Sep 30

In ancient Greece, Socrates was reputed to hold knowledge in high esteem. One day one fellow met the great philosopher and said, “Do you know what I just heard about your friend?”. “Hold on a minute,” Socrates replied. “Before telling me anything I’d like you to pass a little test. It’s called the Triple Filter Test.”. “Triple filter?”. “That’s right,” Socrates continued. “Before you talk to me about my friend, it might be a good idea to take a moment and filter what you’re going to say. That’s why I call it the triple filter test. The first filter is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?” “No,” the man said, “actually I just heard about it and…”. “All right,” said Socrates. “So you don’t know if it’s true or not. Now let’s try the second filter, the filter of Goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about my friend something good?” . “No, on the contrary…”. “So,” Socrates continued, “you want to tell me something bad about him, but you’re not certain it’s true. You may still pass the test though, because there’s one filter left: the filter of Usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about my friend going to be useful to me?” “No, not really.” “Well,” concluded Socrates, “if what you want to tell me is neither true nor good nor even useful, why tell it to me at all?”

Lesson:
Well we can always participate in loose talks to curb our boredom. But when it comes to you friends its not worth it. Always avoid talking behind the back about your near and dear friends.

Sep 15

Billy and his mother were preparing for their move to his grandparents’ ranch in Billings. At five years Billy only knew what a house was; he had never seen a ranch. And he only knew his grandparents through pictures he had seen, but he had never seen them in person. Billy’s grandparents had been angry with Billy’s mother for all of Billy’s life; Billy’s mother explained that they were angry with her because she had married Billy’s father; Billy’s father was Black while Billy’s mother was White, and Billy’s grandparents didn’t believe in “interracial” marriage. Billy was both Black and White. But Billy was confused; if his grandparents didn’t believe in “interracial” marriage, how would they be able to believe in Billy? Why, he wondered, were he and his mother going to a place that didn’t believe in them? To be with people who didn’t like what they had done, or who they were?

Billy and his mother were preparing for their move to his grandparents’ ranch in Billings. At five years Billy only knew what a house was; he had never seen a ranch. And he only knew his grandparents through pictures he had seen, but he had never seen them in person. Billy’s grandparents had been angry with Billy’s mother for all of Billy’s life; Billy’s mother explained that they were angry with her because she had married Billy’s father; Billy’s father was Black while Billy’s mother was White, and Billy’s grandparents didn’t believe in “interracial” marriage. Billy was both Black and White. But Billy was confused; if his grandparents didn’t believe in “interracial” marriage, how would they be able to believe in Billy? Why, he wondered, were he and his mother going to a place that didn’t believe in them? To be with people who didn’t like what they had done, or who they were?

at his father; “so this is what a broken heart feels like.” Billy said to himself. Billy spent the entire morning fighting back tears; he didn’t want his mother and father to know how bad he felt. He did everything he was asked to do as quickly as he could, so his parents would believe that he was okay.

As they were leaving the house, Billy’s father pulled a blue balloon from his pocket, and blew it up. He then tied the bottom of the balloon tightly, and then tied a long white string to the end of the balloon. “Here you go Billy.” His father said as he handed the balloon to Billy. Billy took the balloon from his father. He stared at the balloon. “Now,” he thought, “I will always have something of my daddy’s; I will always have his breath. His breath will always be with me in this balloon.” Billy held the balloon tight. He promised the balloon that he would never let anything happen to him. Now Billy felt as though he would have his father’s spirit with him, watching over him.

All the way in the car, as they all three drove to the airport, Billy protected his blue balloon. Billy kept his balloon low, so that it would not obscure his father’s sight of the rear view mirror. Billy gently held his blue balloon between his knees, keeping his eyes on it all the way to the airport. In this way, Billy could keep his eyes off of his father, off of his father’s hands as they gripped the steering wheel. His father was an ironworker on the Golden Gate Bridge, so his hands were rough, and they looked older than the rest of his father did. Billy could not keep his eyes from looking of the back of his father’s head, of his hair line, which was always cut sharp and straight off of his neck. Billy silently talked to his balloon; he told his balloon not to worry; he told his balloon that despite all the evidence to the contrary, they would both be okay.

The three of them, and Billy’s balloon, reached the airport just in time to board the plane. There was no time for long good-byes. Billy believed that his parents had planned their arrival time for just this reason. Billy had just enough time to give his father a quick hug, and then rush off with his mother pulling him along as he held tightly onto his balloon. As his mother pulled him through security, Billy looked back to see his father turn and walk away; his shoulders were bent forward; his head was down; he looked old and sad. Billy fought back tears; feeling a huge, painful lump in his throat. Then he heard his balloon speak. to him in a reassuring voice; “everything is going to be okay Billy, remember?” “Yes, I remember,” he answered his balloon, remembering that that was what he had promised his balloon.

Once they were through security, they went on to find their gate; gate 53. As they arrived at their gate, they saw that passengers were already boarding, so Billy, his balloon, and his mother got in line and slowly moved along with the crowd with which they would fly to Billings, Montana. The flight attendant who took their tickets was impressed by Billy’s balloon. “My father gave it to me.” Billy told her. “My father’s breath is inside.” “Oh really,” she said. Billy felt that she didn’t fully understand the importance of having his father’s breath.

Billy, with his balloon, and his mother walked down the connector, and then onto the airplane. There, at the door, they met another flight attendant. She told them that they were the last to board, so they would be given special seats. In fact, they were given the seats that the flight attendants usually used. The seats pulled down from the wall of the plane and faced sideways. They had seatbelts that crossed over one shoulder instead of their waists. And they were right next to the door to the plane.

Billy and his mother sat side-by-side. It seemed to Billy that right after they sat down, the plane took off. This was the first time Billy had ever flown in a plane; he would have been excited under different circumstances, but now he just held onto his balloon, and felt his breaking heart.
After a while, a flight attendant came over to Billy carrying another balloon! It was black, and it rose in the air by itself.

“Would you like this balloon too?” He asked.

Billy was surprised. How could a balloon stay up by itself?
“How does it stay up by itself?” Billy asked the flight attendant.

“Oh. It’s because it’s filled with a gas called helium, and helium is lighter than air, so the helium makes the balloon rise.”

