SOULTales - Character Strengths, Stories & Vocabulary

Monday, December 19, 2016

Grit and Perseverance - The Legend of the Koi - Chinese tale

Grit & Perseverance - Voluntary goal oriented behaviour, despite obstacles, disappointments, difficulties and discouragements.The ability to continue taking the right actions that lead us towards our goals despite setbacks and brickbats. This trait falls within the sphere of Courage.

Some of the ways to develop this trait is to have a role model and mentor who can guide either in person or in spirit. This trait can also be developed by setting small simple weekly goals and achieving them on a regular basis. This particular value/trait is ranked highest amongst all traits to possess and is associated with delayed gratification in its ability to predict success.

King Bruce and the Spider is a classic legend set in medieval Scotland that brings out this value to perfection.  
Mathematician Andrew Wiles had a 30 year obsession with Fermats Last theoram and spent 7 relentless years to finally arrive at a solution. Grit; Plays a major role in shaping people's life!

Vocabulary to Use


You can listen to an audio of this story here:

The Legend of the Koi Fish - a Tale from China ( adapted )

A very long time ago, there flowed a yellow river on earth and from where it met the horizon, flowed a blue river to the sky. The two were separated by the Dragon Gate and what lay yonder on the blue river was the magical Great Waterfall.

Every fish in the river dreams of swimming through the yellow river and reaching the other side. But this was an arduous task, for the water flowed upstream and many fish gave up even before they started. 
...Except for one little fish called Blue Koi, who lived in the yellow river along with his gorgeous and elegant Father Black Koi and Mother Red Koi.

This little remarkably deep Blue Koi had a heart of its own. He wished to swim upstream and reach the Great Waterfall, for he had heard from his Father that all those who could get to the other side would grow wings and become transformed into a Dragon Fish. So he dreamed of becoming one.

The current was strong when Blue Koi started flapping his fins. He flapped and flapped and pushed himself as much as possible. Gradually he progressed up the river towards his goal.

Yet his loud flapping attracted the Gods who were guardians of the blue river. They peered down from the skies to see this iridescent Koi swimming with such focus. They did not like it one bit. They did not want any more newcomers to their river and definitely not such a small Koi fish. They clapped their hands and suddenly the River Mouth Monster emerged from the deepest part of the yellow river and stood ready with his mouth open for he could swallow anything that crossed its path.

The Blue Koi was taken unawares and found himself dragged into the deep cavernous mouth of the river monster. But he was alert and watchful and that is how he noticed the tiny holes on the skin of the River Mouth Monster, just big enough for him to squeeze through and with renewed effort, he bravely swam through the tiny pore and escaped from the hurdle placed in front of him.
Again he flapped and flapped and pushed as much as possible.

Now the Gods were eager to test him once more, so with a swish of their hands they churned the yellow river so badly that Blue Koi could see nothing. Dirt and dredge floated around him and he flapped helplessly trying to see ahead. He waited patiently for the dirt to settle down, which it did after a long while and then once again Blue Koi resumed his flapping. Some would say that the Wind God was impressed by him and sent a gentle and calming breeze to settle the water, while some say the Blue Koi Fish was himself so patient that finally the river did settle down.
Yet again he kept flapping and flapping as much as possible.

Now Blue Koi could feel a different tension on his fins, he knew he was nearing the Dragon Gate, the water was flowing very differently. Bump! His head touched something hard and the water too had reduced to a thin trickle. He looked around and noticed there was yet again another hurdle in his way. A huge wall stood in front of him and beyond that he could hear the gurgling and gushing of the Great Waterfall.

“I am almost there, except that I have to cross this wall. How can I do this?” both excited and exhausted at the same time, Blue Koi muttered.
The Gods had created a huge wall in front of the Dragon Gate and the Blue Koi had only one way to cross this hurdle. He had to JUMP, even though he was tired and exhausted. He had to make this final effort.

Taking a deep breath (in fish that would be flapping harder), Blue Koi jumped as high as he could. He only splashed back into the water. Again and again he jumped and then jumped yet again. The Gods laughed, but he was relentless. Every time he fell down, he flapped his fins and jumped right back. This went on for very long.

Finally the Gods who till now were testing him, feeling great admiration for him, quickly summoned the River God to create a huge wave that carried little Koi right up and over the wall and through the Dragon Gate. He had made it with a lot of effort and whole lot of perseverance! 

The Blue Koi looked at himself and realised that as he crossed the Golden Gate he had been transformed. Elegant paper thin, colourful wings now adorned his two sides and he had become a true Dragon Fish. He floated in that calm water with abandon.

Though he would remain a Blue Koi in his heart, he could always become a Dragon Fish whenever he wanted. Through sheer, hardwork, perseverance and focus, the little Blue Koi had become a Dragon Fish.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Curiosity: The Wonderer - a Norwegian Folktale (adapted)

Curiosity : 
This is a hunger that leads us down a path of discovery and realization.  This pulls us towards new experiences and helps us break away from monotony and boredom. We learn for the joy of learning.

