Chandamama, Oct 2006
Clink! Clunk! What was this falling out of the sky? Little shiny pieces of metal, yellow like the sun. Pooja picked up one of them. ‘Wow!,’ she thought. ‘this is gold! Its raining Gold! A shower like this and nobody needs to be poor anymore! A few monsoons and everybody will have enough to eat and go to school! But where is everybody?’ Suddenly her hand hit the edge of the table and Pooja woke up to see the loose change on her bedside table fall to the ground one by one. She got out of bed with a smile, wondering about the beautiful dream she had just had.
A few moments later, her mother walked in saying “Happy Dussehra, Pooja”. Of course, today was the tenth day of Navratri, one of the most auspicious days in the Hindu calendar. There was so much happening today, but first Pooja had to tell her mother about the dream. “Can it really happen, Mother?”, she asked. “Could it ever rain gold?” Pooja had always hoped to find a way in which everyone could be as prosperous as her family was and lead a comfortable life.
“Let me tell you a story,” said Pooja’s mother. “It is said that many years ago, there lived a noble and generous king named Raghu. Once he performed a great ‘ yagna’ – a ceremonial offering after which he decided to distribute all his wealth among the poor. At the end of this distribution, when a poor beggar boy came to his doorstep asking for alms, Raghu had nothing left to give. So, Raghu decided to attack Lord Kubera, the god of wealth. As Raghu managed to break into the treasury of Kubera it began to rain gold on earth! Some of this divine gold fell on the Apta tree and got transformed into its leaves. On Dussehra day, friends offer each other leaves of the Apta tree because they symbolize gold. So, this is one of the things we will be doing today,” said Pooja’s mother.
“But what value do the leaves of the Apta have today, Mother?”, asked Pooja. “Will they help anybody to become rich?”
“The leaves of the Apta symbolize Nature,” replied Pooja’s mother. “And Nature has tremendous value – in fact it is the source of all human wealth, because it provides us with food and shelter – the two basic needs for humanity to survive. Can you imagine a world without the Sun, the forests or trees and without the rivers and sea?”
Pooja tried to imagine a world which was full of gold and silver but did not have any trees and then she realized that actually noone would survive in such a world! In fact, she thought, if it truly started to rain gold instead of water, everybody would die of thirst because nobody can drink gold!
“But how will the Apta tree help everyone become rich?”, asked Pooja. “I still don’t understand.”
“What does it mean to be rich Pooja?” said her mother. “Think about it today as you celebrate Dussehra and we can talk about it again tonight.”
Pooja got dressed excitedly. She had something to figure out today and Mother had promised her that this day would help her solve the riddle. She also decided to take the help of her family and friends to find the answer.
All day long, through the celebrations of Dussehra, Pooja asked everyone around her this question – What does it mean to be rich? Different people had different answers. ‘Enough money in the bank’ said one. ‘Enough to eat and live happily’ said another. Pooja was amazed at the variety of answers she got. Her mother watched her enthusiasm and encouraged her to keep asking until she was convinced.
By nightfall, Pooja looked thoughtful but content. “So?”, asked her mother, “What was the conclusion of your research?”, as she helped Pooja get ready to go to bed. Pooja said, “You know Ma, the only answer I really liked was the one I received from grandfather. He told me that he has always felt that he was rich even when he was growing up in the village and led a simple life.”
He said, ‘When I was growing up we lived in a village that was surrounded by thick forests. A stream flowed by our house and I spent many hours playing in it. I felt like I had everything that I needed. Fresh food from the farms, fresh air to breathe and lots of space to romp around in! Everytime it rained, I would run out to receive the rain and it felt like heaven was pouring its blessings on me! Nature was abundant around me and I always felt like I was the richest man in the world! Even though the village folk I lived amongst did not have much money, they had plenty of food and water. And this was available to everybody!’
‘So actually,’ thought Pooja as she dozed off gradually, ‘in the story of Raghu and Kubera, the divine gold that fell from the skies was water! It was not raining gold, the rainwater itself was the gold which nourished the Apta tree and became its leaves. And this is why when Nature is abundant , everyone can indeed be rich and happy…..’