Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Greatest Of Them All

It was a beautiful night. The moon in total splendour generously spread light on all who sought it. The river that flowed with its rhythmic motion accepted the moonlight with all humility and shone like a river of stars. In gratitude, the river painted the moon with a slight hue of blue. From a distance, it seemed that the moon and the river kissed each other; their passions taking over after not having met for over a month. The small cascades in the river seemed like eruptions of joy while the sweet melody of the flowing river provided for the right background score to make the setting perfect. With no peeking eyes, except the stars to add glitter, some fireworks and a few night birds and animals to keep guard, it was love in paradise. The other creatures, having done their bit for the day retired to sleep and regain the energy needed to battle the oncoming day. Life, though challenging, was peaceful in this quiet little jungle.

At a distance, the cries of wolves were heard. Did they wish to join in and add some overtones? They never did, but then why today? What began with one soon transcended across the pack. What had awoken these sly animals that sensed things before they happened? Was it a human intervention, a hunter on the prowl? The cries of the wolves woke up the entire forest. Mothers made sure their little ones were safe. The adults grouped together prepared to face any attack. The emergency bugle had been sounded in their land and their master strategic plans had been kicked in, but least did they know, no plan had been created for this kind of emergency.

It was as if the Gods were having a duel of their own, the spectators being the stars above and the earthlings below. At first, words were exchanged resulting in deafening thunders. One after the other the replies kept getting louder, each side trying to make his point by overpowering the other. When words failed to prove a point, weapons were drawn. The skies trembled with fear and cracked open to reveal streaks of lightning. Sparks began to fly and the poor animals below hid their faces in the earth. Suddenly all this celestial drama came to an end, ending with three gigantic shooting stars crisscrossing the night sky. Where they would fall, was not known. But it seemed like the worst was over, at least for now.

Ouch, I can’t see a thing. The sand is all in my eyes”

“Forget seeing, I can’t feel a thing”

“You can’t see a thing, you can’t feel a thing. I don’t deserve to be here. But…all thanks to you both”

“It’s not my fault; I never started it.”

“Mine neither”

“Enough! Both of you. We are already suffering enough. The Gods unable to bear us anymore have banished us from heaven. Unless we get our act together and resolve our differences, we won’t be welcomed back. So let’s work on that in a calm manner, which I hope we can do and get this sorted quickly. Or you never know, we may have to make this earth our home, the thought of which itself, is disturbing. Let’s dust ourselves of this sand and get this done right away.”

The three beings in conversation were Love, Intelligence and Boldness. Leaving no stone unturned in trying to prove their supremacy over the other, they were always at loggerheads. Their news had spread far in the heavenly kingdom, much to the anxiety of the rest who lived amicably. They had been warned many a times, but all it did was quieten them for a few days. The days that followed saw an increase in momentum surpassing the previous heights reached. The last fight involving the three went beyond the limits of tolerance, both in temper and destruction and had widespread implications threatening to divide the entire kingdom into sects. Using all his powers, Love played with the emotions of the people and blackmailed them. Intelligence, using all his wit, played games and laid traps. A favourite of all the intellectuals, he had a strong following beyond compare. Boldness drew fear away from the minds of the people and made them believe that they could win over any calamity that threatened them, no matter how small in number they were.

The fissures were clearly visible now, and unless something was done quickly, the kingdom would be torn apart. Worried about the impending future, the Gods decided to take the matter to the Oracle, the supreme power in the universe, the one who had an answer to everything. Though her solutions did not make sense then and there, but in the long run they were immaculate. Always clad in a deep V-neck white beaded flowing dress with a necklace of white jewels as her only accessory, she travelled in a cloud with the stars lighting up her way. Though known for her wisdom, her beauty was no less. Often people came to her to find a way through their troubles but would get lost in her beauty.

The Oracle was highly respected not only in the kingdom but the entire universe and was often consulted and visited by other Gods from near and far. She had a calm demeanour but a short temper. No one in recent memory had seen it, but the stories that had passed through the generations were enough of an indication.
With her eyes closed, she calmly listened to the distress of her people. Once they were done, she opened her eyes. Spending a few minutes in silence she said, “The problem is no longer about swelling pride but about three warring factions. I would like to address your people. Go inform your kingdom.” The Gods, without asking any further questions, bowed in respect and left.

