A solution

It was a hot summer day. A crow was very thirsty. Its throat was dry and parched .It felt it would die for want of water.
The crow searched for water everywhere but could not find any. Finally the crow found a pot.There was very little water in the pot. The crow dipped its beak into the pot in desperation. But its beak could not reach the water which was far down. The crow tried to reach the water a number of times. It was so tired by then.
The crow sat down and thought of a solution. It got a bright idea! The crow immediately went and brought some pebbles. It dropped the pebbles one by one in the pot. The pebbles settled at the bottom of the pot and the water rose. The crow happily dipped its beak into the pot and drank the water.
These days ponds, rivers, lakes and water holes are contaminated. The water is getting polluted. Human beings can buy bottled water from the market. But what about the crows, pigeons, sparrows? Where will they get money to buy safe drinking water? How will they quench their thirst?

If there is no water to drink, we will die. This story tells why we should why we should conserve water. This story also demonstrates that if we have solutions, we can tackle the problem with ease.
The water supplied in cities and towns is known to cause disease. Due to some reason or other , one can see people falling sick. What should we do to make drinking water availablefor everyone?
Several measures should be taken to provide water for everybody. Nature provides water for all but it is we humans who are depleting our resources.

Natural traits

There was a small village. It had a pit in which a big cobra snake lived. On the occasion of ‘Nagula Chaviti’— fourth day after the new moon, the people of the village came to the pit to worship the snake.
The snake observed that while the people worshiped it they were quite scared too. Children and adults ran away on seeing the snake. The snake was unable to understand that.
Once a monk was passing by the pit. The snake stopped him and asked, ‘ Why do people run away when they see me?’The ascetic replied, ‘People are scared of you. If you bite, they will die.’
‘How can I stop them from running away from me?’ asked the cobra.
‘If they know that you will not hurt them then they will not run away from you,’ said the wise monk and went on his away.
After some days, the monk again saw the cobra on his way back.
The snake looked weak and was wounded. It looked ill. The monk remembered that earlier the snake looked healthy and had shiny skin. The monk asked the cobra, ‘What happened to you? Why have you become like this?’
‘I made it clear to the people that I will not bite or harm them. I even stopped even hissing at them. Then the people started hitting me with sticks and threw stones at me. I listened to you and see what happened to me.’
‘I told you not to bite them but didn’t ask you to stop hissing at them. One should not forget one’s own character traits,’ said the monk and went away.
There are many varieties of non-poisonous snakes as well. If we kill the snakes which only hiss then our houses will be full of rodents.
One pair of rodents gives birth to more than a crore of rats in a year.
That's how their tribe multiplies.
 In many areas during ‘Nagula Chaviti’, eggs and milk are offered to the snake. Have you ever thought of the reason behind the custom of worshiping snakes?
Snakes are the friends of farmers. Snakes eat rats which damage the crops so they are very useful to us. We are scared of snakes and kill it. So there is a need to save the snakes from being killed. Maybe that’s the reason sanctity has been attached to them.
Are people frightened that the snake might seek vendetta?
Discuss with your elders. We need to understand one thing. Snakes are not poisonous animals. In our country, out of the reptiles found only four species of snakes are poisonous. People have many misconceptions regarding snakes. Misconceptions like snakes drink milk and snakes seek revenge etc. In reality, snakes never nurse grudges.
Similarly it is believed that snakes sway when a snake charmer plays the pipe. This is also not true because snakes do not have ears and cannot hear the music. A snake swings and moves its head to match the movement of the pipe.

Who is the richest?

Once upon a time, in a village, there were two neighbours.
One lady was called Venkamma and the other Subamma. Venkamma was a rich lady and had more than ten buffaloes. Subamma was poor and had just one buffalo.
One day Venkamma borrowed some milk from Subbamma. Days passed by but Venkamma did not return the milk. Subbamma asked her to give the milk back. Venkamma outright denied having borrowed milk from her.
Venkamma said, ‘I’ve so many buffaloes. Why will I ask you for milk?
I don’t need to borrow from you.’
Subamma then put forth a complaint to Ramanna who was known for being just. He sent for both of them.
Both the women went to meet Ramanna. It had rained the night before so the ground was muddy. There were two buckets of water under the tree. Ramanna asked the women to wash the mud off their feet. Both the women washed their feet and came and stood in front of Ramanna.
Ramanna looked at Venkamma and declared, ‘Return the milk you borrowed fron Subamma immediately. Or else you will be punished.’
Venkamma was frightened to hear about the punishment and she agreed to return the milk that she had borrowed.
People wondered how Ramanna declared the punishment without questioning. They asked him for a reason and he explained. ‘When Venkamm and Subamma were washing their feet I observed them.
Venkamma is a spendthrift. She poured all the water in the bucket on her feet but a lot of mud was still stuck on it. Subamma used only two mugs of water to wash her feet but cleaned it properly.
So this shows that though Venkamma had more buffaloes, she still needed to borrow. Subamma had less but knew how to be careful. All the villagers praised Ramanna for his wisdom.