“I never heard of helium before.” Billy said, feeling a bit suspicious about this new information. How could there be something that existed that Billy didn’t already know about?

“Would you like the balloon?” The flight attendant asked again.

“I have to ask my balloon first.” Billy answered. Billy asked his balloon what he thought
about having this new black balloon join them. His balloon answered that he and the new black balloon had already been talking, and that they would both be happy to be together.
“My balloon says it’s okay mister. Thank you.”

“You’re very welcome.” The flight attendant said, handing the black balloon to Billy.

Billy took the new balloon and brought it close to his blue balloon.

“Hi.” Billy said to the new black balloon.

“Thank you for taking me,” said the black balloon.

“That’s okay,” said Billy. “It was really up to blue balloon though.”

“Thank you blue balloon.” Black balloon said. “So why don’t you float?”
“Because I’m filled with Billy’s father’s breath. I’m carrying part of Billy’s father’s soul.”

“Wow! What an honor. I never carried anyone’s soul before. What does it feel like?”

“It feels like I have a purpose; I mean I know that all balloons have a purpose, but I feel like I have a special purpose-to carry Billy’s father’s soul to Billy’s new house, and to keep his soul close to Billy for the rest of Billy’s life.”

“That is a special purpose.” Black balloon said. “I never met a balloon with a special purpose like that before.”

And just as black balloon finished saying this, three birds appeared in the plane. They were yellow and as large as owls. They did not need to flap their wings to remain in the air; instead they simply hovered. They floated over to Billy and hovered next to black balloon.

“Hi black balloon.” They said. “You are beautiful.”

Black balloon answered “I may be pretty, but I’m sitting next to a balloon who has a real purpose in life; can’t you see him; can’t you see blue balloon?”

“No,” said, the yellow birds, “we only see you; we see no blue balloon.” And then the yellow birds floated away.

“Don’t feel bad blue balloon.” Black balloon said. “Others will see you, and see your purpose. I do.”

“Of course they will,” said Billy.

“I know,” said blue balloon, “a balloon having a special purpose is-well special; not everyone can see it right away.”

And just as blue balloon finished talking, a swarm of tiny black birds surrounded black balloon. They looked very much like humming birds; except that they were as black as night.

“You are so beautiful.” They said to black balloon. They swarmed around black balloon as though they were tiny fish in water. “What keeps you floating?” They asked black balloon.

“Helium,” black balloon said. “But I’m sitting next to a balloon who has a special purpose; don’t you see him?”

“No,” they answered, “we only see you.” And they swarmed away.

Blue balloon was beginning to feel bad. Maybe he didn’t really have a special purpose after all. Or maybe having a special purpose wasn’t really that big of a deal.

Black balloon sensed what blue balloon  was feeling. “Blue balloon,” he said. “Don’t let these silly birds make you doubt yourself. You do have a special purpose, and that purpose means a great deal.”

“That’s right.” Billy said. “Remember how much I’m counting on you to carry my daddy’s spirit for me. Without you I will never have my daddy again.”

“That’s right.” Blue balloon said as he regained his confidence. “That’s right; I do have a special purpose. Thank you black balloon. Thank you Billy.”
Yet, just as soon as blue balloon had finished speaking, three bright red birds came up to them. The three red birds floated on their own tree branch. They did not have to flap their wings at all because the branch was a magic branch and it kept them in the air much like a flying carpet.

“Hello there black balloon; you are the most beautiful thing we have ever seen, and we have floated all over the world.”

“Thank you red birds, but I am here with blue balloon, and he is a balloon with a purpose. Surely if you have floated all over the world you can see this balloon; you can see a balloon with a purpose.”

“No,” said the red birds. “We cannot see the blue balloon. We can only see you. Besides, there is no such thing as a balloon with a purpose. Balloons were only made to look pretty; they have no other purpose; you should know that black balloon.” And the red birds floated away.

Both black balloon and Billy looked at blue balloon. “I’m okay,” Blue balloon said. “I know I have a purpose. I can feel it now, so no matter what anyone says, I know.”

Billy and black balloon smiled. “I love you blue balloon,” said Billy.

“I love you too,” said blue balloon.

“I am honored to know you both,” said black balloon.

Immediately, the flight captain’s voice came over the speaker in the plane. “We will be landing in Billings in just a few minutes. Flight attendants will be making their final pass through the plane. Please buckle your seat belts, put your trays up, and place your seats upright. Thank you for flying with us today.” She said.

Billy, and black balloon, and blue balloon just looked at one another. They were all thinking the same thing; what would happen now?

As they sat together, the plane slowly descended. Billy could feel the descent in his stomach. He was feeling sort of sick. He looked down at his feet, trying to still the nausea he felt.

Suddenly, blue balloon cried out, “Billy! What’s happening to black balloon?”

Billy looked up at black balloon. Black balloon was shrinking! Billy could see wrinkles in black balloon’s  skin.

“Black balloon!” Billy cried out. “What are you doing?”

“I think that I am dying Billy,” said black balloon.

“No black balloon! Please don’t die”. Billy pleaded.
But there was nothing that anyone could do. The helium in black balloon; the helium that gave black balloon life, could only last for just so long, and now that the plane was descending, the pressure of the air on black balloon was pushing the helium out of him much faster. Black balloon was shrinking faster than he might have if he had lived his life on the ground.
Billy felt the familiar lump in his throat; he felt his heart breaking again, but this time he did not hold back his tears. Slowly Billy’s eyes filled and then over flowed. He held black balloon in his lap.

“I love you black balloon.” Billy said, as one of his tears dropped right onto black balloon. And as the tear fell onto black balloon, black balloon began to squirm. In fact, black balloon began squirming so much that Billy could not hold onto him any longer, so Billy let go, and he watched with wonder as black balloon turned from a balloon into a giant, beautiful black bird.

“Oh my!” Said Billy.

“Thank you Billy.” Said the black bird who was once the black balloon. “You saved me.” And the black bird flew away.

“Did you see that blue balloon?” Billy said, looking over at blue balloon. But to Billy’s horror, blue balloon was dying too.

“Blue balloon! What is happening? What are you doing?”

“Billy I’m dying too. The only way you can save your father’s spirit is to open me up and breathe in the last of his air. That way his spirit will always be in you. But you have to hurry; I don’t have much time left. Untie the string, and then the knot at my end and suck out all of the air-hurry!”

