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This is a story about two friends and their marvelous adventures. Now, I never actually met Punjab or Kanabi myself, so I don’t know for sure if all of this is true, but let’s pretend that it is.
PUNJAB MEETS KANABI
Punjab was a little boy who lived a long time ago in a land far away from here. He was bright and funny and very kind and gentle. He was also very brave. He had to be because, until he met Kanabi, he was alone in the world. But he wasn’t the least bit sad.
Punjab spent his days talking to the old men and women in his village, listening to their stories and advice and learning from them. He liked to hear them talk about all that they had seen because Punjab had never seen anything. Since the day he was born, he had been blind. But that never bothered him. He was always happy and had lots of fun.
Punjab liked to play. But he didn’t play with the other children very much. He liked them and they liked him, but they could all see, and sometimes they weren’t very patient when Punjab couldn’t catch the ball or hit the target. So he played with the wind. He liked the way it flew all around him and tousled his hair. He liked to race with it and listen to the secrets it whispered in his ear. Although he never understood the words the wind used, he knew that the wind loved him and was his friend.
The sunshine was his friend, too. It warmed him, and when he stood very still, he could feel it filling him from his head to his toes with a bright excitement that he couldn’t name but that made him feel like laughing. When he felt that special feeling, Punjab thought he must be the happiest boy in the whole world!
One hot, windy day, Punjab was sitting by the little stream near the village. He liked to feel the cool water lick and tickle his feet while the sun warmed him and the breeze sang its songs to him. He felt wonderful. What he didn’t know was that some other children were watching him from farther up the stream.
Then the wind brought him their words. “Look at poor little Punjab,” one child said. “It must be terrible to be blind.”
“But he seems so happy,” said another.
“Oh,” said a third child, “he may think he’s happy, but he just doesn’t know any better. No one could be happy if they can’t see.”
And then the children ran off to play.
At first Punjab pretended not to care. “I am happy!” he shouted to the wind. And the wind kissed and caressed him. But then he began to worry.
Maybe they’re right, he thought. Maybe I just think I’m happy because I don’t know any better.
For the first time, Punjab began to wonder what it would be like if he could see. He wondered what the wind looked like. And the sky. And the color blue. He knew what blue felt like. He knew it was deep and warm and it soothed him.
“But how can I really know anything if I can’t see it?” Now he was shouting so loud that he could no longer hear what the wind had to say.
But he didn’t care. At that moment, he knew that the only thing in the world he wanted, the only thing that could make him happy, was to be able to see.
Punjab hurried back to the village. Usually he had no trouble finding his way. The sun and the wind and the earth guided him. But this day he wasn’t listening to their clues. All he could hear were the child’s words sounding over and over in his head: “No one could be happy if they can’t see.”
So Punjab stumbled and struggled and fell again and again. By the time he reached the village, he was convinced that he was the unluckiest, the unhappiest, and the loneliest boy in the whole world.
He sat down on the ground and cried as he had never cried before. One of the oldest women in the village who was especially fond of Punjab heard him crying and went over to him.
“What’s wrong, Little One? I’ve never seen you so sad. Come sit in my lap and tell me what’s bothering you.”
She tried to put her arms around him, but he pulled away. Usually Punjab liked for her to hug him, and he loved to sit in her lap. He didn’t even mind when she called him “Little One”–even though he was a big boy now–because it always made him feel safe and loved.
But this time he shouted, “Don’t call me that! I’m not a baby! You treat me like one because I’m blind! I don’t need you! I don’t want you! I don’t want anybody! I only want to see.” And he began to sob again.
The woman waited until he was so tired from crying that he couldn’t cry anymore. Then she reached over and touched him. He was too exhausted to pull away from her. “Punjab,” she said softly, “you’re right. You’re not a baby. You’re almost grown up. And if sight is what you really want, then you must go and find it.”
At first he thought she was making fun of him, but she went on, “There is a Wise One you must find. Someone who has the answers you’re looking for and can help you to get what is most important to you.”
Punjab was sniffling now. “Is that really true?” he asked. “Could this Wise One really help me to see?”
“I don’t know for certain,” said the woman. “And if you decide to go, the journey through the forest will be long and very difficult. And you will have to make it alone. But, Punjab, could anything be worse than what you are feeling now?”
Punjab stopped sniffling and thought about that. Then he sat up and said, “No. Nothing could be worse than this.” And at that moment he decided that, no matter what the cost, he would go. As I said, Punjab was very brave.
Punjab spent the next few days talking to the people in the village who had traveled through the forest, asking their advice, and he gathered the things he would need for his journey. Finally, when he was as ready as he would ever be, Punjab said goodbye to all the people he loved and left the only home he had ever known in search of his heart’s desire.
And that’s when he met Kanabi.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Kanabi yawned and stretched. It’s morning, he thought. In the forest, where he had been sleeping, it was too dark to see the sun come up, but Kanabi was a tiger and had lived there all his life. He knew the sounds of the dawn. The birds had begun to chirp and the squirrels and chipmunks were chattering away about their plans for the day. Yes, thought Kanabi, it’s morning, all right. Time to get up and get going. With that, he rolled over and went back to sleep.
Now some people would say that Kanabi was just plain lazy. And it’s true that he liked to sleep late and take naps in the sun, and he never liked to work very hard. But he wasn’t really lazy. He simply believed in enjoying life. He also liked adventure, as long as it didn’t involve anything too strenuous, of course!