We all believe that if we have things in large quantity, it is a sign of happiness. We don’t understand that we need to use our resources wisely and carefully.
We will actually make our lives happier by doing that. If we keep on wasting the resources today, nothing will be left for tomorrow. So we should use resources as per our need. This story teaches us to use our limited resources wisely and enjoy peace and happiness.

The lesson

The people of the country followed a strange custom. The land close to the boundary was left untouched. Lots of trees and plants grew on that land and it resembled a forest. Nobody was supposed to cut any trees or pluck fruits. All the residents followed there strict rules. The people were only allowed to pick the ripened fruits which fell on the ground. Trees were cut down for their timber only if they died.
Ranga found these rules quite absurd. He always thought why should one wait till the fruit ripened and got rotten. So he stealthily went to the edge of the farm, plucked the fruits and brought them home. One day he needed wood to build his house. He cut down few trees and brought the wood home. Many people saw him bringing the wood and informed the king. The village headman was ordered to bring Ranga to the court. Everyone feared that Ranga would be sent to jail for two to three years.
The Headman and Ranga reached the king’s palace quite early in the morning. There were four other culprits who like Ranga had felled trees in the forest. They too stood waiting at the palace gates. All the village headmen were called inside the palace leaving the sentries with the offenders. Hours rolled by. There was no news from the palace. The day was getting hotter and hotter. The offenders were unable to stand in the heat. Their throats were parched without water to drink. Neither did they have food to eat. The offenders had to suffer till they were ordered to come inside the palace in the evening.
All the five offenders stood in front of the king. They were in a pitiable condition. ‘What happened? Why are you all looking so frail and weak?’ asked the king.
Ranga immediately replied, ‘Your Majesty, we did not drink water since morning. We were standing out in the heat all day. We had no food to eat. That’s why we are looking miserable.’
The king asked, ‘What wrong did you do? ‘We cut down trees, your Majesty,’ said Ranga.
‘Now you know the consequences of cutting down trees. If trees are cut down then everyone will suffer like you all did today. There will be no shade and no food. We made you stand in the sun to make you realize that,’ said the king.
The king continued, ‘Forests grow and expand due to the pollination of seeds, fruits and flowers which fall upon the ground. Seeds help increase the area of the forest. Did you think of where birds will build nests if you cut down the trees? What will they eat? The forest gets its natural fertilizer from the droppings of the birds. You know the punishment for this. You will stand in the sun for one week. You will have to hold seeds and sprinkle them for the birds to eat. So, this is your punishment,’ declared the King and closed the day’s proceedings.

Many areas in our country had a number of ‘sacred gardens’ but now each of them is disappearing slowly.
The present generation finds customs like worshipping and circling around trees like the banyan, neem, Bengal quins, peepal, amla etc. quite absurd.
Such customs signify the respect given to trees, animals and the natural resources. They save them from being destroyed. One can see the trees and animals being venerated even today in many villages. The ‘scared groves belong to such principle’ - these groves are said to be favorites of the gods or abode of village gods. These sentiments retain the sanctity of these places and keep them safe. Nobody goes near the trees in the sacred groves or even tries to harm them since beliefs like one may die coughing blood, one’s family may perish are enough to keep people away from damaging them. These beliefs save the biodiversity present in these ‘sacred groves’ irrespective of the truth factor.

The golden egg

Once upon a time there was a farmer. He was very poor. He had no food to eat. He went without food for many days. Then a miracle happened.
The farmer had a duck. It started laying egg. They were not plain eggs but golden eggs! The duck lay a golden egg every day. The farmer soon became a rich man by selling the golden eggs. All his problems came to an end. He bought new clothes, built a new house and furnished it. He purchased acres and acres of land.
Now, he had no complaints. He acquired lots of wealth for his future generations without working hard for it. But his greed for wealth did not lessen.
‘I have to wait for a golden egg every day. How can I survive like that?’ he thought. ‘I will cut open the duck and take out all the golden eggs from its stomach.’ The farmer excitedly cut open the stomach of the
A shocked farmer saw that there were no eggs inside the duck’s stomach!
The duck died!

Do you know what the duck stands for? Our village pond! Our village forest! Our village mine! Our groves and gardens! All these are like ducks which lay golden eggs - the golden eggs which can sustain generations and generations.
We have heard this story a number of times in our childhood.
‘Greed breeds sorrow’ is the moral told in the story.
This story actually tells us the essence of sustainable development talked by the environmentalists in the present times. The activities promoting development have to go on. At the same time, no harm should come to our natural resources. These resources have to satisfy our needs as well as be available for the future generations. Only then it can be called as true development.
This story tells us what the future will be like if we don’t take care of our resources. We should use resources to meet our needs and conserve them to last forever. We should not destroy resources to satisfy our greed.

