I don’t remember when I first heard this story. High chance is it was entirely made up by Dad, or I must have chanced upon it during the weird ‘Moral Science’ classes during my junior school. Either ways this story has stuck in my mind. For reasons unknown I remembered this story few days back (and why I will let you know at the end, though it is pretty simple to understand the why). Since then I have been trying to recollect how the story originally went, which by the life of me, I can’t remember. So, here’s the retelling of that fable in my own words, though certain aspects like the “contents in the room” are still true to the original teller’s version. What the “contents” and “what’s in the room” are something you have read further to know. So here goes,
Once upon a time, when being featured in stories that have morals were in vogue, there lived a wise man. That man, hailing from a noble family, started his life with just a few personal belongings as his own. With steady and unyielding hard work he was able to amaze certain amount of wealth. When he was of age, he married a fair maiden and fathered three sons. The sons grew up to be strong and handsome men. They were never tired of work and respected and love their old man. The sons took up to their own interest of business and excelled in them. The old man and his wife were content and proud that they taught their sons well. They valued money but were not misers. They were proud but not vain. They were gallant but were never a crook.
As days went by the old man’s health started to fail. He expressed interest to retire from his business and settle down to enjoy the reminder of his life peacefully. The sons offered to build a house for the old man in the most serene spot in the village. They argued and argued some more before they finalized on their location, their design and everything to do with the ‘old house’ as they fondly referred to it. Their arguments and banters did not bother the old man as he sat watching them bicker good-naturedly. He was exceptionally happy that the sons, who generally got along very well with each other, would fight to agree on choices that each one thought their father would love best.
He looked across at the room to the place where his wife sat cutting vegetables clearly enjoying her sons antics, for there had broken an argument again which the old man was confident had something to do with the house. She looked up to see her husband beckoning her to him and she went and dutifully sat down besides his arm chair. After few peaceful minutes have passed and when their sons departed to do their daily chores, she looked up to her husband and said, “Dear, if you will permit me, I need to confide in you a situation that’s been troubling me for quiet sometime” to which the husband was all willing to acquiesce. Then she said, “Forgive me for bothering you with a woman’s instincts and petty issues. I bring this up under the delusion that what I have to tell you is important. I request you to, thereby, hear me, and if you are confident that it’s a minor thing and if you promise that it is nothing but normal, I will be the most glad woman in the world, for I cannot permit harm of any kind to cause unhappiness to my family” and so she continued, “ I have been noticing our sons pretty closely, from the day they were born, and even more so, when they started with their own business establishments. But lately they seem to be burdened by some ideas, that which looks like something that they are not able to express, nor are they willing to do so. Initially, I dismissed my disquiet over this, under the belief that they are some silly ideas and troubles given their adolescent age. I’m fine with them doing about their duty, but it depresses me to see them worry”. After hearing attentively to what his wife had to say, the old man enquired if she was sure that their sons were laboring worries and not being tired after a hard day’s work, his wife affirmed that “I’m as confident as a mother would be confident”. That set the old man thinking, and he had to make sure that it was really worries that were eating their sons, he cast an watchful eyes over them in the evening. At night fall, after observing his sons, he mentally agreed to what his wife had told him. Their sons did seem to be burdened with thoughts and worries.
By day break next morning, the old man roused up his sons and asked them to take him to the ‘old house’. So the sons and the old man set about to the house near the hill. The father was silent all through the journey and when he reached the destination, he gathered about his sons around him and said in a voice of superior sincerity and affection, “Boys! Your mother and I have been noticing you lads for quiet sometime and have come to understand there are some things that causes bother to your peaceful mind.” At this the sons in unison shook their heads and said that it was nothing big to cause concern, as they were nothing more than the growing up pangs and mundane issues. This comforted the old man and he said, “Be they as it may, I have decided to give you lads a practical test and make you realize the importance of peaceful unburdened mind. So here is what I want of you today. I want you all to take in-charge of one single room each in this beautiful house and fill it up to the extent possible with things that you can get off for the money I‘m giving you. I will give the whole afternoon to make arrangements and I would come to inspect by day fall by which time things should be in order.” So said the old man and he settled down in the spare room on the far left.
