Every crossed paths with a stranger who became more than a friend to you? Do you believe in Angels that appear suddenly out of nowhere and set you free from the chains of your own thoughts?
This story is one such incident where Independence is attained only when you decide to dedicate yourself to something greater than yourself.
You don’t need magic or superheroes to liberate you. Inspiration lies in what you see and comes as easily as spoken words to the ear.
OH CRAB! What Have I Said?
The rays of the sun were sparkling like pearls in the river that passed by a moderately dense forest of the Bahamas. You can’t really call it to be a pleasant day as there was a lot of activity going around the riverbank. Creatures here, creatures there, were piling things from everywhere. Amongst them was a tiny red crab, resting between three huge stones so no one would see him. His claws looked ferocious and were in a defensive position, lest anyone tries to grab him. But there was something more than the claws. It was his eyes that were fixed on something else. It wasn’t the algae or fern, nor shrimp or marine snail, it was something much more common yet fascinating and he stared at it nibbling the grail. What he saw was a simple tiny Ant carrying a big heavy green leaf on her head. He too was piling up for the worse times as seasons and tide don’t change with a warning. But after a long and tiring morning he had taken a break while the ant was passing by. He observed her for quite some time. Trembling and burdened, lost in thoughts; but she kept moving forward. He thought to himself that the ant could have easily taken smaller bits of it, instead of being pressed under such a heavy load. He was still thinking about her when the ant noticed him and waved her antennas and said ‘Hi’ with a smile. A sudden boost of energy charged up the lazy crab as if someone had sprinkled the chilled river water on his heat soaked shell and he quickly got on his feet. Snapping his claws he waved her back and then asked her if he could accompany her till the other side? “Oh Sure” replied the ant politely as they both continued on the way the ant was heading.
“How do you manage to carry such a heavy load on yourself, that too for such a long distance? Don’t you ever get tired of it?” asked the crab, as subtly as he could. The ant looked at him for a moment, gave a broad smile that made the crab almost skip a beat. It was her simplicity that was her strength and the crab could not help but marvel on how this tiny creation could manage to be bonded by the weight of her own stocks and yet manage to flash a smile that could make up anyone’s day. As they moved forward, the Ant replied saying that it doesn’t seem much once you get used to it. “Besides, its couple more miles and then all you got to do it lay back and enjoy for the rest of the season” she added.
“But then you can always rest on the way at least? Or even better, why don’t you consider taking it into smaller chunks. This would make your task much easier. You wouldn’t have to be so restricted under the weight and diameter for the leaf then. You could even take narrow shortcuts” said the Crab hoping that the Ant would take his advice and it would help her be faster. But much to the amazement of the Crab, the Ant said, “I took this because I wanted some challenge. I don’t like mediocre life. And I’m thinking maybe I’m a kind of a masochist.”
“This is SOME challenge? This is one heck of it, smarty Ant!” exclaimed the crab. There laughed the Ant confessing she knows it and all her friends and family tell her to drop the leaf and get a smaller one but quitting isn’t her thing. “It isn’t in my blood,” says the ant proudly, “Especially when some tells me that I can’t do something. Sometimes it’s overwhelming but I’ve made too many sacrifices already. There is just one last step left.”
“No don’t quit. Definitely not when you are so good at it. But if you don’t mind, may I ask what sacrifices are you talking about?” asked the curious Crab.
“Well then…” she said taking a deep breath and a distant stare at the long way ahead, because it was her rest, her peace of mind, her hobbies, her family and friends that she had to let go, answered the Ant sadly. She lost her social life just so that she could come this far for the leaf that would ensure a sufficient supply for her future. Diving deep into the sea of nostalgia, she spoke about her passion for dance and how she wished to learn from the mighty peacock, the ancient art of expressing with grace what the heart holds in its maze. She saw the colorful parrot speaking in languages more than its own and that would amaze her on how cool it would be to know more than just your own dialect so that you may communicate to others more effectively. There was something about the music too that fascinated her. The singing of the birds, the howling of the fox, the quaking of the ducks and the trumpeting of the tusked mammoth. How much she wished that had she been able to learn to make sounds like them. “But I can’t” she said, coming back to reality.