Kanabi slept for a while, but before long the noise and activity in the forest were too much to sleep through, even for Kanabi. So he yawned again and stretched again and rolled around on the ground that was his bed and, finally, Kanabi got up to start his day.
At first, he felt sort of grouchy. He always felt that way when he first got up. But, as he took his usual morning walk down to the river, he began to enjoy the feel of the earth beneath his paws and the cool, damp smell of the forest. Even the chattering of the animals, which had disturbed his precious sleep, began to sound like music. By the time he reached the river, Kanabi felt happy, strong and very glad to be alive.
The sun had already warmed up the riverbank. Kanabi considered lying down for a short nap but changed his mind once he realized how hungry he was. Breakfast first, he thought. Then I’ll take a nice, long nap.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Punjab was also just starting his day. For several days now, he had been walking alone in the strange forest and it wasn’t easy. The tall trees blocked the sun and the wind, so he sometimes got all turned around and didn’t know which way to go. There were sounds he didn’t recognize and sometimes they frightened him. And he missed his people. For a little while he felt very sad and very lonely. But then he started to feel thirsty, and he realized that he wanted a drink of cool, fresh water more than he wanted to sit and feel sorry for himself. So he got up, gathered his few possessions, and began to look for water.
Now, when you can’t see anything, it’s hard to “look” for something. But Punjab had learned how to take care of himself with his other senses. One way he looked for water was to listen. He stood very still, got very quiet, and began to notice how many things he could hear.
At first, all he heard was a jumble of forest sounds: birds and squirrels chattering loudly, trees swaying in the wind, and the rustle of leaves on the forest floor. But, as Punjab listened longer, his mind began to sort out the jumble and give him a picture of what was happening around him. He could tell that, in a tree to his right, there was a nest of baby birds mewing hungrily. Also, two squirrels were having some sort of disagreement. Probably about the ownership of a certain nut, thought Punjab, smiling.
And he listened for the sound of a stream or of animals gathered at a riverbank. When his hearing didn’t give him any clues about which way to go to find water, he “read” the wind. He felt the soft breeze on his face and tried to tell if it felt cooler in any one direction. That might mean that a body of water was nearby. He tasted the air and smelled it for some trace of dampness. After discovering that none of his physical senses could give him the information he sought, Punjab decided that he would have to find water with his “other sense.”
This other sense wasn’t really a sense. It was more a way of knowing things–knowing things in his heart rather than in his head. He sat down on the ground, got comfortable, closed his eyes, and began to breathe deeply. He listened to his own breathing until it became very slow and he felt relaxed. His mind grew quiet, and in a small part of it he wondered why he didn’t do this more often since it felt so good.
As that thought floated away, he began to say over and over in his mind, “Water…Water…Water”. After a short while, he knew that if he continued walking straight ahead, he would soon come upon a river. He didn’t know how he knew, but he knew. If he had known what he would find at the river, he might have preferred to go thirsty!
* * * * * * * * * * * *
For Kanabi, getting breakfast was no easy matter. He was never sure what kind of animal he would find for his meal. Sometimes he would be lucky and come across an antelope or deer that some other animal had hunted. Then Kanabi could eat his fill without having to do any work. That’s how he liked it best! Usually, however, he would have to stalk and kill his prey before he could eat, and even though Kanabi really liked to eat, the whole process seemed like a lot of trouble. So imagine how excited he was when a short distance from the river, he smelled and then saw, a little boy, completely defenseless, coming his way!
Punjab had not been walking long and was already close enough to the river to hear water splashing against rocks. He could also feel the cool, moist air on his body. He enjoyed the smell of the wet earth and the fragrance of the flowers and foliage. But suddenly he was aware of another smell, one that frightened him. It was the unmistakable smell of a large animal. Probably a cat, thought Punjab. He knew that if he could smell the animal, it had probably picked up his scent long before and by now it was stalking him. Soon he would be some big cat’s breakfast. Punjab no longer felt thirsty or sad or lonely. Now he was afraid.
Punjab was right. At that very moment, Kanabi was stalking him, waiting for the boy to get a little closer before he pounced. (Kanabi did not like to waste his energy.) He noticed when Punjab stiffened suddenly and turned his head to listen. He knows he’s being hunted, thought Kanabi. No matter. As soon as he starts to run, I’ll spring and catch him in seconds.
Kanabi never thought about killing as right or wrong. It was simply his way. He was a tiger and tigers eat meat. Punjab knew that too. He also knew that he could never outrun a tiger, even if he could see. So, because he didn’t know what else to do, he sat down, closed his eyes, and began to breathe, deeply and slowly.
This time it was Kanabi who was surprised. He had never seen his prey sit down and wait for him to pounce. This was different! He didn’t know quite what to do. Maybe it was some kind of trick.
So Kanabi did what he usually did when he didn’t know what to do. He lay down. Then, he did what he usually did when he lay down. He fell asleep!
That was when the strangest thing happened. As Kanabi drifted into sleep, he dreamed that he saw the little boy he was hunting. At the same time, while Punjab’s mind was very still, he “saw” Kanabi in the tiger’s own dream.
Now, Punjab and Kanabi didn’t actually see each other with their eyes. They sort of felt each other without touching. I’m not sure if they spoke to each other with words, but somehow, in a very short time, they knew each other.