Ant…ant…why did you bite?

Once upon a time there was king.
He had seven sons. One day the seven princes went fishing. They returned
with seven fish and put it aside to dry. All the fish dried up except one.
The princes asked the fish, ‘Fish ‘O’ fish. Why aren’t you dry?’ The fish replied, ‘The hay stack came in between.’
The princes questioned the hay stack. ‘Hay stack, hay stack, why did you come in between?’
‘The cow didn’t eat me, so I came in between the fish and the hay stack.’
The princes then went to the cow and asked, ‘Cow, cow, why didn’t you go to graze?’
‘The calf would not leave me so I didn’t go to graze the grass,’ said the cow.
‘Calf, calf, why didn’t you leave the cow?’ they asked the calf tied in the cattle shed.
The calf said, ‘The old lady didn’t give me food. So I didn’t leave the cow.’
‘Old lady, old lady, why didn’t you give food to the little one?’ they asked.
The old lady answered, ‘My son was crying so I didn’t give food to the calf.’
They asked the small boy, ‘Little one, why did you cry?’
‘An ant bit me,’ said the little boy.
Then the princes went to the ant and asked, ‘Ant…..ant….. why did you bite?’
The ant answered, ‘Will I not bite if anyone puts a finger in my anthill?’
If anyone puts a finger into the anthill, the ant will bite? Won’t it?

As kids our maternal or paternal grandparents have always told this story again and again. Yet, it felt so good to hear the same story every time. As we grew up, the story seemed to make no sense whenever we remembered it.
Looking back and pondering over the story, it became clear that there is a lesson about the environment in this.
The fish does not dry up due to a number of reasons such as obstructing hay-stack, cow not able to go grazing, the calf not allowing the cow to go etc. The story goes on and ultimately the main reason is shown as the boy putting his finger into the anthill. There are a number of intermediary stages between the boy’s finger in the anthill and fish not being dry. Each stage influences the other.
This story clearly indicates that we should understand the relationship between things. Whatever we do is in turn influenced by many things. An aspect which seems to have no relation may generate a chain reaction having long-term effects. At present the problems in the environment is somewhat similar to this. The story in a simple way explains the relation between the elements.
There are two things which affect the environment: Not doing a particular work which needs to be done and doing something which need not be done. The food chain is shaken up even if one living thing gets eliminated or gets affected. The story is an example of such situations.
Over the years, the number of varieties of birds has gone down. Scientific studies reveal that the use of chemicals used in the fields is the main cause for this. The chemical residues in pesticides that are sprayed in the field over a period of time get mixed in water. The residues enter the bodies of the small organisms present in the water.
The bigger organisms eat the smaller ones. This is in turn food for the larger organisms in the food chain. This leads to the residues getting into the bodies of the larger organisms. The birds feeding on these organisms get the residual DDT into their bodies. The reproduction of eggs also decreases. The hatching takes place early resulting
in the death of baby birds. All these result in the decrease of the number of birds. This is one of the main reasons for banning DDT in many countries. Do you find any similarity between this story and the actual happenings?

Web of life

The King of Vikrampuri treated his people like his own children. He never slept without solving their problems. He was known to be a brave king. His enemies never dared to attack Vikrampuri.
The king often went hunting. Every time he killed four or five lions and was called as ‘lion king’. Life was smooth but trouble followed soon.
As the hot summer began, the country faced a new problem. Scorpions came in hoards from the forest and spoilt the crops in the fields. The farmers were helpless to do anything. The ‘ready-to- harvest’ crops were destroyed. The same thing happened the following year too.
The farmers started a vigil at night near the fields. They put up high barricades around the fields. They made loud noises and used lighted torches to scare the scorpions away. But it was of no use. Sometime during the day or night, scorpions continued to destroy the crops. The farmers had nothing to eat as all the crops were destroyed. Everyone was extremely worried and anxious about their future. The people had never experienced such a situation before.
The Prime Minister realized that unless this problem was solved, the people would continue to suffer. The country was going through a bad time. The Prime Minister went to the fields to study the intensity of the problem for a few days. Then he went to the deep forest to understand the situation there. He finally understood the reason for the problem they were facing.
The Prime Minister called on the king, ‘The problem is a small one but a difficult one. Oh! King, you are the cause of this problem,’ revealed the Prime Minister.
The King was surprised to hear that. ‘I’m responsible for the problem?’
he asked surprised. ‘How is that?’ The Prime Minister said, ‘Yes, your Majesty. When you go hunting you always kill the lions. These lions have been eating the scorpions. But now their number has decreased and the scorpions have increased in number. The number of scorpions has increased so much that there is no food available for them in the forest. That’s the reason the scorpions are damaging the crops.
‘What do we do now?’ asked the king. The minister said firmly, ‘Call for a complete ban on hunting of lions. Which means even you should stop hunting them down. Let’s launch a ‘save the lion’ campaign. Soon the problem will be solved.’
The King was duly enlightened. He issued a ban on hunting down lions and strictly followed it himself too.

