A fable revisited

Last Updated 27 April 2014, 18:44 IST

A twist to an old tale can be a good way of gaining fresh insights.

In Aesop’s fable, ‘The Hare and the Tortoise’, it is the slow-and-steady tortoise who wins the race against the fast but over-confident hare.

But does it always have to be a contest where one wins and the other loses?

Can we not imagine a win-win situation? Let us, for example, say that both the hare and the tortoise set out towards a pool of fresh, cool water after a hard day’s work.

The tortoise sets out early, as it knows its progress is slow. It meanders towards its goal. Though its progress is slow, it is happy that it is also steady.

On its way, it enjoys all the beautiful sights that surround it.

The hare, in the meantime, has lost no time in rushing towards the pool.

It looks neither left nor right, intent on progress.

At times, overcome by exhaustion, it flops on the grass with closed eyes; soon it recovers and resumes the journey, exulting in the surge of its limbs and the rush of wind on its face.

When it reaches the water, it takes great gulps and then sits back at ease.

It now sees the tortoise come plodding up to the pool to savour the sweet water.

Says the hare, ‘Aren’t you unhappy about the long journey you made so painfully?’

‘No, certainly not,’ answers the tortoise.

‘What a waste of time,’ says the hare.

‘No again,’ replies the tortoise.

‘I enjoyed my time making what you call slow progress.

That’s the way I am.

You prefer the rush and tumble of things.

But then there is nothing to grumble about, is there? We have both enjoyed the cool water and there still enough for both of us!’

The moral of this version of the fable? Notice that there is neither winner nor loser in this tale.

Each manages to achieve his goal, in his own way and in his own time.

It is a pointer to the fact that each of us is differently abled, possessing unique talents and abilities.

If we recognise them and use them in the right way, we experience true success.

Unfortunately, we are often blind to our innate abilities and put ourselves down.

We allow feelings of low esteem to tell us that we will not amount to much. They arise from the opinions of the very people who are close to us, relatives, friends and teachers.

This damaging process can start very early in life, often initiated by parents.

When the child is yet to be born, all they pray for is a child who is normal – that is ‘average’.

However, the moment it arrives, expectations soar and ‘average’ is never good enough.

Every parent wants his child to be the smartest, the most intelligent and the highest achiever.

Very few children can live up to these expectations and if they cannot fulfil them, they are labelled non-achievers.

When a person’s confidence is undermined, he slips down more .

He no longer cares to make use of the special gifts that he is endowed with.

He is oblivious to the fact that it takes all sorts to make this variegated world.

A winner is after all only one among many other competent rivals and the ruler cannot exist without the ruled.

Both the great and the humble have their place in life and a role to play.

We should judge ourselves not by what we cannot do but what we can.

As these wise words tell us, ‘What a little lamp can do, the great sun cannot, that is shine at night.

We are, everyone of us, little lamps.’

(Published 27 April 2014, 18:44 IST)

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