In folktales Curiosity is treated as a curse. The curious woman is thrashed for her nagging questions. The curious princess finds herself in all kinds of trouble and even in fairy tales such as Goldilocks and Snow White, curiosity lands the heroine in great trouble. 

So while searching for curiosity tales, I wished for one that would throw a positive light on this amazing value to imbibe. Curiosity is that which takes us through a journey of discovery and as we grow older curiosity can help keep us mentally and physically active.

There are two delightful stories that you must read if you want to experience curiosity through a tale:
"Why Why Girl" by Jnanapith / Padma Vibhushan awardee Mahashwetha Devi, which reflects a lot of this folktale I have narrated here, but in delightful language. At the same time telling us Books are a source of immense answers to the questioning child.

The other book I would recommend is this delightful book about how curiosity spurred Albert Eistein called 
"On a Beam of light" by Berne ( author) & Radunsky ( illustrator)


The Wonderer - Norwegian Folktale 

(The original tale can be found on Tell me a Story - U express)

In a land far up North lived a boy called Per. He was curious about everything around him and constantly wondered why things were the way they are.
Even while playing a game, he would suddenly stop to ask a question: “Why are the clouds so high up in the sky?” only to be ridiculed by his friends who were quite used to his random questions by now.
Yet he did not let it bother him as he wondered and wandered the village; sometimes observing, sometimes asking and sometimes just understanding things as they appeared to him.
Curious Per they called him and he did not mind. “Curiosity kills the cat” they mocked him, but he never gave a heed. 

“I wonder how people can make new things if they are not curious like me, so I am sure that need not be true all the time” he said. No matter what his friends said, it never stopped him from wandering and wondering and thinking up creative answers to his questions.

One day, while playing with his friends, they heard a deep rumbling from within the woods. It sounded like a hammering, but one can never know what it may be.
“What is that sound I wonder?”said curious Per aloud. “You wonder about the sounds coming from the woods?”, laughed his friends.

But Per decided to investigate and he followed the sound to a clearing in the woods and there saw a strange sledgehammer that was hammering a rock. But there was no one holding the hammer!
“May I know what it is you are doing?” asked Per.
“Waiting for you”said the hammer. So Per took the hammer and put into his bag and went back to his village.
“So did you find the sounds of the wood?” Asked his friends and Per just smiled at them and nodded his head.

On another day while playing by the stream, his friends and he bent down to drink from the cool water, when Per had another question. “Where does this stream come from, I wonder?” he said.
“Ha ha, from the top of a tree” laughed his friends.
Scarcely heeding their words, Per followed the stream upwards, walking further and further away from them and when he finally stopped, he saw the strangest sight. A walnut was open and the stream gushed out from it! He picked up the walnut, and closed its mouth with some moss and put it into his bag again.
“So did you find the tree?” Asked his friends when he went back. “No, I found a nut” he said and they simply laughed at him.

It so happened that the King of that land was living in his beautiful palace high up on the mountains. But there were two things that bothered him. A wall which he had constructed just outside his palace had suddenly turned magical, and whenever anyone tried to break it down, it grew bigger and taller, almost double its size. So now this enormous wall blocked the palace view of the beautiful hills.

The other problem was that there was no well inside the palace and all the servants had to fetch water from a well far below. By the time they carried the bucket up into the palace the water was freezing cold and the bucket heavy. They despaired of their situation and pleaded the king for a solution.
The King decreed that anyone who would solve their problems in one go, would be very well rewarded.

So the boys who were in the village gathered one day and decided to help the king solve his problems. Per too tagged along with them.
The wall was gigantic by now and even as his friends started hammering and breaking the wall, it grew bigger and bigger. They could do nothing about it.

"Let me try" said Per and took out his magical hammer from the bag. One bang and the wall came crashing down and as they watched, the hammer broke the wall to bits and pieces all by itself. Such tiny pieces that they had no magic in them to get back together and grow stronger and bigger.
The king was overjoyed. But Per now walked to the place where the wall once stood and took out the walnut, placed it in the hole and unplugged the moss and lo behold, a stream started flowing from the nut; all the way from the palace to the village where he lived.

“This is amazing!” Said the King and sent Per back with loads of good things for him and his family.

While all the others in the village, no longer mocked or ridiculed Per. They now started wondering and asking questions about the world. For that is how anything can be discovered!


Thursday, December 8, 2016

Creativity : The Magic Horse; a sufi tale

1.       • Creativity [originality, ingenuity]: Thinking of novel and productive ways to conceptualize and do things; includes artistic achievement but is not limited to it . (~VIA~)  

      Creativity is a synergy of two : Adaptability and Originality. To take an idea and convert into an original work is the basic tenet of creativity. Everything comes out of something!
       Another important aspect is that creativity is accompanied by chaos
      and creativity is found when we are allowed to think in free spirit without fear.  