Billy did as blue balloon instructed him too. He had some trouble with the knot, but he got it untied, and then he put the hole to his mouth and sucked in all of his father’s breath, his father’s spirit. When he was done, blue balloon lay flat and lifeless on Billy’s lap. Billy’s heart was truly broken now, and he had no more tears left to cry.

At some point, Billy realized that the plane had landed at the Billings airport. His mother roughly dragged Billy off of the plane and into the Billings terminal.

“What did you do to your balloon?” She said sharply, as she grabbed the blue balloon from Billy and threw it into a nearby garbage can, pulling Billy along as she did so.

Billy was stunned. He couldn’t lose blue balloon, but what could he do now. He tried to pull  away from his mother, but she had his hand in hers so tight that he couldn’t get free. Billy had never felt such panic in his life. He knew that he could not leave this airport without blue balloon.

Suddenly, his mother came to a stop. Billy looked up. He saw is grandmother and grandfather. Of course, thought Billy, they would be here to pick them up. Billy’s mother let go of Billy’s hand and stood before her parents. She looked like a guilty child.
Billy took off running. He headed straight for the trash can. Once he arrived, he looked in and there was blue balloon. Billy picked him up and put him in his pocket and then ran back to his mother and grandparents, who were all still hugging; no one had missed him at all. Billy knew he wouldn’t leave this airport without blue balloon, and he was right.

His grandparents helped Billy and his mother pack all of their things into their big truck. And then they all drove out to his grandparents’ ranch. Billy’s mother and grandmother were silent throughout the entire drive.

It was a “big spread” as his grandfather called it. Billy was shown his new bedroom. It was okay. They all had supper together; his grandmother was a much better cook than his mother was.

After supper, Billy went out to the “back 40″ as his grandfather called it. It wasn’t really 40 acres, but it was a lot of land; so much land in fact, that Billy couldn’t see the end of it. Billy walked over to the fence that his grandfather had told him went all the way around the ranch. Billy leaned against it, and then reached into his pocket and brought out blue balloon. He laid blue balloon on the fence rail. He missed both blue balloon and black balloon. He missed his father.

He thought about his father, about how he was all alone in their big house, about how he would have eaten alone, about how each time he would pass Billy’s room, he would miss Billy even more. Billy felt his eyes well up with tears again; he felt the familiar knot in his throat, and Billy let his tears spill over. As Billy cried for his father, one of his tears dropped on blue balloon, and unbelievably, blue balloon began to squirm. Billy stepped back several feet, and then he heard a cawing from above. Billy looked up and saw black bird; the same black bird, who used to be black balloon circling above him. Billy then looked at blue balloon and saw that, to Billy’s amazement, blue balloon had become a beautiful blue bird.

“Thank you Billy,” said the blue bird. “You brought me back to life.”
The  blue bird flew up into the air to the black bird. Together the two birds circled Billy, diving and rising. After a while they both landed on the fence post.

The black bird said, “we will always be with you Billy. You gave both of us purpose.”

“Yes.” Said the blue bird. “Few beings are lucky enough to be given a purpose in life. Thank you for giving us ours.”

Billy said, “I am honored to know you both.”
And the two birds did stay with Billy.

They were there as Billy began Kindergarten at the school several blocks from his house. They were there each morning before Billy left for school. They were there each afternoon when Billy came home. They were there each night after Billy had dinner, and just before he went to bed.

Both blue bird and black bird would fly down from the sky to meet Billy, and together they would talk about all of the things that Billy was doing. For example, Billy was trying to make friends at his new, but making new friends was hard to do. All of the children in Billy’s class already knew each other, so Billy was left out because he was “the new kid.” Plus, Billy was the only kid in his school who was both Black and White. All the other kids were only one color or another; none of them were two colors. Some of the kids even teased him about being two colors.

Billy couldn’t tell his mother about his troubles at school. Ever since they had arrived at his grandparents’ house, his mother had been so very sad. Billy would take her by the hand some days when he returned from school, and bring her out to the “back 40.” He introduced his mother to black bird and to blue bird. He did not tell her that each bird had once been his balloons; his mother was too sad to hear “such nonsense.” That’s what she called anything that she couldn’t believe.

Billy had tried to tell some of the kids about how blue balloon and black balloon had turned from balloons into birds as he had moved from San Francisco to Billings, but none of the children that Billy told believed him.

“That’s stupid.” One boy said, “balloons don’t talk, and they can’t turn into birds; you’re making up make-believe “baby” stories.”

“I’m not either,” Billy had protested. But, after telling his story, Billy was pretty much ignored by most of the other kids. Billy ended up feeling stupid for telling the other kids about blue balloon and black balloon.

“That’s okay,” black balloon said. “At least you tried to tell other people about us. Not everyone can believe in magic, and not everyone realizes their  purpose.”

“That’s right,” said blue balloon, “if you can’t realize you have a purpose, you pretty much can’t see that others have a purpose too.”

“I guess.” Billy reluctantly agreed. But he wondered what his purpose was.

Billy still felt the same at Christmas break, when Billy’s father came for a visit. Billy’s mother was so happy to see Billy’s father, and so was Billy, but they were the only ones who were.
Billy was perplexed by the way the holiday season was celebrated in Billings; it was so different from the way Billy had seen the holiday observed in San Francisco. In San Francisco, there were not only Christmas festivities, but also Hanukah, Kwanza, and even Buddhist gatherings. In Billings, Billy only saw Christmas commemorated. And boy was it ever commemorated!

It seemed to Billy that nearly every house was decorated inside and out with a startling array of Christmas decorations. Some houses even had tributes to the birth of Jesus on their front lawns. And one of the traditions observed during the Christmas holiday, was to drive around at night and look at all of the houses that were so wildly ornamented.

Billy’s father had arrived the day before Christmas Eve. He looked older to Billy, but Billy was so happy to see him. As soon as he could, Billy took his father out to the “back 40″ to meet blue bird and black bird. Once Billy and his father were alone out back, Billy explained to his father what had happened to blue balloon on the airplane. And as Billy and his father stood there talking, blue bird and black bird flew down from the sky.

Billy introduced his father to blue bird and to black bird.

“Hello,” Billy’s father said to them both. It’s an honor to meet you.”

