'Be kind; for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle' - Philo of Alexandria
Today evening I was at my friend's when the help came running, shouting 'Snake, Snake in the house, it is a 'Raja Vembala' (King Cobra).' We went investigating and true, it was a Cobra, if not the King. Juvenile Indian Cobra ( naja naja), about 12 cms long, how beautiful was its hood! It lay coiled, partly hidden beneath a crack in the wall head down and we could see the characteristic spectacled band. My friend poked it with a long stick and it drew up its head, sprang, hissed and bit the stick twice in quick succession. I looked at it hypnotized, awed at the sound of its hissing. Both of us were nature lovers and would not harm any creature, but here the situation was a bit different. The womenfolk of the house were near-screaming, blubbering about the snake's mother being around, about the nearby temple with the sacred grove from where the snake presumably came- we had to kill it. My friend jabbed a stick at the snake's neck, pinning him to the wall and I struck on its head with another stick. While taking aim and striking it, I said sorry sorry sorry. I wished I were a snake whisperer or something, Romulus Whitaker or a famous snake-catcher like Vava Suresh. We pondered briefly whether to call this snake-catcher, but it was getting late in the evening and rain clouds hung around. Taking the dead snake and burying it in a small pit, I kept on mumbling my apologies. We are criminals, I thought, falling foul of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, and you call yourselves a nature conservationist! This is the second snake I had to kill in my life- the first one was a huge Pit Viper which wanted to share rooms with me in our hut in Attappadi hills. I wish I needn't had to kill the little cobra. It was not the lack of kindness for the creature that made me kill it, but the sheer necessity of survival.
Perhaps, I mused sipping a cuppa, perhaps, all the violence in the world could be justified in the same way.
Today I had been to a meeting of the 'Thai Kula Sanghom' , a women's movement among the indigenous communities of Attappadi. In the wake of more than 40 deaths of newborn and young babies due to malnutrition and starvation, Attappadi is currently in the news these days. As I left the meeting I had to extricate my scooter which was between an autorickshaw and a car. As I turned it around, the rear of the scooter gently bumped on the side of the autorickshaw. Boy, the kind of filth that the driver spewed at me! I was rather taken aback at his reaction - I didn't even hear the sound of the bumping. As he ranted furiously, I smiled at him and said I am sorry. But that wasn't enough for him. I asked him why you getting so worked up about a non-incident. There is not a scratch nor a dent on the auto, I said relax man, take a look at yourselves in the mirror. As I moved away, I could still hear his cursing. I was smiling as I went my way. He must be having a terrible day and I could have been a bit useful here to vent his frustration.
In the recent past, one of the things that had upset me most was the remarks made by a close friend. It is irrelevant whether his remarks about me were true or not; what hurt me was not the venomous spite but the lack of kindness in his words, in the detailed enumeration of my faults, my weaknesses. my handicaps - in his harsh criticism of what I am, I could not find even a trace of forgiveness or acceptance of a person who has been his close friend for so long. I am like the rest of humanity, an ordinary individual. Like most, I too aspire for great things, achievements, recognition of some sort, a sense of purpose in life; and like most, I have fallen short of all that. Perhaps the fundamental fault within me is that I lack the gritty aggression, the tenacity and perseverance of the 'successful' minority amongst us. Within each of us, we are constant fight with ourselves, to improve our circumstances, whether financial or social or emotional - a single word for that would be - to survive. We tread the water in order not to sink. Some swim along with the stream, some against the current. Some succeed, some succumb.
Kindness - is a virtue that outshine others. Whether it is kindness to oneself, to fellow beings or to our planet as a whole. Lack of kindness is equally a characteristic that overcasts our lives. War, genocide, destruction of the environment, squashing others underfoot.
Back home, I gaze at the White Board kept on my table. ( This is a new addition - I write up things to do, things to shop for etc on it) I have scrawled thus on the board - 'Be kind; for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle', I am at peace, with myself, with my friend, with the world...
*********** Balachandran V, Trivandrum, 24.05.2013