Sunday, December 23, 2012

heard a story during my childhood which is very popular even now. There was a pair of birds, a parrot and a maina. Once there happened a severe drought. People were starving. With great search they could find a grain of gram. They tried to break the grain into two pieces by rubbing it with wooden pillar (picket or stake). Grain broke into two pieces but one piece of grain remained inside the pillar itself as there was some gap in it. Maina was clever enough; she flew away taking the piece, which was outside, in her beak. Now there remained the piece of grain which was the share of parrot and that too inside the pillar. The parrot went to the carpenter and said 
‘O! carpenter cut the pillar
As there is a piece of gram in it
What to eat & what to drink and
What to carry for journey onwards? ’
Carpenter refused to cut the pillar and told her ‘I don’t have so much of time to cut the pillar for your little work’. Then he went to the king and said
‘O! King ‘O! King
punish the carpenter
He is not cutting the pillar
There is a piece of........... ’ 
King too refused, and then parrot went to the queen and said, 
‘O! Queen ‘O! Queen, leave the king
He is not punishing the carpenter 
carpenter is not cutting the pillar ’
Queen also refused and then parrot went to the snake and told him, 
‘O! Snake ‘O! Snake, bite the queen
Queen is not leaving king
King is not punishing carpenter
Carpenter is not........... ’ 
Snake also rejected it so he went to a stick and told him
‘O! Stick ‘O! Stick
beat the snake
Snake is not biting the king
King is not punishing the carpenter
Carpenter is.......... ’
Stick also refused, so he went to the fire and said, 
‘O! Fire ‘O! Fire
Burn the stick
Stick is........... ’
Fire also refused then he went to the river and said, 
‘O! River ‘O! River
extinguish the fire ’ 
River also refused, and then he went to the elephant and said, 
‘O! Elephant ‘O! Elephant
suck the river ’
Elephant too refused and finally one ant listened to the cry of the parrot. She assured that it would try to solve the parrot’s problem. She entered into the trunk of the elephant and started biting.
Elephant requested the ant not to bite. ‘I am ready to suck the river’. He went to river and started sucking. River begged him not to suck it and said. ‘I shall extinguish the fire.’ Likewise this chain reaches the carpenter. Carpenter told the king. ‘I will take out the piece of gram’. Finally, parrot had succeeded in getting the gram.
During the childhood I could hardly understand beyond the literal meaning of this story. But now deeper I think over it, I find that the story denotes the most powerful dimension of social philosophy. Sometimes it seems that this story presents the whole gamut of social and administrative procedures. This story has succeeded in denoting the complex social phenomenon in a very simple manner which is not available anywhere else.
The major role in this story was played by Ant ant. She could dare to bear the risk of self sacrifice. Elephant could have smashed the ant. Only these kinds of ants can bring forth necessary reforms in the system.
Who is this ant? Looking into the social perspective, this ant is none other than the common man and all other elements including the elephant are analogous to the system. One poor common man can also change the system to a large extent. He has to rise, but when he rises to go to the elephant to change the thinking of elephant, risk of being smashed will always be there. But keeping aside the doubt and fear of being smashed, when he will enter into the trunk of elephant with courage, he will be able to change the direction of the thinking of the system. 
Pillar, carpenter, king, queen, fire, stick, river and elephant, all are different dimensions of the system. Thinking process of all these can be rectified by the determination and enthusiasm of an ant and its readiness to sacrifice itself to fight with the system for the sake of a good cause.
Two more things are important in this story. Carpenter could have simply cut the pillar and take out the gram. King could have simply scolded the carpenter and got the work done. Nobody was having the risk of life. But none of them had even little sympathy for the parrot. But ant was so much empathized with the parrot that she entered into the trunk of the elephant even at the cost of its life. As far as reform in the system is concerned sensitivity, sympathy courage , hope and action are the most important prerequisites. 
Secondly, parrot went to the carpenter, king, queen, stick, snake, fire, river and elephant asking for help, weeping but nobody cared for his plight. On the other hand, ant herself asked the parrot the reason of sorrow. This is the true sensibility. If someone explains the reason of sorrow and after listening to that if somebody tries to obviate the problems, it cannot be called true sympathy. True sensitivity is when a person wants to know himself the reason for other’s problems and tries to mitigate it. 
Here a question arises. It is true that carpenter was emotionless. But whether king, queen, snake, river, stick, fire, elephant, all were emotionless or they had some collusion because of vested interests, due to which neither of them were ready to listen to the parrot against any of them nor to punish them. It is quite possible that they were having some alliance amongst them which could be broken by courage and action by the ant. 
This story depicts a good aspect of system as well. Parrot could approach the carpenter, king, queen, stick, snake, fire, river and elephant to explain his problem. He could reach them without any hindrance. Today's scenario probably has worsened even more. Today a common man cannot reach the top echelons of system for telling his problems. Hence, this story becomes more relevant. Now all hopes of the parrot are centered on the ant only. 
Now we are coming reaching to the most important aspect of the story. Prior to meeting of ant with the parrot, entire system was insensitive and inactive. When the ant decided to do something for the parrot and started entering into the trunk of the elephant the whole system became active. Most important thing is that the elements of the system are the same, same carpenter, king, queen, stick, snake, fire, river and elephant. All were inactive but all of them became active after the decision of the ant to rise to the occasion. Nobody had to do too much work. Small fear and realisation of their duty made them active and sensitive. Therefore, the same system and its elements can do better work. Same politicians, officers, bureaucrats, managers. teachers, traders, professionals, advocates and doctors all can do good work. Only common man has to be like the ant.” 
Obviously it is the ant which comes to the parrot to ask for the reason of his sorrow. It is the one who has real sensibility and who is truly following the path narrated by Swami Vivekanand and Kalyandev. this story is there every where in the world in all languages , in Russian ,in arabic in south indian languages,in tribal languages also. There the ant has been replaced by the honey bee or some other creature. This shows the universality of this story.
This story brings out the biggest lesson of leadership and management. Obviously the ant is the most powerful element,the leader,teacher,role model,social transformer and the manager. And the qualities which make the ant leader are essentially four: sensitivity, eagerness to act according to the capacity, courage and hope.