Bio diversity is disappearing fast. There was a time when you could find cheetahs in the North, in Central India and in Mysore in the Deccan. They were hunted over a period of time not only for their skin but also for entertainment. Their habitat was destroyed and sadly they have become extinct today. Can you believe it? Cheetahs were last seen in the year 1949 in our country. The smaller animals which were food for the cheetahs have also decreased in number since then.
The king of Korvali, belonging to Bastar, Madhya Pradesh, used the headlights of his car to track down and hunt three cheetahs! The Bombay natural history society journal features this incident with photographs.
Lions and tigers which wandered freely all over the country have also become extinct. There are number of reasons for the extinction of an animal. Hunting and poaching is one of the main causes. The other causes are deforestation, non-availability of small animals which serve as food for the bigger ones and pollution.
We always ask the students who come for workshops on environmental education a simple question.
Will the lion suffer if there is no grass in the forest? Many answer and say, ‘No!’
What is your answer??

The crow count

Everyday, Tenali Rama and the king went for their evening walk.
Ram Krishna was telling the King about various plants and flowers.
There were a lot of crows around. Theys were making a lot of noise.
The king was upset with the noise. He asked, ‘How many crows are there in our country?’
‘It is difficult to say,’ answered Ram Krishna.
‘Nothing is difficult if one decides to do it. I will give you a week.
You have to get the exact number of crows in our country,’ ordered the king.
Rama Krishna was a worried man. ‘How can one count the number of crows?’ he thought. He could not sleep. Days passed by and still Rama Krishna had no answer. He did not know what to do.
After a week, suddenly Rama Krishna got an idea. He got ready and went to the palace. He saluted the king and said, ‘Your Majesty, we have about fifteen lakhs, forty thousand and forty four crows. But there is a small problem.’
‘What’s that?’ asked the king.
Ram Krishna replied. ‘After I counted the crows, few of them flew away to other countries. Some new crows have also flown into our country. So the total number of crows in our country varies.’
The king appreciated Rama Krishna’s diplomatic answer and rewarded him.

A calculation without a basis is called ‘crow count’. Is it possible to have a census for birds and animals like the human census? Has anyone tried to do that? Do we know how many varieties of animals and birds exist on earth?
At present lots of efforts are being made worldwide to assess the number of birds and animals. The forest department is in the process of counting the number of lions and tigers in the forest. These numbers will help us serve the animals better and assess the status of the environment.
The forest department often keeps advertising for volunteers to help in the counting of lions and tigers in our forest. If it’s possible, you can also take part in it.

Who is the greatest?

In a forest, there lived many animals. One day, an argument broke out among the animals. They sat under the shade of the trees and argued about which animal was the greatest.
‘I am very beautiful. I am the greatest,’ said the Red-nosed parrot.
‘I dance very well. I am the greatest,’ said the peacock striking a dance pose.
The baby deer pranced here and there and said, ‘I run very fast. So I’m the greatest’
‘I jump from branch to branch easily. I’ am the greatest,’ said the little squirrel.
‘I jump higher than you. I am the greatest,’ said the white monkey.
‘There is no other animal bigger than me in the forest. I’m the greatest,’ said the elephant.
‘I don’t need grass to survive. I’m the greatest,’ said the cheetah.
The lion came quietly from the other side. ‘I’m the king of the jungle.
Who dares to say that he is greatest whhen I’m around?’ roared the lion.
The tree was irritated with the arguments presented by all the animals.
‘Hey! Don’t make a noise here. I want peace. Go somwwhere else,’ the tree scoled the animals.
All the animals and birds got angry with the tree.
‘You can’t move from your place and you dare to tell us to be quiet?’
they told the tree rudely.
The tree firmly replied, ‘I don’t depend on others like all of you. I prepare my own food. I don’t kill anyone to feed myself. I don’t trouble anyone. So, I’m the greatest of all.’

It’s so true. Animals, birds and insects depend on trees. In fact, we too depend a lot on trees.
Can we place a value on a tree?
Actually we assess the value of a tree by the fruits and timber that it gives us. We are benefitted by trees in a number of ways. Around 25% of the medicines that we use come from plants. A group of trees help decrease the noise pollution. Trees spread over thirty square meters help decrease the noise from six to eight decibels.
Trees form an important base for many industries. Paper-making industries are the best example of it. Trees are home to many birds and animals. Trees help in soil and water conservation A happy environment is created by green surroundings. Can we put a price to the happiness that we get from greeney?If at all we assess the contribution of trees, then we get more than one lakh sixty thousand rupees of valuable service from a fifty year old tree!
Trees are not dependent on us. The fact is that we are dependent on the trees.
Trees have been on the earth longer than we have been. Still we cut down trees knowing well that we cannot survive without them.