“The honor is ours,” said blue bird; “I would have no purpose if it weren’t for you.”

“And I would never have known that balloons and birds, and everyone else has a purpose if it hadn’t been for you,” said black bird.

“I used to think that I had a purpose,” said Billy’s father. “But now I’m not so sure of that.” Billy’s father looked up into the sky for a long while.

Billy, blue balloon, and black balloon did not know what to say.
After some time, Billy’s father said, “it looks like it might snow tonight; we will have a “white” Christmas.”

On Christmas Eve, right after dinner, everyone decided it was time to go driving to look at all of the decorations. Many of his mother’s relatives were at the ranch, uncles and aunts, and cousins, and so on. Excitedly, everyone bundled up and headed for the door.
Outside were parked a line of cars, and everyone started piling into them.

Billy was trying to stay close to his father, but somehow they became separated by the rushing crowd of relatives. Billy suddenly found himself in the back seat of one of the many cars looking out of the rear window as the car drove off leaving his father behind. Billy locked into the look on his father’s face; it was a look of deep sadness and humiliation. Billy’s father’s expression looked as though he had come face-to-face with invisibility; Billy’s father seemed to realize that, he did not only have no purpose, he also had no reflection.
Billy felt the earth being pulled away from, as the car in which he had been imprisoned, roared to life, and drove away. Billy watched as his father grew smaller, and farther away.

Billy saw all of the Christmas decorations through tear-filled eyes. He kept gulping for air. He was surrounded by people who could not truly see him because they could not see his father at all.

When Billy and his relatives returned home, Billy found that his father had gone. His father had left Billy a note explaining that he had had to go back home, but that he loved Billy very much and always would.

Billy went to blue bird and black bird for consolation.

“My heart keeps breaking all the time.” Billy told blue bird and black bird. “How many times can a heart break?”

Both blue bird and black bird felt sad for Billy, but neither of them knew what they could do to help Billy feel better. Nothing either of them could say anything that would answer Billy’s question.

During the week after Christmas, Billy still felt very sad; he could feel nothing but his need for his father. Each time he remembered the way his looked standing on the sidewalk as Billy drove away, he would ache deep within himself. Billy’s mother missed Billy’s father too. She cried most of the time during that week.

“We’re in prison Billy.” She said. “We never should have come here.”

Then, on New Year’s Day, while everyone was quietly celebrating the beginning of a new year, Billy sat in his grandfather’s den watching TV. He felt so lonely that he could not speak or move. As he sat with his pain, barely paying attention to the show that was on, a newscaster interrupted the program.

“We have an amazing bit of video for you this New Year’s Day folks. We had to break in to share it with you. What you are about to witness is truly a miracle.”

The next scene was a shot of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. “That’s  where daddy works!” Billy thought, as he saw the image of the bridge. Billy perked up. He was now focusing all of his attention on the TV.

“Apparently,” the newscaster continued off-screen, “an ironworker on the Golden Gate Bridge climbed up the north tower of the bridge today, and he intended to simply jump to his death. But watch this folks, watch what actually happened.”
Billy watched as he saw his father standing on the north tower of the bridge. “No Daddy!” Billy cried out. Billy watched as his father raised his face to the sky, reached his arms out to his sides, and then dove from the tower toward the water.

Billy watched in horror, as the newscaster narrated. “Now watch closely folks, this is amazing.” And what Billy saw was amazing. In mid-dive his father seemed to transform right in front of the camera from his father into a large red and yellow bird. Half-way to the bay, his father, now a beautiful bird, changed direction and flew up into the sky and away into the distance.

“Did you see that!” The newscaster asked excitedly. “We’ll run it again so you can see this; remember this truly is a miracle.”

Billy was no longer watching. He rose quickly and ran to get his mother. He pulled her outside with him so he could tell her and blue bird and black bird what he had just witnessed on TV, to tell them all about his father.

Once he got outside, he was so surprised to see a third bird, a new bird, a beautiful red and yellow bird flying with black bird and blue bird. As Billy ran out to meet his friends, black bird landed on the fence rail first.

“Billy!” Black bird cried out. “Do we have news for you!”

Billy looked up at his mother. She was staring at this new bird. She was crying.

“Mother,” Billy said, “I have to tell you something about my birds, and I have to tell you something about Daddy.”

“I know Billy.” She said, looking down at Billy. “I’ve always known.” She looked up into the sky at the new bird. The new bird circled, swooped and then landed on the fence post next to blue bird and black bird.

“Now,” said the new bird, “I can be with you always.”

Almost instantly Billy’s mother began to shake. In complete wonder, Billy watched at his mother transformed into a beautiful white dove. As she transformed, she quivered, and then sought her wings, finding them, she flew, awkwardly at first, and then with incredible gracefulness. She soared into the sky as though feeling freedom for the first time in her life. After many minutes of soaring, while Billy, black bird, blue bird, and the new bird, who was his father, watched, she came down to the fence post. She sidled up next to the bird who was Billy’s father.

“I am honored to know you.” She said. “Thank you for coming back for me, now we can be together forever.”

“I love you all.” The bird who was Billy’s father said. “Now we’re a family.”

Billy’s grandparents never understood what had happened to their daughter; she had simply disappeared without a trace. So had Billy’s father. Billy’s grandparents thought that maybe they had simply run off together, and that they had left Billy behind.

And over time, they came to accept and then to love Billy as their grandson. They had more difficulty though accepting the fact that the only friends that Billy appeared to have were four odd looking birds who had made their home within the “back 40.”

Sep 05

While walking down a busy street one day, a successful Human Resource Director was knocked down by a bus. She died and her soul came to Heaven. She met St. Peter at the Pearly Gates, who said that they never had an HR director before, so he had no idea what to do. She asked him if she could go inside and see for herself, but St. Peter declined saying that he had orders from higher authorities, not to allow any soul to enter without going through a test. He told her that she would have to live for a day in Hell and one day in Heaven and then choose between the two.

She was sent to Hell via the elevator. When the door finally opened, she was quite surprised to find a lush green golf course. In front of her were her friends and fellow colleagues, with whom she had worked when she was alive. They were all dressed in gorgeous gowns and lovely clothes and were cheering for her. She had a warm welcome and enjoyed every bit of her stay there. She talked of old times with them, relived old memories and had a splendid dinner. She was pleasantly surprised to see the Devil (who was actually handsome!) dressed up in a nice suit and talk to her very politely. Finally, it was time for her to bid farewell to her friends and go back to the Pearly Gates.