It was as though they were old friends who were just now seeing each other after having been apart for a long time. In those few moments, Kanabi knew of Punjab’s quest for the Wise One and the gift of sight. He also knew that Punjab was alone and scared. And for reasons even he didn’t understand, Kanabi decided to go along with Punjab as his friend and protector.
From that moment on, it was as though they had never been apart.
THE TWO RAVIS
After Punjab and Kanabi had walked for a long time, they both began to feel very hungry. Punjab had long since eaten the little bit of food he had brought with him, and since this part of the forest was so unfamiliar to him, he didn’t know how he could find anything to eat. So he asked Kanabi what to do.
“Oh, don’t worry,” said Kanabi. “We’ll just ask my friend Ravi. He lives near here and knows where to find anything we want.”
Just then Punjab heard a rustling in the fallen leaves and twigs just ahead of them. He stopped and was very still. “What is it?” he whispered to Kanabi.
“It’s Ravi,” said Kanabi. “I told you he would help us. Ravi, say hello to my little friend, Punjab.”
“Helllooo,” Punjab heard.
It was a deep, slow voice that would have made Punjab afraid if it hadn’t belonged to a friend of Kanabi’s. Punjab was about to return the greeting when he heard another voice, much different from the first. It was high and fast and kind of jumpy.
“What about me? Huh? I live here, too, you know? What about me? Huh? Huh?”
Punjab was too startled to ask what was going on. Before he had to wonder very long, the first voice returned with a long sigh of exasperation.
“Allow me to explain. You see, I am Ravi the Panther. I am the son of King Fallon, who is lord of this part of the forest.”
Then the second, funny voice interrupted again. “What about me? Huh? Why don’t you tell him about me? You always leave me out! And after all I’ve done for you!”
“PLEEEAAASE!” groaned the panther. “May I continue?”
“Please do,” replied Punjab, who was completely confused. (Kanabi had taken the opportunity to lie down for a short nap.)
The panther’s voice continued: “The ‘noise’ to which you have been subjected is Ravi, my associate.”
Punjab was even more confused. “But I thought you were Ravi,” he said.
“That is correct,” replied the panther. “You see, by the merest coincidence, we both share the same name. And for some reason Ravi, who is a squirrel, by the way, feels it gives him a right and reason to follow me wherever I go and drive me to distraction!”
Punjab could not see the cold stare which Ravi the Panther directed at Ravi the Squirrel.
“Drive you to distraction? The very idea! As if you could get along without me, Mister High and Mighty Prince of the Forest! And another thing, you–“
Ravi the Squirrel was cut off by a loud roar, which Punjab recognized as Kanabi’s wake-up yawn.
“I’m hungry,” said Kanabi as he stretched, tired of all this chitchat.
“Yes,” agreed Punjab. “I’m quite hungry myself. I was told that you could help us find food, Sir…er…I mean, Sirs. That is, well, which Ravi did you say could help us?”
Punjab had turned to Kanabi, but before the tiger could answer, Ravi the Panther was off in a rustle of leaves and came back again dragging the hind leg of an antelope that he had killed earlier in the day.
“This should fill your bellies. Fresh meat, hunted only this morning!” the panther said proudly.
Kanabi’s mouth began to water. But Punjab started to feel slightly queasy. You see, in his village, the people never ate the flesh of animals, and even though he was very hungry, the smell of the animal meat made him uncomfortable.
He was about to refuse politely when Ravi the Squirrel sensed the problem. He turned to the panther and began jabbering away.
“That’s just like you! People say they’re hungry, and you don’t even take the time to find out what they want to eat! Oh, no. Not you, not Mister Great Hunter!”
Then he turned to Punjab and said, “Here, boy, I’ve got some nuts I’ve been saving for winter, and if you’ll wait right here a moment, I’ll run to my tree and gather some of my favorite berries and seeds. They’ll make a delicious meal, and we can leave these two to enjoy their meat.”
“Oh, yes,” said Punjab. “That would be wonderful! Thank you very much!” But the squirrel had already scampered away in a flurry of soft noise.
After a while, the four friends were relaxing on the riverbank, having eaten their fill. Kanabi, of course, was asleep.
They were all quiet for some time, and then Punjab remarked, “I am so grateful and a little surprised by your generosity. I know that food is not always easy to come by, yet you have both shared yours with us.”
“Well,” said the panther in a serious tone as he stretched himself in the sunshine, “my philosophy is this: Share what you’ve got when you’ve got it and you’ll never go without. Yes, I’ve lived by that maxim all my life, and I’ve never been hungry a day.”
“So,” chirped Ravi the Squirrel, “that’s your great philosophy, is it? Well, you’re not the only philosopher around here, you know. You wanna hear my philosophy? ‘Nuts to you!’ Ha-ha-ha! Get it? That’s my philosophy. Nuts to you! Pretty funny, huh?”
Now the squirrel was rolling on the grass laughing hysterically at his own joke. “Nuts to you! Ha-ha-ha! Sometimes I really outdo myself! Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!”
Punjab was startled. He couldn’t remember when he’d ever heard anyone laugh so much. Pretty soon, he was laughing too. Punjab had forgotten how good it felt to laugh because he had been so sad for so long. He hadn’t forgotten about his journey or how far he was from home, but he found that he couldn’t laugh and feel sad at the same time. And it felt better to laugh than to feel sad, so he just kept on laughing.