The possessed wife

Venkanna and Ramulamma lived in a small village. The village deity Golden Malchamma’s temple was situated at one end of the village. There was a big garden around the temple. There were varieties of trees and plants which made the garden look like a dense forest. In the middle of the garden, there was a big pond.
The pond had a lot of big fish. The garden had varieties of trees such as tamarind, mango and jambulanum trees. Nobody plucked fruits from the trees or caught fish available in the pond. The villagers believed that plucking fruits or catching fish would anger the Goddess. Stories were spread that if they did that, they would die coughing out blood or some other problem would befall them. But Venkanna did not believe in this.
Soon it was summer and Venkanna longed to eat tamarind soup and fish curry. One day he got up early in the morning and reached the temple.
He plucked the tender tamarind pods and put them in his bag. He also caught a fish and put it in his bag. He reached home before anyone could see him. He gave his bag to his wife and went away to work in the fields.
Ramulamma knew where the tamarind pods and fish had come from.
She ground the spices and started cooking. The aroma of the soup was really mouth- watering.
Ramulamma popped a piece of fish in her mouth. After some time she again popped in another piece of fish. This way she ate half of the fish even before the cooking was completed. Then she removed the pot from the fire and sat waiting for her husband.
Every day Venkanna came home at a certain time. That day Venkanna was late for lunch. Feeling hungry and unable to wait any longer, Ramullama sat down to eat her lunch. The fish curry was delicious.
Ramullamma ate up the entire fish curry! Then she realized her mistake and trembled in fear. As it is her husband had stolen it from the forbidden garden and now she had eaten up all the curry. He would shout at her if he came to know that there was no food left for him! Ramullamma quickly washed the pot and again put it on the fire and covered it with a lid. Soon she heard Venkanna’s footsteps.
The aroma of the curry still lingered in the house making Venkanna’s mouth water. He asked his wife to serve the food and went out to the well to have a wash. ‘I have started serving. Come quickly,’ yelled Ramullamma. She tightly secured the lid on the pot, opened her hair and re-arranged her clothes.
She lunged at Venkanna as he entered the room screaming, ‘Hey…you stole from my garden. You think you are brave. But you don’t know my power.’ She started hitting and slapping him. Venkenna was stunned. He too started shouting loudly in fear.
‘Hey you….I’m Malchamma. I’m your village goddess and I have possessed your wife. You plucked tamarind pods from my garden. You caught fish from my pond. I will take your life. Hey….’ Ramullamma cried out and again pounced on Venkanna.
Venkanna was scared to death. His mouth dried up. He started shivering.
He folded his hands and fell at Ramullamma’s feet and cried, ‘Oh! Mother, please forgive me. Tell me what can I do?’
Ramullamma screamed angrily, “Say that you will not do it ever again.’
Venkanna bent down to her feet and said, ‘Mother, I promise I will never do this again. I will do whatever you say.’
Handing over the covered pot to Venkanna, his wife said. ‘Take this and go to the temple. Drop this pot into the pond. The fish that you killed will come to life again. The tamarind pods will again get stuck to the tree. I will then forgive you.’
Without another word, Venkanna took the pot and threw it in the water.
As he threw, the lid got separated from the pot but he could not see the tamarind pod or the fish. He thought that it was a miracle of the Goddess. He went inside the temple and slapped his cheeks and asked the goddess for forgiveness saying that he would never do such a thing again. Then he returned home.
He saw that his wife was picking stones from the rice and looked normal. She looked and behaved as though nothing had happened and no one had possessed her.
After this incident, Venkanna never stole again. He frequently asked the goddess for forgiveness by slapping his cheeks. He told stories to the villagers and urged them never to steal from the garden.

It is difficult to inculcate scientific awareness among people and make them realize the importance of conserving natural resources. Apparently, that’s the reason why elders have made several rules and regulations by quoting that there are some forces which are out of the ordinary. This has been done to make people follow the assigned path. Ultimately, the background reality of the rules and regulations may slowly disappear. But the customs and traditions may remain. This story sounds as if beliefs and customs hold no basis for some people.

The Business

There was a lazy fellow who did nothing all day. He just wasted precious time.
One day somebody gave the lazy fellow a pot full of flour. The pot hung from a sling just above his string cot. So now he lay down on the cot and looked up at the pot all day. He started dreaming about how it would change his life.
In his dream the lazy fellow thought, ‘I will sell the pot of flour and buy four chicks. After they grow up they will lay four eggs each day. This means about one hundred and twenty eggs in total! After the eggs are hatched, one hundred and twenty chicks will emerge.Then I will get one thousand and two hundred chicks in ten months! Then the chicks will grow up to become hens and lay eggs again. Then again the eggs will
hatch into thousands more!’
The lazy fellow continued to talk to himself in his dream. ‘Next I will sell the chicks and buy horses. Naturally the horses will give birth to kids or foals. I can again sell them and make more money. One day I will surely become a millionaire. The king will hear about my wealth and offer his daughter’s hand in marriage. By then I will be famous and can sit back and rest. And in case someone doesn’t listen to me, I will kick the person really hard.’ The lazy fellow excitedly kicked the pot hanging from the sling and then began his downfall!
The pot of flour hanging above his head fell on the ground and shattered into pieces. The poor fellow was left with his unfulfilled dream.