She got out of the elevator and found St. Peter waiting for her. He then told her that she would now spend 24 hours in Heaven. She was greeted with a beautiful sight in Heaven. She saw gorgeous angels and splendid clouds. She lounged the entire day on clouds and played the harp. She had a great time singing and entertaining herself and before she could realize her day was over. She met St. Peter again who asked her where she would like to go for eternity. She chose Hell, as she thought she had a better time there with her friends.

Therefore, she was sent back to Hell via the same elevator. When she reached, she had a shock awaiting her. Instead of the green golf course, she saw a dilapidated wasteland that was covered in filth. Her friends were dressed in rags and were picking up garbage. Finally, she saw the Devil who looked horrifying, instead of handsome. She asked him what happened here, as she was expecting something different. The Devil just smiled and said that yesterday, they were recruiting and today she was the staff!

Sep 04

My five years’ old daughter Mini cannot live without chattering. I really believe that in all her life she has not wasted a minute in silence. Her mother is often vexed at this, and would stop her prattle, but I would not. To see Mini quiet is unnatural, and I cannot bear it long. And so my own talk with her is always lively. One morning, for instance, when I was in the midst of the seventeenth chapter of my new novel, my little Mini stole into the room, and putting her hand into mine, said: “Father! Ramdayal the door-keeper calls a crow a krow! He doesn’t know anything, does he?” Before I could explain to her the differences of language in this world, she was embarked on the full tide of another subject. “What do you think, Father? Bhola says there is an elephant in the clouds, blowing water out of his trunk, and that is why it rains!” And then, darting off anew, while I sat still making ready some reply to this last saying, “Father! what relation is Mother to you?”

“My dear little sister in the law!” I murmured involuntarily to myself, but with a grave face contrived to answer: “Go and play with Bhola, Mini! I am busy!”

The window of my room overlooks the road. The child had seated herself at my feet near my table, and was playing softly, drumming on her knees. I was hard at work on my seventeenth chapter, where Protrap Singh, the hero, had just caught Kanchanlata, the heroine, in his arms, and was about to escape with her by the third story window of the castle, when all of a sudden Mini left her play, and ran to the window, crying, “A Cabuliwallah! a Cabuliwallah!” Sure enough in the street below was a Cabuliwallah, passing slowly along. He wore the loose soiled clothing of his people, with a tall turban; there was a bag on his back, and he carried boxes of grapes in his hand.

I cannot tell what were my daughter’s feelings at the sight of this man, but she began to call him loudly. “Ah!” I thought, “he will come in, and my seventeenth chapter will never be finished!” At which exact moment the Cabuliwallah turned, and looked up at the child. When she saw this, overcome by terror, she fled to her mother’s protection, and disappeared. She had a blind belief that inside the bag, which the big man carried, there were perhaps two or three other children like herself. The pedlar meanwhile entered my doorway, and greeted me with a smiling face.

So precarious was the position of my hero and my heroine, that my first impulse was to stop and buy something, since the man had been called. I made some small purchases, and a conversation began about Abdurrahman, the Russians, she English, and the Frontier Policy.

As he was about to leave, he asked: “And where is the little girl, sir?”

And I, thinking that Mini must get rid of her false fear, had her brought out.

She stood by my chair, and looked at the Cabuliwallah and his bag. He offered her nuts and raisins, but she would not be tempted, and only clung the closer to me, with all her doubts increased.

This was their first meeting.

One morning, however, not many days later, as I was leaving the house, I
was startled to find Mini, seated on a bench near the door, laughing and talking, with the great Cabuliwallah at her feet. In all her life, it appeared; my small daughter had never found so patient a listener, save her father. And already the corner of her little sari was stuffed with almonds and raisins, the gift of her visitor, “Why did you give her those?” I said, and taking out an eight-anna bit, I handed it to him. The man accepted the money without demur, and slipped it into his pocket.

Alas, on my return an hour later, I found the unfortunate coin had made twice its own worth of trouble! For the Cabuliwallah had given it to Mini, and her mother catching sight of the bright round object, had pounced on the child with: “Where did you get that eight-anna bit? ”

“The Cabuliwallah gave it me,” said Mini cheerfully.

“The Cabuliwallah gave it you!” cried her mother much shocked. “Oh, Mini! how could you take it from him?”

I, entering at the moment, saved her from impending disaster, and proceeded to make my own inquiries.

It was not the first or second time, I found, that the two had met. The Cabuliwallah had overcome the child’s first terror by a judicious bribery of nuts and almonds, and the two were now great friends.

They had many quaint jokes, which afforded them much amusement. Seated in front of him, looking down on his gigantic frame in all her tiny dignity, Mini would ripple her face with laughter, and begin: “O Cabuliwallah, Cabuliwallah, what have you got in your bag?”

And he would reply, in the nasal accents of the mountaineer: “An elephant!” Not much cause for merriment, perhaps; but how they both enjoyed the witticism! And for me, this child’s talk with a grown-up man had always in it something strangely fascinating.

Then the Cabuliwallah, not to be behindhand, would take his turn: “Well, little one, and when are you going to the father-in-law’s house?”

Now most small Bengali maidens have heard long ago about the father-in-law’s house; but we, being a little new-fangled, had kept these things from our child, and Mini at this question must have been a trifle bewildered. But she would not show it, and with ready tact replied: “Are you going there?”

Amongst men of the Cabuliwallah’s class, however, it is well known that the words father-in-law’s house have a double meaning. It is a euphemism for jail, the place where we are well cared for, at no expense to ourselves. In this sense would the sturdy pedlar take my daughter’s question. “Ah,” he would say, shaking his fist at an invisible policeman, “I will thrash my father-in-law!” Hearing this, and picturing the poor discomfited relative, Mini would go off into peals of laughter, in which her formidable friend would join.

