautiful stories in my childhood and they stuck with me all through my growing years. My Dadi used to sit us down in the afternoons and spin tales in the soft-spoken way she was known for.
One such afternoon, I remember this story which touched my soul. “In olden times, there was a fable about a young athletic boy hungry for success, for whom winning was everything and success was only measured by such a result. One day, the boy was preparing himself for a race in his small native village. Ram had to compete against two other boys. A large crowd had congregated to witness the sporting spectacle and a wise old man, upon hearing of the little boy, had travelled far to bear witness also,” she said to all of us grandchildren who had sat around her.
“The race started and the little boy put in his determination, strength and power which took him to the winning line and naturally he was first. The crowd was ecstatic and cheered and waved at the boy. The wise man remained still and calm, expressing no sentiment. The little boy, however, felt very proud and important.”
Dadi used to keep sipping water from the steel glass next to her bed in between the narrative.
“A second race was announced, and two new young and fit challengers came forward, to run with the little boy. The race started and sure enough the little boy came through and finished first once again. The crowd was overjoyed once again and cheered and waved at the boy. The wise man remained expressionless again conveying no sentiment. The little boy felt on top of the world.”
“Another race, another race!” the little boy had pleaded.
The wise old man had then stepped forward and presented the little boy with two new challengers, an elderly frail lady and a blind man.
“What is this?” the little boy had quizzed.
“This is no race!” he had exclaimed.
“Race!” the wise man had shouted.
The race started and the boy was the only one to finish as the other two challengers were left standing at the starting line. The little boy was jubilant; he raised his arms in delight. The crowd, however, was silent showing no sentiment toward the little boy.
“What has happened? Why are the people not happy about my success?” he had asked the wise old man.
“Race again,” the wise man had replied. “But this time, finish together, all three of you, finish together,” continued the wise man.
The little boy thought a little about the strange request, stood in the middle of the blind man and the frail old lady, and then took the two opponents by the hand. The race began and the little boy walked slowly, ever so slowly, to the finishing line and crossed it. The crowd once again cheered and waved at the boy. The wise man had smiled and had gently nodded his head. The little boy had felt proud and important.
“I just don’t understand! Who is the crowd cheering for? Which one of us three?” the little boy had asked.
The wise old man had looked into the little boy’s eyes, placed his hands on the boy’s shoulders, and replied softly.
“Little boy, in this race you have won much more than the other races you ran in, for in this race the crowd cheered not for any winner but for your sportsmanship!”
“It doesn’t matter if you win or lose… It is how you play that matters,” Dadi had said to us and that was a lesson I learnt very early in life.
- Congregated: gathered.
- Sportsmanship: fair conduct while playing games.