“Speak up Sssssarin…”, ridiculed the merchant.”We all know that you are slow with your words, what’s up with your legs today? Did a snail bite you…”, he cursed some more before letting Sarin drop the last of his grain bags in the store. Sarin stammered as the words simply wouldn’t come out. He left the godown murmuring to himself, ‘…was attacked by robbers, had to put all my strength and wit to escape from them and safeguard your grain…’, and without his knowledge blurted out, “itttttttts not worth it, lllllllettt ‘e getttttaoutta hhhhheere” and left the place.
Sarin was an orphan boy in the village of Grayhills and made a living by delivering the produce from his village to the nearby towns and villages. Grayhills was arranged cozily in the midst of surrounding hills adorned with lush grasslands and fertile lands. Agriculture and dairy were the mainstay for the village people. Sarin grew up as that “dull lad with speaking difficulties…”, but with “busy legs”. Everyone wanted to send him “off on the next errand” and he didn’t mind that at all.
But he had one problem with everyone, well, at least “with most”, he would say as a boy, “…everyone is in a rush, I don’t get to finish what I want to say, ever…”, he complained to the only companion who didn’t cut him off – the old man at the temple. “I like you, you always smile at me…”, Sarin told the old man.
No one knew what the old man did there, no one ever went to that side of the village as the temple was located on the very edge of the “dangerous north forest”, they would say. Sarin had no family and whenever his tired legs wanted some rest and tired mind some peace, he would find himself in the temple. And the old man was always there sitting on the veranda, smiling and listening. All he would say in return, “…in whatever you do, do good. But when you lose all hope, take to the north”. That never made sense to Sarin.
As days passed by Sarin grew weary of his life. “I ccccaaan’t eeeeven ttttalk loudly tttto myself, no pppoint blaming ottttthersss”, he bit his tongue trying to force the emotion out of him. Determined, he rushed to the temple to speak to the old man one last time, before he made a decision, ‘but what would I do, where will I go, will it make any difference! If I can’t be comfortable amongst the people I grew up with, where else can I gain acceptance…’, his feet tried to keep pace with the rush of his thoughts as he brushed past the village folk, “…now slow down Sssss….”, he didn’t wait to listen and let them finish. It gave him some relief, ‘…that’s how it feels…’, he gave a quick glance to the angry villager and picked up pace.
The veranda where the old man settled in usually with his rug looked empty. The rug was there, but no sign of the old fellow. ‘Did a wild animal from the north forest get you, oh no! What would I do now’, he sat down to think. ‘I have done enough good to this village and the surrounding ones, the only path I haven’t taken is into the northern forests’ – “…when you lose all hope, take to the north” – he remembered the words.
‘Either I kill myself here or face the forest’. He took to the narrow trail behind the temple, that opened into the gloomy forest. It was nearly dusk, and light started to fade. With no one to talk to and for the first time doing an errand for himself gave him a sense of relief, ‘even if this is my only errand, I am doing this for myself’, he consoled himself as the forest quickly grew on him. And so did the night with a fierce shroud of blinding darkness. ‘I feel afraid, should I have just locked myself up in that temple, I never even prayed to the deity, but my frustration is even more…’, he battled with his thoughts as he tried to settle down under what seemed to be a huge banyan tree.
“I am glad you had ‘faith’ on my words despite your frustrations and fears”, came a familiar voice which made Sarin jump in his place. “Don’t be afraid, this is your old friend”, spoke the voice which seemed to be coming from a dark silhouette sitting next to Sarin. ‘Is he a ghost? What is he doing here’, thought Sarin, still in shock and unable to speak. “Not really, I am not a ghost, seriously don’t you recognize my voice? I am the residing deity of the northern forests, I move around this place”, the voice sounded reassuring, although Sarin felt his heartbeat getting only faster, in fear.
‘I have never asked for your name as well, and no one in the village believes you exist, because everyone thinks I am mad’, Sarin didn’t know if he thought of those words or actually spoke them. “Don’t worry about them, tell me what brings you this way Sarin?”, the old man replied kindly.
‘You said so, I don’t want to continue to live that life of ridicule and suppression, it is so silent here, I can’t even hear my words reach my ears!’, Sarin blinked. The old man seemed to chuckle softly, “you never spoke to me Sarin, you just sat with me and I could listen to your thoughts and ideas, like I am doing now”, spoke the old man in silence.
“I wish to reverse my place, I want to be ahead of the world, I want to be recognized as the smartest, I want your ability to listen to unstated ideas and I want to overcome my stammer”, cried Sarin, this time he felt he actually spoke without a stutter. “Are you sure? Do you want to find a place by turning against the world? So be it”, said the old man and with what appeared to be a soft gush of wind, the silhouette flew away into the forest, “keep going north”, was what Sarin heard before he fainted under the tree.
