Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Manuscript

Long ago, in a tiny village nestled at the foot of the great mountains, a Leader was born. The people in the village were thrilled as they had waited for this day since ages. The Leader grew up to be a shoemaker by profession. What made him different was the fact that he would discover secrets of the universe hidden behind mountain rocks, in the sparkle of sunshine on a leaf, in the sound of the gushing waters of a virgin spring, in the flight of a bird, in sunrise and sunset, in the coming and going of seasons, in floods and earthquakes, in life and death.
The Leader had a charisma and an inborn understanding of his fellow beings. When he spoke, old and young, men, women and children, all would stop their work to listen. People were inspired by him and came to him with various problems. They begged him for answers. He spoke to them of the bees and the sheep, and they returned home, not with answers but with the realisation that there had been no question.
The name of the Leader soon spread like wildfire and people from far and wide; kings and beggars, all came to see him; travelling days and nights to get a glimpse of the great man. They brought him fruits and sweets and delicacies of their land, and garlands made of the most exquisite flowers. They went down on their knees and worshipped him. But the Leader himself remained unfazed.
He went about his ways of patiently cutting strips of leather, soaking them in varnish, and spreading them to dry. Then he would skilfully cut the edges to form the shape of the upper part of the shoe and painstakingly sew the various components together, scraping off unwanted edges. With all his concentration, he would then insert a last to get the perfect mould and attach it to the insole. Then with utmost dedication he would trim and buff the sole edge and heel. Finally, with great care and dexterity, he would stain, polish and wax the shoe. He performed each of these acts with great devotion as if the unique purpose of his life lay in making the perfect pair of shoes.
The men and women flocked around him. They made their offerings. They asked him why he had to work; he was such a great man that the people from the village and beyond would be only too happy to take care of him. He just smiled and told them that he was born with the purpose of cladding their feet, that in his work lay his salvation.
The womenfolk would come to him after completing their household chores; they would ask him simple questions of how to win the love of their men. Mothers would bring their sick children for his blessings. Men would consult him on when to sow their crops, what should be the best time for harvest. Traders would seek his advice before departing for faraway lands with their array of merchandise. The shoemaker spoke to all in a language so simple that even the toddlers could understand. He always had a light which he shone to show the people that all the answers were inscribed in nature.
One day, there was a great storm and it uprooted the tree under which the shoemaker used to sit and practice his craft. Unfortunately the tree fell on the Leader and he died. The people of the village were aghast at this tragedy. For days, no one spoke. The news spread far and wide and the world seemed to mourn for months.
Amidst this calamity, arose a panic. People were scared that now, having lost their revered Leader, they would be at the mercy of the forces with no one to guide them. They held a meeting at the village square to decide what would be the best course of action. Someone suggested that they make an earthen podium and raise a statue of the leader on this pedestal. This suggestion was unanimously accepted and very soon a larger than life statue was raised. Men and women worshipped it every day with offerings of garlands made of fresh flowers.
Some time passed. A new generation had been born.  They led to a new breed of inventions that changed the ways of the world. With that arose a new breed of problems. The problems gradually gained momentum and started sneaking into every house, and were well set to capture the new world. Once again, there was panic and men and women frantically searched for answers.
A few old men remembered their old Leader and they searched their memory for every word that had been spoken by him. They scribbled down all that they remembered, every expression that had passed his lips, the description of the clothes he wore, the food he ate, the colour of leaves of the tree under whose branches he sat to make shoes. They wrote feverishly of all the things he ever touched and of the air he breathed. With each successive page written, they gained confidence and added to all known and observed facts, an element of their own imagination. So they wrote about all rights and wrongs as per the Leader and what he would have liked and what he would have not tolerated. Gradually, the writings took a life of their own and finally were compiled to form a ‘Manuscript’ or guidebook for generations to follow. The ‘Manuscript’ promised all the answers to problems provided one follows every letter written on them. It became a symbol of the eternal blueprint for salvation.
As new generations started following the ‘Manuscript’, there arose some uncertainty as to how to implement the facts written in it. As the older men who had written the ‘Manuscript’ had already passed away, a new lot of wise men, who were intellectually worshipped, began to revise the outdated ‘Manuscript’ and insert rituals and procedures that need to be followed to escape from disaster.
In course of time, the language of the ‘Manuscript’ became obsolete and there emerged yet another class of ‘interpreters’. These interpreters were men with great power and influence, so they translated each word and each phrase and each sentence in a way to add fuel to their position of power and strength.
Time flew on. Problems seemed to multiply and people started to fight over every word in the ‘Manuscript’. Some clever men and women saw through the selfish interpretations of the interpreters and began to lose faith in the ‘Manuscript’. They were joined by other men and women. As their group gained power and raised their voice, there arose another group of loyalists who defended the ‘Manuscript’ with their last breath. Both the groups became stronger and in due course of time, sporadic fights erupted between the two groups.
The sporadic fights gradually led to a full-fledged war. A certain sect emerged who gave this war a new dimension. People, who were victims of tragic circumstances were hijacked and brainwashed to join either the conservative or the rebel group in exchange for a feeling of ‘justice’.
There arose a new type of warfare where the subjects were unprepared and the tormentors unknown. New terror captured the world. And people never knew if the killer could be their neighbour.
Meanwhile, the original population of disillusioned folks and intellectual supporters continued their own battle. In the midst of all this exchange, the ‘Manuscript’ lay quietly gathering dust.

One day, a young boy, in the faraway mountains, discovered an anthill, hidden beneath the shadow of a boulder. An army of ants were hustling by, gathering crumbs to store.  He watched fascinated, for days, till he started to recognize signs and pick up vibes of communication from them. The ants told him to work with dedication, in work would lie his salvation.
He was an ignorant boy, poor and uneducated. He helped his uncle make sweets for festivals. The boy knew nothing of the Leader, or the ‘Manuscript’. But he would make the most delicious sweets and people would come a long way to buy them and savour them for a long time.
While the whole world was tearing itself apart trying to defend or protest against the ‘Manuscript’ this simple boy learnt all the truths that were inscribed and displayed everywhere around him... hidden behind mountain rocks, in the sparkle of sunshine on a leaf, in the sound of the gushing waters of a virgin spring, in the flight of a bird, in sunrise and sunset, in the coming and going of seasons, in floods and earthquakes, and in life and death.


  1. Superbly written and each word weaving into the next captivates me.
    Above all that, I love the message of this magnificent post.
    Sometimes I think, that man's intellect becomes more a deterrent because it clutters the simplicity of life.
    That's why I am forever enamoured with the mind of a child. The most complex of problems can often be solved with the most fundamental and basic principles. If we can only keep the child in us alive all the time, the universe will be a paradise.

  2. Wow, a great parable for our time. Sometimes we as people get so wrapped up in Being Right that we forget to just stop, think, and figure out what is right for ourselves without consulting some mystical text first.

    Wonderfully written, great work.

  3. JM, you were right. This little story found an immediate connection with me. And, of course, it was beautifully crafted.
    Wishing you well, as always.

  4. 99, poignant, and something I can relate to. It's funny, I followed every dot and tittle of "The Manuscript" for so long that I couldn't see the simple beauty in life, but that's changed. Thanks for sharing, and for doing it so well.

  5. Masterfully written.

    Shoemaker, carpenter, sweet-maker, it doesn't matter. Those who seek the truth will always be usurped by those who seek power, until people realize that the truth is there for all to see, with no neeed for interpretation.