In the story, the lazy fellow’s scheme is in fact quite a tempting one, keeping aside the achievable and non-achievable. The scheme suggests that he may really become a big man.
This story is a constant reminder of the schemes conceived twenty years ago - a scheme about investing in planting teak trees or raising sheep, goats and rabbits.
Let’s consider the scheme of investing in planting trees which was advertised. Suppose a person paid thousand rupees and became an owner of teak tree which was taken good care of by the organizers.
They said that in twenty years, the plants would grow up into big trees and there would be a dense plantation. They also assured that a single tree would yield almost 70 square feet of timber. Hence, in 20 years, each tree would give good returns of at least fifty thousand rupees.
Experts believe that only a forty year old teak tree yields the best timber. But this scheme confidently claimed that the value of the investment would increase fifty times in twenty ears. Not only the city dwellers but also those residing in villages were attracted to it.
All of them suffered losses!
If we fail to understand and accept the simple principles in nature, then we know what the consequences will be. This story is a good example of it.

The tattered blanket

The discourse came to an end. As always, the master blessed the believers and expressed the wish that all people in the world should live in peace without any troubles. After this the devotees left for their homes and so did the Master.
The disciple was waiting for the Master to return. Coming close to the Master he said, ‘Master, you always want peace for the people in the world. But you are not worried about your disciples. You never bother about them.’
The serene Master asked him to spell out the problem.
The disciple answered, ‘Master, my blanket is torn in many places. I am unable to sleep at night. It is very cold. If you give me a blanket, I will sleep peacefully through the night.’ The master immediately called the store in charge and placed an order for a new blanket for the disciple.
The disciple was very happy to get his new blanket.
The next day, after the prayers, as he entered the cottage, the Master asked his disciple, ‘Did you get the new blanket?’
‘Yes,’ said the disciple.
The Master asked, ‘Did you sleep well in the night?
‘Yes,’ said the disciple.
The Master asked the disciple if he needed anything else. The disciple said he did not need anything.
Then the Master asked him, ‘What did you do with the tattered blanket?’
The disciple said that he was using it as a mattress.
The Master asked, ‘What did you do with the one before that? Did you throw it away?’
‘No Master, I’m using it as a curtain to block the excess light and cool breeze,’ answered the disciple.
‘What did you do with the earlier curtain?’ asked the Master. The disciple told him that the earlier curtain was being used as a rag to remove hot vessels from the fire in the kitchen. Then the Master wanted to know what they were doing with the earlier sooty rags.
The disciple replied,’ Master after tying them at the end of the sticks, we use the rags for sweeping the floors.’
The master was extremely surprised. He wondered how the earlier sweeping rags were being used. Maybe those were being thrown away.
In order to know more he asked the disciple about them.
The disciple humbly replied, ‘These rags have become threadbare. So we are using them along with firewood to heat water. The water that you bathed in was heated by those rags.’

Slow down the use of resources by reusing them and recycling them. Nowadays it is this concept of 3 R that is being emphasized by the environmentalists.
This is the main theme of this story.
Are we using resources in a similar manner in our house, school or office? What are the things which we use only once and throw away? Which are the things we use again for some other work?
What are the things from which we can create new items?
Think and list out the items.
Also list those things which are used once and then can be re used.
Do you know there are many people who make recipes from the peels of various vegetables?
The peels of fruits are put in the compost pit or are fed to cows, goats and sheep. The non-vegetarians feed their leftovers and bones to dogs.
How can we reuse things, which are used only once by us?

No-use plants

The princes had completed their education. Every day, small examinations were conducted to test them. On the final day too, their master put forth a small test.
The master called the princes and asked them to look around for plants which were of no use. The princes assembled again by evening and showed the plants they had collected to their master. He observed each plant and kept it aside.
As the princes finished showing their plants, the youngest prince came running to join them. He was late and came empty handed too. The master asked the prince the reason for his delay and he said, ‘Kindly excuse me, my master. I searched and searched. But I was unable to locate a plant which was of no use. That’s the reason why I’m late.’
Hearing this reply, all the princes broke into peals of laughter. But the master hugged the youngest prince and praised him. Then the master told the youngest prince, ‘Son, there’s nothing like a useless plant. All plants have some use or the other.’
The youngest prince was then declared the winner.