The eldest son went about thinking what he can get for the given money that would fill the whole room to the full. And an idea struck him as suddenly as it came and rejoiced in the brilliancy of the plan and ran out of the house to the stores before casting a wary look on his fellow competitors who were still in thoughts. The second brother soon set off to the town to buy things that his money will permit and was soon followed by the youngest one. All through the day the boys went in and out of the house, entering with bulging sacks and exiting with deflated ones. After numerous attempts each seemed to shut himself in their rooms and a whole lot of scrapping and banging were heard.
Finally it was time for the father to step out of his room and when he did so he saw all his sons sweating and panting and were visibly tired. He went over to the eldest and they all quietly walked over to the room he was trying to fill. The son, before entering explained, “Firstly I brooded on what to do. The requirement is clear. Fill the room to the extent possible. So I thought how can I fill a room this huge with the amount of money I have been given. So I need to get the thing that is cheap, isn’t it? So I asked myself, what is cheap and also can be bought in loads of quantity. So he decided to go with the haystack and so I have filled the room till the last straw I can get with the money”. So saying he opened the door to the room, and out came rushing a heap of straws. The old man peeped beyond the doors and asked “What about the windows” to which the son proudly replied, “Not to worry for I have closed them and used up that space too”. The old man without uttering a single word, moved past the first room until he reached the son the second son has been trying to fill. The second eldest brother also launched a story of how he worked out all by himself that he needed to get the cheap thing in huge quantity with the small amount of money he had and had finally settled on “Wood scraps” he proclaimed proudly. He had filled the room to such an extent that he had been unable to close the doors and beyond that one can see a huge heap of wood dust fill the room. Again, without saying a word the old man and the party stopped in front of the youngest brother’s room. The smallest brother did not as much say a word but gently opened the room and it was filled with bricks high up to the ceiling. The old man walked slowly and sat down on the tallest step descending down from the house to the grounds below. The sons, bewildered and ashamed at the possibility that they have disappointed their father, went and sat down at the foot of the old man and stared at the village below which was bathed in the beautiful glowing moonlight. A soft wind rustled their hair and their clothes gently fluttered about them. The night birds and crickets were all chirping their noisy farewell to a wonderful day and thanking the miracle of life and sending their praise up-to the heaven.
The old man sat there serenely enjoying the moment and the brothers all sat there absorbed in their own thoughts. Then slowly the old man asked, “Can any of your rooms be now used for any other purpose, for any better pursuits” to which the boys replied by shaking their heads. The old man raised each of son’s hands and placed them on his gnarled and aged knee and spoke as he gently caressed them. He said soothingly, “My dear boys, what you all have done tonight both amazes me and depresses me at the same time. I’m proud that my sons accomplished the task that was set forth to them by their father without ever doubting or questioning the need or motive. And I must agree that have you done exactly as I have asked you to. Yet you all seem somehow disturbed and troubled. Before we retire for the day, I shall ask you to look at the events of today in a different light. Regard the room as your mind or soul. If you have been loading your mind with worry and uninteresting and unfruitful thoughts, how do you imagine your state of mind would be? Agitated or peaceful? The contents of the eldest’s room spilled over the moment someone tried to access it. The middle one’s room did not seem to be able to hold the contents in for it was unable to properly close. The youngest one’s did not seem to have a spare space for even a speck of additional dust. Do you want your minds to be so clogged in the way the rooms are now?” That set the boys thinking. The old man then asked the boys to move in to the room he had been occupying. The boys entered the room and felt at home instantly. The room was huge and was decorated artfully. The windows were thrown wide open which filled the room with the scents of the night, warm breeze and the tunes of the crickets. The room was minimally furnished to hold only the necessary. The walls were clean and perfect. Overall the effect was pleasant and pleasing. The old man pointed out, “This now can make you boys appreciate the difference between this room and other rooms you all toiled hard to fill. You can draw parallel to the rooms and human mind. As long as you keep the doors closed and windows shut and you keep pilling all your thoughts and worries it will show on your being in the same way as to the rooms that spilled its content over on approach. But as long as you keep the mind open like the door and the heart open like the windows, the worries and vile thoughts will stay at bay. Talk to wise people, amaze knowledge, let go of things that which are beyond your control to change, if things don’t go your way humbly accept them without regret, forget the hurts and the praises alike, learn to smile. So I urge you to throw away the clutter and the rot, retain the wonderful moments of the past and make space for new memories to cherish”. That seemed to brighten the sons and they walked back home as wiser men.
Need I say anything more? My mind was like the cluttered room. I’m not saying my mind is like the serene room the old man decorated but I’m trying to have the windows and doors open.