These were autumn mornings, the very time of year when kings of old went forth to conquest; and I, never stirring from my little corner in Calcutta, would let my mind wander over the whole world. At the very name of another country, my heart would go out to it, and at the sight of a foreigner in the streets, I would fall to weaving a network of dreams, –the mountains, the glens, and the forests of his distant home, with his cottage in its setting, and the free and independent life of far-away wilds. Perhaps the scenes of travel conjure themselves up before me, and pass and repass in my imagination all the more vividly, because I lead such a vegetable existence, that a call to travel would fall upon me like a thunderbolt. In the presence of this Cabuliwallah, I was immediately transported to the foot of arid mountain peaks, with narrow little defiles twisting in and out amongst their towering heights. I could see the string of camels bearing the merchandise, and the company of turbaned merchants, carrying some of their queer old firearms, and some of their spears, journeying downward towards the plains. I could see–but at some such point Mini’s mother would intervene, imploring me to “beware of that man.”

Mini’s mother is unfortunately a very timid lady. Whenever she hears a noise in the street, or sees people coming towards the house, she alwaysjumps to the conclusion that they are either thieves, or drunkards, or snakes, or tigers, or malaria or cockroaches, or caterpillars, or an English sailor. Even after all these years of experience, she is not able to overcome her terror. So she was full of doubts about the Cabuliwallah, and used to beg me to keep a watchful eye on him.

I tried to laugh her fear gently away, but then she would turn round on me seriously, and ask me solemn questions.

Were children never kidnapped?

Was it, then, not true that there was slavery in Cabul?

Was it so very absurd that this big man should be able to carry off a tiny child?

I urged that, though not impossible, it was highly improbable. But this was not enough, and her dread persisted. As it was indefinite, however, it did not seem right to forbid the man the house, and the intimacy went on unchecked.

Once a year in the middle of January Rahmun, the Cabuliwallah, was in the habit of returning to his country, and as the time approached he would be very busy, going from house to house collecting his debts. This year, however, he could always find time to come and see Mini. It would have seemed to an outsider that there was some conspiracy between the two, for when he could not come in the morning, he would appear in the evening.

Even to me it was a little startling now and then, in the corner of a dark room, suddenly to surprise this tall, loose-garmented, much bebagged man; but when Mini would run in smiling, with her, “O! Cabuliwallah! Cabuliwallah!” and the two friends, so far apart in age, would subside into their old laughter and their old jokes, I felt reassured.

One morning, a few days before he had made up his mind to go, I was correcting my proof sheets in my study. It was chilly weather. Through the window the rays of the sun touched my feet, and the slight warmth was very welcome. It was almost eight o’clock, and the early pedestrians were returning home, with their heads covered. All at once, I heard an uproar in the street, and, looking out, saw Rahmun being led away bound between two policemen, and behind them a crowd of curious boys. There were blood-stains on the clothes of the Cabuliwallah, and one of the policemen carried a knife. Hurrying out, I stopped them, and enquired what it all meant. Partly from one, partly from another, I gathered that a certain neighbour had owed the pedlar something for a Rampuri shawl, but had falsely denied having bought it, and that in the course of the quarrel, Rahmun had struck him. Now in the heat of his excitement, the prisoner began calling his enemy all sorts of names, when suddenly in a verandah of my house appeared my little Mini, with her usual exclamation: “O Cabuliwallah! Cabuliwallah!” Rahmun’s face lighted up as he turned to her. He had no bag under his arm today, so she could not discuss the elephant with him. She at once therefore proceeded to the next question: “Are you going to the father-in-law’s house?” Rahmun laughed and said: “Just where I am going, little one!” Then seeing that the reply did not amuse the child, he held up his fettered hands. ” Ali,” he said, ” I would have thrashed that old father-in-law, but my hands are bound!”

On a charge of murderous assault, Rahmun was sentenced to some years’ imprisonment.

Time passed away, and he was not remembered. The accustomed work in the accustomed place was ours, and the thought of the once-free mountaineer spending his years in prison seldom or never occurred to us. Even my light-hearted Mini, I am ashamed to say, forgot her old friend. New companions filled her life. As she grew older, she spent more of her time with girls. So much time indeed did she spend with them that she came no more, as she used to do, to her father’s room. I was scarcely on speaking terms with her.

Years had passed away. It was once more autumn and we had made arrangements for our Mini’s marriage. It was to take place during the Puja Holidays. With Durga returning to Kailas, the light of our home also was to depart to her husband’s house, and leave her father’s in the shadow.

The morning was bright. After the rains, there was a sense of ablution in the air, and the sun-rays looked like pure gold. So bright were they that they gave a beautiful radiance even to the sordid brick walls of our Calcutta lanes. Since early dawn to-day the wedding-pipes had been sounding, and at each beat my own heart throbbed. The wail of the tune, Bhairavi, seemed to intensify my pain at the approaching separation. My Mini was to be married to-night.

>From early morning noise and bustle had pervaded the house. In the courtyard the canopy had to be slung on its bamboo poles; the chandeliers with their tinkling sound must be hung in each room and verandah. There was no end of hurry and excitement. I was sitting in my study, looking through the accounts, when some one entered, saluting respectfully, and stood before me. It was Rahmun the Cabuliwallah. At first I did not recognise him. He had no bag, nor the long hair, nor the same vigour that he used to have. But he smiled, and I knew him again.

“When did you come, Rahmun?” I asked him.

“Last evening,” he said, “I was released from jail.”

The words struck harsh upon my ears. I had never before talked with one who had wounded his fellow, and my heart shrank within itself, when I realised this, for I felt that the day would have been better-omened had he not turned up.

“There are ceremonies going on,” I said, “and I am busy. Could you perhaps come another day?”

At once he turned to go; but as he reached the door he hesitated, and said: “May I not see the little one, sir, for a moment?” It was his belief that Mini was still the same. He had pictured her running to him as she used, calling “O Cabuliwallah! Cabuliwallah!” He had imagined too that they would laugh and talk together, just as of old. In fact, in memory of former days he had brought, carefully wrapped up in paper, a few almonds and raisins and grapes, obtained somehow from a countryman, for his own little fund was dispersed.

I said again: “There is a ceremony in the house, and you will not be able to see any one to-day.”

The man’s face fell. He looked wistfully at me for a moment, said “Good morning,” and went out. I felt a little sorry, and would have called him back, but I found he was returning of his own accord. He came close up to me holding out his offerings and said: “I brought these few things, sir, for the little one. Will you give them to her?”