     Most folktales are examples of creative thinking. Either the story plot takes us through a creative journey or the hero and heroine finds a resolution in a creative manner. So you can tell any story for strengthening this particular character.
Vocabulary to use  

  Story : The Magic Horse - a Sufi story retold by Idries Shah, retold here by me. This is a wonder-filled story of possibilities and outcomes and how any creative act may take you down a path that is unpredictable, unusual and perhaps even impractical. Yet we can always make choices that finally leads us to our hearts's desire and happiness and that in itself is a creative process. This is a fairy tale with many layers, but merely listening to it may open up a sense of wonder in a child and many questions in an adult.
   Suitable for 6 years and upwards

       King Mumkin was a benevolent ruler who encouraged much creativity in his kingdom. He had two sons Hoshyaar and Tambal, which as you know means intelligent and ignorant as they may have well been.
   The King who was always on the look out for new possibilities, announced a price to anyone who could bring a device or a contraption that was unique and different and useful.
   An Ironsmith who had invented a wonderful machine stepped forward, on hearing of the award.  He shut himself up in a secret place and diligently worked with a complex plan on a machine; a gigantic Fish that could swim in and under water and even travel by air; all while carrying immense weight within itself.
   While a carpenter who also wished to create something unique, took his simple tools and went into the woods to create, after much thought and reflection a beautiful wooden Horse which looked very real but seemed to not have any practical value. The two presented their unique creations to the King.
   King Mumkin, who had been sceptical of what the Fish could do, took one look at the immense usefulness and practical application of the Fish, declared it the winner, scarcely giving the Horse a second chance and Prince Hoshyar was entrusted the job of using the Fish to its maximum potential while the Ironsmith was rewarded with much wealth and honorariums.
" Nothing can be as useful as the wondrous Fish” declared Prince Hoshyar. The Fish became a much sought after invention.

  Yet the patient carpenter waited for an opportune time for his work to be recognised, and it did come. Soon King Mumkin called for the carpenter and his Horse, bored with the Fish and its wonder.
  “This is merely a plaything” the King dismissed the beautifully carved Horse.
  “It may not look much, but this horse is different” stammered the carpenter. “While the fish needs to be directed, this Horse can sense the rider and lead him or her to their heart’s desire” he explained hesitantly.
  “Such a silly unpractical thing is only fit for Tambal”, muttered the King under his breadth.
  “Let me keep it Father” said Tambal at the same time.
  “Keep the Carpenter in custody, till he can figure out some use for the Horse, and Prince Tambal you can play with this toy till you bore of it” said the King.
   So Prince Tambal took the beautiful life size Horse to his chambers and spent the whole night touching, feeling, observing...why even smelling and just stopped short of licking it! To his delight, he saw many knobs and dials hidden discreetly at the nape of the Horse and as he twisted and turned them, he found the Horse could actually move. He seated himself on the Horse and turned few dials and lo behold, the Horse flew upwards into the sky, taking him to where ever his heart wished for that night. In this way he spent many wondrous evening flying to far off land and returning, filled with the magic of visiting new lands and stories of the sights he saw there.
  One day he met Hoshyar on his way back from another productive day with the wondrous Fish. He looked at Tambal idling his time away with the Horse and commented (like many brother’s do); “I have found my heart’s desire, as I am working for the good of all, but I do not see much in your playful ways”.
  Tambal didn’t have much to say, but those words left him with a deep need to find his heart’s desire. So that night he sat on his Horse and stated clearly.” Take me to my Heart’s Desire”
  And away flew the Horse, across the land , over mountains and forests and seas, and finally it glided towards a most magical mysterious flying Palace. Let me tell you about this Palace. It had been created specifically to safeguard the beautiful Princess Precious Pearl, by her magician Father and King; Kahana. It was guarded by Mute guards and no one was allowed to speak or befriend the poor Princess.
  The Horse landed in that very magical Palace with Prince Tambal, and so carefully that no one saw them come, except the Princess. The Princess who yearned for company could not help but fall in love with this talking Prince, who was also gentle and kind while speaking to her.
  “But my Father will never let us marry, as he wishes to marry me off to a powerful magician King who lives on the other side of our Kingdom.” She said with despair.
  “I will convince him” said Tambal and mounted his Horse to fly to the palace on the ground.
  The way to the palace was filled with enchanted things and Tambal’s eyes were darting here and there, trying to see and hear and look at everything. But when he reached the Palace gates, he heard the bells ringing, announcing the King was not in and had left the palace for elsewhere.
  “He has gone to see his daughter in the Whirling Palace” informed one of the guards.Now Prince Tambal had to wait or follow the King to the Whirling Palace. But something told him the King may not like to see him at the Whirling Palace and so he quietly flew his Horse into the balcony of the Palace. Hoping to wait and watch for the King there.
  Yet sleep overwhelmed him. He had never been on such a long adventure before and soon Tambal let the Horse stand in a corner and went and laid down himself in a secluded spot in that very balcony which ran around the Palace of the magician King Kahana.
  Back in the Whirling Palace, our Princess was too excited and too naive to hide anything from her Father and she blurted out the story of Prince Tambal and her desire to marry him.
  “Never”, yelled the King furiously and sped back to his palace, hoping to make rapid arrangements that would ensure his daughter married the man he had chosen for her.

