AN ELEPHANT AND A BETEL NUT
I was a school boy, when I first heard from our teacher the famous proverb in Kannada, “Aaney Kaddaru kalla, adike kaddaru kalla.”
Means: A thief is a thief whether he steals an elephant (Aaney) or a betel nut (Adike).
There was a huge blackberry (Jamun) tree in our neighborhood. In season time, this tree attracted lots of kids, which included me. Some of us climbed the tree to steal jamuns, and some of us threw stones to get them… till, the land-lady came screaming and abusing, a long stick in her hand. For her, we kids were ‘thieves’… “Aaney kaddaru kalla, adike (in this case, Jamun) kaddaru kalla!
Whenever I look back at these episodes, my heart smiles: I am a thief… Not a big thief. I am a cheat… Not a big cheat. I am a liar… Not a big liar. I am a sinner… Not a big sinner. But, the fact remains: whether I steal an elephant or whether I steal a betel nut (Or, our neighbor land-lady’s jamuns), thief I am…
Am I not?
So many childhood incidents of cheating’, lying’ and stealing come before me; and I simply feel like shutting my eyes whenever they come. Most of the times, I was not caught. Sometimes, I was. And, I still remember how my little mind would be consumed by the feeling of fear, shame, denial, attempts to cover-up, guilt, anger etc.
As I became an adult, the child in me, that tried to steal, cheat, lie, cover-up – yes, this child hasn’t left me. It has simply grown along. This means, the ‘fear of being caught’ – shamed and damned – still drives me to be a fine human. Because I do not want to be shamed and damned, I try not to steal, cheat and lie big time…
Today is Good Friday. Jesus Christ is my hero for showing to me more of His human side… His compassion for sinners and the condemned, alike… He cleansed everyone who cried their sins out before him… “The one among you, who hasn’t sinned, let him cast the first stone!”… “Judge not others so that you won’t be judged”… “Forgive seventy times seven”… The Parable of the Prodigal son… The intense prayer at the Gethsemane Garden when He was in grief, fear and conflict… the powerful prayer of surrender and peace: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me. If this cannot pass unless I drink it, Your will be done”
So, it was Jesus Christ, the human - who feared, cried, went into hiding, sought help from His Father… at the same time healed, touched, forgave, gave hope – yes, I am a follower of this Jesus Christ…. The one who ‘fumbled and fell’ carrying the Cross to Calvary… Nailed on the cross like a criminal!
Valmiki, the great sage who wrote Ramayana, was, once, a dacoit. It was Narad muni’s touch that cleansed him of his sinfulness…
St. Paul, one of the greatest Apostles of Jesus, who was called Saul, was a heartless persecutor of early Christians. On one of his persecution missions (along the road to Damascus), he was transformed by the touch of Jesus Christ!
Fallible we all are… We all live in our glass houses. Therefore, we have no business to throw stones at others’. If we all deserve God’s forgiveness when we repent for our sins, then, we should be more and more compassionate towards those who sin…
We all should get off our judgement seats!
Some days ago, when the ball-tampering episode exploded, almost all of us were shocked and angry. We condemned the concerned players of the Australian cricket team as cheats and criminals. Yes, we all sat on the judgement seat and meted out our own punishment… Yes, till Australian team captain, Steve Smith, gave that heart-wrenching press conference. When I saw this, I felt a lot healed myself… For, Smith, with that one courageous and utterly human act, had challenged me, stripped me… exposed my hypocrisy. Whether Smith will ever play cricket or not, that one act of honesty… yes, it shall keep inspiring me and keep giving me hope…that, whether I steal an elephant or a betel nut, it doesn’t matter. What matters is: whether or not I own up the way Smith did…
Today, my friend, Ajith Nair, a great cricket buff, had written a very thought-provoking Blog. I am sharing it here with my readers…
Embracing the Steve Smith in Us
I felt the same intense anger that cricket fans all over felt when I learnt about the ball-tampering incident. After the “brain fade” in India, Steve Smith did not leave much love on the table. We always knew he was not the most honest guy around.
And then, on Thursday, he broke down at the Press conference. Those tears were real… One felt sorry.
Which Steve Smith is the real Steve Smith - the one who cheated or the one who cried and repented?
In my last blog I wrote about how narrow definitions of ‘growth’ confine and stifle us into spaces that we don’t necessarily enjoy but end up being in. While doing so, we suppress and submerge those parts of ourselves which are truly ourselves - our core selves, which make us feel truly alive.
Steve Smith was, probably, caught in such a place… The part of him, that wanted success at all costs and could not take failure, was dominant and active. In fact, it was the dominant part that puts on whites and walked on to the field. This was the part that played hard cricket, competed down to the last run and set high standards… all desirable traits. This part spurred him on from being spinner and par-time batsman to a top-order batsman and world champion. But, this is also the part that said “win at any cost”, “can’t afford to lose come what may”. This is the part that led to the brain fade, and now tampering… It killed him in the end.
The part that emerged at the press conference and cried was his purer self - the boy who played the game for joy, the boy who grew up wanting to wear the baggy green and represent Australia, the honest, well-meaning, hardworking young man who loved the game and played it for the love of the game. All of us who have played any sport will know this part. Where, just being on the maidan or field is enough… where, the blazing sun or the bleeding leg don’t matter… where, running in to celebrate a wicket is the most beautiful thing on earth… and, where, you respect the game and those who play it… where, the spirit triumphs the outcome… where, how to play is as important, if not more than who wins.
In the frenzy to win, to succeed, Steve Smith submerged this part deep within himself, its feeble voice drowned out by the sound of sandpaper against leather.
We have both Steve Smiths in all of us - with similar tussles and struggles. How we balance the pusher and achiever with the one who lends sanity, balance and anchors in a value system will determine, if we end up living a journey, possibly, with fewer wins but with a lot more achievement and inspiration, or end up crying at a Press conference.
Pic.: Shrinivas Dhanala