The children who stay in rural areas know the names of many trees, plants, insects and birds. The children are aware of the activities of the insects and birds such as what they eat and where they live. But people living in urban areas don't even know the names of many plants, birds, animals and trees.
At present, we only know names of few plants out of which we eat almost all. We know the names of vegetables, fruits and flowers. We don’t know some plants which are called ‘weeds’.
It is estimated that globally almost 60 billion dollars worth of trade and commerce is carried out in the name of medicinal herbs and spices. In our country, nearly 15 thousand medicinal herbs have been identified out of the 49 thousand species of plants. Out of them, 9 thousand medicinal herbs and spices are used in traditional health care systems like Ayurveda, Unani, Siddhi and Homeopathy. The herbs are also used in the rural and tribal medicinal systems. The WHO estimated that 80% of the people in the developed countries are also depending on traditional health care systems. They are using herbal medicines for primary health care. But the knowledge about the traditional medicinal plants is becoming less and less every day especially among the local rural residents and it may soon disappear.
If we don't extract the medicinal values from the medicinal herbs, we will forget their existence, their importance and use.

What a foodie!

Food lovers are always a source of fun. In the kingdom of Dhanyakataka, all the food lovers were given special respect. Lots of competitions were held in the state. Eating lots of food was one such fun activity. The competitions were first held at the village level. Winners then competed at the district level. Finally the king presided over the National level competitions.
Seetayya and Ramayya won the food contest at the district level. They now had to compete at the national level. So a contest was organised to decide upon the winner. The person who ate the maximum amount of food would be declared the winner.
A variety of tasty food was prepared to tempt the participants. Two equal portions of the variety of food preparations were laid out. The king, the ministers, the officials and many commoners gathered to witness the competition with great interest. The foodies started eating the items on the menu one at a time.
The competition began and in just ten minutes, Seetayya spat out the porridge and accepted defeat.
Seetayya was known for eating for hours at a stretch. In fact people were always surprised at his immense capacity to eat. ‘What made him lose?’ the minister thought. ‘There has to be a good reason.’ The minister called Seetayya and asked him, ‘Why did you give up so soon and accept defeat?’
Seetaya, the foodie replied, ‘Sir, I will tell you the reason but please pardon me.’ The minister asked him to speak the truth and not worry about the consequences.
Seetaya explained, ‘Sir’, the quality of the grain depends on the quality of the soil that it’s grown in. The grains used to cook food for the competition were grown in the land used for cremation. That’s the reason why I did not like to eat the food.’
The king was surprised to hear this and asked his officers to find out the truth. The grain merchant was called to the court. The merchant was asked to look for the farmer who sold him the grain. Enquiries were made about the location of the field. They found out that the field was next to a cremation ground. Over a period of time, the farmer had slowly extended his farm and started sowing in the cremation ground also.
Guess why Seetaya was declared the best foodie! He could even judge the quality of the land where the crops were grown. The king graciously rewarded Seetaya and put him in charge of the state granary.

This story is the true image of the present situation. Use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers is rising day by day to increase crop production. Due to this, food grains and vegetables have a lot of residues. Additionally, in large towns and cities, vegetables and other crops are irrigated with sewage water which has a large quantity of chemical effluents. Moreover, fish is caught in ponds which have a high quantity of chemical effluents in the water. It affects the health of the people consuming the fish.
Like Seetaya, do we ever try to find where our food comes from?
This story explains to us the concept of ‘geographical indications’.
The ‘basmati’ variety of rice is not grown in Andhra Pradesh. Do you know why?
Crops are dependent on the soil, water temperature and the natural environment. Some crops acquire certain qualities because of the area in which they are grown. That’s why they are so specific and special to a region.
In order to nurture and save specific varieties of plants or crops, we need to grow them in particular areas which are compatible in terms of soil and climate.
Similarly, insects found in a specific geographical area become food for birds belonging to that area. Few animals cannot survive in a different habitat and as a result the larger animals which prey on them also suffer. Therefore it is imperative that people belonging to a particular geographical area should take special care to conservetrees, animals and birds of that area.

The Lazy Monkey

Sitaram was an expert monkey trainer. He went around towns performing with his monkeys and earned money. He never stayed at one place. He moved around like a rolling stone.
Sitaram taught his monkeys to bring water in a pot from the river. They saluted, jumped or hopped whenever they were asked to do so. The monkeys wore colourful clothes. Sometimes they dressed up as men and sometimes like women. Sitaram took them along with him from house to house while touring villages.
One day, Sitaram spotted a new monkey. He caught it and took it home.
But, he could not train the monkey despite trying very hard. He screamed at the monkey. He beat it. He tied the monkey to a pole and starved it. But still the monkey did not make an attempt to learn anything. It always sat alone in a corner and never mixed with the other monkeys. It refused to jump and hop like the others.
Sitaram was feeling tired and helpless. Though the monkey was of no use to him, he felt sorry for it. He did not want to send the monkey away. He let the monkey sit with him. He gave it food to eat. He took it along on his tours. But the monkey continued to be disinterested and refused to perform. But it followed Sitaram obediently everywhere. As the monkey stayed calm and never reacted, Sitaram fondly called it a ‘spiritual monkey’.
One day Sitaram went to a fisherman’s village. All the villagers enjoyed the antics of the monkeys. They invited Sitaram to their homes and served him delicious dishes made with fish. One day, Sitaram went along with the fishermen to catch fish in the sea. Sitaram took the spiritual monkey along with him.
As they went deep into the sea, the spiritual monkey got excited. Its face filled with happiness. Much to Sitaram’s surprise, it escaped from his arms and dived into the water. Then it floated and jumped again into the boat.
The monkey gave Sitaram a pearl oyster! Then it again jumped back into the sea and brought back another pearl oyster. The spiritual monkey kept on jumping into the sea and bringing back pearl oysters.
Sitaram and the fishermen were stunned by the antics of the monkey. It occurred to Sitaram that the monkey was trained to pick pearl oysters in the sea.
Sitaram’s life changed from that day. He stopped being a monkey trainer and became a pearl trader.
He built a house in the fisherman’s village and settled down there.