  In the Palace, the guards had found the Horse and seized it to show it to their King.
  “Aha! That scoundrel is here somewhere and will surely come back to take his Horse” he exclaimed. Kahana did not even try to understand the magic behind the Horse and swiftly ordered it to be locked up in a cupboard.
  Prince Tambal woke up with a start and realised to his dismay that he was stranded in a magical kingdom with no way or means to escape without his flying Horse. His only thought was to somehow get back to his own kingdom and take his father’s help and come back to claim his heart’s desire – yes, the beautiful Princess Precious Pearl.

  But a man with nothing, how will he cross the treacherous desert? He had no choice and poor Tambal suffered from the many moods displayed by the desert. The sun beating down during the day created mirages and the cold frost of the night made him delirious. He saw people where there were none, he saw water, and cities that were merely his imagination. The days telescoped into the night. He was on the verge of giving it all up, with no hope of ever reaching home or going back to the Princess, he seemed to not know what his heart desired anymore....until he saw an oases glimmering in the sand.
  Is it real or my imagination he wondered? But finally for once the oases did not disappear and he ran towards it and thirstily drank from the pond, and grabbed the fruits deliciously hanging from the trees and devoured them. Then in almost a swoon, he slept and slept for a long while.
  When he awoke he felt different. His hands looked bigger, and alas they had big claws and fur at the end. His head felt heavier and alas he had horns growing from them. “Woe is me”, he yelled, “My appearance has changed though I am still Tambal from within. Yet who will know me, how will Precious Pearl even recognise, me – this beast that I have become” he wept and wailed, sobbed and threw himself to the ground....
  As the moon rose and Tambal’s crying stopped, a light was seen approaching him from afar. It came closer to reveal an old man with a long white beard, carrying a lamp. “Who is this, an evil in disguise?” thought Tambal.
  The gentle voice then told him “My son, you have been affected by the influences of this place You are lucky, I come in time having heard your loud cries. If you want to escape, then firmly think of your Heart’s Desire and take a few of the dry fruits that lie at the bottom of the tree. Then follow your destiny” so saying he walked away.
  Prince Tambal found the dry fruits and quickly ate some with relish. His horns disappeared and so did his claws and fur with the rising sun.
  Sounds of horses galloping reached him and as he watched from the safety of the trees, he saw a procession of horsemen approach. One of them looked regal and princely, he rode over to Tambal and in a loud voice announced himself, having mistaken Prince Tambal as the guardian of the oases.
  “We demand some of these fruits as we have ridden from afar and cannot remain for long; for I am Jadugarzada, son of the magician King of the East and on my way to marry the Princess Precious Pearl of the Kingdom of the West. Here take this bag of gold and give me some fruits instead”, he said as he tossed a bag to Prince Tambal.
  “So this is my destiny”, thought prince Tambal as he quickly plucked some fruits and gave it to the Son of the Magician. You know what will happen here. As they watched Jadugarzada grew horns and claws and fur and was quite befuddled and confused, and insisted he was normal, while they were all deformed and enchanted.
  The Councillors who had accompanied him were flummoxed. How could they go to claim the Princess, and go they must?
  After much debate and we really don’t know why and how such things turn out the way they turn out. The councillors decided to make Tambal act as the Magician Son and they covered Jadugarzada with a hizab and coerced him onto a horse and tied him too, till he regained his senses, they declared.
  “We will make this oaf go through all the ceremonies, for he looks the part. Once it is done and the Princess is with us, we can then decide what to do with him.” They rationalised a plan.
  So Prince Tambal by a queer turn of events now found himself decked up in finery travelling to the palace of King Kahana. There he was taken with great ceremony to the Palace and their marriage was conducted with much pomp. In all of this Princess Pearl got a glimpse of the groom and almost fell off her chair in astonishment.
  Prince Tambal signaled to her to remain silent and with a quiet nod and a look conveyed what he wished to convey and that is a language known to those who love another. That itself was a task as the head of Magician Prince party was keeping a close watch on them.
  The Head soon announced it was time for the Bride to leave with the Bridegroom party. “ Oh Wise and Wonderful Monarch, Oh Just and Glorious Monarch it is time for us to accompany the bridal pair back to our land in order for them to establish their new home”. he said
  Now Prince Precious Pearl looked with alarm at her husband Tambal; for once they were out of the Palace, she knew they would kill Tambal and the Magician Prince was also recovering his senses, though his fur and horns were still there. Time was crucial here and Tambal quickly whispered in her ear.
  “Fear Nothing. We must follow our destiny and act as best as we can. Agree to go, but say you will not leave without the wooden horse”.

