Tuesday, June 30, 2009


The time was sometime in the early twentieth century and the place a remote village in Tamil Nadu. The story is about a young mother who lived with her husband and infant son along with her pet mongoose of a few years. She was very attached to the mongoose that she had nurtured like a baby before her son was born. On this particular day in the mid-morning, she felt the need to go to the river to fetch a pot of water. The journey would require the better part of an hour. Her husband, who was a purohit, was out for the day. She wondered about leaving her baby alone in their small cottage. But she needed the water urgently. Her eyes alighted upon her pet mongoose. A wide smile lit her face. She instructed him to stand guard over the baby who was sleeping peacefully in a homemade cradle of his mother’s sari that hung from the rafter in the ceiling. The mongoose nodded his head sagely as if he could comprehend what his mistress was telling him. In fact, he had understood the gist of it. He was to take care of his little master. The lady of the house left with a metal pot on her hips, swinging them as she hummed a song on the way to the river. The mongoose watched her reach the end of the road before she disappeared around the bend. He ran into the house to keep vigil on the sleeping child until his mistress’s return. All was well until the mongoose sighted a snake creeping through the open window. It was moving noiselessly towards the centre of the room where the cradle with the sleeping baby hung. We all know that the snake is the natural enemy of the mongoose. The moment he realised that his little master’s life might be in danger, he pounced on the snake, his sharp teeth bared in a snarl. A silent tussle took place with the huge snake twisting and turning to escape the bites from the mongoose. But the latter was too fast and agile on his feet. The battle ended with the mongoose emerging triumphant, his face bloodied and the dead snake lying at his feet. He heard his mistress’s footsteps outside and ran out to greet her. He was too excited about his victory and wanted to convey the great news to her. The woman walking inside the gate saw the animated mongoose prancing around. There was blood all over his face and he appeared to be grinning from ear to ear. She felt a thrill of shock run through her as she presumed that her pet of the past few years had bitten her newborn baby. Tears coursed down her face as she lurched forward with a screech and brought the metal pot filled with water on the innocent mongoose’s head with a loud bang. He died on the spot. She ran into the house feeling no remorse for her dead pet. The sight that met her eyes was horrifying. A big snake was lying on one side in a pool of blood, obviously dead. Her baby was sleeping peacefully; totally undisturbed by the chaos that surrounded him. A dry sob tore at her throat at what she had done in her haste. She had killed her pet mongoose that had but followed her instructions and had saved her son’s life.

I was all of eight years when I heard this story at my grandmother’s knee. My eyes were wet and my chin trembled as my heart went out to the little mongoose whose death had been such a horrible thing to happen.
I used my imagination to give the story many endings, but not the one that was. If only the mistress had trusted her pet…. If only she had not been so hasty…. If only the mongoose could speak…. If only….
I was in fact, quite upset with my Patti for telling me such a torrid tale.
But now, with the wisdom of age, I realise the impact it had had on my little heart and never fail to thank my grandmother for teaching this lesson on TRUST.
The mistress had had sufficient ‘trust’ to ask her pet to guard her child. But this ‘trust’ had not stretched far enough for her to believe that he had actually done it. His bloodied face had made her react in haste.
This is the problem most of us face today. The lack of implicit TRUST.
• How many parents can TRUST their children to choose the way they want to live?
• How many parents can TRUST their teenage offspring out late in the evening?
• How many parents can TRUST their grown up sons and daughters to choose their own life partners?
• How many wives TRUST their husbands who work late at night or who travel a lot on work?
• How many husbands TRUST their wives who work with other men?
• How many of us TRUST our own parents or siblings or friends?
The list goes on and on. Trust is not something that can only be built over a period of time. It is either there or it is not.
Of what I have perceived of life so far, I have realised that people either had the quality in them or they did not. A person who has the tendency to TRUST others will always do so. And the ones who do not trust, never do.
At the end of it all, one understands that one trusts when one is trustworthy himself.
But again, it is not impossible to learn the quality of TRUST. The improbability of the situation lies within you. Every man to his own, as the saying goes.
We generally tend to seek those qualities in others that we ourselves possess.
When we have the tendency to lie, we expect the people around us to be untruthful. Similarly, we cannot TRUST anyone unless we ourselves are trustworthy.
One important point has to be reckoned with here. Do remember that it is easier to change and adapt yourself than to change and adapt the people around you.
Learn to TRUST and realise that it will automatically make you worthy of someone’s TRUST. You can build your own paradise on earth.


  1. very true, TRUST is such an important thing in our lives! one small thing, i dont remember hearing many stories from Paati, J on that !

  2. Wonderful story and the interpretation too...relevant in todays world

  3. Trust is the life blood of any relationship. I too remember my mother telling me this story. Truly it left an impact on me too.

    1. Thanks for stopping by and posting a comment Inderpreet :) The days of storytelling.......... nostalgia indeed