After he couldn’t laugh anymore, and he and Ravi the Squirrel were lying on the ground exhausted, Punjab noticed that he wasn’t as sad as he had been before. That’s what he told his new friend.
“Well, of course you feel better!” exclaimed the squirrel. “Didn’t you know that? Didn’t you know that when you feel sad you should always try to make yourself laugh? Why, I do everything I can to make myself laugh as much as possible. I tell myself jokes. And, as you can see,” he was starting to chuckle again, “I do come up with some pretty good ones. ‘Nuts to you!’”
Ravi the Squirrel was about to start laughing again, but he brought himself back to the subject and, for just a moment, he sounded almost serious.
“You see, Punjab, whether you are blind or not, the most important thing is to be able to see the humor and joy in life. And for that you don’t need eyes. All you really need is an open heart.”
Punjab was thinking about that when Kanabi came and told him it was time to go. As the boy and the tiger walked away, Punjab could hear Ravi the Squirrel chattering away. He heard Ravi the Panther saying, “Now stop that this instant! You know how ridiculous you look when you stand on your head like that! I mean it, Ravi! You… you…”
And then Punjab heard the panther begin to make a strange sound. After a moment, Punjab realized that the panther was laughing and before long, the forest was filled with the sound of the two Ravis, panther and squirrel, laughing away.
Punjab knew it would be a long time before the laughter died down, and it made him smile.
TO THINE OWN SELF BE TRUE
Punjab and Kanabi had been traveling for a long time. By now, they had developed certain routines to make their journey easier. That made Kanabi very happy because he liked things to be easy.
One routine was that, after Kanabi awoke from his first nap of the afternoon, he would go exploring. Since he could move much faster than Punjab, he would sometimes run for many miles, searching for a good place to stop for the night. Once he found a comfortable place, where there was water and food for them both, he would return to meet Punjab and lead him to the new campsite. In the meantime, Punjab would walk at his usual pace in the direction that he and Kanabi had agreed upon.
One day, after Kanabi had bounded off in search of their home for the night, Punjab came upon a small river. He decided to rest for a while. After all, he’d been walking a long time. The river sounded so peaceful and the grass beneath him felt and smelled so inviting.
He found a shady spot beneath a tree on the riverbank. He yawned and stretched. Maybe I’ll take a nap, just like Kanabi does, he thought. That thought pleased him because he had come not only to love the tiger, but to admire him, as well. So the thought of being like his friend was a pleasant one.
Punjab was completely caught up in the pleasure of his thoughts and the comfort of his shady spot by the river. So he didn’t hear the approach of the great big crocodile as it swam up to the riverbank and slid out of the water onto the grass right beside him.
It was probably a good thing that Punjab couldn’t see at that moment, because if he had been able to, he would have been very frightened. The crocodile was huge! And the biggest part of it was its giant mouth, which was wide open and could have swallowed Punjab in one gulp.
Even though the crocodile was very quiet, Punjab realized it was there when he felt the warm breath from the animal’s mouth.
“Hello,” Punjab said meekly. “My name is Punjab. What’s your name?”
But instead of an answer, all Punjab heard was sniffling and a soft whimper. He recognized the sounds of crying. Punjab had done so much crying himself before he left on his search for the Wise One that he was very familiar with the sound. He was also familiar with how it feels to be that sad. His heart went out to whomever–or whatever–was weeping beside him.
“I can tell that you’re very upset. Is there anything I can do to help you?” asked Punjab.
In a moment or two, the sniffling became snuffling. Then there was a loud hiccup. But finally a sad voice said, “There’s nothing you can do. There’s nothing anybody can do. It’s hopeless.” And with that, the creature began to sob again in earnest.
Punjab felt terrible. It broke his heart to know that someone was so unhappy. He desperately wanted to help. He tried to think of what had made him feel better when he had felt that sad. Then he remembered the old woman of the village who had held him and stroked him while he cried. She had just let him cry and cry until he was all cried out. But she had stayed with him and he knew he wasn’t alone. Somehow, that had helped.
So he reached out to where the crying animal lay and began to stroke him. When Punjab’s hand first touched the skin of the beast, he was startled. He’d never felt skin like that. It wasn’t soft and furry like Kanabi’s. It wasn’t sleek like Ravi the Panther’s. It wasn’t bristly like Ravi the Squirrel’s. And it wasn’t smooth like his own. It was hard and bumpy and seemed very tough and thick. What sort of creature is this, Punjab wondered?
Under his touch, the crocodile had begun to cry even harder than before. But Punjab knew that he was helping. After a few minutes, the crying slowed and got softer. Soon all Punjab heard were a few sniffles.
Finally, the sad voice said, “Thank you for staying with me. Nobody ever stays with me. They leave as soon as I start to cry. But sometimes I just can’t help it.”
He almost started to start sobbing again, but he stopped himself with a deep breath and said, “My name is Marcus and I’m all alone. Will you be my friend?”
“Of course I will,” replied Punjab. “I know how hard it is to be all alone. I used to be alone and I was very sad. But now I’m never alone, thanks to my friend, Kanabi.”
“Oh,” said Marcus, sadly. “You already have a friend. You’re lucky. I’m not lucky at all. Nothing good ever happens to me. I’m the most unlucky, unhappy creature on the river.”
