My mother was right! My birth came in the way!
Hanging my head down, shutting out the insulting jeers of the other boys, I turned on my heel and ran towards the forest.
“You don’t belong here, low-caste tribal!”
My back stung with their humiliating taunts until the dense foliage embraced me into its warm, soothing comfort.
“I told you so,” my mother said, albeit feebly, the sight of my tear-filled face catching in her throat. She couldn’t gloat!
She hugged me, “Your kindness and maturity belie your age, my boy. So what if the guru rejected you because of your birth? You are a warrior too, the son of a powerful tribal chief, born to be a leader. Can’t you learn on your own? ”
Her words filled me with sudden, renewed hope.
“Yes, mother. You’re right. I can learn on my own. He refused to teach me because I am just a Nishadha prince. But I can pick up a thing or two by watching them learn.”
“No! No! I didn’t mean that. I’m not sure if that is wise, my child. What if they catch you?”
“Don’t worry, mother. I know this forest like the back of my hand. I will hide well and watch the warriors learn their lessons in class, and I will return home and practice.”
“How will you pay Guru-Dakshina?”
This question made me hesitate for a while. But then I told her, “I want to learn. But, he doesn’t want to teach me. I’m his student. But is he my guru? Anyway, if he does ask me for it, then it means he has given me his approval, has accepted me, doesn’t it?”
I ran away before she could disagree more. Her protests didn’t stand against my deep, deep desire to master archery.
I also wanted to prove my mother wrong. I had to show her that anyone can learn anytime, anywhere, regardless of caste, gender, or race. It is the fundamental right of men and women. No one should be stopped!
So, I erected a statue of my guru in a little clearing in the deep forest where no one could find me, not even my friends. I watched the other boys attentively, hiding in large, overgrown bushes, and dense leaves of gigantic trees surrounding the school grounds.
Every day, diligently, I came back to my little clearing, repeated their actions, and practiced until the sun went down, often, even after dark. My archery skills grew by leaps and bounds.
My right thumb was the pillar of my strength, the strength of any right-handed archer.
One day he came, seeking Guru-Dakshina. I was thrilled.
Was he ready to accept me now?
I bowed humbly, “Name it, sir.”
“Your right thumb,” he responded without batting an eyelid.
My heart sank! My soul left my body, firmly lodged in the severed thumb.
My mother was right! My birth came in the way.
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