Several hundred years ago, in ancient India, lived a sculptor by name Giri in the kingdom of Vinama. Vinama was a thriving kingdom in between the Vidhya hills. There was a lot of respect for arts and literature which were treated as divine gifts for those who practiced them.
Giri worked in the King’s palace and was known for his artful sculptures carved out of stone. He worked very hard and created several masterpieces for the palace. He attributed his special skills to his lineage. “We have been in the art of sculpting for countless generations, with each generation better than the previous one. I am sure my son will be better than me”, he used to proudly announce to his relatives and royal staff.
Giri lived a comfortable life in a humble home close to the palace like all the others that worked in the palace did. The King and the royal members had special interest in art and Giri was rewarded with several gifts and felicitations very often.
And as destiny would have it, Giri’s son Surang, fancied the tools of the trade as a kid. He played with hammer and chisel, much to the delight of his father. “My son will create eternal masterpieces”, he told himself. But strangely, Surang spent time piercing stone and digging the ground. “A playful artist, very soon the meaning will emerge”, an impatient Giri told himself. “Oh he is just a kid, give him time”, his wife and his friends told him.
One day as Surang was playing in the house yard, a wise man passed by. He paused in front of the house, observed the kid for a while and announced loudly, “on this kid will lie the future of this land!”. Giri was watching with happiness brimming all over his face. He said, “O great one! Does that mean he will be the best sculptor the world has ever seen?”. “His work will be priceless and will stand the test of time, he will build something that no one else did before”, the wise one said and left the place. Giri proudly spread the word of the wise man, who was supposed to be a seer predicting the future of chosen few.
As years passed by, Giri intently waited for his son to create marvels in sculpting. But to his dismay, his son only showed interest in digging the ground and boring hollows in rock. As he grew older, he brought a variety of shovels, spades and other heavy metals he could find and dug. “Are you testing the quality of the stone, son?”, Giri would ask. “No father, I like to dig deep into the earth and continue digging. I am driven towards it”, replied Surang.
“May be you should come back to reality and start his education and teach him other arts”, advised his friends. “I tried that”, cried Giri in utter sadness. “Nothing interests Surang than digging. His teacher told me in no sweeter words that he has not seen an idiot that can parallel his dumbness in formal education. Oh! this is shameful. At this age I have already created several sculptures in my time. And I thought my son would be a child prodigy”, he said. “Don’t give up so soon, he is still so young, try other teachers and different arts”, his friends encouraged him.
But try as hard as he could, Giri did not succeed in finding a single avocation or subject where Surang showed interest or aptitude. He just liked to dig. “Don’t you have any interest towards molding the rocks, we have been sculpting for generations. I thought your fascination for mud is to make a new form of sculpture. It doesn’t seem to be so”.
“No father, it is not mud, but making a perfect path into the earth that I am fascinated about”, said Surang. “Are you the son of a rat?!”, yelled Giri and left the place. To please his father, Surang tried hard at learning other subjects, but he did not have the aptitude for it and quickly lost interest. “It is pointless, nothing but the metal and drilling away paths through hard obstructions interests me. I must be having no future in this world”, thought Surang.
Several more years passed, and despite the rebuke of his family, friends and society at large, Surang did not leave his calling. In spite of being born in a high-class family, he went to work with the workers of the land that helped build pathways for the kingdom. He was called to help create paths which were impossible to make through the Vidhya hills. “He knows exactly where to crack open the path at its weakest, without collapsing the structure”, his coworkers praised him. Although Surang found peace doing what he did, his heart ached for the fact that he could not bring joy to his father. “Son of a great lineage of sculptors, working to build pathways with working class, what a great misfortune!”, said everyone.
One day, the same wise man that foretold Surang’s future passed by Giri’s house. Furious, Giri rushed to him and demanded, “You foretold greatness for my son. All he cares about is digging the ground and nothing else. He has learnt nothing else. How can he create a work of art? Because of you I have lost my face in front of everyone”, he cried. The wise man calmly replied with a smile, “Call for your son”. As Surang approached, he asked, “What do you most care about?”. “I love to go deep into the earth, I love to create pathways into the heart of the planet. I dream of ways underground that can last forever”, said Surang. “If all you can is dig, then dig so well that the pathways you create amaze the creator. Leave all doubt and despair. Your work will ensue a new art into the world and will ensure that this land has a future”, he said and left, leaving Giri astonished and infuriated. “So the wise man is not so wise after all and is actually mad. Who can make anything out of digging?”, he said.
Word spread to the chief minister of the kingdom about the unique skill possessed by Surang. “I would like to speak to your son Giri, please call for him”, said Neela. “He is fit for nothing sir, but I will do as you have ordered”, said Giri and sent Surang to meet with the chief minister of the kingdom, Neela.
“Did you not attempt to learn anything else? your family served this kingdom for several generations and you are the first one that is an exception. And it troubles me to see your father so sad”, Neela asked Surang. “Sir! I have dug deep within myself too as much as I have in the ground. Nothing other than digging inspires me. I have nothing else to give, nor feel ashamed of. I am at peace with this fact. I accept my misfortune of not being of service to the King”, replied Surang respectfully. “On the contrary, I have seen some of the pathways you have helped creating, very impressive. I have a vision which I think only you can fulfill, but it will take some more structured training to you to augment your unique skill and you can be of great service to the King”, Neela said. “I am afraid, my faculties do not permit me to learn anything else that doesn’t involve digging sir, what do you wish to teach me?”, Surang asked. “I will not teach you anything new, you will work with the engineers of the palace and begin the work of your life”, Neela smiled. “I will only bring you in if you swear an oath of secrecy, this will remain a secret, for life. Are you willing to take this on to put your passion to greater good, with no glory coming your way?“, asked Neela inquiringly. “I will sir. If there is meaning and purpose to my passion, I seek no further glory than this, even if it consumes the rest of my life, I will dig“, Surang’s enthusiasm was contagious. “Son! I could even think of this vision because I knew I could rely on you and no one else. You will create a pathway from the heart of the palace through the Vindhya mountains that would open up on the far side. Whenever adversity strikes on the palace, this passage will ensure safety and security of the royal family and future for the kingdom for a long time. I will tell your father that you have joined my gaurd in the palace, all that digging have made you strong after all”, said Neela.
Surang spent the next 30 years working on the passage along with the most trusted engineers of the kingdom, some of who lost their lives during the process. It is said, that the passage lasted several hundred years and have saved the lives of the royal families that ruled the land generations after generations. The passage and the creator have been kept as a secret only passed down from one king to the other. While Surang did not gain any recognition during his time, he built something remarkable just doing what he did, so well. To the last day he remembered the words of the wise man, “if all you can do is dig, then dig so well that the pathways you create amaze the creator!“.
This ushered in a new art into the world as foretold by the wise man. Ever since, it has become common to create hidden passage ways around palaces of the kingdoms and using underground pathways to divert flow of streams to bring water to the cities.
A prelude to the above story on LinkedIn is here