My bespectacled great-grandmother used to narrate a strange tale when she was alive. It was that of a gauche young man, who would always lose out on everything.
On top of this, he was poor, illiterate and unemployed. He would walk with stooped shoulders and sad demeanour. And if an observer looked at him from a distance, he would appear to be the saddest man on earth. His mother, who was a wise woman, would try to uplift his spirit by motivating him but to no avail. Little kids would make fun of the man, his neighbours would look at him with derision and there was not a soul, who would like to be friends with him. He loved a girl, who was rich and beautiful, but she was contemptuous of him.
One day, his mother went to the local market and brought a black hen. That evening, while serving food, the good lady told his son that a black hen is very auspicious and brings fortune. The following day, the poor man miraculously got a nice job. For the first time in his entire life, he walked erect wearing an expression close to a smile.
As days passed-by, things changed for the man and his mother. They started a business and it flourished. The young man, who was sidelined in the society, was readily accepted in the social circles. The young man’s faith in the black hen grew so strong that he would not move out of the house without visiting the barn and bowing before the black hen.
My grandmother would give graphic details while narrating the story and would make it spicier by literally enacting it. All of us would ask questions in between and she would readily satiate our curiosity. It’s impossible to present the story as she used to do, but I would give it a try because I need to relate something about the tale which struck me years later.
Now, coming back to the story, the young man’s wealth grew by leaps and bounds. His friends challenged him that they would consider him their leader if he wins the heart of the beautiful girl. The young man went to the black hen, bowed and expressed his wish. The black hen just looked at him and went about clucking. The man thought it was a good sign. He started wooing the beautiful girl with rare confidence and she relented at last. They both got married and the man became the most envied man in the town.
However, his mother was getting extremely worried about his son’s obsessive devotion towards the black hen. And one monsoon night, disaster struck! As the young man and his wife were preparing for bed they heard a loud windstorm whistle. After a minute, as the couple watched through the window, lightening struck at the barn. The young man ran towards the barn and to his horror, the black hen lay dead among other livestock. The shocked man aged instantly with grief. His wife was terrified to see that a grey-haired man with stooped shoulders had replaced her husband…
Well, sorry friends, I seem to have forgotten the end. I can’t recall what happened to the young man after that. And unfortunately, I don’t even remember whether the ending was happy or a tragic one. But we will find a way to come at the ending soon.
Well, what struck me years later about the story are the parallels between the young man’s obsession and that of our Bollywood brigade. Our young stars and celebrities change their names, delve in numerology or wear numerous stones to retain the ever-elusive success. Ritesh Deshmukh changed his name to Riteish Deshmukh while Ajay Devgan is now Ajay Devgn. Vivek Oberoi started calling himself Viveik on the advice of a well-known astrologer, but no miracle happened and so he has now reverted to his original name. When Rithik Roshan was debuting in ‘Kaho Na Pyaar Hai’, his father was asked by the family astrologer to launch him as ‘Hrithik Roshan’ and it supposedly worked for the father-son duo. Recently, Abhishek Bachchan has been advised to write ‘Abhishek A Bachchan’ for better prospects. The maze of numbers, dates, alphabets and stars has affected the IPL also, wherein huge bucks of the stars are at stake. The team jersey of Kolkata Knight Riders changed from black to purple to bring good luck. However, it’s a different story that the team has failed to deliver this time also. And Ekta Kapoor as well as Karan Johar’s obsession for ‘K’ is legendary.
What makes the young celebrities, who have everything going for them, slave to mindless ‘external factors’ to achieve success? Why do they shift the focus of their faith from themselves to insubstantial things? Lack of confidence and fear of losing success are the two obvious reasons. There is a small difference between ‘negative’ superstition and ‘positive’ faith, and one has to be very careful. Superstition weakens you and you start believing in everything except yourself and you end up like the young man in the story. On the other hand, if you really have faith in something, you stand firm and are ready to face even the most unfortunate circumstances.
The young man in the story just could not believe in himself. He could not accept the fact that all the good incidents in life were happening because of his changed attitude towards life. It was actually he, and not the hen, that was making life beautiful.
So, dear friends, you can rewrite the ending of the young man’s story in either ways – the story can end with the young man believing that all was lost with the black hen’s death and he can remain a loser for the rest of his life. Or he can get up and walk back to his wife and say – “the black hen is dead and that is unfortunate. But fortunately, we are alive and it is good that I have none but myself to rely on.” The choice is always yours!