The Crab could feel the smile fade in the fog of memories that was now encompassing both of them. So then he immediately made up his mind that he wouldn’t let her be lost anymore. The smile that had revived his lifeless claws can’t just disappear in the smoke of emotions. He could feel a halo surrounding them. A connecting link was joining these two totally different creations of the nature into one deep intellectual aura of searching for completeness in their incompleteness. For the next few minutes all they did was walked in silence besides each other. There were a lot of things that wanted to be said and heard but it was the Mother Nature speaking to them in the quietness of the slow breeze. The Crab now was no longer thinking of his own challenges. The chains of impossible situations that were holding him from continuing his tasks had been long broken with the first smile itself. But Independence has its own set of responsibilities that could not be shunned. He was beginning to realize that if he were to get out of his own situations, he would have to give up the temptations of shortcuts, abandon the desire for rest and strive effortlessly to something that he feels would add a meaningful dimension to his life. “It’s not easy,” the Ant had told him but if being a tiny Ant, she didn’t give up on her mission that was enough motivation for him to move ahead. Because it’s only when you stop depending on your luck and gifts and work your skills to its limits and beyond, will you see the silver lining in the cloudy sky.
As they both reached the end of the rocks, to the point where the rainforest begins, the Crab decided to break the silence and said to the Ant, “You say you can’t but that’s just for now, right? Things might change and what if you could do all of it later? Maybe you only needed a little more understanding from your other ant friends. A little more of support from them probably. I mean this might as well be a possibility. Not that your sacrifices were pointless but maybe there was something better going to happen that needed this space. And that something better isn’t this huge leaf that you were able to find and are carrying, that would suffice for the entire season. But it’s something that you are right now.”
This gave the Ant, a sudden push back into reality. It was the subconscious that now overshadowed the ever so careful Ant as she replied in a slightly higher tone, “Later maybe I could. But I won’t get back the Ants I lost right? Ants are to me, the most understanding creation of nature but it’s just the timing that was off. I’ve had the privilege of meeting some amazing Ants. They were kind and understanding too.
But how long can they pause their lives?” The Crab could see the nostalgia in her eyes as she went back and forth in her memories of the journey. He knew what she was trying to say since it was the hard way he too had experienced it by losing his crab friends to fish nets and cane baskets while he was out collecting food for them. It’s not that they were depended on him for their meals or vice versa but it’s the sense of longing that you feel without them. He has waited for them for weeks together, hiding in the depths of the rocks when they would go searching for food. He could go out and fend for self but the joy of dining together is much more worthy than all the days and nights, sun and rain, he spent waiting for it. He felt the uncontrollable urge to reply to that and it wasn’t long before he quickly spoke up, “Depends on how long they would want to pause it. If you ask me, forever without a second thought, would I say. I believe that when you have chemistry, the only other thing you need is Timing. But timing’s a Cheat. Can we for a while think, what if they were only meant to be for that long? What if, had they stayed longer, they might have not been as sweet, kind, understanding? Situations change, so does reactions. Maybe what you see as sacrifices are dreams someone longs to have? And maybe, just maybe they might not be sacrifices at all. They were like sugar. Sweet but only in right proportions.”
