A long time ago, near the banks of river Godavari and cuddled between the beautiful Papi hills was a small village by name Kummaripalle (Village of the Potters). The village people were very friendly with each other and with the natural resources they had, they were largely self-sufficient. One of the main professions of the village was making earthen ware and sculptures out of clay. There was a community of clay sculptors and potters that used to make beautiful pieces of pottery, idols and other earthen ware and sell it to the nearby villages and towns. The earthen ware and the crafts made of this village were very famous.
Given that the village was close the river bank and the surrounding hilly region, there was an abundance of all types of clay for the potters and sculptors. The quality of the clay (from where it was dug out and how well it was prepared) of course determined the quality of the craft made of it. However, the process involved in getting the clay out of the river banks and other areas and cleansing it to the right level was a long and difficult one.
Gopal also hailed from such a family of potters who were making pottery and sculptures out of clay for generations. But blame it on destiny, he just could not learn the art no matter how hard he tried. “I must have given birth to you on a wrong day”, blamed his mother and “he is the result of our bad karma”, often said his father in dismay. Even Gopal’s brothers turned out to be decent craftsmen, on par with the others in the community and made a good living.
Gopal did not want to give up. He wanted to test himself in all possible ways and he started experimenting with different types of clay that he started securing from river beds at multiple locations and stream-beds of streams running through the hills. “May be there is another texture of clay that will work for my hands”, he thought and continued to explore places where no potter ever went before. But his hands simply lacked the dexterity needed to mold the clay. He still did not give up. He started visiting other elders of the community to see them work and tried to understand several aspects of making pottery more keenly. Unknowingly he also mentally noted the difficulties involved in making a good product. “If only my hands got to a piece of mud with a better consistency, I could make marvels out of it”, he often heard the seniors of the community remark.
“See Gopal, my work starts only after the clay comes to a refined state without all these impurities and then I can focus on making a fine piece of art”, said his neighbor when Gopal was watching him prepare the clay. “Why are you wasting your time with that boy!”, Gopal heard his father pass by and shouting at the neighbor.
As usual the next day Gopal went farther upstream in his small boat than ever before and noticed a spot where the river was nicely curling around a huge stone formation and shifting its course, but in doing so depositing a mound of thick sediment all over the vegetation on the bank. Gopal reached the bank and checked the thick sticky material, and screamed “clay from heaven!”. He dug further along the bank and to his great delight was a reserve of the same material in a huge deposit. “I am sure I can make good pottery out of this, finally!”, he thought. “I was looking for you all my life, I will name you after me, the Gopal-clay!”, he laughed at himself for the silly thought. As he started gathering the clay into the sack he carried with him, he thought of all the interactions he had with the village potters and sculptors. Then it struck him – “I should stop running around for myself and finding clay that will fit me. What if I cannot wield the craft myself, I will help others make better products“.
Gopal realized that if only he could solve the problems of the community in preparing the clay to the right level, they could focus their time on making better products. All the years he spent on experimenting with clay taught him where to find different types of clay, how to mix them, how to separate out the twigs, roots, pebbles and other sediments out of the natural clay quickly and make it more consistent. He suddenly felt a new purpose in life – “I will be the first clay supplier of the village!”, he announced to himself.
From the very next day, Gopal started gathering heaps of clay from different spots he uncovered and refining it into multiple levels of consistency. He met with different craftsmen to understand their needs and started to supply them the needed clay material. This made the village craftsmen extremely happy and with someone helping them with their fundamental problem to such a refined degree, they started producing the best earthenware and clay sculptures in the entire kingdom, so much so that the fame of Kummaripalle reached the King in due time. “These sculptures are as hard as iron and as smooth as marble”, remarked one of the ministers to the King. “My wife makes delicious meals out of these earthenware O king! this is truly remarkable craftsmanship!”.
The King himself came down to visit the village to understand the secret and as he rewarded the top craftsmen of the village including Gopal’s father, they all humbly pointed to the King, the contributions of Gopal. “Here O King is the person who lifted our level!”, they said in unison.
“My dear fellow, I am very happy to note your contributions to the craft, how did you develop this skill?”, asked the King to the utter joy of the entire village including the parents of Gopal.
“Your majesty! Although I was born in a fine family of potters, my father too being an excellent craftsman that you have so worthily rewarded just now, I had the great misfortune of not carrying my ancestral skill. What was natural for everyone around me without putting much effort, I could not learn despite of hard work and paying thorough attention to every bit of the process. I also explored different types of clay all around my village and uncovered places that no one knew, due to sheer determination. I thought the problem was not with my hands, but the clay that they tried to mold. Every taunt I received from those around me, urged me to search harder and understand better of the process. I also learnt the difficulties that a skilled sculptor faces if he doesn’t get the right quality clay. One day, the clay indeed taught me the real secret. It molded my thought processes – I shifted focus from my disability to how I can help those around me with the unique knowledge I have developed – give them clay at the right level so that they could do their job better.
May be the lack of skill in my hands was for a reason, it helped everyone else around me become more skillful with their craft”, concluded Gopal in a humble tone.
“And for that my dear fellow, you will be rewarded the most!”, praised the King rewarding Gopal with a lot of gifts and compliments.
A humble afterthought – “What if we focused on our unique strengths instead of disabilities (which could be strengths in disguise waiting to be uncovered by sheer hard-work & observation!) and focused on lifting the level of those around us! It will result in worthy craft indeed!”
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