“But haven’t you ever been happy?” asked Punjab.
“No. Never. My life is terrible,” replied Marcus.
“What happened that made things so bad? Surely you were happy when you were young?” Punjab said.
“No. Not me. I’ve never been happy a day in my life. And I never will be. I’ve never had any friends before, either. But now that you said you’ll be my friend, I won’t have to be unhappy all alone.”
“Well, certainly. Kanabi and I will both be your friends.” Then Punjab added, “And if you don’t want to be alone, you can come along with us on our journey.”
“Oh, no!” exclaimed Marcus. “I don’t want to leave here. This is my home. I just know I’d hate it somewhere else. No. You’ll just have to stay here with me and keep me company.”
“I wish I could stay with you, but I can’t. Kanabi and I are going to find the Wise One so I can gain my sight,” replied Punjab.
Marcus was getting more upset. “But you said you’d be my friend. You said you understood how sad it is to be alone. You’ve just got to stay with me.”
Punjab felt torn. He wanted to help his new friend, but he also knew he couldn’t just stay here on the riverbank just to keep Marcus company.
“I’m really sorry, Marcus, but I’m afraid I won’t be able to stay here with you. As I told you, I’m on a journey and it’s very important to me.”
Marcus started to cry again. Punjab could feel the big, wet teardrops rolling down the sides of Marcus’ face.
“But you have to stay with me!” Marcus cried. “I’m so lonely. Please stay! Oh, please, please, please! I don’t know what I’ll do if you go! I need you!”
Punjab felt very sorry for Marcus. He could tell that Marcus really was lonely. But he also knew that, even though friends are important, no one can make another person happy. He had learned that for himself when he left his village in search of his sight and the Wise One.
He tried to explain that to Marcus. He asked Marcus again and again to come with him and Kanabi. Maybe the Wise One could help Marcus find his own happiness. But Marcus just kept crying and begged Punjab to stay.
Finally, Punjab knew that he had to leave, even if it meant leaving Marcus in a puddle of his own tears. So Punjab stood up and started to say goodbye.
Again, Marcus pleaded with Punjab. “What will I do when you leave? I’ll be all alone.”
“I’m sorry,” replied Punjab, “but we each need to do what is right for us. And I know that I have to leave now.”
“Fine!” shouted Marcus. He was angry now. “You just go ahead and leave! You’re just like all the others! You all say you’ll be my friend, and then you abandon me! You are a mean little boy, Punjab! And I hate you! I hate you!”
It hurt Punjab to hear Marcus say those things. He didn’t want Marcus–or anyone–to hate him. And he felt bad leaving Marcus all alone. He knew he couldn’t give up his own dream, just to keep someone from being mad at him. But it was hard.
As Punjab walked away, he heard Marcus crying behind him. “Oh, I’m so sad. Nobody likes me. Everybody is so mean to me.”
After a while, Punjab couldn’t hear the words anymore. But he could hear the sobs. And even though he knew he had to go forward, the sound of so much sadness weighed heavily on his heart. He walked for a long, long time before he could no longer hear Marcus crying.
Then suddenly, Punjab heard a rustling in the bushes ahead and recognized the sound of Kanabi, catching a small hare for a midday snack. Punjab hurried on until he met Kanabi.
They walked together in silence, happy in each other’s company and happy that they were both on the same journey.
OLD FEARS & NEW FRIENDS
Punjab and Kanabi had walked for a long time, but for some reason they weren’t very tired. Still, the sun was getting low in the sky. Punjab could feel the air begin to turn slightly cooler on his face. He could hear the sounds of the forest turn from the frantic chirp and chatter of midday to the slower and mellower sounds of the forest dwellers closing down their shops for the evening. So Punjab and Kanabi decided, without exchanging a word, to stop their travels for a while and rest.
They were in a deep part of the forest and if Punjab had been able to see, he might have been afraid because it was so dark. But since the whole world was dark to him, he was as happy and unafraid as if he were standing in a field of flowers in the brightest sunshine. Kanabi, of course, had been born and raised in the deepest, darkest part of the forest, so he felt right at home. In fact, he felt so much at home that he began to feel just the teeniest bit homesick.
Of course, it wouldn’t do for a big, fierce tiger to let anyone know he ever felt sad or lonely. He was glad little Punjab couldn’t see the tears beginning to creep into his eyes as he thought about his home. The forest here had a cool, dank smell that brought back memories of the place where Kanabi had first played and purred when he was just a cub with his brothers and sisters. He was thinking about that as he lay down and closed his eyes. And as he drifted off to sleep, he began to dream about his very first hunt!
In the dream, he could hear his own heart beating with excitement and a sense of danger. He could see the small animal he was stalking suddenly freeze in fright and then run away faster than an eyewink. Kanabi darted after his furry prey, and the hunt was on! Paws pounding on the forest floor. Running, racing through the brush and branches, faster and faster as the gap between prey and predator became smaller.
Then in the dream, just like on his first hunt, there was a thundering roar. It was the loudest sound little Kanabi had ever heard! It was so strange, so frightening, and so loud, that he stopped in his tracks and hid under a bush shivering. His prey used the disturbance to make his escape, leaving Kanabi totally alone with the monstrous sound.