I took them and was going to pay him, but he caught my hand and said: “You are very kind, sir! Keep me in your recollection. Do not offer me money!–You have a little girl, I too have one like her in my own home. I think of her, and bring fruits to your child, not to make a profit for myself.”

Saying this, he put his hand inside his big loose robe, and brought out a small and dirty piece of paper. With great care he unfolded this, and smoothed it out with both hands on my table. It bore the impression of a little band. Not a photograph. Not a drawing. The impression of an ink-smeared hand laid flat on the paper. This touch of his own little daughter had been always on his heart, as he had come year after year to Calcutta, to sell his wares in the streets.

Tears came to my eyes. I forgot that he was a poor Cabuli fruit-seller, while I was–but no, what was I more than he? He also was a father. That impression of the hand of his little Parbati in her distant mountain home reminded me of my own little Mini.

I sent for Mini immediately from the inner apartment. Many difficulties were raised, but I would not listen. Clad in the red silk of her wedding-day, with the sandal paste on her forehead, and adorned as a young bride, Mini came, and stood bashfully before me.

The Cabuliwallah looked a little staggered at the apparition. He could not revive their old friendship. At last he smiled and said: “Little one, are you going to your father-in-law’s house?”

But Mini now understood the meaning of the word “father-in-law,” and she
could not reply to him as of old. She flushed up at the question, and stood before him with her bride-like face turned down.

I remembered the day when the Cabuliwallah and my Mini had first met, and I felt sad. When she had gone, Rahmun heaved a deep sigh, and sat down on the floor. The idea had suddenly come to him that his daughter too must have grown in this long time, and that he would have to make friends with her anew. Assuredly he would not find her, as he used to know her. And besides, what might not have happened to her in these eight years?

The marriage-pipes sounded, and the mild autumn sun streamed round us. But Rahmun sat in the little Calcutta lane, and saw before him the barren mountains of Afghanistan.

I took out a bank-note, and gave it to him, saying: “Go back to your own daughter, Rahmun, in your own country, and may the happiness of your meeting bring good fortune to my child!”

Having made this present, I had to curtail some of the festivities. I could not have the electric lights I had intended, nor the military band, and the ladies of the house were despondent at it. But to me the wedding feast was all the brighter for the thought that in a distant land a long-lost father met again with his only child.

Aug 16

When I was a little girl at summer camp, another little girl came up to me and wanted to play. “Be my best friend?” she asked, and held out her hand. So Annie and I shook on it and we became best friends.

A few weeks later, a group of kids were playing outside, and I was walking up from behind because I’d gone to get a chocolate milk for Annie. Annie loved chocolate milk!

As I neared the group, I heard Annie ask another girl “Be my best friend?” And the other girl replied “I thought you were Molly’s best friend!”

Annie said “Yeah, but today I think she’s a dumb girl because she didn’t bring me chocolate milk so I want a new best friend.”

Well, there’s little six year old me, swearing I wouldn’t cry or yell at Annie, whom I believed to be my best friend.

So I ran away to the stream, throwing out the chocolate milk along the way. When I got there, a group of boys were killing tadpoles. I had a screaming fit at them to make them stop and then ran to a favorite tree and cried my eyes out ’til long past dark.

Aug 14

My mother used to ask me what is the most important part of the body. Through the years I would take a guess at what I thought was the correct answer. When I was younger, I thought sound was very important to us as humans, so I said, “My ears, Mommy.”

She said, “No. Many people are deaf. But you keep thinking about it and I will ask you again soon.”

Several years passed before she asked me again. Since making my first attempt, I had contemplated the correct answer. So this time I told her, “Mommy, sight is very important to everybody, so it must be our eyes.”

She looked at me and told me, “You are learning fast, but the answer is not correct because there are many people who are blind.”

Stumped again, I continued my quest for knowledge and over the years, Mother asked me a couple more times and always her answer was, “No. But you are getting smarter every year, my child.”

Then last year, my grandpa died. Everybody was hurt. Everybody was crying. Even my father cried. I remember that especially because it was only the second time I saw him cry. My Mom looked at me when it was our turn to say our final goodbye to Grandpa. She asked me, “Do you know the most important body part yet, my dear?”

I was shocked when she asked me this now. I always thought this was a game between her and me. She saw the confusion on my face and told me, “This question is very important. It shows that you have really lived in our life. For every body part you gave me in the past, I have told you were wrong and I have given you an example why. But today is the day you need to learn this important lesson.”

She looked down at me as only a mother can. I saw her eyes well up with tears. She said, “My dear, the most important body part is your shoulder.”

I asked, “Is it because it holds up my head?”

She replied, “No, it is because it can hold the head of a friend or a loved one when they cry. Everybody needs a shoulder to cry on sometime in life, my dear. I only hope that you have enough love and friends that you will always have a shoulder to cry on when you need it.”

Aug 13

One day Cloud was going back to his Clinic when he saw a wounded Hedgehog on the street: Cloud asked what happened and hedgehog did not know. But there were some other animals that saw what happened. Apparently, one Ram was driving his car so fast and hit a Hedgehog while he was crossing the street.

Cloud called for help and another car came, this one was driven by two small dogs. They stopped and asked first if they can help and Cloud explained them that they will need to take hedgehog to the hospital as fast as they can. So they did. They took him to the back seat of their car and drove to the hospital as fast as possible.
Once in the hospital Cloud came to hedgehog to see how he is doing. Hedgehog was still very bad, his wounds did not heal much and he had troubles speaking. But however hedgehog explained to Cloud that he was rushing home because one of his kids was crying to see him soonest possible. His wife called him on his cell phone and told him that little boy Swimmy, his son, wanted to see his father because he had a pain in his tooth. The tooth fell off in the mean time and little hedgehog was bleeding from his mouth. Hedgehog did not hear well what his wife was telling him because he had a lousy Motorola mobile phone and he thought that it was something very serious with his son. That is why he was worrying so much and rushing over the street when he was hit by a car that was driven by the Ram.

Ram, of course, could not stop his car but was wrong because he did not stop to help he was also rushing home. His daughter, a little sheep called Elisa, had a high fever and he was bringing home some medicines for her. Both he and hedgehog were rushing to see and help their children but unfortunately they were both on the same place and at the same time so an accident happened.