  King Kahana was annoyed at this strange request , but being convinced that it was a mere plaything that she desired to have in the new home she was leaving to go to; he agreed and the Horse was finally brought out from the cupboard that it had been shut in for all this time.
  Just then the Magician Son from the East; Jadugarzada, threw off his hijab and yelled at Tambal, while Tambal grabbed the Princess on one hand and the bridle of the Horse on the other and swiftly climbed up with the Princess as well, and with a turn of a dial and swish of a nob, the Horse flew up, up and away. All those gathered below watched with astonishment  at this sudden turn of events; helplessly.
  With his heart’s desire by his side, Prince Tambal returned to his Kingdom. The people were overcome with delight at his safe return. King Mumkin was overjoyed and when he heard the stories that Tambal had to share with him, he too was amazed and perhaps even a bit envious.
  The carpenter was released and rewarded, Prince Tambal and Princess Pearl were made the heirs to the throne, while Prince Hoshyar remained quite happy with his wondrous fish. “There is nothing more rewarding than working with my wondrous fish and that is what makes me happy”, he said.
  So they lived happily ever after and people say that;
  “Those who want fish can achieve much through fish, but those who do not know their heart’s desire may first have to listen to the story of the wooden horse”

   The story ends here, but not our adventures...   


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Appreciation of Beauty & Excellence- "An Artist to the Rescue"` Gujarati Folktale

Appreciation of Beauty & Excellence - Transcendence
- A strength within us that connects us to a higher purpose and meaning through appreciation of all that is beautiful and to find beauty in everything (~VIA)

There are 3 aspects of this appreciation:
Appreciation of physical beauty
Skill or Talent
Appreciation of moral goodness

This strength enables us to appreciate the wonder of the world around us. It helps us see beauty in nature and helps us become mindful of all that is already around us. Look at life with a positive perspective and to engage with those around in a selfless manner. This particular strength lies within the realm of Transcendence.

 This folktale is very illustrative of all these 3 aspects of appreciation, beauty and excellence. This folktale can be used as trigger to talk about beauty, that lies within and beauty that is seen around us. It can be used to break myths about what is traditionally seen as beautiful (A sad princess painting can be beautiful). It can also be used to discuss the selfless nature of individuals or even an artistic creation.

Vocabulary to use to strengthen this character:


You can hear the story here:

"An Artist to the Rescue" ~~~~ Gujarati Folktale

Once Upon a Time, there was a Princess who was very talented and kind. She loved to ride on her horse into the forest and spend all her time with nature. Once as she was riding in the forest, somehow she rode so fast that soon she could not see her other friends and followers.

Quickly she got down and climbed the tallest tree, (she was very good at such things) and from the top branch she looked around. But what she saw was shocking; a fire was raging in a part of the forest and as she watched the birds and animals fleeing from there, she also saw a birds nest.

The father and mother geese were trying to protect their chicks. The fire came closer and closer to the nest and the poor mother and father tried to fly away, but the fire was too close. Finally the father flew away to safety leaving behind the mother and the baby chicks. The mother stayed back to protect the chicks...

The princess quickly climbed down, unable to watch this anymore and rode back to her palace to gather help to save the forest. But what she saw bothered her terribly and she felt angrier and angrier towards the male bird for flying away, leaving it’s family behind.

“I am sure all these men all over the world are like this. I will never trust them again. I will never marry”. She told herself.

From that day on wards she put on a serious face and told her parents that she would never marry. She refused to give any reason for her decision. Her old parents were very upset and tried to talk to her and tried to understand what had happened and why she was behaving this way. Yet the princess refused to share her story with anyone except two of her closest friends who she swore to secrecy.


Days passed and an artist came to their kingdom. He had traveled far and wide and had painted many beautiful scenes and things, but when he took one look at the sad princess, he felt a strong urge to paint her. With her permission he painted her and captured her feelings and features perfectly. But instead of giving the painting to her, he just took it with him and left the kingdom to travel to other lands.


He went to another kingdom known for rewarding artists and sold his painting to the King of that land for a lot of money. The King was enchanted by the painting and the expression he saw on the princess’s face. Looking at it every day made him very curious to find out who the original Princess of this painting was. But by that time the artist who had painted this picture seemed to have disappeared from the land. Nobody knew who he was, or who the princess in the painting was. Things became very different from then on. The King lost interest in the land and kingdom, in his desire to see or meet her and became as sad as the Princess in the picture.