“Yes timing is a Cheap Cheat! And you can’t expect them to sacrifice their dreams and hopes and expectations just so you can achieve yours. That is also so wrong. We get so caught up in our lives, we try to run so many things parallel and they do the same but everything does not coincide and then things go wrong. That’s the whole problem. Just like the mighty humans, Ants too are not at all sweet in proportions, but sometimes we become so acidic that they lose their sweetness.” said the Ant as her voice got lost in thoughts. Her eyes were flooding with the memories of her lost opportunities. But just then she stumbled into a puddle of muck and remembered something that Crab had said and said further, “And Yes forever is an easy promise to make but at what cost? People change, life changes. And at the same time we change. Every day we change. And then the forever you promised is not the forever you’ll actually get.” The Crab observed that the ant was already tired carrying the heavy leaf and taking her through extreme emotions would further drain her precious energy. Making her cry was the last thing he would want at this stage so he decided to jump topics and take shortcuts. He couldn’t carry the leaf for her because his claws might just tear it. But he could certainly make the journey shorter by taking a shorter path. So he made up his mind and just looked at the Ant and said, “Define Forever, little one.”
“A lifetime” replied the Ant confidently. She further added, “But things change in that time. Nature and priorities change. Look at humans. Aren’t they the most evolved species of all? Yet what do they do? A person who says they would never pick a boy over friendship will pick a boy. People who swore they won’t take a bribe become complete sell outs. People become alcoholics, drug addicts and cheats.” She looked back at the Crab while still holding the large leaf on her tiny shoulders and asked him, “Will you still stay? If it goes against everything you stand for? Maybe you’ll say your judgment was wrong the first time you met but the fact is people just change!” The Crab was quick to respond on that, “People change… So? Don’t we too? Have you even been in the claws of death or experienced being looked upon as a meal or a curse? I’m sorry for getting a bit disturbing but need to ask this.”
The Ant calmly replied, “We change but the magnitude matters. And to your other question, I’d say no, not really.” The Crab further asked, “How do you measure the magnitude? Richter scale? Everyone’s limits are different” he said. “That’s my point. Beyond a limit even relationships turn toxic” argued the Ant.
The Crab paused for a moment, took a deep breath and said, “You said forever is a lifetime… Ask me, my forever dear Ant.. I’ve been in hell buckets and death nets… I have seen hunger for my life in people’s eyes… much more closely than you could have possibly imagined. And one thing I learnt is, Forever for me, is as long as I don’t shut my eyes… Because most of us are hunted when we are least aware of it. In our sleep; in our search for food; in our fun times. The moment I do close my eyes, my soul goes to the Creator. It’s His choice if He chooses to give it back next morning. Point is even not that…” he continued. “Point is that when I have only today, how worse can it get in one day? I expect least, I love most and live my forever with you today. And I lived it just fine, I feel. I kept my promise. Next day, you change, I change and a new world… New life… to live, love and again keep my promise. If God gave me my spirit, I give you your chance to live as you want. That’s when the toxicity leaves. That’s when Faith you’ve been standing for, seems to come in.” “Yes ok you live for today. But if your forever is one day you can’t promise someone forever when they mean eternity! I know because that’s how I count it. Till my last breath. And true I might die tomorrow or in 5 years or in 3 but I don’t know that. So why be so pessimistic? I understand what you are trying to say here but then I was also just like you before. I too lived carefree and didn’t think of things that were part of the future but that’s when I realized that I was beginning to be dependent. Dependent on my faith, on nature and even on my Creator, as you call it, by not being responsibly ready for the next when I have the chance.”
The Crab nodded on that indicating that he understood what she was saying but there was still a difference in opinion he felt. So he tried further to make the Ant understand what his point of view was. “My today is my eternity” he said “It’s not about being pessimist but being an optimist, cherishing what you have, each day at a time. Each morning when you wipe your slate clean, that’s when you give a chance. You don’t crucify kids for troubling you. Each time you wipe your slate clean and start over with them. You try to mould them, shape them and even adjust for them, you find them cute. Why then, are adults exceptions? Just because they’ve overgrown cradles and diapers? Don’t they deserve a chance? If the Mother Nature wants them to stay on the planet and trouble you a little more, make you a little more strong, what’s bad in that?” “You don’t crucify kids because they are innocent not because they hurt you less. But adults knowingly hurt each other that’s the difference. It’s physiological” replied the Ant gently. “That’s no argument. Who wants to be a mean badass, terrorist? Hardly few. Maybe someone’s way of being good does not coincide with your definition of it. That difference is what clashed between you and the other ants. You can make a fuss about it or just smile and move on. Now that’s psychological” argued the Crab. He further added, “We need to love and live regularly too. Just like the humans do. I’ve been there, seen that in them. If we store it till eternity, it might as well just get dusty, rusty or spoilt.