Sarin woke up jolted by bright sunlight and felt a strange sense of intuition dawn upon him. “Was that a dream, did I encounter a ghost, what happened to me?”, his eyes locked with the ones of a pigeon sitting on a nearby branch. “I wouldn’t know, but the nearest village is still quite far, you should keep moving, there are wild animals around here”, the bird flew away. “I must have surely gone mad, did I just hear a bird’s thoughts?!!!”, but he moved ahead in the direction pointed by the bird and after several days of walking and strange encounters with several animals that seem to share their thoughts with him, he reached what seemed like the edge of a human dwelling.
Sarin quickly realized that his stammering was gone and he had super natural abilities to discern unstated thoughts and ideas from those around. It didn’t take long before his fame spread as a fast thinker and a very wise man. He could solve most problems, all he had to do was gaze deeply and the answers came to him from those around, including the animals and birds. His reputation landed him a place with the King’s court. He finally felt accomplished, but not satisfied. “Where is the fun in beating the village folk, I should be considered the smartest of all in the King’s court”, he told himself.
And it appeared to work that way. Sarin was the quickest to respond in any conversation. No one matched his ability to converse and share ideas quickly, which were being dug out from their innermost minds, without their knowledge. The King showered praises on Sarin, “you are a gift to my court, you are the smartest living man on the planet”. While the courtiers silently appreciated Sarin along with the King, they could not fathom his abilities. “I had exactly the same ideas, but Sarin was quicker”, said one. “The other day, I thought I had the King’s attention, but the thought flew out of my mind, as if someone extracted it and gave it to Sarin”, said another. “May be he is just smart and we are losing our skills”, said one of the senior courtiers.
In a short time, two things gained ‘loud’ prominence in the King’s court – Sarin’s voice and his arrogance. “Do we need so many courtiers, when I am here to take care of the proceedings”, he joked around. The courtiers slowly lost their confidence, with the King not paying attention to what was happening and promoting Sarin to the role of Chief Minister. Slowly and steadily they started losing interest in the affairs of the kingdom – “Sarin will take care anyway”, they told themselves as they slipped slowly into inaction and indifference.
One day, the court faced a serious challenge – “trade issues with Cryseilles?!!!”, boomed the King. “I could never fathom anything going wrong with them, they are a peace loving kingdom! What happened?”, he demanded. No one really knew and everyone turned to Sarin. Sarin groped the minds of every living thing around frantically, “someone should know…”, but he hit a blank. “Chief minister! What is wrong?”, the king demanded. “I…I…I…”, Sarin looked around, ‘come on! Open up, somebody’, he thought. “I will find out my King, but don’t the minister of trade have any knowledge of this?”, he pleaded. “Oh! So I do exist, don’t I?”, replied the minister. “Well, it is strange, I don’t know, please advise what should we do Chief Minister”, he retorted. “This needs to be fixed in a week, or we all go down, Sarin, Cryseilles are a peace loving but a very strong nation, it is not safe to upset them”, the King spoke in a threatening voice before he made his way out.
‘Did the power fade away? What just happened today’, Sarin quickly looked around and found a cat crossing the street. ‘If only I could be the best cat, all cats should think highly of me, why should I go looking for food, I must be the king of cats’, purred the cat as it entered a nearby house. ‘Poor thing! It doesn’t know what it’s asking for’, Sarin thought. So I do have the power, but then why did I not hear anyone in the court.
As he paced frantically in the middle of the night without sleep, he remembered his old friend, “what did you make of my life?”, he spoke loudly. “I warned you”, came a soft reply carried by a gush of wind blowing into the room through the open window. Sarin found the old man sitting on his bed smiling. “Your powers were pure, but you used them to outsmart others, to be distinct yourself, while everyone around suffered”, he said, “looks like you achieved what you wanted to son, you gave the world a taste of your previous life, didn’t you now?”.
“I didn’t know it would lead to this, but help me understand, what happened, why don’t I hear the courtiers anymore, they were so smart before?”, pleaded Sarin. “Indeed, they were…until you came by. To create an upward spiral for yourself, you sent them spiraling down, and they have no more ideas for you to steal…quickly”, said the old man. “This is not what I wanted, my anger drove me mad, please help me old friend, can I do anything to restore the balance that I have disturbed?”, cried Sarin. “You diverted the channels of inspiration and appreciation out from everyone else towards yourself. It helped in the short term, but also created a deeper damage. Reverse the flow son, help the ones around you get what you have always wanted – ‘appreciation for what they are’. So far you chose to ‘speak’ ahead of the others, now ‘seek’ to help others speak. Do you think you want to do that?”, the old man gazed intently. “Yessssss”, stuttered Sarin. “So be it”, said a parting soft gush of wind.
Sarin’s stammer returned, but it didn’t matter to him as he didn’t try so much to speak. He reversed his ability to gently inspire people around him to find their inner voice. In his presence, the courtiers felt that their abilities were suddenly amplified. They recollected their experience and wisdom and shared it freely with each other. The king realized his mistake and paid attention to them, thanks to the inspiration from Sarin. Sarin was no longer the Chief minister, but he was retained in the court as someone that took note of the proceedings.
Sarin enjoyed his new role. He didn’t have to speak, and he had plenty of time and a bubbling heart filled with the desire to ‘seek’ and inspire people around him.