Our behavior is influenced by our surroundings and the setting in which we are born. That is why the behaviour of the spiritual monkey was different from the other monkeys. Since the monkey did not get an opportunity to show its talent, it appeared useless. Many people are gifted with skills and abilities but the talent remains hidden due to lack of opportunity.
There are children in almost every home. Don’t insist that they should become doctors or engineers. Don’t get angry with them if they don’t want to become what you aspire for. In anger don’t deprive them of food or bully them into accepting your way of thinking. Let your children grow up in a natural manner. Every individual has a special ability.
Each one has ideas and interests. We need to understand them. We should help them to exhibit their talent.
This is one part of the story.
The other part of the story is that …..
You will find a number of organisms in your home and around your house. Some are pets while some you see in your garden. You will also find a number of herbs and plants in your kitchen garden. We may not be aware of their use so we should take care of them and not destroy them.
This is a present day story for today’s parents. In our environment there are many plants. Some plants are considered ‘weeds’. Don’t pluck them and throw them away. You never know what will emerge tomorrow.
Someone may find a remedy for AIDS or cancer from those weeds.
Many of the medicines that we use are the extracts of plants. That is the value of biodiversity.

Ugly Duckling

Once a duck laid lots of eggs beside a lake. One of the eggs was bigger than the rest.
Mother Duck was naturally very surprised. ‘Why is this egg so big?’
she wondered.
After some time all the eggs hatched into a number of ducklings. But out of the big egg, an odd-shaped duckling emerged! Poor Mother Duck was so frightened to see the duckling. ‘Why does this duck look so odd?’ she thought anxiously.
Days went by. The odd-shaped duckling was called an ‘ugly duckling’ by its brothers and sisters. They made fun of the poor ugly duckling and didn’t let her come near them.
One day the ugly duckling went to Mother Duck to share her feelings.
Just when the ugly duckling was about to speak, Mother Duck exclaimed, ‘Oh! You are not nice looking like my other babies. You are huge and quite scary to look at.’
Hearing these unkind words, the ugly duckling’s’ eyes filled with tears.
The poor thing never imagined that a mother could be so cruel. The Mother Duck ant the other ducklings ignored the ugly duckling and went to swim in the pond. No one cared for her or loved her.
Once when the ugly duckling tried to play with the ducklings, they ran away in fear. The ducklings thought they were more good looking and were ashamed to be seen with someone so ugly. So the ugly duckling slowly got used to being ignored.
As time passed, things remained the same. One day, when the ugly duckling was swimming alone in the pond she saw a big group of birds.
The birds were so white and beautiful. ‘My! These birds are so pretty.
I wish I was like them,’ the ugly duckling thought sadly.
Assuming that the birds would laugh and mock at her, the ugly duckling tried to go away. All of a sudden, one of the birds came close to the ugly duckling and said, ‘What are you doing alone in this pond? Come along, you are one of us.’
The ugly duckling was shocked. So far no one had ever spoken to her with so much love and concern. ‘Really?’ she asked in disbelief. ‘You want me to come with you?’
‘Of course! We welcome you in our group. You are a swan like us!’ the birds said excitedly.
Till then the ugly duckling had been too scared to see her image in the water. She didn’t want to be reminded that she was ugly. But now she eagerly dipped her head in the water and saw an image that was so comforting. ‘Yes!’ She looked exactly like the new group of birds and not an ugly duckling!’
Finally the ugly duckling was free! She would no longer be mocked and teased. Joyfully she spread her wings and flew away with the rest of the swans.

Look around you.
Is it necessary for all life forms to look like us?
Who are we to decide on what is beautiful and what is ugly?
We make fun of people who look different from us.
We tend to tease the physically challenged and label them as lame, blind or cock-eyed.
How many times have we have mocked the ‘swans’ among us by calling them ‘ugly ducklings’?
Think about it.
There is a place under the sun for every being and every creature.
Let’s appreciate one another and make our world a better place.