Just like this very leaf that you are carrying, if not shared and consumed by all will get rotten after a while.” “Pain is not psychological, mentality is… You can’t tell someone not to be bothered by something when that in fact bothers them just because they think differently.” said the Ant in return to his argument. To this the Crab further said, “No I’m not saying not to bother. I’m just saying if you see a dirty drain, you either get into it and clean it or walk round it and avoid it. Simply standing there and saying “OMG!!! How Dirty, How Slimy” makes no sense doing that, isn’t it? There are a lot of people who need that pat of appreciation, love, care, bonding. And what are we stuck in? Counting the leaves in our hand…? And for how long? Forever? Forget others dear, when do we even get time for our own self then? Because our forever is already a slave of someone or something else. How would you expect their forever to be yours? If I, myself don’t value my desire of an easy comfortable life, with enough food in store to provide for me and my loved ones, and instead just pass time wondering that I’ll share or borrow from someone else, I then can’t expect you to leave your leaf and be with me on the beach and talk with me. It’s that simple. Tomorrow if there is a high tide and the shore is under water and I too have to go in water so I survive I would again have lost my forever, my food and even you, since you can’t swim and that too, for forever.” His voice became a bit low as he said this. But quickly he got back to the topic and moved on saying, “But if instead of that, I choose to work a little more hard, save my food behind the rocks, maybe it could be safe for a longer time. And if that’s true, maybe I would then have more of my food, time and forever to share with others and you. We build strong ant holes, nests and caves that can resist storms but inside it’s all Empty. And empty rooms are no temples, however strong or tall or deep they might be. All I’m saying is be strong, unbreakable, best in class, above expectations, achieve impossible but welcome people in, drop them till the door when they leave and welcome the next. When people don’t come or forget the way, go out and invite them in. Dine with them. Maybe they’ll stay. Maybe they may want to be inside, forever…”
There was a long silence in the air. No one spoke a word. You could hear the dry leaves being crushed under their footsteps and feel the anticipation of the Crab. ‘Oh Crab! What have I said? Was the Ant offended? Did I speak too much? I shouldn’t have gone this deep. Was she even listening?’ All these thoughts were flooding his mind as he was getting impatient for the reply of his new friend. Just then came the moment, that he felt, he awaited for, since forever. The Ant said, “Ok let’s leave it there.” The Crab was shocked. He took time to reconfirm if what he heard was right? Did he actually mess it up? Collecting courage in his fast beating trembling heart, he said, “Hey little one, I’m sorry if there was anything I said, that you didn’t like. Didn’t mean it that way.” The Ant flashed the same smile that she had, when she first met him; the smile that actually had made him take this journey with this most unusual friend and said to him, “No I’m not hurt or anything. Just tired. Besides I’ve reached my Anthill. Hope we meet sometime.” With this they crossed paths and the Crab stood there standing, in the flashback of memories of his walk from the rocks to the center of the green forest. He recollected the things that this tiny little Ant had taught him and also pondered on things that he said to her. He realized that just like him, the Ant also was gathering her meal alone. But her Independence was not made up of laziness or rest but instead of responsibility and maturity. It’s only when you take challenges and refuse to live the mediocre life, do you truly understand and enjoy your Independence, he learnt. As he felt the wind between his claws, he slowly turned and started on his way back, enriched with an experience that he would cherish for a lifetime.
Keep 🙂 Always