Once upon a time there was an earthen pot that did not break. It was not unbreakable, yet it did not break. Crack it did, but it did not disintegrate; so resolute it was not to succumb to the blows of time.
The Pot was proud, tall and sturdy with pouting lips, beautiful in body and robust in spirit. It was made from Ramgadh’s red clay, so it did not need surface coats to give it ruddy looks. It was naturally that way. Its anonymous creator had made it with utmost love and care, like how a mother makes a baby. When he cut it from its womb – the wheel, and held it in his hands, it was a mother holding her baby for the first time. Overwhelmed by his own creation, the potter murmured to himself, “I will never be able to create such a pot again.”
The Pot was a flawless masterpiece. A wealthy connoisseur brought it home when it was in its prime. There, it found itself amidst like-minded company – the choicest jades and crystals, statuettes and canvases. Perched on a slender, low relief teak pedestal, it felt holier-than-thou. It’s Master was never tired of praising his newly acquired rarity, its lineage and legacy, its perfect contours and unblemished finish, its rich red texture. The Pot was his best-yet acquisition, he would proclaim dramatically to his discerning friends of high tastes.
Little did the naïve Pot realize that the adoration of the Master was a passing whim. One day soon thereafter, he brought home another pot, a thing of absolute beauty and grace, an artifact like no other, he maintained steadfastly. With that, The Pot fell out of grace. It was brought down from the pedestal, to be replaced by the new muse of the Master. While this was being done, the two pots collided. Nothing happened to the new masterpiece, but The Pot cracked. The Master who was supervising the transfer got furious. He abused the workers with filthy insults and immediately started checking out whether his new darling was bruised. He did not even look at his past muse.
Dethroned and discarded, The Pot was moved to the dark, dismal cellar where many disgraced artifacts languished in similar plight. A pungent stink emanated from the decay of their despaired bodies that were alive only in literal sense, dead in every other way.
Days and months passed. The Pot kept to itself. Whenever it heard the faint voice of its Master praising the virtues of the new pot to his visitors and declaring his everlasting love for it, The Pot would smile wryly and murmur something like, your time too will come, you too will know the pain of riddance.
Inside the confines of the cellar, The Pot felt utterly homesick on its fifth birthday. It did not eat any food; instead, it fed on childhood memories. At night, its sorrow compounded. Its thoughts veered to its birthplace, its heart ached to be in Ramgadh, to knock on the door of its creator, to feel the tender, loving touch of the potter’s hands on its head, to be blessed.
Shackled bodily but free in spirit, its soul took flight and travelled the distance to Ramgadh. It was summer’s full-moon night. The potter’s house was basking in the glory of milky moonlight. When The Pot entered the compound through a wicket gate, it noticed a frail figure lying in fetal position on an old, creeky charpoy. He was its creator, the potter. Age had caught up with him; his breathing was raspy and the snores came out haltingly but noisily from the caves of his nostrils. His face so rough and wrinkled that it seemed as if the skin of an ageing elephant’s under-belly was grafted on it. His chest rose and fell unevenly as he struggled with his breathing. The cheeks were all but gone and the eyes had shrunk deep into the sockets.
The Pot first touched the potter’s feet and then kissed his forehead. Two pearl drops escaped its eyes and fell on his creator’s cheeks. That awakened him. With a start, he got up and instantly recognized The Pot. His fragile hands trembled as he took its face between them. His eyes shimmered with boundless joy and surprise. His face broke into the sweetest toothless smile on earth and the wrinkles crackled as the smile spread from ear to ear.
“My child! You! He exclaimed.
“Yes, father” The Pot replied, its voice obstructed by a knot in its throat.
“What took you so long? I waited until the first star appeared in the sky. It’s your birthday today.”
The rumbling dark clouds gathering in The Pot’s heart finally broke, and the downpour found an outlet through its eyes. The Pot did not feel the need to hold back any more. It laid its head in its creator’s lap and cried like a child. Pent-up grief of many years was finally unleashed. Waves of hysterical sobs hit the shore, as its body convulsed uncontrollably.
The potter was an illiterate. He did not possess the refined vocabulary of comfort and solace. He kept on stroking his child’s hair lovingly until the storm had passed.
Finally, The Pot raised its head and straightened. It was then that the potter noticed the cracks on its body. Pained to see them, he asked,
“My child, what is this? How and from where did you gather so many wounds?”
“From the passing time!”
In an instant, the potter’s expressions changed. His face became distraught. The pain in his heart mirrored in his eyes and they misted for a while. He had endured so much pain and sorrow in his life that tears did not come easily to him anymore. Silently, he traced the cracks on his child’s body, as if to balm the pain and hurt that they would have caused the child. After long moments, he asked,
“When, how did all this happen?”
And The Pot told him. Every bit of it. It was difficult for it initially, but the potter’s silence and understanding made it easy after a while.
It was pre-dawn by the time The Pot finished narrating its woes. Darkness was dispelling in the distant Eastern horizon and an early bird had started chirping. The potter was once again falling short of comforting words to tell his child. However, drawing from wisdom gained from a lifetime of ignored, indifferent, anonymous existence, he gave The Pot a few words of advice,
“Remember this, my child. In this world, only one person can make you feel small, and that is you. If your conscience is upright, in the morning when you awake, if you are able to look at yourself in the mirror without guilt, then nobody in this world can disgrace you. The world may crack you in a thousand ways, but it will not be able to break you. Those cracks are your identity. Learn to live with them with pride.”
The simple words had a profound, deeply calming effect on The Pot. It cuddled in the lap of the potter, trying to sleep. The potter started humming a native lullaby which his mother used to sing to him, in a low, rasping voice.
O’ sweet slumber, I beckon you
Come and put my beloved child to sleep
Hasten your steps
Don’t get delayed on the way
The star-studded night is rushing by
My child yearns for you
Come and hide behind his sleep-laden eyelids
Come soon, don’t be slow
O’ sweet slumber, I beckon you
Come and put my beloved child to sleep
By then, The Pot had fallen into deep, sound sleep. The father gently laid its head on the charpoy, said a silent prayer for its welfare and walked away.
When The Pot woke up, it did not see the potter around. It waited for a while, thinking that he must have gone somewhere nearby. But he did not return even after an hour. The Pot asked a passerby if he had seen him that morning. The villager was brushing his teeth with a neem twig. He stopped, looked at The Pot quizzically, and asked back,
“Have you gone mad? Don’t search for ghosts. It’s been four years since the potter passed away.”
The Pot was overwhelmed. The spirit of its creator had travelled zillions of miles to share its grief and offer comfort. Parents will never change, it thought, and headed back to its confinement.
Since that day, The Pot has come to terms with its cracks, learning to draw strength from them. Back in the Connoisseur’s cellar, it looks at its face in the mirror each morning, and takes pride in its imperfect but unbroken existence.