In the dream, the earth began to shake beneath him as the sound grew louder and louder and came nearer and nearer. It was so terrifying that Kanabi suddenly woke up!
He opened his eyes and saw Punjab sitting beside him. Then he realized it had just been a dream and a memory, and he felt safe.
But for only an instant. Because then, with his eyes open and wide awake in this really real place, he heard that same terrible sound and felt the earth shake in the same sickening way. And as the trees broke and parted, he saw the gigantic gray monster coming slowly toward them! Kanabi was so afraid that couldn’t move at all.
“Kanabi! Kanabi! What is it? Kanabi! Why don’t you answer me?” Punjab’s voice was quiet but afraid.
Finally, hearing the fear in his little friend’s voice, Kanabi managed to speak one word: “Elephant.”
To Punjab, the word was almost as frightening as the terrible sounds. Growing up in his small village, he had heard the tales the old folks would tell about elephants. How they were taller than five men standing one on top of the other and were wider than any house in the village. And the villagers spoke of the long trumpets the elephants carried in front of them.
Punjab had always thought these tales were only fantastic stories to amuse a blind boy. But when he felt the earth start to shake under him and heard the trumpets, he wasn’t so sure. Then, hearing the pure terror in the voice of his brave friend Kanabi, he knew it must be true! Punjab was more frightened than he’d ever been in his life.
He didn’t know what to do. And in the tiniest voice he said, “Kanabi. Please. Help me. I’m scared.”
Those words somehow gave Kanabi the courage to move. He began to walk slowly toward the beast. In his heart, Kanabi was still the same terrified cub who had shivered under a bush until the monster had finally gone away.
But now, he thought, I am no longer a cub. And his mind began to give strength to his heart. “I am Kanabi,” he told himself proudly. “I am strong! I am brave! I am powerful!”
Each thought brought him closer to the monster until finally, when he was directly in front of the great beast, he roared in his loudest tiger’s roar: “I am Kanabi and I fear nothing!” And he believed it.
Then he was amazed. For the elephant simply blinked and replied, “Well, I am so glad to hear you say that. Do you have any idea how hard it is to make friends when you’re as big as I am? Everyone runs away as soon as they hear me coming. I didn’t mean to scare you. I wish I could be quieter. I’ve even tried walking on tip-toe. But listen to me go on when I haven’t even introduced myself. I am Amethyst, High Sultan of Elephants.”
With that, the elephant bent his head and went down on one knee in what looked to Kanabi like an elegant bow. It was then that Kanabi noticed that the strange beast wore a fine golden headdress with a giant purple jewel in the brow. What sort of forest creature can this be, wondered Kanabi.
Just then he heard little Punjab’s voice, “Kanabi, what’s going on?”
So Kanabi decided that he would analyze the situation later. For now, introductions were in order.
“Greetings, Amethyst,” said Kanabi in the most formal voice he could find. “I am Kanabi, at your service. Allow me to present my companion, Master Punjab.”
Kanabi did not bow, not because he was too proud, but because he couldn’t figure out how a tiger could bow and not look silly. So he just bobbed his head slightly and then turned to Punjab and told him everything there was to see in the situation.
And soon the three of them were like old friends.
A DIFFERENT POINT OF VIEW
Amethyst traveled with Punjab and Kanabi for many days. During that time, he entertained them with stories from his days as lead elephant in a circus that had traveled all over the world.
One day, Punjab grew weary from trying to keep up with the huge stride of the elephant and Kanabi’s fast pace. Amethyst said, “Little Punjab, would you like to ride on me?”
Punjab was thrilled at the suggestion. Not only was he glad for the chance to rest, but he thought that riding on an elephant would be great fun indeed! The only question in Punjab’s mind was, how?
He was small, even for a boy, and didn’t see how he could climb onto the back of the giant animal. But before he could even ask, he felt himself being lifted in the air by Amethyst’s trunk and found himself sitting on one of the elephant’s smooth tusks.
At first Punjab was afraid he would fall or slip off, but soon he realized that he was safe and secure. It was obvious that, even though this was a new experience for Punjab, Amethyst had carried riders in this way all his life. And so Punjab relaxed and let himself enjoy the ride.
After a while, Amethyst spoke. “Well, little Punjab, are you enjoying the new perspective?”
Punjab was confused. He knew he was having fun, but he didn’t know what Amethyst meant by “perspective.”
It was as though the elephant could hear his thoughts when he said, “Perspective is looking at things from a different point of view.”
“But I am blind,” said Punjab. “I have no point of view.”
Amethyst began to laugh so loudly that Punjab was a little afraid he would drop him.
Again, the elephant answered Punjab’s thought. “Don’t worry, my little friend, you are perfectly safe. I would not be much use to the circus if I could not work and laugh at the same time. It’s just that when you said you had no point of view… Oh, Little Punjab, don’t you know that being blind is a point of view?”
Punjab didn’t know that and said so. Now even Kanabi was paying attention to the conversation.
Amethyst continued: “Point of view is only the place from where each of us experiences things. Usually you walk along the ground. Perhaps your eyes do not tell you things, but your feet and your ears do. You know your world from that point of view. Right now, you are riding up here, right beside my eye.”
This was news to Punjab since he’d never stopped to think about where the elephant’s eyes were.
“So, in a way, you are now ‘seeing’ the world from my point of view.”
