Walking has always been a favorite with the Balas. From a mile away, one can identify the fathers or my walk. In moments of thought, we tie our hands behind our back, take long, energetic strides and march on. Walks are also the time when we come up with our epiphanies and learnings. Ripe with the lessons gleaned from a reading of Siddhartha by Herman Hesse, I took a walk near the cottage at Bala.
The mists were lifting and the sheep and their kids were starting to get on with their day. I looked at them and saw a number of tendencies that were downright endearing. The ewes and rams that were mothers and fathers cast a protective eye upon the surroundings and while they watched their kids frolic around, were quick to show they meant business if you approached too close to the kids.
After jumping over a gate and skipping over a gushing stream, I sat down to gaze at the surroundings.
As I sat there admiring the sheep near me, I mused on how wonderfully the whole society looked after one another. How they let the young ones thrive, while ensuring their safety. How they grazed, and what useful animals they were. Human beings have no means of knowing what animal thought processes are, but as I sat there gazing out at these gentle creatures, one of the kids came closer to me. I saw it approach, saw the mother cast a warning look and bleat at it to be careful (probably, for I don’t speak Sheep, but you can always get tone). I just continued to sit there and the kid approached me even closer and finally came really close to me, before bounding off to boast to its friends. There was much bay-ing among the kids when this one bounded back and I could not help thinking the kid had approached me on a dare. It brought a little smile to my face and I headed back.
But again, I maybe inserting anthropomorphic tendencies into that lamb’s demeanor.
Over breakfast I told the daughter about the lamb and inserted a ‘lesson’ about the virtues of patience. A lesson I can learn myself as I know too well. “Sitting and patiently waiting for things beyond our control is a skill and one that can be developed, “ I said to the children like I was Buddha. To give the daughter her due, she did not call my bluff and she did not laugh, but absorbed the statement with as much mellow-ness as her character would allow. Which was to say that she continued attaching herself to the chocolate syrup and the pancakes and ignored the banana pieces.
In a place like Bala, it is phenomenally hard to do something filled with purpose. After a few hours, we decided to walk. After walking for a bit, the children wanted to touch the lambs, but they would not let them approach. They frisked and ran when we approached. After some time, the daughter decided to try what I told her and I was truly amazed.
She approached a lamb and sat at a respectable distance for a few minutes. Then she moved an inch or so and then waited again. Patiently. Quietly. Every time she moved, the ewes and rams gave her a warning look as if to say ‘Don’t mess with our kids!’. The minutes ticked on and though, at other times, she would have been anxious to move on to more gregarious activities, she sat and waited.
Apparently, she had taken my words to heart in the morning. It made me realize that though it looks like children are not sitting like disciples around the Buddha and listening, they are absorbing and it drove an even harder lesson to me.
It happened after what seemed like a long time. The kid approached her. He let her talk to him and look into his eyes. She named him ‘Patchy’. When she tore herself away after a few minutes, it followed her around like Mary-and-the-little-lamb. She was ecstatic in her joy as were the rest of us.
It was hard work winning the confidence of a lamb, but it was worth it.