Tuesday, November 19, 2002

The pear tree

A couple of days back I wrote a bit on courage / stupidity and today I am going to do a take on wisdom. Please don't confuse this with knowledge. I think these two are distinctly separate. In my opinion most of the wisdom comes from the real life experiences of applying the knowledge that we have. Ok ok.. I won't bore you with all that mumbo jumbo but listen to this story - again from my life in Kodaikanal.

Kodai school was pretty huge. Our main campus was 18 acres and thats just classes. Our dorms and play grounds spread over other parts of town were literally hundreds of acres and we had to walk quite a distance at to get there.

Mrs. Engineer was an old woman or so we felt because she was in her 80's. Otherwise she was as energetic as any one in their 60's. Short in stature, she was a dorm-parent. Along with her husband she resided in one of the dorms caring for the students and made them feel that their dorm was indeed their home. She would ensure that everyone did their homework and at night the lights were turned off before she herself retired.
It was a routine that after having dinner at the school cafeteria I had to walk to my dorm. I usually took the short cut passing through the campus of this dorm, though it only saved about one minute of extra walk. There was a pear tree, which she had nurtured and grown. This pear tree, which stood right in front of her bedroom window, had very low branches and any one who could walk, could climb it and pluck the pears. Though a small tree - it would bear hundreds of fruits in its bosom. Mrs. Engineer loved it, kids loved it and so did I.

Everyday I would notice one scene - Mrs. Engineer chasing little boys and girls with her cane stick who had come to steal the pears from her pear tree. She would chase them a few yards and the boys and girls would scream and run and when they felt they were a safe distance from her they would stop and giggle. Mrs. Engineer would challenge them to come again, wave her stick in the air, and walk back inside her house. The kids, of course, accepted the challenge.

It so happened one day that while chasing the kids Mrs. Engineer tripped and bruised herself. I picked her up, gave the cane stick back in her hand and ensured that she was steady. As I walked her back to the door I asked her:

'Mrs. Engineer, why don't you let the kids eat your pears? After all you are aged and you can't possibly eat all of them. Look at all those ripe pears which have fallen on the ground because no one plucked them.'

She stopped in her tracks, adjusted her glasses, and looked at me. She said: 'My son, I want those kids to eat the pears. But if I don't chase them, they will never come back.'

That in my opinion is what wisdom is all about...


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