In the old days when my father seemed like a god to me and I was perhaps seven years of age, a young man came to stay with us. He was a distant relative and father had told his parents that he would be welcome to live with us for a while to discover whether he liked the work in the temple. He would go in with father every day and be introduced to all the other temple workers. Father would instruct him in calligraphy, the careful writing of the scriptures, and would explain the meaning of the verses to him. He would be with us for six months.
Now I had two ‘gods’ in my household. This young man was so clever it seemed to me; so beautiful and so funny. I followed him everywhere hoping to learn a trick or two perhaps. When he smiled I felt that I would melt. His face became radiant like the sun. Everyone loved him. Father had great hopes for him. Not only could he write beautifully, he could also draw. When he had finished his writing he would often draw a beautiful design at the bottom of his work. On his days off he would take pen and paper and sit in some corner of our grounds and draw the flowers and the trees; sometimes he drew us, the children in my family. He gave me a beautiful picture of myself and my sister sitting by the well. How I treasured it. I asked one of the workmen to make a frame for it and I displayed it in our house for all to behold.
Late one evening a messenger came to call the young man away. His father had died and he had to return home to look after his family. We were all distraught. Our lovely visitor was leaving. How we would miss him! My little sister didn’t really understand that he would be leaving forever. Maybe nobody told her, but they told me. I wanted to cry. Perhaps I did cry. There would be a large gap in my life. Who would teach me all the games and jokes now? Father was too busy, Mother didn’t know many games or jokes and the servants’ jokes never seemed very funny to me.
Father had told us that our friend would be leaving early the following morning. I ran away to hide my sorrow and wondered what I could do to show him how I loved him and to make him come back. I couldn’t think of anything at all. I couldn’t think of the words or any present that I could give him. Then I remembered a story he had told us. It was about a stone in the stream that ran past our stables. It was a lovely smooth stone and he told us that when it started life it had been rough and ugly. Through its life it had learnt many things and its rough edges had been worn away by all the other stones it had met. Gradually it became more beautiful. The smoother it became the more its lovely colours shone through and when it lay at the bottom of the stream with the sun shining on it, it glowed like a jewel.
I picked up a very smooth stone out of the stream; it had amber and red stripes running through it. It was very pretty. I decided to give it to our friend. I wanted to tell him the truth about what I felt for him, but I couldn’t find the words. The stone would have to do it for me.
I shyly gave it to him before he left. His eyes lit up. Thinking of his story he said, “I shall keep this to remember you by, Ramu. To me you are already like this pretty stone. Many lifetimes have already rubbed the rough edges off you, but there is still much to learn. Unlike this little stone you will grow bigger. It would be dishonest of me to say that you will have no rough edges to be rubbed off. Every boy of seven has a whole lifetime of experience ahead to polish him up, but I think you will not find the polishing process too painful as you are quite well rounded already.
I didn’t really understand the truth behind my friend’s words, but I always remembered them. Now looking back I see that my struggles were not as difficult as those of many I encountered and for that I was grateful.
When troubles came to me I would think of that stone and think of the troubles as another step in the process of being polished up to a beautiful finish!