Ram had heard what happened with hedgehog and rushed to the hospital as soon as his daughter was fine. He was hedgehog all in pain and all in bandages and told him how sorry he was. He explained why he was rushing and driving so fast. Hedgehog understood and accepted Ram’s apology. “We were both rushing to help our children but so it happens that we were having a bad luck and you hit me. You did not want to hit me, you only wanted to see your daughter as soon as you could!” Hedgehog said understanding what Ram felt.

After hedgehog was fine and he became good friend with both Cloud and Ram. They were all visiting each other and one Christmas all their families met at Cloud’s house and had an excellent dinner together and exchanged gifts. Ram’s daughter and hedgehog’s son became great friends as they started going to school together. When Ram’s wife was pregnant again and gave a birth to a new son, hedgehog was his Godfather and Cloud was the one who performed the birth. They were all together and all happy againShorS

Aug 13

True real friendships are hard to come by. That is why you need to know the meanings and signs of a true real friendship. It is extremely important to know your true real friends. As you read on below, try and picture your ‘true real friends’ and try and decide whether are they as true and as real as you think they are.

Everyone has friends and need friends. People that we interact with everyday in school, at work, in the same apartment, at the gym, the list goes on. But I always believe in quality, not quantity. I would rather have a few bestest true friends than a million regular friends. Everyone is different and have different perspectives on true friendships but there are some fundamentals for a true friendship that you can’t overlook.

Firstly, this person or true friend needs to give you a huge sense of trust. You need to see this person and go, “I trust him and want to share everything with this person.” Can you trust him with your secrets? Trust him with your girlfriend or boyfriend? Trust him with your problems or embarrasing moments? These are all things ot take note of. It ain’t easy to feel this way about someone but I have found such friends, and I believe that it is possible for you to find a true friend you can call your own.

Secondly, imagine it’s 3 in the morning. You met with something unfortunate, let’s say your car broke down. You think of all the ‘friends’ that you have and you slowly make a note of who will actually help you. Finally you settled on someone who might help and called him or her. What would his or her response be? Irritation? Frustration? Or someone who will sacrifice their sleep to get out of bed to either pick you up or assist you by giving you a list of numbers which you can get for help. Let’s say it’s something serious. You really really need someone to talk to in the middle of the night, you’re so desperate you need someone to talk to. Will your ‘friend’ be that someone? A true friend would, no matter how tired they are.

Another sign would be that you will never get tired of a true friend’s company. And vice versa. You all can remain silent and will not feel awkward about it. It sounds very much like a fairy tale but it is true. They will never ever judge you as well. No matter what you did, that person would be there beside you, and correct you if you are really in the wrong, but he or she will never judge you and gossip about you behind your back. A true friend loves without condition and will not expect anything in return.

Of course this gets a little complicated with the opposite sex. It is a fact that when a male anda female gets closer, one of them is bound to start wondering if things can be developed further. The trouble comes in when only one of them is feeling this way. For example, the other party might start expecting to be loved back or might expect you to feel the same way about them. Attraction is tricky business. Therefore, this is one thing that one must be aware of, so that you will know how to handle it when it comes.

Aug 12

True real friends double your happiness and half your burdens. Basically how you would like a true real friend to be, you should be like this to your true friends. Trust, forgiveness, accountability are some ingredients of a true friend. True friendships are hard to come by. And what’s more, life is short. So treasure these friends if you have already have them. If you don’t continue to search, because once you have them, life becomes so much easier to live, no matter what happens. I have been through pretty rough patches and I dare say, without my friends I would not have made it. (read more about me here)

Friendships need lots of energy and patience to maintain them. Not to mention time too. When your friend needs you, sometimes when things are not going too well on your side, it is often so easy to turn a deaf ear to their pleas. It is especially during these times, that you must find the strength in you to help your friend. And it is during these times that your friendship will be forged and made stronger.

And you must always be happy for their successes, even when things are not going too well on your side. It might be hard to do for some people but it is something that you need to learn. Think about all the sacrifices your friend has made for you and all the times when he or she was happy for you despite his or her own troubles.

Think about all the happy times you all enjoyed and the sad, rough times you all went through together. That should give you sufficient patience to actually be a true friend for them. Remember, true friends are the next best thing to family. They will always be your pillar of support no matter what. Always.

Aug 12

An old man and his dog were walking down this dirt road with fences on both sides, they came to a gate in the fence and looked in, it was nice – grassy, woody areas, just what a ‘huntin’ dog and man would like, but, it had a sign saying ‘no trespassing’ so they walked on.

They came to a beautiful gate with a person in white robes standing there. “Welcome to Heaven”
he said. The old man was happy and started in with his dog following him.

The gatekeeper stopped him. “Dogs aren’t allowed, I’m sorry but he can’t come with you.” “What
kind of Heaven won’t allow dogs? If He can’t come in, then I will stay out with him. He’s been my faithful companion all his life, I can’t desert him now. ” “Suit yourself, but I have to warn you,
the Devil’s on this road and he’ll try to sweet talk you into his area, he’ll promise you anything, but, the dog can’t go there either. If you won’t leave the dog, you’ll spend Eternity on this road ” So the old man and dog went on.

They came to a rundown fence with a gap in it, no gate, just a hole. Another old man was inside. “Scuse me Sir, my dog and I are getting mighty tired, mind if we come in and sit in the shade for awhile?” “Of course, there’s some cold water under that tree over there. Make yourselves
comfortable ” “You’re sure my dog can come in? The man down the road said dogs weren’t allowed anywhere.” “Would you come in if you had to leave the dog?” ” No sir, that’s why I didn’t go to Heaven, he said the dog couldn’t come in. We’ll be spending Eternity on this road, and a glass of cold water and some shade would be mighty fine right about now. But, I won’t
come in if my buddy here can’t come too, and that’s final. ”

The man smiled a big smile and said “Welcome to Heaven.” “You mean this is Heaven? Dogs ARE allowed? How come that fellow down the road said they weren’t?” “That was the Devil and he gets all the people who are willing to give up a life long companion for a comfortable place to stay.

They soon find out their mistake, but, then it’s too late.

The dogs come here, the fickle people stay there. GOD wouldn’t allow dogs to be banned from Heaven.

After all, HE created them to be man’s companions in life, why would he
separate them in death?”

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