We have been brought up on fables or more importantly moral stories that were told to us to build our character. We have heard the story of the fox, who was not able to reach grapes hanging up out of her reach and so she solaced herself by presuming the grapes to be sour. We also heard the story of hare and tortoise, where a conceited and smug hare is beaten in the race by a persistent tortoise and we learnt a lesson forever that “ Slow and steady wins the race.” Thanks to the evolution of social media, the imagination of people knows no bounds and we end up by hearing the other side of the story – the Hare’s version. Here is it as told by the Hare to the so called author of this counter fable!
We started the race and in seconds I was miles ahead of the tortoise, who was just crawling. I decided to rest under the shade of a tree. With the cool breeze blowing, I couldn’t resist the temptation of a nap. In my dreams, I met an old man with a flowing beard, sitting on a rock in a meditative pose. He opened his eyes, gave me an all-knowing smile and asked:
“Who are you?”
“I am a hare. I am running a race.”
“To prove to all the creatures in the jungle that I am the fastest.”
“Why do you want to prove that you are the fastest?”
“So that I get a medal which will give me status which will give me money which will get me food…”
“There is already so much food around.” He pointed to the forest in the distance. “Look at all those trees laden with fruits and nuts, all those leafy branches”
“I also want respect. I want to be remembered as the fastest hare who ever lived.”
“Do you know the name of the fastest deer or the largest elephant or the strongest lion who lived a thousand years before you?”
“Today you have been challenged by a tortoise.
Tomorrow, it will be a snake.
Then it will be a zebra.
Will you keep racing all your life to prove that you are the fastest?”
“Hmm. I didn’t think about it.
I don’t want to race all my life.”
“What do you want to do?”
“I want to sleep under a banyan tree on a makeshift pillow while the leaves rustle and the bees buzz.
I want to hop over the meadows near the hills and swim in the pond.”
“You can do all these things this very moment.
Forget the race.
You are here today but you will be gone tomorrow.”
I woke up from my sleep.
The ducks in the pond looked happy.
I jumped into the pond, startling them for a moment.
They looked at me quizzically.
“Weren’t you supposed to be racing with the tortoise today?”
An exercise in futility.
All I want is to be here.
Hopefully, someday, someone will tell the world my story – That I lost the race but got back my life
I found the Hare’s version to be as inspiring as the Tortoise’s version that was always taught to us. In fact, in today’s milieu when everyone is in a mad rush to achieve more – success, money, happiness, materials- Hare’s version to my mind seems to be more relevant, a learning re-emphasised by the ongoing Covid pandemic that has forced us to rethink the way we have so far lived our lives.
I also read somewhere – “ Even if you win a rat race, you are still a rat “ – which in a way is another endorsement Hare’s version. While let us continue with teaching Tortoise’s version in primary schools so that children understand the virtues of being slow and steady rather than being over confident and smug, those past their childhood should also read Hare’s version.