The entire kingdom assembled to hear what the Oracle had to say. On earlier occasions whenever people assembled there were smiles and cheer around. But this time, with tempers soaring, animosity filled the air. People stuck to their clans and did not verbally interact with people of other clans. The only interaction was through dirty looks, which least said were provocative. The Oracle took the high chair and asked for Love, Intelligence and Boldness to step forward. The chatter dropped to a pin drop silence, and everyone’s eyes were fixed on the proceedings. The Oracle asked each of them their reasons for fighting. The three gave their own reasons but blamed the other for starting the conflict. The accusations and counter-accusations led to a fight again, increasing the unrest among the clans. Seeing their leaders being blamed for the fights, with tempers flaring, forgetting they were in the presence of the Oracle the clans joined in too. The Oracle’s patience was being tested. Swords were drawn, and brother was no longer brother. Rivers of blood had started flowing. The assembly had turned into a battlefield. The Oracle had had enough. Everyone present were about to see her fury.

The Oracle raised her hand and snapped her fingers rendering everyone motionless. They could see, hear but couldn’t move, no matter how much or how hard they tried. She looked at the three leaders of the clans. “You people have disgraced this kingdom and deserve no place here. If you all think, you can live without each other, then learn to live without your people first. It’s only then you will realize the importance of the other and what acceptance means. You are henceforth banished from this universe till you sort out your differences. To make sure you don’t go separate ways you shall be tied with chains to each other.” Looking at her guards, she ordered them to throw the three to a faraway land.”

On earth, after dusting themselves, the three of them sat down silently. No one wanted to speak first. Mentally, all of them were cursing the heat, the place, the position they were in. Most of all, the company they had. “It would be much better if I were alone” was the only thought on their minds. The afternoon passed. Yet, not a word was spoken. Thirsty, hungry and tired because of the exhaustion their spirits began to droop. Love saw a small lake at a distance. Wasting no time he stood up and began to run towards it. He took a few steps but suddenly fell down tripping on the chains that tied the three together. Seeing him fall, the other two burst out laughing. An irritated Love got up, looked at them with disdain and said, “Can’t you all see that lake at a distance? If we reach it, we’ll probably survive unless you have plans of dying here.” Intelligence and Boldness looked in the direction Love pointed to but couldn’t see any lake.

“Are you sure you can see a lake? I think all you can see is a mirage.” Intelligence said.

“Agree” Boldness spoke up.

“I’m stuck with two people who don’t even believe me. I so hate this” Love reacted.

“I thought where there is love there is no place for hate.” “And where there's love there's complete trust as well” the other two pitched in. Love felt silent and thought to himself. Wasn’t that the universal truth? Wasn’t that the essence of love?

“Look over there” Intelligence spoke up “I see a lady coming with a pitcher of water on her head. We can ask her for some.” The other two having no other option agreed and started moving. Boldness led the way. But Intelligence, as was always the case tried to take the lead. When he was just about to overtake Boldness, the chain around his hand got too tight for comfort. Wincing with pain, he stopped in his tracks and held his hand hoping for some relief.

“Intelligence is one thing, and smartness is another, but in this case over-smartness did you in”, Love said without wasting a minute to level the score. Though they were tied up together, the duel was still on, however, in a much subdued manner, probably because of the situation they were in. The two of them waited for Intelligence to get better but without losing track of the lady. She had what they needed dearly and couldn’t miss it at any cost.

After they were done they marched on with Intelligence leading the way. On reaching the lady, Love told Intelligence, "Ask her for some water".

Intelligence tried to avoid asking. He was intelligent but shy. Presenting his point unless asked for and taking a stand were qualities alien to Intelligence. Seeing life and its every opportunity as a profit and loss equation was all he did with no space or concern for emotions.

Not to be looked down upon, Intelligence tried to ask the lady, but all he could manage was a mutter, audible and understandable only to him.

