Moral from a fern
The lecturer just retired from the university. But she had no calm
life to welcome her, following retirement.
She applied for a divorce from her husband a few years ago. Her
wishes were granted, though on certain grounds. Since it was she, who
wanted the divorce, the lecturer had to pay compensation. The
compensation devoured her Provident Fund, and all she had was her house.
She lived in a mansion.
But it belonged to both of them, with the larger share owned by her
ex-husband. The terms of the divorce allowed her to stay. But if she
decides to sell it, three fourths of the profit would go to the
ex-husband. What is left will suffice for a room-like apartment, with
savings for hand-to-mouth living.
Her neighbour knew all this, because he was her reflexologist. She
had a certain ache in the foot. It required constant reflexology
“I have nothing to give you, though.”
“That doesn’t matter.”
She bought some antique piece as payment to the reflexologist.
The reflexologist softly touched, and it was therapeutic. She would
pour all her grief while the neighbour was on his job. She knew the
neighbour was kind to give ear to all her sorrows. But the neighbour was
more than that, she was yet to learn.
All her savings had been exhausted. She had hardly any money for food
either. The neighbour would invite her to dine at his place.
“I’m going to sell my house, despite whatever amount I get.”
“I tell you not to do that.”
“But I have to survive too. I need money.”
“You will soon get a job.”
“How do you assure?”
“I don’t know. But you will get a job.”
The neighbour was kind, the lecturer thought, he knows to be
“You can get anything from my house or garden.”
The reflexologist was a keen gardener too.
“But you are going to sell it.”
“That’s why you can have anything.”
“I will ask for one, when you sell it. I mean when you have a job, I
will come ask for something.”
The reflexologist loved the ferns.
“Son you can have this.”
The lecturer pointed towards a well grown fern in her garden.
“That’s great. But I will have it only when you get a job. And when
you won’t sell this house.”
Days went on with such conversations between the lecturer and her
neighbour. As he passes his neighbour’s house, the reflexologist made
sure he makes a silent wish. He silently prayed.
Then one day, she came to see him with the happy news. The lecturer
had got a job at a private college. Now she won’t have to sell the
house. Now she won’t have to starve to death. The reflexologist was
But then it was his turn to see how things gradually changed.
She wore new suits. She applied make up. She bought a brand new car.
And she stopped visiting him for reflexology treatments. She had found a
better qualified one, more expensive – of course she can afford it.
It’s time, the reflexologist thought, to visit her now. He was warmly
welcomed at the lecturer’s mansion. She remembered how he used to help
her out in times of trouble. She added she would never forget her past.
When he was about to leave, the reflexologist had one more favour to ask
“Remember I wanted something from this garden?”
“Can I have that then?”
The reflexologist said, pointing to the well-grown fern.
“Well, son, someone else is going to buy it. But you know, I simply
can’t let you down. How can I do that to someone who helped me a lot in
my life? Come, I will give you another one.”
Going down the garden, the lecturer retrieved a half-dead fern. The
reflexologist took it without any hesitation.
“You can plant it. When it’s well grown, can I have one?”
“Of course you can have the whole thing. I take it, just because I like
“No, no, you have helped me a lot. So you keep it. When it is grown
well, give me one from it.”
The reflexologist took it home, and put it somewhere appropriate for
the fern. A week went by without any news from the lecturer.
But then one day, the telephone buzzed. Answering the phone, the
reflexologist recognized his neighbour’s voice.
“Son, how is that fern growing now?”
“It’s fine, aunty.”
“Can I have one now?”
“You can have the whole thing now. No problem.”
“No, not necessary.”
Their conversation switched to general stuff they are both interested
The lecturer never asked for the fern again. Maybe she felt ashamed
of herself. He was touched. Aravinda was still listening to him. “I told
you this story, not to flatter myself. But it’s one good example of how
we must treat some people who exploit you. It’s easy to criticise them.
But walk a mile in their shoes, and you will realize why you should not
criticise them.” “But then are you trying to justify her?”
“It’s not justification, friend. It’s human nature. Even she was
helpless when she did that. So I repeat, walk a mile in her shoes, and
you will realize why she doesn’t deserve criticism.”