Punjab didn’t quite understand all this, but he sensed that it was important somehow and decided to think about it for a while.
The three travelers continued on for a distance without speaking. After a while they came upon a wide stream. They needed to get to the other side, but that posed a problem because, while Amethyst could wade across with his long legs and carry Punjab, Kanabi was not at all certain how to proceed.
You see, cats, even big ones like Kanabi, are not naturally fond of the water, and the last thing the tiger wanted to do at that moment was to go for a swim. He was all set to suggest they walk down the stream and look for a crossing when Amethyst came up with an idea.
“Kanabi, dear friend, why don’t you climb on my back? I can easily carry you and Punjab.”
Kanabi was about to refuse because the idea of riding on the elephant’s back was almost as disturbing as getting soaked, but then Punjab said the magic words–or at least they were magic to Kanabi.
He said, “Yes, Kanabi, we can both ride with Amethyst, and then when we get across, we can find a place to sleep.”
With the promise of a chance to lie down, Kanabi was on the elephant’s back in one great leap. Now, it’s a good thing that elephants have such tough hides because at first Kanabi was so frightened, being so far above the ground, that he dug his claws into Amethyst’s back to hold on.
Soon, though, he realized he was secure and, like Punjab, relaxed and enjoyed the ride. After they had crossed the river and made a camp for the night, they began to talk.
Amethyst explained to Punjab and Kanabi that, when he had traveled with the circus, he had performed before kings and queens, peasants and farmers.
“Yes,” sighed Amethyst, “I have seen the world.”
This made Punjab feel a little envious because he had never seen the world or anything at all. As Amethyst went on describing the faraway places he’d been and the exotic creatures he’d met, Punjab felt his spirits sinking lower and lower. He felt so limited, and his life seemed trapped by his blind, sightless eyes. It’s just not fair, he thought.
Kanabi, however, was enjoying Amethyst’s tales tremendously. He loved hearing about all the places he’d never been. But he couldn’t imagine why anyone would leave such an adventurous life and come to live what Kanabi thought was the dull, everyday life of the forest. He wondered if some terrible thing had happened to separate Amethyst from his circus.
Once again, it was as if the elephant could hear Kanabi’s thoughts, and he said, “Oh my, no! I chose to leave the circus. I have something of great importance to do, and it was simply time to go. But what about you, my friends? What are you doing in this forest? You, Tiger, seem to belong here, but what of you, little Punjab? Are you off to see the world?”
Something inside Punjab exploded. “See the world?” he shouted. “I can’t even see my own hands! I’ve never seen anything! Not a flower or a tree or even the faces of my friends! See the world? No! I am not seeing the world, and I’m beginning to think I never will! I will never see kings and queens or faraway lands! I am just a stupid blind boy wandering in this stupid forest in search of a stupid miracle!”
Kanabi was so startled by Punjab’s fury that he stood there, speechless, and stared at his friend. Even Punjab was too surprised by his own anger to say another word.
It was Amethyst who spoke. “Good for you, child!” he said, with a kind laugh. “Sometimes it is necessary to scream and shout and be as angry as you feel. That is something you should never forget.”
Then Amethyst laid his trunk very gently on Punjab’s head and said, almost in a whisper, “Because I will tell you a secret, my young friend. If you want a miracle, the secret is to remember.”
Before Punjab could speak, Amethyst continued, “Perhaps you have heard it said that an elephant never forgets. And that is true. I will never forget you and your brave companion. But now, dear friends, I must take my leave. For I, too, am on a journey, and I must be on my way. It is time.”
And with that, Amethyst began his slow, lumbering walk away from Punjab and Kanabi.
“But wait!” cried Punjab. “I don’t understand the secret. What am I supposed to remember?” Kanabi didn’t understand either, but he was too proud to call out.
Amethyst just continued on, without looking back, and before long he was gone. Punjab and Kanabi stood there for a long time without speaking.
Finally Kanabi said, “Well, what do you remember?”
Punjab thought for a while and replied. “I remember who I am. And I remember where I came from.”
Kanabi added, “I remember what I had for breakfast!”
Punjab went on. “I remember an old woman from my village. She was kind and she hugged me when I was sad.”
Kanabi said, “I remember how frightened I was when I first heard Amethyst!”
“But you should remember how brave you were to face him, too, Kanabi,” said Punjab.
“Yes” replied Kanabi. “I was quite brave as I recall.” And he began to beam, feeling quite proud of himself.
Then Punjab remembered what Amethyst had said about perspective and how blindness was a point of view. And it began to make sense to him. Being blind was his own special way of seeing things. And he remembered what Ravi the Squirrel had told him about seeing the fun and joy in life.
Punjab started to laugh. “Remember how funny Ravi the Squirrel was?” he said to Kanabi.
Kanabi joined in the laughter and said, “Remember how he pestered Ravi the panther?”
Soon Punjab and Kanabi were both lying on the ground laughing out loud, remembering and reminding each other of funny, wonderful things.
Finally, through his laughter, Kanabi said, “Remember how mad you were before? I didn’t know someone so small could get so mad!”
Punjab was laughing so hard that tears were rolling down his cheeks. “Yes,” he said, hardly able to talk through his own giggles. “I was so madI’ll bet I scared even you! But now I feel so happy! It’s like a miracle!”
And they both began to laugh again and laughed for a long, long time.