“Lost for words?” Boldness asked him. “Intelligence is needed but to execute plans boldness is needed most. After all fortune favours only the brave.” Looking at Boldness, Intelligence said, “You ask her” and stepped aside and adjusted the chains to allow Boldness come forward. Boldness went near the lady who was ignorant of their presence and said, “Hello.” The lady who was in her own world stopped and looked around, but she saw no one. Thinking it was a product of her imagination she continued walking. Boldness went near her again and spoke louder, “Hello, can we have some water?” The lady looked around again. She had heard the words clearly but couldn’t see anyone. She was all alone in the desert and felt shivers down her spine. Without wasting a moment, she made the run for her life dropping the pot of water she carried. Her run confused the three to such an extent that they were caught off guard and remained spectators as the pot crashed and broke into pieces. The desert, as thirsty as it was, gulped down the water without leaving a trace.

“The water…” the three reacted on seeing it disappear into the desert.

“Now what should we do?” Love said helplessly.

“Let’s follow the lady immediately. In such a state, she must have run to her village to seek protection. If we follow her, we can be safe.” Intelligence had a point. If the lady came from somewhere she had to be heading somewhere. With a pot full of water, she most probably would be heading home. Using the lesson taught by experience, they quickly formed a single file. Intelligence led the way with eyes fixed on the lady in the distance. In case he missed her, her footsteps would keep them on track. While they were at it, Love asked, “But why did she run away?”

“Because she was scared I guess…but then why was she scared?” Boldness asked.

“Because she couldn’t see us” Intelligence answered. “We are invisible to these creatures. It just occurred to me. They can only hear us but cannot see us. We are after all, feelings, which to humans are abstract.”

The invisibility factor increased their woes. There was no way they could communicate with people for it would drive them away with fear. They had to find another way. However, their being invisible also gave them a cover of protection from humans and beasts alike.

Walking behind the lady, they passed through a cover of green. It was surprising that a large green cover existed in a desert. Amazed at the works of God they moved on and arrived at the gates of a large kingdom. ‘Welcome to Xenobia’ the signboard read. Without stopping for authentication, the three moved in and walked the streets. Children played with joy, vendors sold their goods and buyers bargained as much as they could. It was like a complete city based in the middle of nowhere.

Still thirsty they looked around for water but couldn’t find any.

“Strange isn’t it? You can find everything over here except water. The wells are dry too.” Boldness asked with shock.

“Surely something is the matter; we must find out” Love spoke with the rest nodding their heads in agreement. They headed to the palace to get more details.

History had it, that water was never scarce in this land until differences arose with the neighbouring kingdom Genovia. As a result, Genovia blocked the flow of water leaving their neighbours high and dry. In due course of time, their stocks ran out, and water had to be fetched from far away. The only way to end this was to sort out the differences and bring the two kingdoms together. The silver lining was the prince and princess of either kingdoms were in love.

“If we get the two together the kingdoms shall come together, and the people’s water problems will get solved.” Boldness said after the three of them quenched their thirst by drinking some water available in the palace.

“Also two people in love should not be separated," Love said.

“But to arrive at a good plan we need to play to our strengths. In short it should have the right mix of Love, Intelligence and Boldness. We also need to consider our limitations – no one can see us but only hear us.” Intelligence suggested.

“Wish we could consult the Oracle; a full proof plan would be ready in minutes. But anyways, we now need to think of one ourselves.” Love said as he saw the challenge that lay before him. The three of them discussed, debated and deliberated. It was for the first time that they didn’t fight with each other but complemented each other. Finally, they drew a plan and made sure no loopholes existed. A slight error could ruin things further and once the plan was in action, there was no turning back.

“Your Highness! our intelligence sources have informed us that the army of Genovia is preparing for battle against us. The king shall officially declare it soon.”

“What?” the king of Genovia reacted in shock at the news brought to him by his commander-in-chief. “But why and how come all of a sudden?’

“Sire, it seems their water woes have increased. The people have begun revolting against their king. Their king, given his old age decided to go with his people and all out against us.”

“We had no problems in sharing our waters. But they disrespected us. Remember?”

“Yes sire, but now what do we do?”

“What is the preparedness of our army?”

“Sire, just give us the orders and our troops shall march on”

“Fine then, get your forces ready and await my orders.”

Seeing the proceedings, Intelligence was satisfied. Spreading a rumour was his part of the plan. What began in the streets of Xenobia reached the ears of the kings of the either kingdoms. Man is in every sense,  a mere messenger. He will never try to verify the contents of the message before delivering it. He will blindly just pass it on.

