Nitali and Nihir are traveling to Arattupuzha for the Pooram with their Ba a.k.a mom and Bapu a.k.a. dad. Both are excited since they would be celebrating the festival with their Malayali a.k.a. from Kerala, India, friends.
The Arattupuzha Pooram a.k.a. temple festival, is held at the 3000 year old Sree Sastha temple in Kerala. As part of the ritual, 23 deities from the neighboring temples are carried in a procession on decorated elephants to the Sree Sastha temple and worshipped there. The ceremony concludes on the 7th day with the Arattu [ ceremonial bath] in River Mandaram Kadavu.
The festival celebrations include beautifully decorated elephants displaying Muthukudas a.k.a. umbrellas and Venchamarams a.k.a white tusks, Sasthavinte me lam a.k.a. percussions orchestra and Kathakali performances for Poorams.
Nihir and Nitali take the overnight train to Arattupuzha, Nitali pesters Ba to tell her a story. Bapu interrupts and asks:
” Can you give me some farsan a.k.a snacks, please?”.
Ba gets out some chundo [mango pickle] and Dhokla [ steamed rice and lentil cakes]. Both Nihir and Nitali helped Ba prepare chundo in summer.
Bapu [dad] buys a “cutting chai“” from the tea vendor, who splits a cup of tea into two cups, filling just 3/4th of each cup, giving them each a cup.
Nitali and Nihir settle to hear the story.
Ba begins the story with:
Once upon a time, in Morbi, Gujarat, there lived six brothers, who were born blind. Their names: Ek [one] , Bae [ two], Tran [three], Chaar [four], Paanch [five] and Chae[six].
The blind boys had heard the story of the birth of Indra’s escort, an elephant, Airavat, and how the elephant helped Indra make rain and defeat Ravan. They were curious about what he might have looked like.
Being blind they had never seen an elephant and wanted to desperately see one.
“Mummy, how can the blind see? asked Nitali
“By touching” explained mom. “The blind learn to perceive the world through their other senses”.
“I see” says Nitali, Nihir motions her to be quiet so the story can continue.
Ek, Bae, Tran, Chaar, Paanch and Chae are on their way to school when they hear a lot of commotion in the town square. Their friend, Ramesh goes to find out what is going on. Ramesh comes back in a hurry excitedly shouting:
“There is an elephant,Hathi. in the village square“
Hearing this, they all run to the village square and Ramesh, leads them to the elephant.
Ramesh asks the mahout a.k.a elephant caretaker “May my friends touch Hathi? They are blind and can not see Hathi.”, the mahout agrees and places each boy at a different place on the elephant so they could feel the elephant.
Ek says “This elephant is like a pillar”, having touched the elephant’s leg.
Bae says ” Na, Re, Na. It is like a rope”, having touched the elephant’s tail.
Tran says ” Na, Bhai [brother]. It is like a thick branch of a tree”, having touched the elephant’s trunk.
Chaar interrupts “ Arre yaar, it is like a big hand fan”, having touched the elephant’s ear.
Paanch shrugged his shoulders saying “ I just feel a huge wall in front of me”, having touched the elephant’s belly.
Chae said ” What is going on? Because to me it feels like a solid pipe“, having felt the tusk.
They turn to Ramesh, confused that each one of them had a different experience of the same animal.
“Children, can you tell me which one of them is right?” queries Ba.
“They are all right, and not at the same time, Ba” answers Nitali with confusion.
“Why do think that is so?” Ba asks.
Nihir replies slowly and thoughtfully,
“Each of the blind men is correct but each has only touched one part of the elephant.”
“That is right” says Ba with a knowing smile on her face.
Bapu explains “The whole truth has many attributes and a complete understanding of any truth requires the consideration and acceptance of a variety of viewpoints.”
The children are left nodding.