Today I suddenly remembered a story our Hindi language teacher had told us one day, back when I was in school! It’s strange how the memory came back after almost a decade now, but I guess it’s all in this story, which is remarkable in its simplicity. So here goes –
Once upon a time, in 14th Century India, there lived a king in an impoverished kingdom. They had just been to war and exhausted all of their money and resources. As salt in the wound, his one and only daughter fell terribly sick right after. They consulted the best medicine men, but no one could diagnose her condition. They finally consulted an astrologer who looked at her stars and remarked that she was in a bad place and the only way to salvage the situation is to perform Paalabhishekam, a religious rite that involves anointing their local God’s statue in large quantities of cow milk. The king went into distress, he did not have the money to procure the amount of milk required for the ritual. And cattle were on short supply too.
So he came up with a plan. He knew that every household in his kingdom consumed about two tumblers of milk per day. He sent notices to all four corners ordering his subjects to sacrifice their consumption for one day and donate one tumbler of milk to the kingdom. If everyone donated promptly, he would have enough milk for the ritual. He placed a gigantic cauldron with a tiny funneled opening in the city square to hold the donated milk.
Rajanna was the minister’s scribe. That night, when he catches his wife leaving the house with a tumbler in hand, he quickly stops her and yells, “What the hell are you doing?!”
She timidly says, “The ritual…I mean…we are supposed to donate…”
“And waste all that precious milk??”
She looks up at him in confusion,”But they’re keeping track of all the households. We cannot refrain from donation.”
“Then take a tumbler of water and pour into the cauldron,” he says curtly. “It will blend in with the cauldron full of milk. No one would be able to tell the difference!”
So even though the wife feels guilty for donating water, she obeys her husband.
Everyone comes forward and donates that evening. The next morning, when the King’s guard open up the cauldron, they faint at what they see. The cauldron was filled to the brim with plain water.
And there ends the story.
I guess it’s not difficult to deduce what has happened the night before. Everyone assumed that their one glass of water would blend in with the remaining milk and so they all pour water! Not even a single family actually donates milk. While it seems a bit too far fetched, this is of course a fictional story with some very important lessons!
Now if you’ve ever thought something like the below –
- I’ve already committed so many sins in my life, one more wouldn’t matter. I’m going to hell anyway.
- This river/lake is already so polluted, I can throw this one piece of garbage into it and not feel any guilt.
- No one seems to follow the traffic rules, what difference will it make if I do!!
- Everyone is cheating in their exams. What point is there in being so righteous, let me cheat as well!
I hope you see where I’m going with this. I’m sure there’s a proper psychological term for the above behavior but it really is something that brings humanity down sometimes. The notion of – “my wrong doing doesn’t matter in the big picture.” But it invariably does.