Lesson of the new year

The excesses of the night, or should I say, early morning, had had their toll. ‘Coffee,’ our cocker spaniel, had hogged some of the cake and pasta that we had made to usher in the new year, and he wanted to eat grass to make his tummy feel better. So while most of our neighbours snoozed and made up for lost sleep, we were out in the sun, looking for grass on the sidewalks. The winter sun seemed harsher today on my sleep-deprived eyes.

That’s when we met an old man, in the next lane. He was dropping dried leaves into a place close to the two saplings he had planted some months back. I was sure he had just planted a third sapling and was camouflaging it to prevent goats and cows from chewing it up.

“New sapling for the new year, is it, ‘thatha’?” I asked him. He continued to dig quietly, not able to hear me. Then I bent down and asked him what he was doing. “Just making a compost pit,” he replied. “You see, that is a mango tree, and this is a jackfruit tree. Compost will be good for these trees.”

So there, in hot afternoon on new year’s day, I got my first little lesson of the year in management: It isn’t enough to start new projects, it’s more important to sustain existing ones.

For a minute I wondered why the old man was caring for trees whose fruits he would never live to eat. I didn’t ask him, and so he did not give me a sermon on why we need to be ‘good,’ why we need to grow trees for the next generation, how the fruits of labour are sweeter than the fruits themselves, how it is only ours to do and not to expect the fruits, and so on.

Instead, the nonagenarian went on gathering dried leaves from here and there to feed the compost pit. ‘Coffee’ had had his fill of green grass and wanted to get back home to catch up on lost sleep. For him, and for the old man, what they did came naturally.
Being good... isn’t that the most natural way to be?

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