Then, when they were worn out from laughing, Punjab said, “Come, Kanabi, let’s get some sleep.”
“Good idea,” said Kanabi, who always thought sleeping was a good idea. “Tomorrow we must be off on our journey.”
“Yes,” said Punjab, in a sleepy, almost-asleep voice, “Tomorrow we must be off to see the world.”
THE WISE ONE
Punjab and Kanabi traveled on for a long, long time. And in the course of their journey they heard stories about a strange old woman who lived in a certain cave by a stream in the deepest, darkest part of the forest. They decided that this must surely be the Wise One.
Whether they walked for days or years, I don’t know. But finally Punjab and Kanabi were in sight of the cave. Kanabi could barely see the hole in the rock that was the doorway, but he could smell a distinctly human smell.
Punjab was unaware of the smell, but he could somehow feel the presence of the Wise One as clearly as he had felt Kanabi’s presence that very first day by the river.
Punjab was excited about being so near such a magical person and especially about the prospect of finally being able to see. But at the same time he was a little afraid.
What if he wasn’t worthy to meet such a great person? What if the Wise One would require him to perform tests of courage or wisdom? What if he couldn’t pass them?
Fortunately, Kanabi didn’t worry about things like that. It took too much energy. So he just continued on, Punjab holding tightly but gently to his fur.
Kanabi, like all tigers, knew that you should always enter a strange cave slowly and carefully. You never know what you might find, and he didn’t want to run into a lioness protecting her cubs. He was thinking about one time when he had done just that when he was startled by a woman’s voice behind them.
“Hello, my friends. Were you looking for me?” To Punjab, the voice sounded strange and powerful, but somehow familiar.
He was nervous, but managed to say in a very tiny voice, “Yes. I mean, I think so.”
“So,” said the woman, “you have come to seek the Wise One and you think that I am she, do you not?”
“Oh yes!” said Punjab. “And now I am sure you are indeed the Wise One I seek, for you even know why we have come!”
The woman laughed in a kindly way. “No. That is not how I know that you and your companion have journeyed through this strange and wonderful forest in search of wisdom. I know because I, too, have made that journey. I, like you, left the comfort and security of my home searching for that wisest of souls who could tell me the secrets of life and show me how to attain my heart’s desire. And I had many strange and wonderful experiences along the way, as I’m sure you have, too. Haven’t you?”
“Why, yes,” replied Punjab slowly. “I–that is, we–have had a bit of adventure. But excuse me. Are you saying you are not the Wise One we seek?”
The woman smiled. “That question is not so easily answered. But first, sit with me here by the fire and tell me of your journey. Tell me what you have learned.”
Punjab was very happy to sit down by the fire and drink the warm soup the woman gave him. And the idea of curling up by the fire really appealed to Kanabi!
But after the soup was gone and Punjab had rested a bit, he began to tell the old woman of the journey while Kanabi listened with his eyes closed and made a comment of his own now and then.
Punjab told the woman about meeting the two Ravis and how he had learned that sharing makes sense and that laughing is good for you. He talked about Marcus the crocodile and how hard it is to stay on your own journey when it means someone will be sad or mad at you. He remembered how Kanabi had faced his fear by walking up to the big, scary elephant and what a good friend Amethyst had turned out to be. He would never forget how the gentle beast had taught him that it’s alright be feel angry sometimes and that everyone sees life from a different point of view.
“It sounds as if you have learned a lot of things, Little One. What is the most important thing you have learned?”
Punjab started to feel shy, but then, for some reason, he became very strong and sure. “I think the most important thing I’ve learned is that sight is not the most important thing there is.”
Now Punjab smiled. “I thought when I left home that I could never be happy unless I could see like the other children. But I am happy. I thought I was afraid, but I found that I have nothing to fear. And I thought I was alone, but I found I have dear friends.” He reached down and stroked Kanabi’s fur while the big cat let out a contented purr.
Punjab continued, “I have learned many things, but,” he shook his head a little sadly, “I still haven’t found the Wise One.”
The woman let out that warm chuckle that made Punjab smile. It reminded him of someone, though he couldn’t remember who.
Then she said, “Punjab, you have indeed found the Wise One, for you have found wisdom within yourself.”
Punjab was very quiet and still. So still that Kanabi was startled awake and looked at him.
Somehow Punjab didn’t look much like the little boy Kanabi had first met. Not only did he look older and stronger somehow, but he looked bigger. And it seemed to Kanabi that he almost glowed!
Then the woman’s words began to sink into Kanabi’s thoughts and he, too, became very quiet and very still. But not for very long.
He jumped up, very excited, and said to Punjab, “I think she means that you are the Wise One you’ve been seeking! All this time you were looking for something that was inside yourself!”
At that moment, Punjab got a very strange look in his eyes, and he said, in almost a whisper, “I see, Kanabi. I see.”
Well, those were the last words I ever heard about Punjab and Kanabi. Except that the woman, who was also a Wise One, of course, explained to them that everyone is a Wise One; it’s just that not everybody knows it.
And I’ve always wondered if Punjab meant he could really see with his eyes or if he meant he could see in another way.
I do know that Punjab and Kanabi had many more adventures together, and if I ever hear the tales, I’ll tell them to you. But there is one thing I’m absolutely sure of.
They lived happily ever after.
© Patricia Rose Grigadean, 1988