How strange, isn’t it?


The Chief Minister of the land was an old, wise and trusted friend of the family. He could not bear to see his King becoming so sad and despondent.

“What can be done? I am too old to set out at my age to search for the King’s Princess. I wish we had someone who could volunteer to do this. We cannot spare our soldiers and I am sure they do not have the wisdom to handle such an important task’, he said to his young and resourceful daughter Saralatha.

“Let me do it Father. Give me a years time and I am sure I will find the Princess our King loves” 

Saralatha herself was a good artist and so she made a copy of the painting that hung in the palace and disguised herself as a travelling artist. She barely knew where to go, but she rode here and there and everywhere. She showed the picture of the Princess in many lands and asked whether they had seen such a Princess, yet no one had.

It was December and a year of travelling was behind her and she was tired and weary. No one had recognized the Princess in the picture and Saralatha was ready to give up as she entered what she thought in her mind was the last kingdom that she would ask.

“Have you ever seen such a Princess?” she asked a potter who was turning his wheel with great skill.

“Oh Yes! She is the Princess of this very land and we call her ; “ The Princess who is Determined Never to Marry”

“What? Never to Marry? What is wrong with her? Did something terrible happen?” asked Saralatha with a sinking heart. “Oh!  How am I going to convince the Princess to get married to our King?” She wondered. 

No one could tell her the story behind the Princess's strange behavior and so Saralatha was determined to find out why. Having slept over night on the problem, she woke up with a fresh, new idea!


Every day she walked to a place close to the palace and started painting beautiful pictures of the palace and gardens. Soon everyone was talking about her wonderful paintings and the King summoned her into the palace to paint and decorate different parts; walls and ceilings and arches.
Soon the women, children and men working in the Palace started standing around her while she painted and admired her work. This soon turned to friendship and Saralatha very wisely but gently started questioning the ladies about the Princess and her decision not to marry.

The closest friend to whom the Princess had told her story, was unable to keep the secret to herself any longer and very soon Saralatha knew the story of the Geese and the fire.


Saralatha started painting a wall. She sketched and painted and filled many small details of "A" story on that wall. This story was the exact reverse of what had happened to the Princess.
It showed an antelope trying to protect its young ones during a fire, but here the Mother leaves the foals to the Father and goes away and a Prince is watching the whole scene.

The beauty of this painting reached the ears of the Princess and she finally came herself to see it.
“Yes! It is her!” thought Saralatha. “This is the Sad Princess in the painting. All the hardships I have gone through are worth this moment in gold”.

The Princess was mesmerized to see the painting.
“What is the story in this painting?” she asked Saralatha curiously.

Saralatha pounced on the chance to tell her a story, that you and I know was not true, yet she made it so believable the Princess was amazed that Saralatha’s King was the prince in the picture who shunned women because he saw an antelope Mother run away instead of protecting it’s young ones!

“How Strange?” she said. “There seems to be more than one side to a story. Can it be possible that I have made up my mind in a hurry after watching just one incident of the Geese birds? I would like to meet your Prince and perhaps have a discussion with him on the mistakes we make by jumping to conclusions too soon.”

"Yes, of course you can meet him" assured Saralatha as she hastened back to her kingdom and explained the whole story to the King. The delighted King appreciated Saralatha’s immense hard work and rewarded her for all that she had done.  

Over time the King and the Princess met and had many wonderful conversations and then you know they finally decided to get married and of course lived happily for a long time.

As for Saralatha, she became a very famous artist and traveled to far off lands, carrying her paints and her stories with her and wherever she went people appreciated her wonderful skills and talents.

 ~ Gujerati folktale adapted from A.K.Ramanujam: "One more use for an Artist "~

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Citizenship – (responsibility towards the country) – Savitribhai Bhai Phule

Citizenship - To strive towards excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activity.  Civic strengths that underlie healthy community life 

Vocabulary to be used : 

Story is suitable for children above 7 years. Some parts can be edited out as is required by your audience.

(pencil sketch by Sangeeta Kamath - inspired by the story!) 

Hear the story by clicking on this sound cloud link:

Go, Get Education
Be self-reliant, be industrious
Work, gather wisdom and riches,
All gets lost without knowledge
We become animal without wisdom,
Sit idle no more, go, get education
End misery of the oppressed and forsaken,
You’ve got a golden chance to learn
So learn and break the chains of caste.
Throw away the Brahman’s scriptures fast.
— Poem by Savitribai Phule

This is a poem written by my Guru, my teacher and you can even say someone I considered as dear as my mother.
 I am Mukta and I am 14 years old, I belong to the Matang community of Maharashtra. My community was considered very backward and no one thought that we should go to school, study or even learn.  I was lucky that my dear teacher Savitribai broke this thinking and stepped out of her house along with her husband Sri Jyotirao Phule and started a school for us in the year 1851. I was one of the first students to join, we were just 8 of us at the beginning but soon this increased as more girls joined the school and we were soon more than 48 students!

