The Keen Observer

“Here is the challenge for the day, ” proclaimed King Krishna Deva Raya as soon as the court had assembled one day, “We want to know who among you can deduce most from sheer observation. In the center of the court you can see that two identical earthen pots are hung. One of them is has gold coins and the other is empty. If you accept the challenge and identify the pot with gold, it is yours to keep. If you pick the wrong one, you will be banished from the court for two months and should pay a fine in gold coins. Let us see who is the cleverest among you.”

The courtiers were used to such weekly challenges from the King. Initially all of them used to take the risk and take part. But within a few weeks, they figured that it was going to do them only harm. The King’s challenges were difficult. After burning their fingers a few times, majority of the courtiers quit participating and became spectators of such events. Only Tenali Ram, the brilliant minister, continued to take part and win. Of course, this made him the focus of jealous hatred from the other courtiers. Chatur Pandit was chief amongst these jealous souls.

For this challenge also Tenali Ram alone came forward. He spent five minutes circling under the hung pots closely examining them. The pots were absolutely identical in shape, size and artistic design. It seemed impossible to guess what is inside them just by how they looked. Then suddenly Tenali walked to a nearby guard, borrowed his spear, came over and broke one of the pots confidently.

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Gold coins showered on him. The King was impressed not only with Tenali Ram’s intelligence but also the confident gesture of breaking the pot. Being confident in one’s abilities is just as important as having abilities.

“Well done, Tenali Ram”, said a beaming Krishna Deva Raya, “now tell us how you did it?”

“Beloved King, please forgive me for saying that this was the easiest of all the challenges. That is why I was able to confidently break the correct pot. The trick was not to look at the pots themselves but the ropes on which they were suspended. The tension in the taut ropes of the heavier pot was obvious. Sometimes we need to focus our attention not on the problem but around it to discover the solution”

King and courtiers applauded Tenali Ram. Just then a messenger came to court and whispered something to the general of the army.

The general ecstatically stood up and announced, “Your Highness, Please grant me leave at once. I have just received news that my wife has delivered a baby son. I must rush home on this happy occasion.”

“That is wonderful news.”, said the King, “As the proceedings of the court are drawing to a close, we would also like to visit your home, see the baby and take part in your happiness. Please expect a visit from us later this evening. Tenali Ram and Chatur Pandit, wouldn’t you also like to visit the baby?” “Most definitely, Dear King”, said Chatur Pandit and Tenali Ram in unison.

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Chatur Pandit was happy to be invited to the general’s house that evening. He had a side business of making predictions about people’s lives. Actually there was no basis to anything he said. He would either tell people what they wanted to hear and be rewarded or he would scare people about impending bad events and take money from them to conduct remedial sacrifices. Either way it was a fantastic business for him. He knew that the general would be interested in hearing him paint a rosy picture about the baby’s future. His palms were itching to collect the money for such fake predictions.

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Later in the evening, Tenali and Chatur Pandit visited the general’s house with the King’s entourage. As soon as he saw the baby sleeping next to the mother, Chatur Pandit began his business pitch:

“Dear General, just from the looks on the face of the baby, I can tell you that he will be a greater general than yourself. He will win several battles, vanquish mighty foes and spread the flag of Vijayanagar far and wide. From the tilt of his nose, I can predict that his fame will spread far and wide. The dimple on his chin portends a happy married life for him. He will have many sons who will continue your family name.”

The king was very pleased to hear such sweet words. “And what can you say about this baby’s future, Tenali?”, the King asked.

Before Tenali could say anything, Chatur Pandit, in his moment of glory, blurted, “Go on Tenali, you can correctly identify the pot of gold from observation. Surely, you can deduce many things about the baby’s future by looking at him.” “May be you should look around the baby as well”, he chuckled arrogantly.

Tenali said with a smile, “Your Majesty, the pot of gold has no life. A human being or anything alive is completely different. Making simplistic predictions about them is stupid because there are so many factors affecting their lives every day. I am confident in my abilities when it comes to observing what is in the nature, but I am neither arrogant nor stupid to claim expertise in what will happen in future. It is true that some people make a business out of it exploiting the greed and fear of others. But as a keen observer of the glorious complexities and connectedness of life, I will never attempt to make such futile predictions.”

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“That is just as excuse to cover up your lack of knowledge and abilities, Tenali”, thundered Chatur Pandit clearly insulted, “gurus like me are learned in the science of prediction and have been blessed by such divine abilities.”

Tenali Ram bowed to the King and said, “the only observation this humble servant of your majesty can make here is that the baby is a girl.” Chatur Pandit was shocked.

“I was waiting for an opportunity to mention that, “said the general smiling, “the messenger in the court this morning had made a mistake.”

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The King turned to look at Chatur Pandit. But he had already fallen at the King’s feet ashamed and scared. The next day itself Krishna Deva Raya issued a proclamation banning the business of taking money to make predictions about people’s lives.

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