In a few days, the two armies were standing face to face, both well in their territories, at least as of now. The situation was tight, and a slight provocation would ignite the fire.

“Father, I request you. Let’s not get blood on our hands.” The children requested their royal fathers. But their fathers were in no mood of listening. The enemy was in front of them. The time for talk was over. All that needed to be decided was who would be the last man standing. The bugle was sounded, and the armies clashed. The number of casualties on either side kept increasing. The king of Genovia kept moving forward bravely talking off the enemy’s soldiers in his way. He was almost about to reach the enemy’s gates when he called for his army to stop fighting. His army stopped at once but in wonder as to what made him stop especially when they had an upper hand. He threw away his guard and armour and made a dash for a spot where two people lay dead on the ground. Their attire did not resemble any of the armies but was familiar. When he reached the place, he knelt down and cried. Unable to see what was wrong, the king of Xenobia too came near him. On seeing the bodies, he too began to sob.

"My daughter," he said. “How could this have happened?”

“Sire! They must have got caught in the battle” The king’s officer replied.

“Look at what we have lost. Our fight has taken away our only kindle of joy. I wish we had not gone into battle. Our children would have been safe. Go, take your water” the king of Genovia unable to bear the loss broke down.

“I too am sorry for your loss and all the differences between us. I no longer want any of this. I have paid a hefty price. If our children were alive, we could have got them married and ended this feud forever.” The king of Xenobia replied.


“Yes, but what’s the use now?” the king turned to the person who had asked him. He was in disbelief of what he saw. His daughter was alive, the neighbouring king’s son too.

“My child you are alive. We thought you were dead.” The king of Xenobia replied with a mix of shock and joy. Tears of sorrow turned to tears of joy as he hugged her tightly.

“I am sorry father. We acted as if we were dead, but we had no choice. We tried explaining that the war would lead to no good. But no one listened.”

“Did you mean you had this planned…How?”

“Worried that the matter would go out of hand, the prince sent me a letter with this idea. Understanding the gravity of the situation and with complete trust in the prince, I agreed.” The king’s head hung in shame.

“We are sorry that our foolishness took us to such extremes.” Turning towards the king of Genovia he said, 

“Let us end this once and for all. Our children have taught us a valuable lesson.”

“I agree, Oh king of Xenobia. In fact, I recommend we mark this occasion and take our relationship to a new high. I suggest we get our children married to each other.”

“That’s a fantastic idea. Our relationship would bring peace and prosperity to our kingdoms just like in olden times.”

Seeing the two kings unite, the prince and princess were very happy. Not only their people had come together and the scarcity of water had been eliminated but also they were going to get married, and years of separation were soon going to end.

In a few days, the two kingdoms came together to celebrate the wedding which seemed impossible till a few days back. Intelligence, Love and Boldness, had smiles etched ear to ear.

“Such a lovely moment isn’t it?” Love said.

“Yes, it is. Our plan worked perfectly. We spread the rumour intelligently, boldly taking the risk of war.” Intelligence replied.

“But wait a minute, where did love fit in all this?” Boldness questioned mockingly.

Love looked at Boldness and replied calmly, “Love is not about hugs and kisses but is a lot more than that. Love is also care and trust. In this case, both, the prince and princess cared for their people. Because they loved each other, the princess trusted the prince. Because there was trust, she decided to take the plunge. So, do you now see?” Intelligence and Boldness kept looking at Love. He was right.

“If we three are present together in any relationship it would never break and always be filled with happiness. 

Wonder why it took so long for us to understand this basic fact. All along we kept fighting on who is the greatest amongst us. We didn’t realize that we are great only when we are together, alone we are nothing.” Intelligence pointed out while the rest agreed in unison.

The three of them suddenly felt lighter on their feet. When they looked down they saw that the chains which had inhibited their movements had disappeared. But before they could react they were sucked up into thin air and found themselves standing right before the Oracle herself.

“So have you found out who the greatest amongst you?” The Oracle asked.

The three replied in the affirmative.

The Oracle, on knowing everything gave them a smile and said, “Welcome back.”

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