But I must tell you it was not easy for my dear teacher. She herself was taught English & Marathi by her husband secretly, because if anyone came to know that a girl was studying then she would get thrashed. But my teacher’s husband was a wonderful man who believed improvement in a child comes through the mother and a country will progress only when women are educated.

When she got married and came to Jyotiba’s house she had brought a book along with her, and seeing her interest in reading he started teaching her. She was 9 years and he was 13 years! Soon Jyotiba (Tatya as we called him) told his father that his wife could read and write, but they were just thrown out of the house for this reason.

But Jyotiba did not fear, he trained my dear Savitribai to become a teacher (she was just 18 years and the first Indian Woman teacher) and they started a school for the Dalits ( Mahars and Mangs) and especially enrolled the girls who till then were treated worse than animals. Oh Yes. You may be surprised I am using such a strong word. But we Dalits were treated very badly by the so called upper class Brahmans who kept us to do all the very dirty work and believed we were not intelligent enough to study.

But we proved them wrong; in our first board exam that was held a few months after the school started, we passed all our papers with flying colours. In fact our mothers used to complain to the Headmistress that we were always studying late into the night.
I remember one of my little friends even got a prize for getting top marks and when she went to collect the prize she boldly asked the Chief Guest not to give her any gifts of toys and goodies  but to give the school a library of books!*

Not only did Savitribai Aai (ma) teach us, she guided us in many other ways also. She was so upset with the way Brahmin widows were being treated, that she opened an orphanage for pregnant and widowed women in her own home in Pune and started taking care of them and the babies that were born. We called it the “Home for the prevention of Infanticide”. If you knew how these poor women were treated you will feel lucky to be born at a time when such things are banned.

The purpose of education according to Savitraibai Aai was to give us the ability to know the difference between right & wrong and make the right choice between truth & untruth.
So I too decided to voice my opinion on what I thought was wrong, I wrote an essay in Marathi in which I spoke strongly about the laddukhau (laddu eating) Brahmins and questioned God on his unfair practise of allowing only some people to read the Vedas. I asked God what religion I should follow to be allowed to read the Vedas (as the Brahmins were not allowing us). The Editor of Dyanodaya newspaper was so impressed with my strong essay, he even published it. I was thrilled and decided I will continue to speak up about equal rights and human rights from then on.

Poor Savitribai Aai, she was not even getting paid salary for her work, but she continued her teaching as she considered it her sacred task. That is not all, sometimes small minded men would be waiting around corners or at the street end and throw cow dung, mud and stones at her. But she did not bat an eyelid, and continued her work with determination and courage, keeping two sarees in the school, so that she could change out of her soiled saree. Can you imagine being treated like this almost every day?!

She was  compassionate, calm and so giving! She would cook for anyone who went home, and even give away clothes and things for those who went to her, saying “What am I going to take with me, when I am gone”.  Watching Savitribai Aai and Tatya talk to each other was delightful. So much of respect and love, I was in awe of them and their relationship.
Savitribai ma also gifted me a collection of her poems called Kavya Phule that has forty one poems written in Marathi about social issues, nature and history. I keep this with me as my most prized possession.

Everybody knows about Rani Lakshmi bhai of Jhansi but not many know of my dear beloved Savitribai Phule of Pune.  She is my role model, who showed me that education is most important for all regardless of caste, community or economic status and gender and that everyone must learn to stand up for themselves. She is a true Citizen of this nation.

~ original story written by Sowmya Srinivasan. Please feel free to use the story. But please do give me some credit! Credit also the original texts;
facts collected from various sources:

Thursday, October 20, 2016

BRAVERY - Emotional Strength of Courage

1.       COURAGE – Emotional strengths that involve the exercise of will to accomplish goals in the face of opposition, external or internal  

Bravery [valor]: Not shrinking from threat, challenge, difficulty, or pain; speaking up for what is right even if there is opposition; acting on convictions even if unpopular; includes physical bravery but is not limited to it  
copy write - VIA

Vocabulary that can be used : 

I have not used the word Fearless / Intrepid which means that fear doesn't exist in a person. I believe Being Brave implies overcoming fear and not a lack of it.
Here being Brave implies a courage required not only to set out to do difficult tasks such as mountain climbing but it is also the same strength required to step into a new class.

1.       STORY SOURCE: CBT publications. Adapted by me. 
              Name: Mohini & Bhasmasura
            Suitable for Ages: 5 years upwards

Every one in the village was frightened of Bhasmasura. He was a demon who lived in a cave in the forest. He had long pointed teeth and black curved horns. His ears were like baskets and his face was covered with thick hair.
This wouldn’t matter if Bhasmasura had been friendly, but he was quite the opposite.
He delighted in frightening people, and when he was hungry he just gobbled them up.
That was not all, he also had magical powers, and that was the real reason people were terrified of him. If he put his hand on someone’s head, the person would turn into “bhasma”, a handful of ash!
People fled on seeing him and he laughed seeing them run. “Ha, Ha Ho, Ho!! There is no one equal to me in the world,” he boasted.
Everyone was scared, except Mohini. She shook her head and thought deeply, “I’m sure there’s a way out of this. I’m very sure, if only we could find it.”
All around people told horrific stories about Bhasmasura. “You don’t know him. He is as old as these mountains. He has magical powers. He has to just put his hands over your head and that’s the end for you, you will become ash…ash!” They said in hushed tones.
Mohini had an old grandmother whom she visited every day. “Tell me about Bhasmasura, Ajji.”
“He lives in a dark cave on top of that big mountain. He walks up and down the countryside, uprooting trees, trampling fields. He brings destruction wherever he goes and has the power of twenty elephants. Along with his magical powers he is invincible! Every one is frightened of him.” Said grandmother.
“I’m not!” Said Mohini
“I’m not frightened of Bhasmasura. There must be a way to destroy this Rakshasa. We mustn’t give up. I won’t give up,” she told the villagers.
You are a foolish girl; you don’t know what you are saying. He will gobble you up, he will turn you to ash, and we don’t know which is worse.
Some of our brave warriors have died trying, said others
But Mohini was quite a stubborn young lady.
After thinking deeply and with much advice from her grandmother, the wise old lady.
She went to the village headman and told him she wanted to destroy Bhasmasura.
They asked her to stop being silly, and stop joking!
The Headman asked her how she planned to destroy this monster
“I’ll dance,” said Mohini simply
Dance! They shouted together. Are you mad?
“No. But please give me a pair of tinkling anklets and your blessings for my successful return” said Mohini with due respect.
At first the headman refused, but then Mohini begged and begged (you know she was stubborn!!)
Finally she set off. She travelled many miles, walking most of the distance, some times taking a ride on a bullock cart, at other times a donkey. Once she even had to cross the river on a raft. Everywhere people spoke about the wickedness of Bhasmasura and his magical powers.
“You can’t defeat him,” said a few, “He is too powerful,” said others.
“It doesn’t help to sit around and do nothing, At least I can give it a try” said Mohini
The people were impressed with her fearless attitude.
At last she reached the cave in the mountains where Bhasmasura lived. She knew this was where he lived as there were rotting flesh and bones lying around.
Mohini stood at the entrance and for the first time felt frightened. It was very silent.
Oh dear, what’s going to happen now. What if the villagers were right? The demon will turn me into ash and then, that will be the end for me. May be I shouldn’t have come.
But the other part of her was telling to take a peep, having come so far at least she wanted to see how he looked.
Let me peep inside. Does he really have two horns? She thought.
She tiptoed near the cave and peeped inside, still she couldn’t see any thing. Maybe there is no Rakshasa(demon), its all imagination…
Suddenly, she heard a great big roar and a thud!
Bhasmasura stood behind her; he had just come back from one of his killing spree.
The monster roared horribly, but Mohini knew there was no escape now and so stood her ground
“Who are you?” bellowed the monster
“My name is Mohini”
“How dare you come to my cave?”
“Oh I heard you are a strong, brave, and intelligent monster, so I came to see you” she said
Now that was a very clever thing to say. Bhasmasura was very happy and he grinned showing his big dirty teeth.
This girl is pretty, she will make a worthy wife, he thought
“Will you marry me Mohini?”
Mohini stared at the demon, and then said, “Yes I will marry you, but on one condition, you must dance with me. Follow my every step. Even if you miss one step, I wont marry you”.
“Ha Ha, that’s not difficult”, he said and got ready to follow her every move.
Mohini fluttered her eyes; Bhasmasura too fluttered his!
Mohini cupped her hand to make a lotus and so did he!
She swayed like an elephant and so did he.
Mohini flitted like a butterfly and he also flitted.
She touched her chin, he touched his.
She touched her toes, so did he.
She whirled, hopped and skipped, and he too did the same.
She put her hand on her head and he put his hand on his head…
The next minute there was no Bhasmasura; there was only a heap of ash where the demon stood.
I better get back home as quickly as I can, other wise grand mother will be worried she thought
Happily she skipped her way back to the village
Seeing her safe and sound, the whole village rushed to greet and rejoice with her
“Jai Mohini Jai, Brave Courageous Mohini”, they shouted, and carried her on their shoulders all over the village.
The end

Jai Mohini Jai Jai
She never gave up
She kept on trying
Till Bhasmasuran was
Tricked into dying